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Hard Times by Charles Dickens
BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
CHAPTER I - THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
'NOWwhat I want isFacts. 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
childrenand this is the principle on which I bring up these
children. Stick to Factssir!'
The scene was a plainbaremonotonous vault of a school-roomand
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
foreheadwhich had his eyebrows for its basewhile his eyes found
commodious cellarage in two dark cavesovershadowed by the wall.
The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouthwhich was wide
thinand hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's
voicewhich was inflexibledryand dictatorial. The emphasis
was helped by the speaker's hairwhich bristled on the skirts of
his bald heada plantation of firs to keep the wind from its
shining surfaceall covered with knobslike the crust of a plum
pieas if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts
stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriagesquare coat
square legssquare shoulders- nayhis very neckclothtrained
to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasplike a
stubborn factas it was- all helped the emphasis.
'In this lifewe want nothing but Factssir; nothing but Facts!'
The speakerand the schoolmasterand the third grown person
presentall backed a littleand 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 GRADGRINDsir. A man of realities. A man of facts and
calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and
two are fourand nothing overand who is not to be talked into
allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrindsir - peremptorily
Thomas - Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scalesand
the multiplication table always in his pocketsirready to weigh
and measure any parcel of human natureand tell you exactly what
it comes to. It is a mere question of figuresa case of simple
arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief
into the head of George Gradgrindor Augustus Gradgrindor John
Gradgrindor Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititiousnon-existent
persons)but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind - nosir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself
whether to his private circle of acquaintanceor to the public in
general. In such termsno doubtsubstituting the words 'boys and
girls' for 'sir' Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind
to the little pitchers before himwho were to be filled so full of
Indeedas he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before
mentionedhe seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with
factsand prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of
childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus
toocharged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young
imaginations that were to be stormed away.
'Girl number twenty' said Mr. Gradgrindsquarely pointing with
his square forefinger'I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?'
'Sissy Jupesir' explained number twentyblushingstanding up
'Sissy is not a name' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Don't call yourself
Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.'
'It's father as calls me Sissysir' returned the young girl in a
trembling voiceand 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-ridingif you pleasesir.'
Mr. Gradgrind frownedand waved off the objectionable calling with
'We don't want to know anything about thathere. You mustn't tell
us about thathere. Your father breaks horsesdon't he?'
'If you pleasesirwhen they can get any to breakthey do break
horses in the ringsir.'
'You mustn't tell us about the ringhere. Very wellthen.
Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horsesI
'Very wellthen. He is a veterinary surgeona farrierand
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 factsin reference to one of the commonest
of animals! Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzeryours.'
The square fingermoving here and therelighted suddenly on
Bitzerperhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of
sunlight whichdarting in at one of the bare windows of the
intensely white-washed roomirradiated Sissy. Forthe boys and
girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies
divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissybeing at the
corner of a row on the sunny sidecame in for the beginning of a
sunbeamof which Bitzerbeing at the corner of a row on the other
sidea few rows in advancecaught the end. Butwhereas the girl
was so dark-eyed and dark-hairedthat she seemed to receive a
deeper and more lustrous colour from the sunwhen it shone upon
herthe 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 eyesbut for the
short ends of lashes whichby bringing them into immediate
contrast with something paler than themselvesexpressed 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 tingethat he looked as
thoughif he were cuthe would bleed white.
'Bitzer' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teethnamely twenty-four
grindersfour eye-teethand twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the
spring; in marshy countriessheds hoofstoo. Hoofs hardbut
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
She curtseyed againand would have blushed deeperif 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 antennae of busy insectsput his knuckles to
his freckled foreheadand sat down again.
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and
dryinghe was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other
people's too)a professed pugilist; always in trainingalways
with a system to force down the general throat like a bolusalways
to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-officeready to
fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseologyhe had a
genius for coming up to the scratchwherever and whatever it was
and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage
any subject whatever with his rightfollow up with his leftstop
exchangecounterbore his opponent (he always fought All England)
to the ropesand fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock
the wind out of common senseand 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 Millenniumwhen
Commissioners should reign upon earth.
'Very well' said this gentlemanbriskly smilingand folding his
arms. 'That's a horse. Nowlet me ask you girls and boysWould
you paper a room with representations of horses?'
After a pauseone half of the children cried in chorus'Yes
sir!' Upon which the other halfseeing in the gentleman's face
that Yes was wrongcried out in chorus'Nosir!' - as the custom
isin these examinations.
'Of courseNo. Why wouldn't you?'
A pause. One corpulent slow boywith a wheezy manner of
breathingventured the answerBecause he wouldn't paper a room at
allbut would paint it.
'You must paper it' said the gentlemanrather 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 meanboy?'
'I'll explain to youthen' said the gentlemanafter 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?'
'Yessir!' from one half. 'Nosir!' from the other.
'Of course no' said the gentlemanwith an indignant look at the
wrong half. 'Whythenyou are not to see anywherewhat you
don't see in fact; you are not to have anywherewhat you don't
have in fact. What is called Tasteis only another name for
Fact.' Thomas Gradgrind nodded his approbation.
'This is a new principlea discoverya great discovery' said the
gentleman. 'NowI'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 'Nosir!' was
always the right answer to this gentlemanthe chorus of NO was
very strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them
'Girl number twenty' said the gentlemansmiling in the calm
strength of knowledge.
Sissy blushedand stood up.
'So you would carpet your room - or your husband's roomif you
were a grown womanand had a husband - with representations of
flowerswould you?' said the gentleman. 'Why would you?'
'If you pleasesirI am very fond of flowers' returned the girl.
'And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon themand
have people walking over them with heavy boots?'
'It wouldn't hurt themsir. They wouldn't crush and witherif
you pleasesir. They would be the pictures of what was very
pretty and pleasantand I would fancy - '
'Ayayay! But you mustn't fancy' cried the gentlemanquite
elated by coming so happily to his point. 'That's it! You are
never to fancy.'
'You are notCecilia Jupe' Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated
'to do anything of that kind.'
'Factfactfact!' said the gentleman. And 'Factfactfact!'
repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
'You are to be in all things regulated and governed' said the
gentleman'by fact. We hope to havebefore longa board of
factcomposed of commissioners of factwho will force the people
to be a people of factand of nothing but fact. You must discard
the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You
are not to havein any object of use or ornamentwhat 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
purposescombinations 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
The girl curtseyedand sat down. She was very youngand she
looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the
'Nowif Mr. M'Choakumchild' said the gentleman'will proceed to
give his first lesson hereMr. GradgrindI shall be happyat
your requestto observe his mode of procedure.'
Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged. 'Mr. M'Choakumchildwe only wait
SoMr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one
hundred and forty other schoolmastershad been lately turned at
the same timein the same factoryon the same principleslike so
many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety
of pacesand had answered volumes of head-breaking questions.
geographyand general cosmographythe sciences of compound
proportionalgebraland-surveying and levellingvocal musicand
drawing from modelswere 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 Band had taken the bloom off
the higher branches of mathematics and physical scienceFrench
GermanLatinand Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of
all the world (whatever they are)and all the histories of all the
peoplesand all the names of all the rivers and mountainsand all
the productionsmannersand customs of all the countriesand all
their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the
compass. Ahrather overdoneM'Choakumchild. If he had only
learnt a little lesshow infinitely better he might have taught
He went to work in this preparatory lessonnot unlike Morgiana in
the Forty Thieves: looking into all the vessels ranged before him
one after anotherto see what they contained. Saygood
M'Choakumchild. When from thy boiling storethou shalt fill each
jar brim full by-and-bydost 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 schoolin a state of
considerable satisfaction. It was his schooland 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 Gradgrindsand they were models every one.
They had been lectured atfrom their tenderest years; coursed
like little hares. Almost as soon as they could run alonethey
had been made to run to the lecture-room. The first object with
which they had an associationor of which they had a remembrance
was a large black board with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white
figures on it.
Not that they knewby name or natureanything about an Ogre Fact
forbid! I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing
castlewith Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one
taking childhood captiveand 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 jingleTwinkletwinklelittle star; how I
wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on
the subjecteach little Gradgrind having at five years old
dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owenand 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 maltor 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 homewhich was called Stone LodgeMr.
Gradgrind directed his steps. He had virtually retired from the
wholesale hardware trade before he built Stone Lodgeand 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
A very regular feature on the face of the countryStone Lodge was.
Not the least disguise toned down or shaded off that uncompromising
fact in the landscape. A great square housewith a heavy portico
darkening the principal windowsas its master's heavy brows
overshadowed his eyes. A calculatedcast upbalancedand proved
house. Six windows on this side of the doorsix on that side; a
total of twelve in this winga total of twelve in the other wing;
four-and-twenty carried over to the back wings. A lawn and garden
and an infant avenueall ruled straight like a botanical account-
book. Gas and ventilationdrainage and water-serviceall of the
primest quality. Iron clamps and girdersfire-proof from top to
bottom; mechanical lifts for the housemaidswith all their brushes
and brooms; everything that heart could desire.
Everything? WellI suppose so. The little Gradgrinds had
cabinets in various departments of science too. They had a little
conchological cabinetand a little metallurgical cabinetand a
little mineralogical cabinet; and the specimens were all arranged
and labelledand 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; andto paraphrase
the idle legend of Peter Piperwho had never found his way into
their nurseryIf the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at more than
thiswhat was it for good gracious goodness' sakethat the greedy
little Gradgrinds grasped it!
Their father walked on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind.
He was an affectionate fatherafter his manner; but he would
probably have described himself (if he had been putlike Sissy
Jupeupon a definition) as 'an eminently practical' father. He
had a particular pride in the phrase eminently practicalwhich was
considered to have a special application to him. Whatsoever the
public meeting held in Coketownand whatsoever the subject of such
meetingsome 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 duebut his
due was acceptable.
He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town
which was neither town nor countryand yet was either spoiled
when his ears were invaded by the sound of music. The clashing and
banging band attached to the horse-riding establishmentwhich had
there set up its rest in a wooden pavilionwas in full bray. A
flagfloating from the summit of the templeproclaimed to mankind
that it was 'Sleary's Horse-riding' which claimed their suffrages.
Sleary himselfa stout modern statue with a money-box at its
elbowin an ecclesiastical niche of early Gothic architecture
took the money. Miss Josephine Slearyas some very long and very
narrow strips of printed bill announcedwas 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 believedSignor 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 headthus forming a fountain of solid iron in
mid-aira feat never before attempted in this or any other
countryand 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.' Lastlyhe was to wind
them up by appearing in his favourite character of Mr. William
Buttonof Tooley Streetin 'the highly novel and laughable hippocomedietta
of The Tailor's Journey to Brentford.'
Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities of coursebut
passed on as a practical man ought to pass oneither brushing the
noisy insects from his thoughtsor consigning them to the House of
Correction. Butthe turning of the road took him by the back of
the boothand at the back of the booth a number of children were
congregated in a number of stealthy attitudesstriving to peep in
at the hidden glories of the place.
This brought him to a stop. 'Nowto 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 rabblehe took his eyeglass out of his waistcoat to look for
any child he knew by nameand might order off. Phenomenon almost
incredible though distinctly seenwhat did he then behold but his
own metallurgical Louisapeeping with all her might through a hole
in a deal boardand his own mathematical Thomas abasing himself on
the ground to catch but a hoof of the graceful equestrian Tyrolean
Dumb with amazementMr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his
family was thus disgracedlaid his hand upon each erring child
Both rosered and disconcerted. ButLouisa looked at her father
with more boldness than Thomas did. IndeedThomas did not look at
himbut gave himself up to be taken home like a machine.
'In the name of wonderidlenessand folly!' said Mr. Gradgrind
leading each away by a hand; 'what do you do here?'
'Wanted to see what it was like' returned Louisashortly.
'What it was like?'
There was an air of jaded sullenness in them bothand particularly
in the girl: yetstruggling through the dissatisfaction of her
facethere was a light with nothing to rest upona fire with
nothing to burna starved imagination keeping life in itself
somehowwhich brightened its expression. Not with the brightness
natural to cheerful youthbut with uncertaineagerdoubtful
flasheswhich had something painful in themanalogous to the
changes on a blind face groping its way.
She was a child nowof 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.
'Thomasthough I have the fact before meI find it difficult to
believe that youwith your education and resourcesshould have
brought your sister to a scene like this.'
'I brought himfather' said Louisaquickly. 'I asked him to
'I am sorry to hear it. I am very sorry indeed to hear it. It
makes Thomas no betterand it makes you worseLouisa.'
She looked at her father againbut no tear fell down her cheek.
'You! Thomas and youto whom the circle of the sciences is open;
Thomas and youwho may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas
and youwho have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas
and youhere!' cried Mr. Gradgrind. 'In this degraded position!
I am amazed.'
'I was tiredfather. I have been tired a long time' said Louisa.
'Tired? Of what?' asked the astonished father.
'I don't know of what - of everythingI 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 silencewhen he gravely broke out with: 'What
would your best friends sayLouisa? Do you attach no value to
their good opinion? What would Mr. Bounderby say?' At the mention
of this namehis daughter stole a look at himremarkable for its
intense and searching character. He saw nothing of itfor before
he looked at hershe had again cast down her eyes!
'What' he repeated presently'would Mr. Bounderby say?' All the
way to Stone Lodgeas with grave indignation he led the two
delinquents homehe repeated at intervals 'What would Mr.
Bounderby say?' - as if Mr. Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy.
CHAPTER IV - MR. BOUNDERBY
NOT being Mrs. Grundywho was Mr. Bounderby?
WhyMr. 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 - orif the reader should prefer itso far
He was a rich man: bankermerchantmanufacturerand what not.
A bigloud manwith a stareand a metallic laugh. A man made
out of a coarse materialwhich seemed to have been stretched to
make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead
swelled veins in his templesand such a strained skin to his face
that it seemed to hold his eyes openand lift his eyebrows up. A
man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a
balloonand 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 hishis old
ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of
A year or two younger than his eminently practical friendMr.
Bounderby looked older; his seven or eight and forty might have had
the seven or eight added to it againwithout surprising anybody.
He had not much hair. One might have fancied he had talked it off;
and that what was leftall standing up in disorderwas in that
condition from being constantly blown about by his windy
In the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodgestanding on the
hearthrugwarming himself before the fireMr. Bounderby delivered
some observations to Mrs. Gradgrind on the circumstance of its
being his birthday. He stood before the firepartly because it
was a cool spring afternoonthough 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 positionfrom
which to subdue Mrs. Gradgrind.
'I hadn't a shoe to my foot. As to a stockingI didn't know such
a thing by name. I passed the day in a ditchand the night in a
pigsty. That's the way I spent my tenth birthday. Not that a
ditch was new to mefor I was born in a ditch.'
Mrs. Gradgrinda littlethinwhitepink-eyed bundle of shawls
of surpassing feeblenessmental and bodily; who was always taking
physic without any effectand whowhenever she showed a symptom
of coming to lifewas 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 lungsand of
everything elseI believethat was capable of inflammation'
returned Mr. Bounderby. 'For yearsma'amI was one of the most
miserable little wretches ever seen. I was so sicklythat I was
always moaning and groaning. I was so ragged and dirtythat you
wouldn't have touched me with a pair of tongs.'
Mrs. Gradgrind faintly looked at the tongsas the most appropriate
thing her imbecility could think of doing.
'How I fought through itI don't know' said Bounderby. 'I was
determinedI suppose. I have been a determined character in later
lifeand I suppose I was then. Here I amMrs. Gradgrindanyhow
and nobody to thank for my being herebut myself.'
Mrs. Gradgrind meekly and weakly hoped that his mother
'My mother? Boltedma'am!' said Bounderby.
Mrs. Gradgrindstunned as usualcollapsed and gave it up.
'My mother left me to my grandmother' said Bounderby; 'and
according to the best of my remembrancemy grandmother was the
wickedest and the worst old woman that ever lived. If I got a
little pair of shoes by any chanceshe would take 'em off and sell
'em for drink. WhyI have known that grandmother of mine lie in
her bed and drink her four-teen glasses of liquor before
Mrs. Gradgrindweakly smilingand giving no other sign of
vitalitylooked (as she always did) like an indifferently executed
transparency of a small female figurewithout enough light behind
'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 awayof course I ran away. Then I
became a young vagabond; and instead of one old woman knocking me
about and starving meeverybody of all ages knocked me about and
starved me. They were right; they had no business to do anything
else. I was a nuisancean incumbranceand a pest. I know that
His pride in having at any time of his life achieved such a great
social distinction as to be a nuisancean incumbranceand a pest
was only to be satisfied by three sonorous repetitions of the
'I was to pull through itI supposeMrs. Gradgrind. Whether I
was to do it or notma'amI did it. I pulled through itthough
nobody threw me out a rope. Vagabonderrand-boyvagabond
labourerporterclerkchief managersmall partnerJosiah
Bounderby of Coketown. Those are the antecedentsand the
culmination. Josiah Bounderby of Coketown learnt his letters from
the outsides of the shopsMrs. Gradgrindand was first able to
tell the time upon a dial-platefrom studying the steeple clock of
St. Giles's ChurchLondonunder the direction of a drunken
cripplewho was a convicted thiefand an incorrigible vagrant.
Tell Josiah Bounderby of Coketownof your district schools and
your model schoolsand your training schoolsand your whole
kettle-of-fish of schools; and Josiah Bounderby of Coketowntells
you plainlyall rightall correct - he hadn't such advantages but
let us have hard-headedsolid-fisted people - the education
that made him won't do for everybodyhe knows well - such and such
his education washoweverand you may force him to swallow
boiling fatbut you shall never force him to suppress the facts of
Being heated when he arrived at this climaxJosiah Bounderby of
Coketown stopped. He stopped just as his eminently practical
friendstill accompanied by the two young culpritsentered the
room. His eminently practical friendon seeing himstopped also
and gave Louisa a reproachful look that plainly said'Behold your
'Well!' blustered Mr. Bounderby'what's the matter? What is young
Thomas in the dumps about?'
He spoke of young Thomasbut he looked at Louisa.
'We were peeping at the circus' muttered Louisahaughtily
without lifting up her eyes'and father caught us.'
'AndMrs. 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 youLouisa 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 doneI should like to
Mr. Gradgrind did not seem favourably impressed by these cogent
remarks. He frowned impatiently.
'As ifwith my head in its present throbbing stateyou couldn't
go and look at the shells and minerals and things provided for you
instead of circuses!' said Mrs. Gradgrind. 'You knowas well as I
dono young people have circus mastersor keep circuses in
cabinetsor attend lectures about circuses. What can you possibly
want to know of circuses then? I am sure you have enough to doif
that's what you want. With my head in its present stateI
couldn't remember the mere names of half the facts you have got to
'That's the reason!' pouted Louisa.
'Don't tell me that's the reasonbecause it can't be nothing of
the sort' said Mrs. Gradgrind. 'Go and be somethingological
directly.' Mrs. Gradgrind was not a scientific characterand
usually dismissed her children to their studies with this general
injunction to choose their pursuit.
In truthMrs. Gradgrind's stock of facts in general was woefully
defective; but Mr. Gradgrind in raising her to her high matrimonial
positionhad been influenced by two reasons. Firstlyshe was
most satisfactory as a question of figures; andsecondlyshe had
'no nonsense' about her. By nonsense he meant fancy; and truly it
is probable she was as free from any alloy of that natureas any
human being not arrived at the perfection of an absolute idiot
The simple circumstance of being left alone with her husband and
Mr. Bounderbywas sufficient to stun this admirable lady again
without collision between herself and any other fact. Soshe once
more died awayand nobody minded her.
'Bounderby' said Mr. Gradgrinddrawing 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 youI 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 yetBounderbyit would appear from this
unexpected circumstance of to-daythough in itself a trifling one
as if something had crept into Thomas's and Louisa's minds which is
- or ratherwhich is not - I don't know that I can express myself
better than by saying - which has never been intended to be
developedand 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 fatherwith
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 confesshowever
that the misgiving has crossed me on my way home.'
'In idle imaginationGradgrind' repeated Bounderby. 'A very bad
thing for anybodybut a cursed bad thing for a girl like Louisa.
I should ask Mrs. Gradgrind's pardon for strong expressionsbut
that she knows very well I am not a refined character. Whoever
expects refinement in me will be disappointed. I hadn't a refined
'Whether' said Gradgrindpondering 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? Whetherin spite of all precautions
any idle story-book can have got into the house? Becausein minds
that have been practically formed by rule and linefrom the cradle
upwardsthis is so curiousso incomprehensible.'
'Stop a bit!' cried Bounderbywho all this time had been standing
as beforeon the hearthbursting at the very furniture of the
room with explosive humility. 'You have one of those strollers'
children in the school.'
'Cecilia Jupeby name' said Mr. Gradgrindwith something of a
stricken look at his friend.
'Nowstop a bit!' cried Bounderby again. 'How did she come
'Whythe fact isI saw the girl myselffor the first timeonly
just now. She specially applied here at the house to be admitted
as not regularly belonging to our townand - yesyou are right
Bounderbyyou are right.'
'Nowstop a bit!' cried Bounderbyonce more. 'Louisa saw her
when she came?'
'Louisa certainly did see herfor she mentioned the application to
me. But Louisa saw herI have no doubtin Mrs. Gradgrind's
'PrayMrs. Gradgrind' said Bounderby'what passed?'
'Ohmy poor health!' returned Mrs. Gradgrind. 'The girl wanted to
come to the schooland Mr. Gradgrind wanted girls to come to the
schooland Louisa and Thomas both said that the girl wanted to
comeand that Mr. Gradgrind wanted girls to comeand how was it
possible to contradict them when such was the fact!'
'Now I tell you whatGradgrind!' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Turn this
girl to the right aboutand 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
grandmotherI 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!'
SoMr. Bounderby threw on his hat - he always threw it onas
expressing a man who had been far too busily employed in making
himselfto acquire any fashion of wearing his hat - and with his
hands in his pocketssauntered 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 upif I had.'
Being left to saunter in the hall a minute or two while Mr.
Gradgrind went up-stairs for the addresshe opened the door of the
children's study and looked into that serene floor-clothed
apartmentwhichnotwithstanding its book-cases and its cabinets
and its variety of learned and philosophical applianceshad much
of the genial aspect of a room devoted to hair-cutting. Louisa
languidly leaned upon the window looking outwithout looking at
anythingwhile young Thomas stood sniffing revengefully at the
fire. Adam Smith and Malthustwo younger Gradgrindswere out at
lecture in custody; and little Janeafter 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 nowLouisa: it's all rightyoung Thomas' said
Mr. Bounderby; 'you won't do so any more. I'll answer for it's
being all over with father. WellLouisathat's worth a kiss
'You can take oneMr. Bounderby' returned Louisawhen she had
coldly pausedand slowly walked across the roomand ungraciously
raised her cheek towards himwith her face turned away.
'Always my pet; ain't youLouisa?' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Good-bye
He went his waybut she stood on the same spotrubbing the cheek
he had kissedwith her handkerchiefuntil it was burning red.
She was still doing thisfive minutes afterwards.
'What are you aboutLoo?' her brother sulkily remonstrated.
'You'll rub a hole in your face.'
'You may cut the piece out with your penknife if you likeTom.
CHAPTER V - THE KEYNOTE
COKETOWNto which Messrs. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walkedwas
a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs.
Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-noteCoketownbefore
pursuing our tune.
It was a town of red brickor of brick that would have been red if
the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stoodit was a
town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.
It was a town of machinery and tall chimneysout of which
interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and
everand never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in itand a
river that ran purple with ill-smelling dyeand vast piles of
building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling
all day longand where the piston of the steam-engine worked
monotonously up and downlike the head of an elephant in a state
of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very
like one anotherand many small streets still more like one
anotherinhabited by people equally like one anotherwho all went
in and out at the same hourswith the same sound upon the same
pavementsto do the same workand to whom every day was the same
as yesterday and to-morrowand 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 worldand
elegancies of life which madewe will not ask how much of the fine
ladywho could scarcely bear to hear the place mentioned. The
rest of its features were voluntaryand 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 brickwith 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 doorterminating in four short pinnacles
like florid wooden legs. All the public inscriptions in the town
were painted alikein severe characters of black and white. The
jail might have been the infirmarythe infirmary might have been
the jailthe town-hall might have been eitheror bothor
anything elsefor anything that appeared to the contrary in the
graces of their construction. Factfactfacteverywhere in the
material aspect of the town; factfactfacteverywhere in the
immaterial. The M'Choakumchild school was all factand the school
of design was all factand the relations between master and man
were all factand everything was fact between the lying-in
hospital and the cemeteryand what you couldn't state in figures
or show to be purchaseable in the cheapest market and saleable in
the dearestwas notand never should beworld without endAmen.
A town so sacred to factand so triumphant in its assertionof
course got on well? Why nonot quite well. No? Dear me!
No. Coketown did not come out of its own furnacesin all respects
like gold that had stood the fire. Firstthe perplexing mystery
of the place wasWho belonged to the eighteen denominations?
Becausewhoever didthe labouring people did not. It was very
strange to walk through the streets on a Sunday morningand note
how few of them the barbarous jangling of bells that was driving
the sick and nervous madcalled away from their own quarterfrom
their own close roomsfrom the corners of their own streetswhere
they lounged listlesslygazing 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 thisbecause there was a native
organization in Coketown itselfwhose members were to be heard of
in the House of Commons every sessionindignantly petitioning for
acts of parliament that should make these people religious by main
force. Then came the Teetotal Societywho complained that these
same people would get drunkand showed in tabular statements that
they did get drunkand 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 druggistwith
other tabular statementsshowing that when they didn't get drunk
they took opium. Then came the experienced chaplain of the jail
with more tabular statementsoutdoing all the previous tabular
statementsand showing that the same people would resort to low
hauntshidden from the public eyewhere they heard low singing
and saw low dancingand mayhap joined in it; and where A. B.aged
twenty-four next birthdayand committed for eighteen months'
solitaryhad himself said (not that he had ever shown himself
particularly worthy of belief) his ruin beganas he was perfectly
sure and confident that otherwise he would have been a tip-top
moral specimen. Then came Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderbythe two
gentlemen at this present moment walking through Coketownand both
eminently practicalwho couldon occasionfurnish more tabular
statements derived from their own personal experienceand
illustrated by cases they had known and seenfrom which it clearly
appeared - in shortit was the only clear thing in the case - that
these same people were a bad lot altogethergentlemen; that do
what you would for them they were never thankful for itgentlemen;
that they were restlessgentlemen; that they never knew what they
wanted; that they lived upon the bestand bought fresh butter; and
insisted on Mocha coffeeand rejected all but prime parts of meat
and yet were eternally dissatisfied and unmanageable. In shortit
was the moral of the old nursery fable:
There was an old womanand 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 possibleI wonderthat there was any analogy between the
case of the Coketown population and the case of the little
Gradgrinds? Surelynone of us in our sober senses and acquainted
with figuresare to be told at this time of daythat one of the
foremost elements in the existence of the Coketown working-people
had been for scores of yearsdeliberately 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 monotonouslythe craving grew
within them for some physical relief - some relaxationencouraging
good humour and good spiritsand giving them a vent - some
recognized holidaythough 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 arightor must and would inevitably go wronguntil the
laws of the Creation were repealed?
'This man lives at Pod's Endand I don't quite know Pod's End'
said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Which is itBounderby?'
Mr. Bounderby knew it was somewhere down townbut knew no more
respecting it. So they stopped for a momentlooking about.
Almost as they did sothere came running round the corner of the
street at a quick pace and with a frightened looka girl whom Mr.
Gradgrind recognized. 'Halloa!' said he. 'Stop! Where are you
going! Stop!' Girl number twenty stopped thenpalpitatingand
made him a curtsey.
'Why are you tearing about the streets' said Mr. Gradgrind'in
this improper manner?'
'I was - I was run aftersir' the girl panted'and I wanted to
'Run after?' repeated Mr. Gradgrind. 'Who would run after you?'
The question was unexpectedly and suddenly answered for herby the
colourless boyBitzerwho came round the corner with such blind
speed and so little anticipating a stoppage on the pavementthat
he brought himself up against Mr. Gradgrind's waistcoat and
rebounded into the road.
'What do you meanboy?' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'What are you doing?
How dare you dash against - everybody - in this manner?' Bitzer
picked up his capwhich the concussion had knocked off; and
backingand knuckling his foreheadpleaded that it was an
'Was this boy running after youJupe?' asked Mr. Gradgrind.
'Yessir' said the girl reluctantly.
'NoI wasn'tsir!' cried Bitzer. 'Not till she run away from me.
But the horse-riders never mind what they saysir; 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 - pleasesiras 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 hersir. I asked her if she would
know how to define a horse to-morrowand offered to tell her
againand she ran awayand I ran after hersirthat 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 rowin a
'TrulyI think so' returned his friend. 'Bitzerturn you about
and take yourself home. Jupestay here a moment. Let me hear of
your running in this manner any moreboyand you will hear of me
through the master of the school. You understand what I mean. Go
The boy stopped in his rapid blinkingknuckled his forehead again
glanced at Sissyturned aboutand retreated.
'Nowgirl' 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.
'Dearnosir! It's the nine oils.'
'The what?' cried Mr. Bounderby.
'The nine oilssirto rub father with.'
'Then' said Mr. Bounderbywith a loud short laugh'what the
devil do you rub your father with nine oils for?'
'It's what our people aways usesirwhen they get any hurts in
the ring' replied the girllooking over her shoulderto assure
herself that her pursuer was gone. 'They bruise themselves very
'Serve 'em right' said Mr. Bounderby'for being idle.' She
glanced up at his facewith mingled astonishment and dread.
'By George!' said Mr. Bounderby'when I was four or five years
younger than youI had worse bruises upon me than ten oilstwenty
oilsforty oilswould have rubbed off. I didn't get 'em by
posture-makingbut by being banged about. There was no ropedancing
for me; I danced on the bare ground and was larruped with
Mr. Gradgrindthough hard enoughwas by no means so rough a man
as Mr. Bounderby. His character was not unkindall things
considered; it might have been a very kind one indeedif he had
only made some round mistake in the arithmetic that balanced it
years ago. He saidin what he meant for a reassuring toneas
they turned down a narrow road'And this is Pod's End; is it
'This is itsirand - if you wouldn't mindsir - this is the
She stoppedat twilightat the door of a mean little publichouse
with dim red lights in it. As haggard and as shabbyas if
for want of customit had itself taken to drinkingand had gone
the way all drunkards goand was very near the end of it.
'It's only crossing the barsirand up the stairsif you
wouldn't mindand waiting there for a moment till I get a candle.
If you should hear a dogsirit's only Merrylegsand he only
'Merrylegs and nine oilseh!' said Mr. Bounderbyentering last
with his metallic laugh. 'Pretty well thisfor 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; butunderneath the
winged horse upon the sign-boardthe Pegasus's Arms was inscribed
in Roman letters. Beneath that inscription againin a flowing
scrollthe painter had touched off the lines:
Good malt makes good beer
Walk inand they'll draw it here;
Good wine makes good brandy
Give us a calland you'll find it handy.
Framed and glazed upon the wall behind the dingy little barwas
another Pegasus - a theatrical one - with real gauze let in for his
wingsgolden stars stuck on all over himand his ethereal harness
made of red silk.
As it had grown too dusky withoutto see the signand as it had
not grown light enough within to see the pictureMr. Gradgrind and
Mr. Bounderby received no offence from these idealities. They
followed the girl up some steep corner-stairs without meeting any
oneand stopped in the dark while she went on for a candle. They
expected every moment to hear Merrylegs give tonguebut the highly
trained performing dog had not barked when the girl and the candle
'Father is not in our roomsir' she saidwith a face of great
surprise. 'If you wouldn't mind walking inI'll find him
directly.' They walked in; and Sissyhaving set two chairs for
themsped away with a quick light step. It was a meanshabbily
furnished roomwith a bed in it. The white night-capembellished
with two peacock's feathers and a pigtail bolt uprightin which
Signor Jupe had that very afternoon enlivened the varied
performances with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retortshung
upon a nail; but no other portion of his wardrobeor other token
of himself or his pursuitswas to be seen anywhere. As to
Merrylegsthat respectable ancestor of the highly trained animal
who went aboard the arkmight have been accidentally shut out of
itfor any sign of a dog that was manifest to eye or ear in the
They heard the doors of rooms aboveopening 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 hurryopened a battered and mangy old hair trunkfound it
emptyand looked round with her hands clasped and her face full of
'Father must have gone down to the Boothsir. I don't know why he
should go therebut he must be there; I'll bring him in a minute!'
She was gone directlywithout her bonnet; with her longdark
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 replya 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-shaventhinand sallowwas shaded by a great quantity of
dark hairbrushed into a roll all round his headand parted up
the centre. His legs were very robustbut shorter than legs of
good proportions should have been. His chest and back were as much
too broadas 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-oilstraworange-peelhorses' provenderand
sawdust; and looked a most remarkable sort of Centaurcompounded
of the stable and the play-house. Where the one beganand the
other endednobody could have told with any precision. This
gentleman was mentioned in the bills of the day as Mr. E. W. B.
Childersso justly celebrated for his daring vaulting act as the
Wild Huntsman of the North American Prairies; in which popular
performancea diminutive boy with an old facewho now accompanied
himassisted as his infant son: being carried upside down over
his father's shoulderby one footand held by the crown of his
headheels upwardsin the palm of his father's handaccording to
the violent paternal manner in which wild huntsmen may be observed
to fondle their offspring. Made up with curlswreathswings
white bismuthand carminethis hopeful young person soared into
so pleasing a Cupid as to constitute the chief delight of the
maternal part of the spectators; but in privatewhere his
characteristics were a precocious cutaway coat and an extremely
gruff voicehe became of the Turfturfy.
'By your leavesgentlemen' said Mr. E. W. B. Childersglancing
round the room. 'It was youI believethat were wishing to see
'It was' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'His daughter has gone to fetch him
but I can't wait; thereforeif you pleaseI will leave a message
for him with you.'
'You seemy friend' Mr. Bounderby put in'we are the kind of
people who know the value of timeand you are the kind of people
who don't know the value of time.'
'I have not' retorted Mr. Childersafter 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 mineI should judge
from your appearancethat you are about right.'
'And when you have made ityou can keep it tooI should think'
'Kidderminsterstow that!' said Mr. Childers. (Master
Kidderminster was Cupid's mortal name.)
'What does he come here cheeking us forthen?' cried Master
Kidderminstershowing a very irascible temperament. 'If you want
to cheek uspay your ochre at the doors and take it out.'
'Kidderminster' said Mr. Childersraising 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 oftenlately.'
'Has - what has he missed?' asked Mr. Gradgrindglancing at the
potent Bounderby for assistance.
'Missed his tip.'
'Offered at the Garters four times last nightand never done 'em
once' said Master Kidderminster. 'Missed his tip at the banners
tooand 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 tipis it?'
'In a general way that's missing his tip' Mr. E. W. B. Childers
'Nine oilsMerrylegsmissing tipsgartersbannersand Ponging
eh!' ejaculated Bounderbywith his laugh of laughs. 'Queer sort
of companytoofor a man who has raised himself!'
'Lower yourselfthen' retorted Cupid. 'Oh Lord! if you've raised
yourself so high as all that comes tolet yourself down a bit.'
'This is a very obtrusive lad!' said Mr. Gradgrindturningand
knitting his brows on him.
'We'd have had a young gentleman to meet youif we had known you
were coming' retorted Master Kidderminsternothing abashed.
'It's a pity you don't have a bespeakbeing so particular. You're
on the Tight-Jeffain't you?'
'What does this unmannerly boy mean' asked Mr. Gradgrindeyeing
him in a sort of desperation'by Tight-Jeff?'
'There! Get outget out!' said Mr. Childersthrusting his young
friend from the roomrather in the prairie manner. 'Tight-Jeff or
Slack-Jeffit don't much signify: it's only tight-rope and slackrope.
You were going to give me a message for Jupe?'
'Then' continued Mr. Childersquickly'my opinion ishe 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
'Do you mean that he has deserted his daughter?'
'Ay! I mean' said Mr. Childerswith a nod'that he has cut. He
was goosed last nighthe was goosed the night before lasthe was
goosed to-day. He has lately got in the way of being always
goosedand he can't stand it.'
'Why has he been - so very much - Goosed?' asked Mr. Gradgrind
forcing the word out of himselfwith great solemnity and
'His joints are turning stiffand he is getting used up' said
Childers. 'He has his points as a Cackler stillbut he can't get
a living out of them.'
'A Cackler!' Bounderby repeated. 'Here we go again!'
'A speakerif the gentleman likes it better' said Mr. E. W. B.
Childerssuperciliously throwing the interpretation over his
shoulderand accompanying it with a shake of his long hair - which
all shook at once. 'Nowit's a remarkable factsirthat it cut
that man deeperto know that his daughter knew of his being
goosedthan to go through with it.'
'Good!' interrupted Mr. Bounderby. 'This is goodGradgrind! A
man so fond of his daughterthat he runs away from her! This is
devilish good! Ha! ha! NowI'll tell you whatyoung man. I
haven't always occupied my present station of life. I know what
these things are. You may be astonished to hear itbut my mother
-ran away from me.'
E. W. B. Childers replied pointedlythat he was not at all
astonished to hear it.
'Very well' said Bounderby. 'I was born in a ditchand 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 worldexcept
my drunken grandmother. There's no family pride about methere'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 favourwhat I should call her if she had
been the mother of Dick Jones of Wapping. Sowith this man. He
is a runaway rogue and a vagabondthat's what he isin English.'
'It's all the same to me what he is or what he is notwhether 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 ityou can avail yourself of the open air. You
give it mouth enoughyou 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 buildingtill you're called upon. You have
got some building of your own I dare saynow?'
'Perhaps so' replied Mr. Bounderbyrattling his money and
'Then give it mouth in your own buildingwill youif you please?'
said Childers. 'Because this isn't a strong buildingand too much
of you might bring it down!'
Eyeing Mr. Bounderby from head to foot againhe turned from him
as from a man finally disposed ofto Mr. Gradgrind.
'Jupe sent his daughter out on an errand not an hour agoand then
was seen to slip out himselfwith his hat over his eyesand a
bundle tied up in a handkerchief under his arm. She will never
believe it of himbut 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.
Becauseup to this timehe seemed to dote upon her' said
Childerstaking 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 menand with a
very knowing assumption of being stiff in the knees. This walk was
common to all the male members of Sleary's companyand was
understood to expressthat they were always on horseback.
'Poor Sissy! He had better have apprenticed her' said Childers
giving his hair another shakeas he looked up from the empty box.
'Nowhe leaves her without anything to take to.'
'It is creditable to youwho have never been apprenticedto
express that opinion' returned Mr. Gradgrindapprovingly.
'I never apprenticed? I was apprenticed when I was seven year
'Oh! Indeed?' said Mr. Gradgrindrather resentfullyas 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. 'Noby the
Lord Harry! Nor I!'
'Her father always had it in his head' resumed Childersfeigning
unconsciousness of Mr. Bounderby's existence'that she was to be
taught the deuce-and-all of education. How it got into his headI
can't say; I can only say that it never got out. He has been
picking up a bit of reading for herhere - and a bit of writing
for herthere - and a bit of ciphering for hersomewhere else these
Mr. E. W. B. Childers took one of his hands out of his pockets
stroked his face and chinand lookedwith a good deal of doubt
and a little hopeat Mr. Gradgrind. From the first he had sought
to conciliate that gentlemanfor 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 whymyself
as we were not stationary herebeing but comers and goers
anywhere. I supposehoweverhe 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-nightfor the purpose of
telling him that you were going to do her any little service' said
Mr. Childersstroking his face againand repeating his look'it
would be very fortunate and well-timed; very fortunate and welltimed.'
'On the contrary' returned Mr. Gradgrind. 'I came to tell him
that her connections made her not an object for the schooland
that she must not attend any more. Stillif her father really has
left herwithout any connivance on her part - Bounderbylet me
have a word with you.'
Upon thisMr. Childers politely betook himselfwith his
equestrian walkto the landing outside the doorand there stood
stroking his faceand softly whistling. While thus engagedhe
overheard such phrases in Mr. Bounderby's voice as 'No. I say no.
I advise you not. I say by no means.' Whilefrom Mr. Gradgrind
he heard in his much lower tone the words'But even as an example
to Louisaof what this pursuit which has been the subject of a
vulgar curiosityleads to and ends in. Think of itBounderbyin
that point of view.'
Meanwhilethe various members of Sleary's company gradually
gathered together from the upper regionswhere they were
quarteredandfrom standing abouttalking in low voices to one
another and to Mr. Childersgradually insinuated themselves and
him into the room. There were two or three handsome young women
among themwith their two or three husbandsand their two or
three mothersand their eight or nine little childrenwho 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 fatherswith Master Kidderminster for the
apexand himself for the base; all the fathers could dance upon
rolling casksstand upon bottlescatch knives and ballstwirl
hand-basinsride upon anythingjump over everythingand stick at
nothing. All the mothers could (and did) danceupon the slack
wire and the tight-ropeand perform rapid acts on bare-backed
steeds; none of them were at all particular in respect of showing
their legs; and one of themalone in a Greek chariotdrove six in
hand into every town they came to. They all assumed to be mighty
rakish and knowingthey were not very tidy in their private
dressesthey were not at all orderly in their domestic
arrangementsand 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 peoplea
special inaptitude for any kind of sharp practiceand an untiring
readiness to help and pity one anotherdeserving often of as much
respectand always of as much generous constructionas the everyday
virtues of any class of people in the world.
Last of all appeared Mr. Sleary: a stout man as already mentioned
with one fixed eyeand one loose eyea voice (if it can be called
so) like the efforts of a broken old pair of bellowsa flabby
surfaceand a muddled head which was never sober and never drunk.
'Thquire!' said Mr. Slearywho was troubled with asthmaand whose
breath came far too thick and heavy for the letter s'Your
thervant! Thith ith a bad piethe of bithniththith ith. You've
heard of my Clown and hith dog being thuppothed to have morrithed?'
He addressed Mr. Gradgrindwho answered 'Yes.'
'WellThquire' he returnedtaking off his hatand rubbing the
lining with his pocket-handkerchiefwhich he kept inside for the
purpose. 'Ith it your intenthion to do anything for the poor girl
'I shall have something to propose to her when she comes back'
said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Glad to hear itThquire. Not that I want to get rid of the
childany more than I want to thtand in her way. I'm willing to
take her prentiththough at her age ith late. My voithe ith a
little huthkyThquireand not eathy heard by them ath don't know
me; but if you'd been chilled and heatedheated and chilled
chilled and heated in the ring when you wath youngath often ath I
have beenyour voithe wouldn't have lathted outThquireno more
'I dare say not' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'What thall it beThquirewhile you wait? Thall it be Therry?
Give it a nameThquire!' said Mr. Slearywith hospitable ease.
'Nothing for meI thank you' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Don't thay nothingThquire. What doth your friend thay? If you
haven't took your feed yethave a glath of bitterth.'
Here his daughter Josephine - a pretty fair-haired girl of
eighteenwho had been tied on a horse at two years oldand had
made a will at twelvewhich she always carried about with her
expressive of her dying desire to be drawn to the grave by the two
piebald ponies - cried'Fatherhush! she has come back!' Then
came Sissy Juperunning into the room as she had run out of it.
And when she saw them all assembledand saw their looksand saw
no father thereshe broke into a most deplorable cryand 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
herand to weep over her.
'Ith an internal thameupon my thoul it ith' said Sleary.
'O my dear fathermy good kind fatherwhere are you gone? You
are gone to try to do me some goodI know! You are gone away for
my sakeI am sure! And how miserable and helpless you will be
without mepoorpoor fatheruntil you come back!' It was so
pathetic to hear her saying many things of this kindwith her face
turned upwardand her arms stretched out as if she were trying to
stop his departing shadow and embrace itthat no one spoke a word
until Mr. Bounderby (growing impatient) took the case in hand.
'Nowgood people all' said he'this is wanton waste of time.
Let the girl understand the fact. Let her take it from meif you
likewho have been run away frommyself. Herewhat'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 Factthese peopleand were in that
advanced state of degeneracy on the subjectthat instead of being
impressed by the speaker's strong common sensethey took it in
extraordinary dudgeon. The men muttered 'Shame!' and the women
'Brute!' and Slearyin some hastecommunicated the following
hintapart to Mr. Bounderby.
'I tell you whatThquire. To thpeak plain to youmy opinion ith
that you had better cut it thortand drop it. They're a very good
natur'd peoplemy peoplebut they're accuthtomed to be quick in
their movementh; and if you don't act upon my advitheI'm damned
if I don't believe they'll pith you out o' winder.'
Mr. Bounderby being restrained by this mild suggestionMr.
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 timeor the contrary. He is gone awayand
there is no present expectation of his return. ThatI believeis
agreed on all hands.'
'Thath agreedThquire. Thick to that!' From Sleary.
'Well then. Iwho came here to inform the father of the poor
girlJupethat she could not be received at the school any more
in consequence of there being practical objectionsinto which I
need not enterto the reception there of the children of persons
so employedam prepared in these altered circumstances to make a
proposal. I am willing to take charge of youJupeand to educate
youand provide for you. The only condition (over and above your
good behaviour) I make isthat you decide nowat oncewhether to
accompany me or remain here. Alsothat 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 wordThquire
tho that both thides of the banner may be equally theen. If you
likeThethiliato be prentithtyou know the natur of the work
and you know your companionth. Emma Gordonin whothe lap you're a
lying at prethentwould be a mother to youand Joth'phine would
be a thithter to you. I don't pretend to be of the angel breed
myselfand I don't thay but whatwhen you mith'd your tipyou'd
find me cut up roughand thwear an oath or two at you. But what I
thayThquireiththat good tempered or bad temperedI never did
a horthe a injury yetno more than thwearing at him wentand that
I don't expect I thall begin otherwithe at my time of lifewith a
rider. I never wath much of a CacklerThquireand I have thed my
The latter part of this speech was addressed to Mr. Gradgrindwho
received it with a grave inclination of his headand then
'The only observation I will make to youJupein the way of
influencing your decisionisthat it is highly desirable to have
a sound practical educationand that even your father himself
(from what I understand) appearson your behalfto have known and
felt that much.'
The last words had a visible effect upon her. She stopped in her
wild cryinga little detached herself from Emma Gordonand turned
her face full upon her patron. The whole company perceived the
force of the changeand drew a long breath togetherthat plainly
said'she will go!'
'Be sure you know your own mindJupe' Mr. Gradgrind cautioned
her; 'I say no more. Be sure you know your own mind!'
'When father comes back' cried the girlbursting 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. Gradgrindcalmly; he worked
out the whole matter like a sum: 'you may be quite at easeJupe
on that score. In such a caseyour fatherI apprehendmust find
out Mr. - '
'Thleary. Thath my nameThquire. Not athamed of it. Known all
over Englandand alwayth paythe ith way.'
'Must find out Mr. Slearywho would then let him know where you
went. I should have no power of keeping you against his wishand
he would have no difficultyat any timein finding Mr. Thomas
Gradgrind of Coketown. I am well known.'
'Well known' assented Mr. Slearyrolling his loose eye. 'You're
one of the thortThquirethat keepth a prethiouth thight of money
out of the houthe. But never mind that at prethent.'
There was another silence; and then she exclaimedsobbing with her
hands before her face'Ohgive me my clothesgive 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 donefor they were not many - and to pack them in a
basket which had often travelled with them. Sissy sat all the time
upon the groundstill sobbingand covering her eyes. Mr.
Gradgrind and his friend Bounderby stood near the doorready to
take her away. Mr. Sleary stood in the middle of the roomwith
the male members of the company about himexactly 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 silencethey brought her bonnet to herand
smoothed her disordered hairand put it on. Then they pressed
about herand bent over her in very natural attitudeskissing and
embracing her: and brought the children to take leave of her; and
were a tender-heartedsimplefoolish set of women altogether.
'NowJupe' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'If you are quite determined
But she had to take her farewell of the male part of the company
yetand 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
exceptedin whose young nature there was an original flavour of
the misanthropewho was also known to have harboured matrimonial
viewsand who moodily withdrew. Mr. Sleary was reserved until the
last. Opening his arms wide he took her by both her handsand
would have sprung her up and downafter the riding-master manner
of congratulating young ladies on their dismounting from a rapid
act; but there was no rebound in Sissyand she only stood before
'Good-byemy dear!' said Sleary. 'You'll make your fortunI
hopeand none of our poor folkth will ever trouble youI'll pound
it. I with your father hadn't taken hith dog with him; ith a illconwenienth
to have the dog out of the billth. But on thecond
thoughthhe wouldn't have performed without hith mathtertho ith
ath broad ath ith long!'
With that he regarded her attentively with his fixed eyesurveyed
his company with his loose onekissed hershook his headand
handed her to Mr. Gradgrind as to a horse.
'There the ithThquire' he saidsweeping her with a professional
glance as if she were being adjusted in her seat'and the'll do
you juthtithe. Good-byeThethilia!'
'Good-byeCecilia!' 'Good-byeSissy!' 'God bless youdear!'
In a variety of voices from all the room.
But the riding-master eye had observed the bottle of the nine oils
in her bosomand he now interposed with 'Leave the bottlemy
dear; ith large to carry; it will be of no uthe to you now. Give
it to me!'
'Nono!' she saidin another burst of tears. 'Ohno! 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 awaywhen he sent me
for it. I must keep it for himif you please!'
'Tho be itmy dear. (You thee how it ithThquire!) Farewell
Thethilia! My latht wordth to you ith thithThtick to the termth
of your engagementbe obedient to the Thquireand forget uth.
But ifwhen you're grown up and married and well offyou come
upon any horthe-riding everdon't be hard upon itdon't be croth
with itgive it a Bethpeak if you canand think you might do
wurth. People mutht be amuthedThquirethomehow' continued
Slearyrendered more pursy than everby so much talking; 'they
can't be alwayth a workingnor 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 lifeI know; but I
conthider that I lay down the philothophy of the thubject when I
thay to youThquiremake 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 eyetoo - soon lost
the three figures and the basket in the darkness of the street.
CHAPTER VII - MRS. SPARSIT
MR. BOUNDERBY being a bacheloran elderly lady presided over his
establishmentin 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 caras it rolled along in triumph
with the Bully of humility inside.
ForMrs. Sparsit had not only seen different daysbut was highly
connected. She had a great aunt living in these very times called
Lady Scadgers. Mr. Sparsitdeceasedof 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 wasand even to
appear uncertain whether it might be a businessor a political
partyor a profession of faith. The better class of minds
howeverdid not need to be informed that the Powlers were an
ancient stockwho could trace themselves so exceedingly far back
that it was not surprising if they sometimes lost themselves which
they had rather frequently doneas respected horse-flesh
blind-hookeyHebrew monetary transactionsand the Insolvent
The late Mr. Sparsitbeing by the mother's side a Powlermarried
this ladybeing by the father's side a Scadgers. Lady Scadgers
(an immensely fat old womanwith an inordinate appetite for
butcher's meatand a mysterious leg which had now refused to get
out of bed for fourteen years) contrived the marriageat a period
when Sparsit was just of ageand chiefly noticeable for a slender
bodyweakly supported on two long slim propsand surmounted by no
head worth mentioning. He inherited a fair fortune from his uncle
but owed it all before he came into itand spent it twice over
immediately afterwards. Thuswhen he diedat twenty-four (the
scene of his deceaseCalaisand the causebrandy)he did not
leave his widowfrom whom he had been separated soon after the
honeymoonin affluent circumstances. That bereaved ladyfifteen
years older than hefell presently at deadly feud with her only
relativeLady Scadgers; andpartly to spite her ladyshipand
partly to maintain herselfwent out at a salary. And here she was
nowin her elderly dayswith the Coriolanian style of nose and
the dense black eyebrows which had captivated Sparsitmaking Mr.
Bounderby's tea as he took his breakfast.
If Bounderby had been a Conquerorand 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 extractionso 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 circumstancehe
brightened Mrs. Sparsit's juvenile career with every possible
advantageand showered waggon-loads of early roses all over that
lady's path. 'And yetsir' he would say'how does it turn out
after all? Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a
hundredwhich she is pleased to term handsome)keeping the house
of Josiah Bounderby of Coketown!'
Nayhe made this foil of his so very widely knownthat third
parties took it upand handled it on some occasions with
considerable briskness. It was one of the most exasperating
attributes of Bounderbythat he not only sang his own praises but
stimulated other men to sing them. There was a moral infection of
clap-trap in him. Strangersmodest enough elsewherestarted up
at dinners in Coketownand boastedin quite a rampant wayof
Bounderby. They made him out to be the Royal armsthe Union-Jack
Magna ChartaJohn BullHabeas Corpusthe Bill of RightsAn
Englishman's house is his castleChurch and Stateand God save
the Queenall 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 themas a breath has made'
-it wasfor certainmore or less understood among the company
that he had heard of Mrs. Sparsit.
'Mr. Bounderby' said Mrs. Sparsit'you are unusually slowsir
with your breakfast this morning.'
'Whyma'am' he returned'I am thinking about Tom Gradgrind's
whim;' Tom Gradgrindfor a bluff independent manner of speaking as
if somebody were always endeavouring to bribe him with immense
sums to say Thomasand he wouldn't; 'Tom Gradgrind's whimma'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 schoolor up to the Lodge.'
'She must waitma'am' answered Bounderby'till I know myself.
We shall have Tom Gradgrind down here presentlyI suppose. If he
should wish her to remain here a day or two longerof course she
'Of course she can if you wish itMr. Bounderby.'
'I told him I would give her a shake-down herelast nightin
order that he might sleep on it before he decided to let her have
any association with Louisa.'
'IndeedMr. Bounderby? Very thoughtful of you!' Mrs. Sparsit's
Coriolanian nose underwent a slight expansion of the nostrilsand
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 GradgrindMr. Bounderby?'
'Yesma'amI'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
'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,
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
'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
'You were in the tiptop fashion, and all the rest of it,' said Mr.
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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 disappointedMr. Bounderby. She
always used to tell me she was sure you would be easier with me
than this." That'll bring him aboutor nothing will.'
After waiting for some answering remarkand getting noneTom
wearily relapsed into the present timeand twined himself yawning
round and about the rails of his chairand rumpled his head more
and moreuntil he suddenly looked upand asked:
'Have you gone to sleepLoo?'
'NoTom. 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 advantagesI supposeof being a girl.'
'Tom' enquired his sisterslowlyand in a curious toneas if
she were reading what she asked in the fireand it was not quite
plainly written there'do you look forward with any satisfaction
to this change to Mr. Bounderby's?'
'Whythere's one thing to be said of it' returned Tompushing
his chair from himand standing up; 'it will be getting away from
'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 unwillingboth to leave youLoo
and to leave you here. But I must goyou knowwhether I like it
or not; and I had better go where I can take with me some advantage
of your influencethan where I should lose it altogether. Don't
The answer was so long in comingthough there was no indecision in
itthat Tom went and leaned on the back of her chairto
contemplate the fire which so engrossed herfrom her point of
viewand 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
'I don't see anything in itTomparticularly. But since I have
been looking at itI have been wondering about you and megrown
'Wondering again!' said Tom.
'I have such unmanageable thoughts' returned his sister'that
they will wonder.'
'Then I beg of youLouisa' said Mrs. Gradgrindwho had opened
the door without being heard'to do nothing of that description
for goodness' sakeyou inconsiderate girlor I shall never hear
the last of it from your father. AndThomasit is really
shamefulwith my poor head continually wearing me outthat a boy
brought up as you have beenand whose education has cost what
yours hasshould be found encouraging his sister to wonderwhen
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'Louisadon't tell mein
my state of health; for unless you had been encouragedit is
morally and physically impossible that you could have done it.'
'I was encouraged by nothingmotherbut by looking at the red
sparks dropping out of the fireand whitening and dying. It made
me thinkafter allhow short my life would beand how little I
could hope to do in it.'
'Nonsense!' said Mrs. Gradgrindrendered almost energetic.
'Nonsense! Don't stand there and tell me such stuffLouisato my
facewhen 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
attendedand the experiments you have seen! After I have heard
you myselfwhen the whole of my right side has been benumbed
going on with your master about combustionand calcinationand
calorificationand I may say every kind of ation that could drive
a poor invalid distractedto hear you talking in this absurd way
about sparks and ashes! I wish' whimpered Mrs. Gradgrindtaking
a chairand discharging her strongest point before succumbing
under these mere shadows of facts'yesI really do wish that I
had never had a familyand 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 itbetween Mr. M'Choakumchild
and Mrs. Gradgrindand was not without strong impulsesin the
first months of her probationto run away. It hailed facts all
day long so very hardand life in general was opened to her as
such a closely ruled ciphering-bookthat assuredly she would have
run awaybut for only one restraint.
It is lamentable to think of; but this restraint was the result of
no arithmetical processwas self-imposed in defiance of all
calculationand 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 backand 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 knowingon a sound arithmetical
basisthat her father was an unnatural vagabondfilled Mr.
Gradgrind with pity. Yetwhat was to be done? M'Choakumchild
reported that she had a very dense head for figures; thatonce
possessed with a general idea of the globeshe took the smallest
conceivable interest in its exact measurements; that she was
extremely slow in the acquisition of datesunless 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 downin the school
as low could be; that after eight weeks of induction into the
elements of Political Economyshe had only yesterday been set
right by a prattler three feet highfor 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 observedshaking his headthat all this was very
bad; that it showed the necessity of infinite grinding at the mill
of knowledgeas per systemscheduleblue bookreportand
tabular statements A to Z; and that Jupe 'must be kept to it.' So
Jupe was kept to itand became low-spiritedbut no wiser.
'It would be a fine thing to be youMiss Louisa!' she saidone
nightwhen Louisa had endeavoured to make her perplexities for
next day something clearer to her.
'Do you think so?'
'I should know so muchMiss Louisa. All that is difficult to me
nowwould be so easy then.'
'You might not be the better for itSissy.'
Sissy submittedafter a little hesitation'I should not be the
worseMiss Louisa.' To which Miss Louisa answered'I don't know
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 interferenceand because of the
prohibition relative to Sissy's past career - that they were still
almost strangers. Sissywith her dark eyes wonderingly directed
to Louisa's facewas uncertain whether to say more or to remain
'You are more useful to my motherand more pleasant with her than
I can ever be' Louisa resumed. 'You are pleasanter to yourself
than I am to myself.'
'Butif you pleaseMiss Louisa' Sissy pleaded'I am - O so
Louisawith a brighter laugh than usualtold her she would be
'You don't know' said Sissyhalf crying'what a stupid girl I
am. All through school hours I make mistakes. Mr. and Mrs.
M'Choakumchild call me upover and over againregularly to make
mistakes. I can't help them. They seem to come natural to me.'
'Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild never make any mistakes themselvesI
'O no!' she eagerly returned. 'They know everything.'
'Tell me some of your mistakes.'
'I am almost ashamed' said Sissywith reluctance. 'But to-day
for instanceMr. M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural
'NationalI think it must have been' observed Louisa.
'Yesit was. - But isn't it the same?' she timidly asked.
'You had better sayNationalas he said so' returned Louisa
with her dry reserve.
'National Prosperity. And he saidNowthis schoolroom is a
Nation. And in this nationthere are fifty millions of money.
Isn't this a prosperous nation? Girl number twentyisn't this a
prosperous nationand a'n't you in a thriving state?'
'What did you say?' asked Louisa.
'Miss LouisaI said I didn't know. I thought I couldn't know
whether it was a prosperous nation or notand whether I was in a
thriving state or notunless I knew who had got the moneyand
whether any of it was mine. But that had nothing to do with it.
It was not in the figures at all' said Sissywiping her eyes.
'That was a great mistake of yours' observed Louisa.
'YesMiss LouisaI know it wasnow. Then Mr. M'Choakumchild
said he would try me again. And he saidThis schoolroom is an
immense townand in it there are a million of inhabitantsand
only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streetsin 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 starvedwhether the
others were a millionor a million million. And that was wrong
'Of course it was.'
'Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he
saidHere are the stutterings - '
'Statistics' said Louisa.
'YesMiss Louisa - they always remind me of stutteringsand
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 voyagesand only five hundred
of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage?
And I saidMiss;' here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with
extreme contrition to her greatest error; 'I said it was nothing.'
'NothingMiss - to the relations and friends of the people who
were killed. I shall never learn' said Sissy. 'And the worst of
all isthat although my poor father wished me so much to learn
and although I am so anxious to learnbecause he wished me toI
am afraid I don't like it.'
Louisa stood looking at the pretty modest headas it drooped
abashed before heruntil it was raised again to glance at her
face. Then she asked:
'Did your father know so much himselfthat he wished you to be
well taught tooSissy?'
Sissy hesitated before replyingand so plainly showed her sense
that they were entering on forbidden groundthat Louisa added'No
one hears us; and if any one didI am sure no harm could be found
in such an innocent question.'
'NoMiss Louisa' answered Sissyupon this encouragementshaking
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.'
'Father says she was quite a scholar. She died when I was born.
She was;' Sissy made the terrible communication nervously; 'she was
'Did your father love her?' Louisa asked these questions with a
strongwildwandering interest peculiar to her; an interest gone
astray like a banished creatureand hiding in solitary places.
'O yes! As dearly as he loves me. Father loved mefirstfor 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 nowSissy?'
'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 minutetill he comes
'Tell me more about him' said Louisa'I will never ask you again.
Where did you live?'
'We travelled about the countryand had no fixed place to live in.
Father's a;' Sissy whispered the awful word'a clown.'
'To make the people laugh?' said Louisawith a nod of
'Yes. But they wouldn't laugh sometimesand then father cried.
Latelythey very often wouldn't laughand he used to come home
despairing. Father's not like most. Those who didn't know him as
well as I doand didn't love him as dearly as I domight believe
he was not quite right. Sometimes they played tricks upon him; but
they never knew how he felt themand shrunk upwhen he was alone
with me. He was farfar timider than they thought!'
'And you were his comfort through everything?'
She noddedwith the tears rolling down her face. 'I hope soand
father said I was. It was because he grew so scared and trembling
and because he felt himself to be a poorweakignoranthelpless
man (those used to be his words)that he wanted me so much to know
a great dealand be different from him. I used to read to him to
cheer his courageand 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 Louisawith a searching gaze on Sissy
all this time.
'O very much! They kept himmany timesfrom what did him real
harm. And often and often of a nighthe used to forget all his
troubles in wondering whether the Sultan would let the lady go on
with the storyor would have her head cut off before it was
'And your father was always kind? To the last?' asked Louisa
contravening the great principleand wondering very much.
'Alwaysalways!' returned Sissyclasping her hands. 'Kinder and
kinder than I can tell. He was angry only one nightand that was
not to mebut Merrylegs. Merrylegs;' she whispered the awful
fact; 'is his performing dog.'
'Why was he angry with the dog?' Louisa demanded.
'Fathersoon after they came home from performingtold Merrylegs
to jump up on the backs of the two chairs and stand across them which
is one of his tricks. He looked at fatherand didn't do it
at once. Everything of father's had gone wrong that nightand he
hadn't pleased the public at all. He cried out that the very dog
knew he was failingand had no compassion on him. Then he beat
the dogand I was frightenedand saidFather, father! Pray
don't hurt the creature who is so fond of you! O Heaven forgive
you, father, stop!And he stoppedand the dog was bloodyand
father lay down crying on the floor with the dog in his armsand
the dog licked his face.'
Louisa saw that she was sobbing; and going to herkissed hertook
her handand sat down beside her.
'Finish by telling me how your father left youSissy. Now that I
have asked you so muchtell me the end. The blameif there is
any blameis minenot yours.'
'Dear Miss Louisa' said Sissycovering her eyesand sobbing yet;
'I came home from the school that afternoonand found poor father
just come home toofrom the booth. And he sat rocking himself
over the fireas if he was in pain. And I saidHave you hurt
yourself, father?(as he did sometimeslike they all did)and he
saidA little, my darling.And when I came to stoop down and
look up at his faceI saw that he was crying. The more I spoke to
himthe more he hid his face; and at first he shook all overand
said nothing but "My darling;" and "My love!"'
Here Tom came lounging inand stared at the two with a coolness
not particularly savouring of interest in anything but himselfand
not much of that at present.
'I am asking Sissy a few questionsTom' observed his sister.
'You have no occasion to go away; but don't interrupt us for a
'Oh! very well!' returned Tom. 'Only father has brought old
Bounderby homeand I want you to come into the drawing-room.
Because if you comethere's a good chance of old Bounderby's
asking me to dinner; and if you don'tthere'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 againand never did give any
satisfaction nowand that he was a shame and disgraceand I
should have done better without him all along. I said all the
affectionate things to him that came into my heartand presently
he was quiet and I sat down by himand told him all about the
school and everything that had been said and done there. When I
had no more left to tellhe put his arms round my neckand kissed
me a great many times. Then he asked me to fetch some of the stuff
he usedfor the little hurt he had hadand to get it at the best
placewhich was at the other end of town from there; and then
after kissing me againhe 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 doorand saidFather dear, shall I take
Merrylegs?Father shook his head and saidNo, 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
poorpoor father! of going away to try something for my sake; for
when I came backhe was gone.'
'I say! Look sharp for old BounderbyLoo!' Tom remonstrated.
'There's no more to tellMiss Louisa. I keep the nine oils ready
for himand I know he will come back. Every letter that I see in
Mr. Gradgrind's hand takes my breath away and blinds my eyesfor I
think it comes from fatheror 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 BounderbyLoo!' said Tomwith an impatient
whistle. 'He'll be off if you don't look sharp!'
After thiswhenever Sissy dropped a curtsey to Mr. Gradgrind in
the presence of his familyand said in a faltering way'I beg
your pardonsirfor being troublesome - but - have you had any
letter yet about me?' Louisa would suspend the occupation of the
momentwhatever it wasand look for the reply as earnestly as
Sissy did. And when Mr. Gradgrind regularly answered'NoJupe
nothing of the sort' the trembling of Sissy's lip would be
repeated in Louisa's faceand her eyes would follow Sissy with
compassion to the door. Mr. Gradgrind usually improved these
occasions by remarkingwhen she was gonethat 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 himfor 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 Tomhe was becoming that not unprecedented triumph of
calculation which is usually at work on number one. As to Mrs.
Gradgrindif she said anything on the subjectshe would come a
little way out of her wrapperslike a feminine dormouseand say:
'Good gracious bless mehow my poor head is vexed and worried by
that girl Jupe's so perseveringly askingover and over again
about her tiresome letters! Upon my word and honour I seem to be
fatedand destinedand ordainedto 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 pointMr. Gradgrind's eye would fall upon her; and
under the influence of that wintry piece of factshe would become
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 idiosyncrasyas a reason why I would give them a little
In the hardest working part of Coketown; in the innermost
fortifications of that ugly citadelwhere Nature was as strongly
bricked out as killing airs and gases were bricked in; at the heart
of the labyrinth of narrow courts upon courtsand close streets
upon streetswhich had come into existence piecemealevery piece
in a violent hurry for some one man's purposeand the whole an
unnatural familyshoulderingand tramplingand pressing one
another to death; in the last close nook of this great exhausted
receiverwhere the chimneysfor want of air to make a draught
were built in an immense variety of stunted and crooked shapesas
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 peopleif Providence had seen fit to make them
only handsorlike the lower creatures of the seashoreonly
hands and stomachs - lived a certain Stephen Blackpoolforty years
Stephen looked olderbut he had had a hard life. It is said that
every life has its roses and thorns; there seemedhoweverto have
been a misadventure or mistake in Stephen's casewhereby somebody
else had become possessed of his rosesand he had become possessed
of the same somebody else's thorns in addition to his own. He had
knownto use his wordsa peck of trouble. He was usually called
Old Stephenin a kind of rough homage to the fact.
A rather stooping manwith a knitted browa pondering expression
of faceand a hard-looking head sufficiently capaciouson which
his iron-grey hair lay long and thinOld Stephen might have passed
for a particularly intelligent man in his condition. Yet he was
not. He took no place among those remarkable 'Hands' whopiecing
together their broken intervals of leisure through many yearshad
mastered difficult sciencesand 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 heat any time. He was a good power-loom
weaverand a man of perfect integrity. What more he wasor what
else he had in himif anythinglet him show for himself.
The lights in the great factorieswhich lookedwhen they were
illuminatedlike Fairy palaces - or the travellers by expresstrain
said so - were all extinguished; and the bells had rung for
knocking off for the nightand had ceased again; and the Hands
men and womenboy and girlwere clattering home. Old Stephen was
standing in the streetwith 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 Rachaelstill!' said he.
It was a wet nightand many groups of young women passed himwith
their shawls drawn over their bare heads and held close under their
chins to keep the rain out. He knew Rachael wellfor a glance at
any one of these groups was sufficient to show him that she was not
there. At lastthere were no more to come; and then he turned
awaysaying in a tone of disappointment'Whythenha' missed
Buthe had not gone the length of three streetswhen he saw
another of the shawled figures in advance of himat 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 lampbrightening and
fading as it went - would have been enough to tell him who was
there. Making his pace at once much quicker and much softerhe
darted on until he was very near this figurethen fell into his
former walkand called 'Rachael!'
She turnedbeing then in the brightness of a lamp; and raising her
hood a littleshowed a quiet oval facedark and rather delicate
irradiated by a pair of very gentle eyesand 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.
'Ahlad! 'Tis thou?' When she had said thiswith a smile which
would have been quite expressedthough nothing of her had been
seen but her pleasant eyesshe replaced her hood againand they
went on together.
'I thought thou wast ahind meRachael?'
''Times I'm a little earlyStephen! 'times a little late. I'm
never to be counted ongoing home.'
'Nor going t'other wayneither't seems to meRachael?'
He looked at her with some disappointment in his facebut 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 friendsladand such old friendsand getting
to be such old folknow.'
'NoRachaelthou'rt as young as ever thou wast.'
'One of us would be puzzled how to get oldStephenwithout 't
other getting so tooboth being alive' she answeredlaughing;
'butanywayswe're such old friendsand 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. 'Timesyes! 'Twould be hardindeed
if 'twas not to be at all' she saidwith a cheerfulness she
sought to communicate to him.
'Try to think not; and 'twill seem better.'
'I've tried a long timeand 'ta'nt got better. But thou'rt right;
't might mak fok talkeven of thee. Thou hast been that to me
Rachaelthrough so many year: thou hast done me so much goodand
heartened of me in that cheering waythat thy word is a law to me.
Ahlassand a bright good law! Better than some real ones.'
'Never fret about themStephen' she answered quicklyand not
without an anxious glance at his face. 'Let the laws be.'
'Yes' he saidwith a slow nod or two. 'Let 'em be. Let
everything be. Let all sorts alone. 'Tis a muddleand that's
'Always a muddle?' said Rachaelwith another gentle touch upon his
armas if to recall him out of the thoughtfulnessin which he was
biting the long ends of his loose neckerchief as he walked along.
The touch had its instantaneous effect. He let them fallturned a
smiling face upon herand saidas he broke into a good-humoured
laugh'AyRachaellassawlus a muddle. That's where I stick.
I come to the muddle many times and agenand I never get beyond
They had walked some distanceand 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 ladderin 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 cornerand putting her hand in
hiswished him good night.
'Good nightdear lass; good night!'
She wentwith her neat figure and her sober womanly stepdown the
dark streetand he stood looking after her until she turned into
one of the small houses. There was not a flutter of her coarse
shawlperhapsbut 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 viewhe pursued his homeward way
glancing up sometimes at the skywhere the clouds were sailing
fast and wildly. Butthey were broken nowand the rain had
ceasedand the moon shone- looking down the high chimneys of
Coketown on the deep furnaces belowand casting Titanic shadows of
the steam-engines at restupon the walls where they were lodged.
The man seemed to have brightened with the nightas he went on.
His homein such another street as the firstsaving that it was
narrowerwas over a little shop. How it came to pass that any
people found it worth their while to sell or buy the wretched
little toysmixed 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 shelflighted it at
another end of candle on the counterwithout disturbing the
mistress of the shop who was asleep in her little roomand went
upstairs into his lodging.
It was a roomnot unacquainted with the black ladder under various
tenants; but as neatat presentas such a room could be. A few
books and writings were on an old bureau in a cornerthe furniture
was decent and sufficientandthough the atmosphere was tainted
the room was clean.
Going to the hearth to set the candle down upon a round threelegged
table standing therehe stumbled against something. As he
recoiledlooking down at itit raised itself up into the form of
a woman in a sitting attitude.
'Heaven's mercywoman!' he criedfalling farther off from the
figure. 'Hast thou come back again!'
Such a woman! A disableddrunken creaturebarely able to
preserve her sitting posture by steadying herself with one begrimed
hand on the floorwhile the other was so purposeless in trying to
push away her tangled hair from her facethat it only blinded her
the more with the dirt upon it. A creature so foul to look atin
her tattersstains and splashesbut so much fouler than that in
her moral infamythat it was a shameful thing even to see her.
After an impatient oath or twoand some stupid clawing of herself
with the hand not necessary to her supportshe got her hair away
from her eyes sufficiently to obtain a sight of him. Then she sat
swaying her body to and froand making gestures with her unnerved
armwhich seemed intended as the accompaniment to a fit of
laughterthough her face was stolid and drowsy.
'Eighlad? Whatyo'r there?' Some hoarse sounds meant for this
came mockingly out of her at last; and her head dropped forward on
'Back agen?' she screechedafter some minutesas if he had that
moment said it. 'Yes! And back agen. Back agen ever and ever so
often. Back? Yesback. Why not?'
Roused by the unmeaning violence with which she cried it outshe
scrambled upand stood supporting herself with her shoulders
against the wall; dangling in one hand by the stringa dunghillfragment
of a bonnetand trying to look scornfully at him.
'I'll sell thee off againand I'll sell thee off againand I'll
sell thee off a score of times!' she criedwith something between
a furious menace and an effort at a defiant dance. 'Come awa' from
th' bed!' He was sitting on the side of itwith his face hidden
in his hands. 'Come awa! from 't. 'Tis mineand I've a right to
As she staggered to ithe avoided her with a shudderand passed his
face still hidden - to the opposite end of the room. She threw
herself upon the bed heavilyand soon was snoring hard. He sunk
into a chairand 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 illuminationbefore 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 elephantspolished and oiled
up for the day's monotonywere at their heavy exercise again.
Stephen bent over his loomquietwatchfuland steady. A special
contrastas every man was in the forest of looms where Stephen
workedto the crashingsmashingtearing piece of mechanism at
which he laboured. Never feargood people of an anxious turn of
mindthat Art will consign Nature to oblivion. Set anywhereside
by sidethe work of GOD and the work of man; and the formereven
though it be a troop of Hands of very small accountwill gain in
dignity from the comparison.
So many hundred Hands in this Mill; so many hundred horse Steam
Power. It is knownto the force of a single pound weightwhat
the engine will do; butnot all the calculators of the National
Debt can tell me the capacity for good or evilfor love or hatred
for patriotism or discontentfor the decomposition of virtue into
viceor the reverseat any single moment in the soul of one of
these its quiet servantswith the composed faces and the regulated
actions. There is no mystery in it; there is an unfathomable
mystery in the meanest of themfor ever. - Supposing we were to
reverse our arithmetic for material objectsand to govern these
awful unknown quantities by other means!
The day grew strongand showed itself outsideeven against the
flaming lights within. The lights were turned outand the work
went on. The rain felland the Smoke-serpentssubmissive to the
curse of all that tribetrailed themselves upon the earth. In the
waste-yard outsidethe steam from the escape pipethe litter of
barrels and old ironthe shining heaps of coalsthe ashes
everywherewere shrouded in a veil of mist and rain.
The work went onuntil the noon-bell rang. More clattering upon
the pavements. The loomsand wheelsand Hands all out of gear
for an hour.
Stephen came out of the hot mill into the damp wind and cold wet
streetshaggard and worn. He turned from his own class and his
own quartertaking nothing but a little bread as he walked along
towards the hill on which his principal employer livedin a red
house with black outside shuttersgreen inside blindsa black
street doorup two white stepsBOUNDERBY (in letters very like
himself) upon a brazen plateand a round brazen door-handle
underneath itlike 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 returnrequiring name of such Hand. Stephen Blackpool.
There was nothing troublesome against Stephen Blackpool; yeshe
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 firesidein a side-saddle attitudewith one foot in a cotton
stirrup. It was a partat once of Mrs. Sparsit's dignity and
servicenot to lunch. She supervised the meal officiallybut
implied that in her own stately person she considered lunch a
'NowStephen' 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 yousiryou'll never catch them at thatif
they have been with you twenty years! - andas a complimentary
toilet for Mrs. Sparsittucked his neckerchief ends into his
'Nowyou know' said Mr. Bounderbytaking some sherry'we have
never had any difficulty with youand you have never been one of
the unreasonable ones. You don't expect to be set up in a coach
and sixand to be fed on turtle soup and venisonwith a gold
spoonas a good many of 'em do!' Mr. Bounderby always represented
this to be the soleimmediateand 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. Nowyou knowI am
certain of thatbeforehand.'
'Nosirsure I ha' not coom for nowt o' th' kind.'
Mr. Bounderby seemed agreeably surprisednotwithstanding his
previous strong conviction. 'Very well' he returned. 'You're a
steady Handand I was not mistaken. Nowlet me hear what it's
all about. As it's not thatlet me hear what it is. What have
you got to say? Out with itlad!'
Stephen happened to glance towards Mrs. Sparsit. 'I can goMr.
Bounderbyif you wish it' said that self-sacrificing ladymaking
a feint of taking her foot out of the stirrup.
Mr. Bounderby stayed herby holding a mouthful of chop in
suspension before swallowing itand putting out his left hand.
Thenwithdrawing his hand and swallowing his mouthful of chophe
said to Stephen:
'Now you knowthis good lady is a born ladya high lady. You are
not to suppose because she keeps my house for methat she hasn't
been very high up the tree - ahup at the top of the tree! Now
if you have got anything to say that can't be said before a born
ladythis lady will leave the room. If what you have got to say
can be said before a born ladythis lady will stay where she is.'
'SirI hope I never had nowt to saynot fitten for a born lady to
yearsin' I were born mysen'' was the replyaccompanied with a
'Very well' said Mr. Bounderbypushing away his plateand
leaning back. 'Fire away!'
'I ha' coom' Stephen beganraising his eyes from the floorafter
a moment's consideration'to ask yo yor advice. I need 't
overmuch. I were married on Eas'r Monday nineteen year sinlong
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
drinkingleft off workingsold the furniturepawned the clothes
and played old Gooseberry.'
'I were patient wi' her.'
('The more fool youI think' said Mr. Bounderbyin confidence to
'I were very patient wi' her. I tried to wean her fra 't ower and
ower agen. I tried thisI tried thatI tried t'other. I ha'
gone homemany's the timeand found all vanished as I had in the
worldand her without a sense left to bless herseln lying on bare
ground. I ha' dun 't not oncenot twice - twenty time!'
Every line in his face deepened as he said itand put in its
affecting evidence of the suffering he had undergone.
'From bad to worsefrom worse to worsen. She left me. She
disgraced herseln everywaysbitter and bad. She coom backshe
coom backshe coom back. What could I do t' hinder her? I ha'
walked the streets nights longere ever I'd go home. I ha' gone
t' th' briggminded to fling myseln owerand ha' no more on't. I
ha' bore that muchthat I were owd when I were young.'
Mrs. Sparsiteasily ambling along with her netting-needlesraised
the Coriolanian eyebrows and shook her headas 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 sadbut not ashamed and fearfo' a' the minnits o' my life.
Last nightI went home. There she lay upon my har-stone! There
In the strength of his misfortuneand the energy of his distress
he fired for the moment like a proud man. In another momenthe
stood as he had stood all the time - his usual stoop upon him; his
pondering face addressed to Mr. Bounderbywith a curious
expression on ithalf shrewdhalf perplexedas if his mind were
set upon unravelling something very difficult; his hat held tight
in his left handwhich rested on his hip; his right armwith a
rugged propriety and force of actionvery earnestly emphasizing
what he said: not least so when it always pauseda little bent
but not withdrawnas he paused.
'I was acquainted with all thisyou know' said Mr. Bounderby
'except the last clauselong ago. It's a bad job; that's what it
is. You had better have been satisfied as you wereand not have
got married. Howeverit's too late to say that.'
'Was it an unequal marriagesirin point of years?' asked Mrs.
'You hear what this lady asks. Was it an unequal marriage in point
of yearsthis unlucky job of yours?' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Not e'en so. I were one-and-twenty myseln; she were twenty
'Indeedsir?' said Mrs. Sparsit to her Chiefwith great
placidity. 'I inferredfrom 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 askedturning rather
irritably on Stephen Blackpool.
'I ha' coom to ask yosirhow 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 ejaculationas
having received a moral shock.
'What do you mean?' said Bounderbygetting 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 longfor that I ha' had'n the pity and comforting
words o' th' best lass living or dead. Haplybut for herI
should ha' gone battering mad.'
'He wishes to be freeto marry the female of whom he speaksI
fearsir' observed Mrs. Sparsit in an undertoneand 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 fastbut that they can be set free fro' their misfortnet
marriagesan' marry ower agen. When they dunnot agreefor that
their tempers is ill-sortedthey has rooms o' one kind an' another
in their housesabove a bitand they can live asunders. We fok
ha' only one roomand we can't. When that won't dothey ha' gowd
an' other cashan' 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
'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
'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
'There's no other law?'
'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
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
'Yes, missus,' returned Stephen, 'it were me.'
'Have you - you'll excuse an old woman's curiosity - have you seen
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
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 heavyladen
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
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
'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
stoneStephenwhen she is brought so low.'
'Thou hast been a cruel suffererHeaven reward thee!' she saidin
compassionate accents. 'I am thy poor friendwith all my heart
The wounds of which she had spokenseemed to be about the neck of
the self-made outcast. She dressed them nowstill without showing
her. She steeped a piece of linen in a basininto which she
poured some liquid from a bottleand laid it with a gentle hand
upon the sore. The three-legged table had been drawn close to the
bedsideand on it there were two bottles. This was one.
It was not so far offbut that Stephenfollowing her hands with
his eyescould read what was printed on it in large letters. He
turned of a deadly hueand a sudden horror seemed to fall upon
'I will stay hereStephen' said Rachaelquietly 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 workmy dear.'
'I slept sound last night. I can wake many nightswhen I am put
to it. 'Tis thou who art in need of rest - so white and tired.
Try to sleep in the chair therewhile I watch. Thou hadst no
sleep last nightI can well believe. To-morrow's work is far
harder for thee than for me.'
He heard the thundering and surging out of doorsand 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 meStephen; she just drowsily mutters and stares.
I have spoken to her times and againbut she don't notice! 'Tis
as well so. When she comes to her right mind once moreI shall
have done what I canand she never the wiser.'
'How longRachaelis 't looked forthat she'll be so?'
'Doctor said she would haply come to her mind to-morrow.'
His eyes fell again on the bottleand 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
'Ayay! coming in. When I were walking. When I were thinking.
When I - ' It seized him again; and he stood upholding by the
mantel-shelfas he pressed his dank cold hair down with a hand
that shook as if it were palsied.
She was coming to himbut he stretched out his arm to stop her.
'No! Don'tplease; don't. Let me see thee setten by the bed.
Let me see theea' so goodand so forgiving. Let me see thee as
I see thee when I coom in. I can never see thee better than so.
He had a violent fit of tremblingand then sunk into his chair.
After a time he controlled himselfandresting with an elbow on
one kneeand his head upon that handcould look towards Rachael.
Seen across the dim candle with his moistened eyesshe looked as
if she had a glory shining round her head. He could have believed
she had. He did believe itas the noise without shook the window
rattled at the door belowand went about the house clamouring and
'When she gets betterStephen'tis to be hoped she'll leave thee
to thyself againand do thee no more hurt. Anyways we will hope
so now. And now I shall keep silencefor I want thee to sleep.'
He closed his eyesmore to please her than to rest his weary head;
butby slow degrees as he listened to the great noise of the wind
he ceased to hear itor 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 lastand he dreamed a longtroubled dream.
He thought that heand some one on whom his heart had long been
set - but she was not Rachaeland that surprised himeven in the
midst of his imaginary happiness - stood in the church being
married. While the ceremony was performingand while he
recognized among the witnesses some whom he knew to be livingand
many whom he knew to be deaddarkness came onsucceeded by the
shining of a tremendous light. It broke from one line in the table
of commandments at the altarand illuminated the building with the
words. They were sounded through the churchtooas if there were
voices in the fiery letters. Upon thisthe whole appearance
before him and around him changedand nothing was left as it had
beenbut himself and the clergyman. They stood in the daylight
before a crowd so vastthat if all the people in the world could
have been brought together into one spacethey could not have
lookedhe thoughtmore numerous; and they all abhorred himand
there was not one pitying or friendly eye among the millions that
were fastened on his face. He stood on a raised stageunder his
own loom; andlooking up at the shape the loom tookand hearing
the burial service distinctly readhe knew that he was there to
suffer death. In an instant what he stood on fell below himand
he was gone.
-Out of what mystery he came back to his usual lifeand to places
that he knewhe was unable to consider; but he was back in those
places by some meansand with this condemnation upon himthat he
was neverin this world or the nextthrough all the unimaginable
ages of eternityto look on Rachael's face or hear her voice.
Wandering to and frounceasinglywithout hopeand in search of
he knew not what (he only knew that he was doomed to seek it)he
was the subject of a namelesshorrible dreada 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 wasif he shut up drawers and closets where
it stoodif he drew the curious from places where he knew it to be
secretedand got them out into the streetsthe very chimneys of
the mills assumed that shapeand round them was the printed word.
The wind was blowing againthe 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 outit
was as his eyes had closed upon it. Rachael seemed to have fallen
into a dozein the chair by the bed. She sat wrapped in her
shawlperfectly still. The table stood in the same placeclose
by the bedsideand on itin its real proportions and appearance
was the shape so often repeated.
He thought he saw the curtain move. He looked againand he was
sure it moved. He saw a hand come forth and grope about a little.
Then the curtain moved more perceptiblyand the woman in the bed
put it backand sat up.
With her woful eyesso haggard and wildso heavy and largeshe
looked all round the roomand passed the corner where he slept in
his chair. Her eyes returned to that cornerand she put her hand
over them as a shadewhile she looked into it. Again they went
all round the roomscarcely heeding Rachael if at alland
returned to that corner. He thoughtas she once more shaded them
-not so much looking at himas looking for him with a brutish
instinct that he was there - that no single trace was left in those
debauched featuresor in the mind that went along with themof
the woman he had married eighteen years before. But that he had
seen her come to this by incheshe never could have believed her
to be the same.
All this timeas if a spell were on himhe was motionless and
powerlessexcept to watch her.
Stupidly dozingor communing with her incapable self about
nothingshe sat for a little while with her hands at her earsand
her head resting on them. Presentlyshe resumed her staring round
the room. And nowfor the first timeher eyes stopped at the
table with the bottles on it.
Straightway she turned her eyes back to his cornerwith the
defiance of last nightand moving very cautiously and softly
stretched out her greedy hand. She drew a mug into the bedand
sat for a while considering which of the two bottles she should
choose. Finallyshe laid her insensate grasp upon the bottle that
had swift and certain death in itandbefore his eyespulled out
the cork with her teeth.
Dream or realityhe had no voicenor had he power to stir. If
this be realand her allotted time be not yet comewakeRachael
She thought of thattoo. She looked at Rachaeland very slowly
very cautiouslypoured out the contents. The draught was at her
lips. A moment and she would be past all helplet 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 herseized her by the hair; but Rachael had the cup.
Stephen broke out of his chair. 'Rachaelam I wakin' or dreamin'
this dreadfo' night?'
''Tis all wellStephen. I have been asleepmyself. 'Tis near
three. Hush! I hear the bells.'
The wind brought the sounds of the church clock to the window.
They listenedand it struck three. Stephen looked at hersaw how
pale she wasnoted the disorder of her hairand the red marks of
fingers on her foreheadand 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 saidcalmly pouring from
the cup into the basinand steeping the linen as before. 'I am
thankful I stayed! 'Tis done nowwhen I have put this on. There!
And now she's quiet again. The few drops in the basin I'll pour
awayfor 'tis bad stuff to leave aboutthough ever so little of
it.' As she spokeshe drained the basin into the ashes of the
fireand broke the bottle on the hearth.
She had nothing to dothenbut to cover herself with her shawl
before going out into the wind and rain.
'Thou'lt let me walk wi' thee at this hourRachael?'
'NoStephen. 'Tis but a minuteand I'm home.'
'Thou'rt not fearfo';' he said it in a low voiceas they went out
at the door; 'to leave me alone wi' her!'
As she looked at himsaying'Stephen?' he went down on his knee
before heron the poor mean stairsand put an end of her shawl to
'Thou art an Angel. Bless theebless thee!'
'I amas I have told theeStephenthy poor friend. Angels are
not like me. Between themand a working woman fu' of faults
there is a deep gulf set. My little sister is among thembut she
She raised her eyes for a moment as she said the words; and then
they fell againin all their gentleness and mildnesson his face.
'Thou changest me from bad to good. Thou mak'st me humbly wishfo'
to be more like theeand fearfo' to lose thee when this life is
owerand a' the muddle cleared awa'. Thou'rt an Angel; it may be
thou hast saved my soul alive!'
She looked at himon his knee at her feetwith her shawl still in
his handand 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 hopeand 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 'tI thowtHow can I say what I might
ha' done to myseln, or her, or both!'
She put her two hands on his mouthwith a face of terrorto stop
him from saying more. He caught them in his unoccupied handand
holding themand still clasping the border of her shawlsaid
'But I see theeRachaelsetten by the bed. I ha' seen theeaw
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' herbut thou shalt be beside her. I nevermore will
see or think o' anything that angers mebut thouso much better
than meshalt be by th' side on't. And so I will try t' look t'
th' timeand so I will try t' trust t' th' timewhen thou and me
at last shall walk together far awa'beyond the deep gulfin th'
country where thy little sister is.'
He kissed the border of her shawl againand let her go. She bade
him good night in a broken voiceand went out into the street.
The wind blew from the quarter where the day would soon appearand
still blew strongly. It had cleared the sky before itand the
rain had spent itself or travelled elsewhereand the stars were
bright. He stood bare-headed in the roadwatching her quick
disappearance. As the shining stars were to the heavy candle in
the windowso was Rachaelin the rugged fancy of this manto the
common experiences of his life.
CHAPTER XIV - THE GREAT MANUFACTURER
TIME went on in Coketown like its own machinery: so much material
wrought upso much fuel consumedso many powers worn outso much
money made. Butless inexorable than ironstealand brassit
brought its varying seasons even into that wilderness of smoke and
brickand 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.'
Timewith his innumerable horse-powerworked awaynot minding
what anybody saidand presently turned out young Thomas a foot
taller than when his father had last taken particular notice of
'Thomas is becoming' said Mr. Gradgrind'almost a young man.'
Time passed Thomas on in the millwhile his father was thinking
about itand there he stood in a long-tailed coat and a stiff
'Really' said Mr. Gradgrind'the period has arrived when Thomas
ought to go to Bounderby.'
Timesticking to himpassed him on into Bounderby's Bankmade
him an inmate of Bounderby's housenecessitated the purchase of
his first razorand exercised him diligently in his calculations
relative to number one.
The same great manufactureralways with an immense variety of work
on handin every stage of developmentpassed Sissy onward in his
milland worked her up into a very pretty article indeed.
'I fearJupe' said Mr. Gradgrind'that your continuance at the
school any longer would be useless.'
'I am afraid it wouldsir' Sissy answered with a curtsey.
'I cannot disguise from youJupe' said Mr. Gradgrindknitting
his brow'that the result of your probation there has disappointed
me; has greatly disappointed me. You have not acquiredunder Mr.
and Mrs. M'Choakumchildanything 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 backwardand below the mark.'
'I am sorrysir' she returned; 'but I know it is quite true. Yet
I have tried hardsir.'
'Yes' said Mr. Gradgrind'yesI believe you have tried hard; I
have observed youand I can find no fault in that respect.'
'Thank yousir. I have thought sometimes;' Sissy very timid here;
'that perhaps I tried to learn too muchand that if I had asked to
be allowed to try a little lessI might have - '
'NoJupeno' said Mr. Gradgrindshaking his head in his
profoundest and most eminently practical way. 'No. The course you
pursuedyou 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 powersand that we began too late.
Stillas I have said alreadyI am disappointed.'
'I wish I could have made a better acknowledgmentsirof your
kindness to a poor forlorn girl who had no claim upon youand 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 affectionateearnestgood
young woman - and - and we must make that do.'
'Thank yousirvery much' said Sissywith a grateful curtsey.
'You are useful to Mrs. Gradgrindand (in a generally pervading
way) you are serviceable in the family also; so I understand from
Miss Louisaandindeedso I have observed myself. I therefore
hope' said Mr. Gradgrind'that you can make yourself happy in
'I should have nothing to wishsirif - '
'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 successfulyou 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 otherhe 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 figureher mathematical knowledge at nothing; yet he was not
sure that if he had been requiredfor exampleto tick her off
into columns in a parliamentary returnhe would have quite known
how to divide her.
In some stages of his manufacture of the human fabricthe
processes of Time are very rapid. Young Thomas and Sissy being
both at such a stage of their working upthese changes were
effected in a year or two; while Mr. Gradgrind himself seemed
stationary in his courseand underwent no alteration.
Except onewhich was apart from his necessary progress through the
mill. Time hustled him into a little noisy and rather dirty
machineryin a by-comerand made him Member of Parliament for
Coketown: one of the respected members for ounce weights and
measuresone of the representatives of the multiplication table
one of the deaf honourable gentlemendumb honourable gentlemen
blind honourable gentlemenlame honourable gentlemendead
honourable gentlemento every other consideration. Else wherefore
live we in a Christian landeighteen hundred and odd years after
All this whileLouisa had been passing onso quiet and reserved
and so much given to watching the bright ashes at twilight as they
fell into the grateand became extinctthat from the period when
her father had said she was almost a young woman - which seemed but
yesterday - she had scarcely attracted his notice againwhen he
found her quite a young woman.
'Quite a young woman' said Mr. Gradgrindmusing. 'Dear me!'
Soon after this discoveryhe became more thoughtful than usual for
several daysand seemed much engrossed by one subject. On a
certain nightwhen he was going outand 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 armslooking at her in his kindest mannerand said:
'My dear Louisayou are a woman!'
She answered with the oldquicksearching look of the night when
she was found at the Circus; then cast down her eyes. 'Yes
'My dear' said Mr. Gradgrind'I must speak with you alone and
seriously. Come to me in my room after breakfast to-morrowwill
'Your hands are rather coldLouisa. Are you not well?'
She looked at him againand smiled in her peculiar manner. 'I am
as cheerfulfatheras I usually amor usually have been.'
'That's well' said Mr. Gradgrind. Sohe kissed her and went
away; and Louisa returned to the serene apartment of the
haircutting characterand leaning her elbow on her handlooked
again at the short-lived sparks that so soon subsided into ashes.
'Are you thereLoo?' said her brotherlooking in at the door. He
was quite a young gentleman of pleasure nowand not quite a
'Dear Tom' she answeredrising and embracing him'how long it is
since you have been to see me!'
'WhyI have been otherwise engagedLooin 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 strongand so we
preserve an understanding. I say! Has father said anything
particular to you to-day or yesterdayLoo?'
'NoTom. But he told me to-night that he wished to do so in the
'Ah! That's what I mean' said Tom. 'Do you know where he is to
night?' - with a very deep expression.
'Then I'll tell you. He's with old Bounderby. They are having a
regular confab together up at the Bank. Why at the Bankdo you
think? WellI'll tell you again. To keep Mrs. Sparsit's ears as
far off as possibleI expect.'
With her hand upon her brother's shoulderLouisa still stood
looking at the fire. Her brother glanced at her face with greater
interest than usualandencircling her waist with his armdrew
her coaxingly to him.
'You are very fond of mean't youLoo?'
'Indeed I amTomthough you do let such long intervals go by
without coming to see me.'
'Wellsister of mine' said Tom'when you say thatyou are near
my thoughts. We might be so much oftener together - mightn't we?
Always togetheralmost - mightn't we? It would do me a great deal
of good if you were to make up your mind to I know whatLoo. 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 armand kissed her
cheek. She returned the kissbut still looked at the fire.
'I sayLoo! I thought I'd comeand just hint to you what was
going on: though I supposed you'd most likely guesseven if you
didn't know. I can't staybecause I'm engaged to some fellows to-
night. You won't forget how fond you are of me?'
'Nodear TomI won't forget.'
'That's a capital girl' said Tom. 'Good-byeLoo.'
She gave him an affectionate good-nightand went out with him to
the doorwhence the fires of Coketown could be seenmaking the
distance lurid. She stood therelooking steadfastly towards them
and listening to his departing steps. They retreated quicklyas
glad to get away from Stone Lodge; and she stood there yetwhen he
was gone and all was quiet. It seemed as iffirst in her own fire
within the houseand then in the fiery haze withoutshe tried to
discover what kind of woof Old Timethat greatest and longestestablished
Spinner of allwould weave from the threads he had
already spun into a woman. But his factory is a secret placehis
work is noiselessand his Hands are mutes.
CHAPTER XV - FATHER AND DAUGHTER
ALTHOUGH Mr. Gradgrind did not take after Blue Beardhis room was
quite a blue chamber in its abundance of blue books. Whatever they
could prove (which is usually anything you like)they proved
therein an army constantly strengthening by the arrival of new
recruits. In that charmed apartmentthe most complicated social
questions were cast upgot into exact totalsand 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 peninkand paperso Mr. Gradgrindin his Observatory (and
there are many like it)had no need to cast an eye upon the
teeming myriads of human beings around himbut could settle all
their destinies on a slateand wipe out all their tears with one
dirty little bit of sponge.
To this Observatorythen: a stern roomwith a deadly statistical
clock in itwhich 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 tableshe 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 trainedand you doI am
happy to sayso much justice to the education you have received
that I have perfect confidence in your good sense. You are not
impulsiveyou are not romanticyou are accustomed to view
everything from the strong dispassionate ground of reason and
calculation. From that ground aloneI know you will view and
consider what I am going to communicate.'
He waitedas if he would have been glad that she said something.
But she said never a word.
'Louisamy dearyou are the subject of a proposal of marriage
that has been made to me.'
Again he waitedand again she answered not one word. This so far
surprised himas to induce him gently to repeat'a proposal of
marriagemy dear.' To which she returnedwithout any visible
'I hear youfather. I am attendingI assure you.'
'Well!' said Mr. Gradgrindbreaking into a smileafter being for
the moment at a loss'you are even more dispassionate than I
expectedLouisa. Orperhapsyou are not unprepared for the
announcement I have it in charge to make?'
'I cannot say thatfatheruntil I hear it. Prepared or
unpreparedI wish to hear it all from you. I wish to hear you
state it to mefather.'
Strange to relateMr. Gradgrind was not so collected at this
moment as his daughter was. He took a paper-knife in his hand
turned it overlaid it downtook it up againand even then had
to look along the blade of itconsidering how to go on.
'What you saymy dear Louisais perfectly reasonable. I have
undertaken then to let you know that - in shortthat Mr. Bounderby
has informed me that he has long watched your progress with
particular interest and pleasureand has long hoped that the time
might ultimately arrive when he should offer you his hand in
marriage. That timeto which he has so longand certainly with
great constancylooked forwardis now come. Mr. Bounderby has
made his proposal of marriage to meand has entreated me to make
it known to youand 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. 'Wellmy 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 Louisano. No. I ask nothing.'
'Father' she still pursued'does Mr. Bounderby ask me to love
'Reallymy dear' said Mr. Gradgrind'it is difficult to answer
your question - '
'Difficult to answer itYes or Nofather?
'Certainlymy dear. Because;' here was something to demonstrate
and it set him up again; 'because the reply depends so materially
Louisaon the sense in which we use the expression. NowMr.
Bounderby does not do you the injusticeand does not do himself
the injusticeof pretending to anything fancifulfantasticor (I
am using synonymous terms) sentimental. Mr. Bounderby would have
seen you grow up under his eyesto very little purposeif he
could so far forget what is due to your good sensenot to say to
hisas to address you from any such ground. Thereforeperhaps
the expression itself - I merely suggest this to youmy dear - may
be a little misplaced.'
'What would you advise me to use in its steadfather?'
'Whymy dear Louisa' said Mr. Gradgrindcompletely recovered by
this time'I would advise you (since you ask me) to consider this
questionas you have been accustomed to consider every other
questionsimply as one of tangible Fact. The ignorant and the
giddy may embarrass such subjects with irrelevant fanciesand
other absurdities that have no existenceproperly viewed - really
no existence - but it is no compliment to you to saythat you know
better. Nowwhat are the Facts of this case? You arewe will
say in round numberstwenty years of age; Mr. Bounderby iswe
will say in round numbersfifty. There is some disparity in your
respective yearsbut in your means and positions there is none; on
the contrarythere is a great suitability. Then the question
arisesIs this one disparity sufficient to operate as a bar to
such a marriage? In considering this questionit is not
unimportant to take into account the statistics of marriageso far
as they have yet been obtainedin England and Wales. I findon
reference to the figuresthat a large proportion of these
marriages are contracted between parties of very unequal agesand
that the elder of these contracting parties isin rather more than
three-fourths of these instancesthe bridegroom. It is remarkable
as showing the wide prevalence of this lawthat among the natives
of the British possessions in Indiaalso in a considerable part of
Chinaand among the Calmucks of Tartarythe best means of
computation yet furnished us by travellersyield similar results.
The disparity I have mentionedthereforealmost ceases to be
disparityand (virtually) all but disappears.'
'What do you recommendfather' asked Louisaher reserved
composure not in the least affected by these gratifying results
'that I should substitute for the term I used just now? For the
'Louisa' returned her father'it appears to me that nothing can
be plainer. Confining yourself rigidly to Factthe question of
Fact you state to yourself is: Does Mr. Bounderby ask me to marry
him? Yeshe does. The sole remaining question then is: Shall I
marry him? I think nothing can be plainer than that?'
'Shall I marry him?' repeated Louisawith great deliberation.
'Precisely. And it is satisfactory to meas your fathermy dear
Louisato know that you do not come to the consideration of that
question with the previous habits of mindand habits of lifethat
belong to many young women.'
'Nofather' she returned'I do not.'
'I now leave you to judge for yourself' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'I
have stated the caseas such cases are usually stated among
practical minds; I have stated itas the case of your mother and
myself was stated in its time. The restmy dear Louisais for
you to decide.'
From the beginningshe had sat looking at him fixedly. As he now
leaned back in his chairand bent his deep-set eyes upon her in
his turnperhaps he might have seen one wavering moment in her
when she was impelled to throw herself upon his breastand give
him the pent-up confidences of her heart. Butto see ithe must
have overleaped at a bound the artificial barriers he had for many
years been erectingbetween 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 unbendingutilitarianmatter-of-fact facehe hardened
her again; and the moment shot away into the plumbless depths of
the pastto mingle with all the lost opportunities that are
Removing her eyes from himshe sat so long looking silently
towards the townthat he saidat length: 'Are you consulting the
chimneys of the Coketown worksLouisa?'
'There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke.
Yet when the night comesFire bursts outfather!' she answered
'Of course I know thatLouisa. I do not see the application of
the remark.' To do him justice he did notat all.
She passed it away with a slight motion of her handand
concentrating her attention upon him againsaid'FatherI have
often thought that life is very short.' - This was so distinctly
one of his subjects that he interposed.
'It is shortno doubtmy dear. Stillthe average duration of
human life is proved to have increased of late years. The
calculations of various life assurance and annuity officesamong
other figures which cannot go wronghave established the fact.'
'I speak of my own lifefather.'
'O indeed? Still' said Mr. Gradgrind'I need not point out to
youLouisathat it is governed by the laws which govern lives in
'While it lastsI would wish to do the little I canand the
little I am fit for. What does it matter?'
Mr. Gradgrind seemed rather at a loss to understand the last four
words; replying'Howmatter? What mattermy dear?'
'Mr. Bounderby' she went on in a steadystraight waywithout
regarding this'asks me to marry him. The question I have to ask
myself isshall I marry him? That is sofatheris it not? You
have told me sofather. Have you not?'
'Let it be so. Since Mr. Bounderby likes to take me thusI am
satisfied to accept his proposal. Tell himfatheras soon as you
pleasethat this was my answer. Repeat itword for wordif you
canbecause I should wish him to know what I said.'
'It is quite rightmy 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 marriagemy child?'
'Nonefather. What does it matter!'
Mr. Gradgrind had drawn his chair a little nearer to herand taken
her hand. Buther repetition of these words seemed to strike with
some little discord on his ear. He paused to look at herand
still holding her handsaid:
'LouisaI have not considered it essential to ask you one
questionbecause 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 returnedalmost 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. Gradgrindreassured and satisfied.
'You correct me justly. I merely wished to discharge my duty.'
'What do I knowfather' 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 itshe
unconsciously closed her handas if upon a solid objectand
slowly opened it as though she were releasing dust or ash.
'My dear' assented her eminently practical parent'quite true
'Whyfather' she pursued'what a strange question to ask me!
The baby-preference that even I have heard of as common among
childrenhas never had its innocent resting-place in my breast.
You have been so careful of methat I never had a child's heart.
You have trained me so wellthat I never dreamed a child's dream.
You have dealt so wisely with mefatherfrom my cradle to this
hourthat I never had a child's belief or a child's fear.'
Mr. Gradgrind was quite moved by his successand by this testimony
to it. 'My dear Louisa' said he'you abundantly repay my care.
Kiss memy dear girl.'
Sohis daughter kissed him. Detaining her in his embracehe
said'I may assure you nowmy favourite childthat 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 youas that you mightwhile still in
your early youthbe (if I may so express myself) almost any age.
Kiss me once moreLouisa. Nowlet us go and find your mother.'
Accordinglythey went down to the drawing-roomwhere the esteemed
lady with no nonsense about herwas recumbent as usualwhile
Sissy worked beside her. She gave some feeble signs of returning
animation when they enteredand presently the faint transparency
was presented in a sitting attitude.
'Mrs. Gradgrind' said her husbandwho 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! WellI'm sure
I hope your health may be goodLouisa; for if your head begins to
split as soon as you are marriedwhich was the case with mineI
cannot consider that you are to be enviedthough I have no doubt
you think you areas all girls do. HoweverI give you joymy
dear - and I hope you may now turn all your ological studies to
good accountI am sure I do! I must give you a kiss of
congratulationLouisa; but don't touch my right shoulderfor
there's something running down it all day long. And now you see'
whimpered Mrs. Gradgrindadjusting her shawls after the
affectionate ceremony'I shall be worrying myselfmorningnoon
and nightto know what I am to call him!'
'Mrs. Gradgrind' said her husbandsolemnly'what do you mean?'
'Whatever I am to call himMr. Gradgrindwhen he is married to
Louisa! I must call him something. It's impossible' said Mrs.
Gradgrindwith a mingled sense of politeness and injury'to be
constantly addressing him and never giving him a name. I cannot
call him Josiahfor the name is insupportable to me. You yourself
wouldn't hear of Joeyou very well know. Am I to call my own sonin-
lawMister! NotI believeunless the time has arrived when
as an invalidI 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
emergencyMrs. Gradgrind departed this life for the time being
after delivering the following codicil to her remarks already
'As to the weddingall I askLouisais- and I ask it with a
fluttering in my chestwhich actually extends to the soles of my
feet- that it may take place soon. OtherwiseI know it is one
of those subjects I shall never hear the last of.'
When Mr. Gradgrind had presented Mrs. BounderbySissy had suddenly
turned her headand lookedin wonderin pityin sorrowin
doubtin a multitude of emotionstowards Louisa. Louisa had
known itand seen itwithout looking at her. From that moment
she was impassiveproud 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 happinesswas
occasioned by the necessity of imparting it to Mrs. Sparsit. He
could not make up his mind how to do thator what the consequences
of the step might be. Whether she would instantly departbag and
baggageto Lady Scadgersor would positively refuse to budge from
the premises; whether she would be plaintive or abusivetearful or
tearing; whether she would break her heartor break the lookingglass;
Mr. Bounderby could not all foresee. Howeveras it must be
donehe had no choice but to do it; soafter attempting several
lettersand failing in them allhe resolved to do it by word of
On his way homeon the evening he set aside for this momentous
purposehe 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 noseat all events!' Butin spite of
being thus forearmedhe 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 eveningMr. Bounderby!'
'Good eveningma'amgood evening.' He drew up his chairand
Mrs. Sparsit drew back hersas who should say'Your fireside
sir. I freely admit it. It is for you to occupy it allif you
'Don't go to the North Polema'am!' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Thank yousir' said Mrs. Sparsitand returnedthough short of
her former position.
Mr. Bounderby sat looking at heraswith the points of a stiff
sharp pair of scissorsshe picked out holes for some inscrutable
ornamental purposein 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 occupiedthat
many minutes elapsed before she looked up from her work; when she
did so Mr. Bounderby bespoke her attention with a hitch of his
'Mrs. Sparsitma'am' said Mr. Bounderbyputting his hands in his
pocketsand assuring himself with his right hand that the cork of
the little bottle was ready for use'I have no occasion to say to
youthat you are not only a lady born and bredbut a devilish
'Sir' returned the lady'this is indeed not the first time that
you have honoured me with similar expressions of your good
'Mrs. Sparsitma'am' said Mr. Bounderby'I am going to astonish
'Yessir?' returned Mrs. Sparsitinterrogativelyand in the most
tranquil manner possible. She generally wore mittensand she now
laid down her workand smoothed those mittens.
'I am goingma'am' said Bounderby'to marry Tom Gradgrind's
'Yessir' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'I hope you may be happyMr.
Bounderby. Ohindeed I hope you may be happysir!' And she said
it with such great condescension as well as with such great
compassion for himthat Bounderby- far more disconcerted than if
she had thrown her workbox at the mirroror swooned on the
hearthrug- corked up the smelling-salts tight in his pocketand
thought'Now confound this womanwho could have even guessed that
she would take it in this way!'
'I wish with all my heartsir' said Mrs. Sparsitin a highly
superior manner; somehow she seemedin a momentto have
established a right to pity him ever afterwards; 'that you may be
in all respects very happy.'
'Wellma'am' returned Bounderbywith some resentment in his
tone: which was clearly loweredthough in spite of himself'I am
obliged to you. I hope I shall be.'
'Do yousir!' said Mrs. Sparsitwith great affability. 'But
naturally you do; of course you do.'
A very awkward pause on Mr. Bounderby's partsucceeded. Mrs.
Sparsit sedately resumed her work and occasionally gave a small
coughwhich sounded like the cough of conscious strength and
'Wellma'am' resumed Bounderby'under these circumstancesI
imagine it would not be agreeable to a character like yours to
remain herethough you would be very welcome here.'
'Ohdear nosirI could on no account think of that!' Mrs.
Sparsit shook her headstill in her highly superior mannerand a
little changed the small cough - coughing nowas if the spirit of
prophecy rose within herbut had better be coughed down.
'Howeverma'am' said Bounderby'there are apartments at the
Bankwhere a born and bred ladyas keeper of the placewould be
rather a catch than otherwise; and if the same terms - '
'I beg your pardonsir. You were so good as to promise that you
would always substitute the phraseannual compliment.'
'Wellma'amannual compliment. If the same annual compliment
would be acceptable therewhyI see nothing to part usunless
'Sir' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'The proposal is like yourselfand
if the position I shall assume at the Bank is one that I could
occupy without descending lower in the social scale - '
'Whyof course it is' said Bounderby. 'If it was notma'amyou
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 societyyou
know! But you do.'
'Mr. Bounderbyyou are very considerate.'
'You'll have your own private apartmentsand you'll have your
coals and your candlesand all the rest of itand you'll have
your maid to attend upon youand you'll have your light porter to
protect youand 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 hereI shall not be freed from the necessity of eating the
bread of dependence:' she might have said the sweetbreadfor that
delicate article in a savoury brown sauce was her favourite supper:
'and I would rather receive it from your handthan from any other.
ThereforesirI accept your offer gratefullyand with many
sincere acknowledgments for past favours. And I hopesir' said
Mrs. Sparsitconcluding in an impressively compassionate manner
'I fondly hope that Miss Gradgrind may be all you desireand
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
himas a Victim. She was politeobligingcheerfulhopeful;
butthe more politethe more obligingthe more cheerfulthe
more hopefulthe more exemplary altogethershe; the forlorner
Sacrifice and Victimhe. She had that tenderness for his
melancholy fatethat 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' timeand Mr. Bounderby went every evening to Stone Lodge as
an accepted wooer. Love was made on these occasions in the form of
bracelets; andon all occasions during the period of betrothal
took a manufacturing aspect. Dresses were madejewellery was
madecakes and gloves were madesettlements were madeand an
extensive assortment of Facts did appropriate honour to the
contract. The business was all Factfrom first to last. The
Hours did not go through any of those rosy performanceswhich
foolish poets have ascribed to them at such times; neither did the
clocks go any fasteror any slowerthan at other seasons. The
deadly statistical recorder in the Gradgrind observatory knocked
every second on the head as it was bornand buried it with his
So the day cameas all other days come to people who will only
stick to reason; and when it camethere were married in the church
of the florid wooden legs - that popular order of architecture -
Josiah Bounderby Esquire of Coketownto Louisa eldest daughter of
Thomas Gradgrind Esquire of Stone LodgeM.P. for that borough.
And when they were united in holy matrimonythey 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 ofand
how it was imported or exportedand in what quantitiesand in
what bottomswhether native or foreignand all about it. The
bridesmaidsdown to little Jane Gradgrindwerein an
intellectual point of viewfit helpmates for the calculating boy;
and there was no nonsense about any of the company.
After breakfastthe bridegroom addressed them in the following
'Ladies and gentlemenI am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. Since
you have done my wife and myself the honour of drinking our healths
and happinessI suppose I must acknowledge the same; thoughas
you all know meand know what I amand what my extraction was
you won't expect a speech from a man whowhen he sees a Postsays
that's a Post,and when he sees a Pumpsays "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
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!'
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
'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
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 steamengines
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 selflaudatory
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 officehours,
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
'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,
'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 classcombinations.'
'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
'They have done that, ma'am,' returned Bitzer; 'but it rather fell
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'Ah - h!' said Mrs. Sparsit, with another melancholy shake of her
'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
'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
'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
'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 feedand that's the person I most like to feed."'
'To be sure' assented Mrs. Sparsiteating muffin.
'Thank youma'am' said Bitzerknuckling his forehead againin
return for the favour of Mrs. Sparsit's improving conversation.
'Would you wish a little more hot waterma'amor is there
anything else that I could fetch you?'
'Nothing just nowBitzer.'
'Thank youma'am. I shouldn't wish to disturb you at your meals
ma'amparticularly teaknowing your partiality for it' said
Bitzercraning 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 soma'amand he has come across as if he was going to knock.
That is his knockma'amno doubt.'
He stepped to the window; and looking outand drawing in his head
againconfirmed himself with'Yesma'am. Would you wish the
gentleman to be shown inma'am?'
'I don't know who it can be' said Mrs. Sparsitwiping her mouth
and arranging her mittens.
'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 lateI
don't know' said Mrs. Sparsit'but I hold a charge in this
establishment from Mr. Bounderbyand I will never shrink from it.
If to see him is any part of the duty I have acceptedI will see
him. Use your own discretionBitzer.'
Here the visitorall unconscious of Mrs. Sparsit's magnanimous
wordsrepeated his knock so loudly that the light porter hastened
down to open the door; while Mrs. Sparsit took the precaution of
concealing her little tablewith all its appliances upon itin a
cupboardand then decamped up-stairsthat she might appearif
needfulwith the greater dignity.
'If you pleasema'amthe gentleman would wish to see you' said
Bitzerwith his light eye at Mrs. Sparsit's keyhole. SoMrs.
Sparsitwho had improved the interval by touching up her captook
her classical features down-stairs againand entered the boardroom
in the manner of a Roman matron going outside the city walls
to treat with an invading general.
The visitor having strolled to the windowand being then engaged
in looking carelessly outwas as unmoved by this impressive entry
as man could possibly be. He stood whistling to himself with all
imaginable coolnesswith his hat still onand a certain air of
exhaustion upon himin part arising from excessive summerand in
part from excessive gentility. For it was to be seen with half an
eye that he was a thorough gentlemanmade to the model of the
time; weary of everythingand putting no more faith in anything
'I believesir' quoth Mrs. Sparsit'you wished to see me.'
'I beg your pardon' he saidturning and removing his hat; 'pray
'Humph!' thought Mrs. Sparsitas she made a stately bend. 'Five
and thirtygood-lookinggood figuregood teethgood voicegood
breedingwell-dresseddark hairbold 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
'Please to be seatedsir' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'Thank you. Allow me.' He placed a chair for herbut 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 onlooking 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. Sparsitin her
'Is it possible! Excuse me: you are not a nativeI think?'
'Nosir' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'It was once my good or ill
fortuneas it may be - before I became a widow - to move in a very
different sphere. My husband was a Powler.'
'Beg your pardonreally!' said the stranger. 'Was - ?'
Mrs. Sparsit repeated'A Powler.'
'Powler Family' said the strangerafter 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
'I am the servant of circumstancessir' 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 laudableand - ' It seemed to be scarcely worth his while to
finish the sentenceso he played with his watch-chain wearily.
'May I be permitted to asksir' 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 townwhile
they were getting dinner ready at the hotelI asked a fellow whom
I met; one of the working people; who appeared to have been taking
a shower-bath of something fluffywhich I assume to be the raw
material - '
Mrs. Sparsit inclined her head.
' - Raw material - where Mr. Bounderbythe bankermight reside.
Upon whichmisled no doubt by the word Bankerhe directed me to
the Bank. Fact beingI presumethat Mr. Bounderby the Banker
does not reside in the edifice in which I have the honour of
offering this explanation?'
'Nosir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'he does not.'
'Thank you. I had no intention of delivering my letter at the
present momentnor have I. But strolling on to the Bank to kill
timeand having the good fortune to observe at the window'
towards which he languidly waved his handthen slightly bowed'a
lady of a very superior and agreeable appearanceI 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
venturewith all suitable apologiesto do.'
The inattention and indolence of his manner were sufficiently
relievedto Mrs. Sparsit's thinkingby a certain gallantry at
easewhich offered her homage too. Here he wasfor instanceat
this momentall but sitting on the tableand yet lazily bending
over heras if he acknowledged an attraction in her that made her
charming - in her way.
'BanksI knoware always suspiciousand officially must be'
said the strangerwhose 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 sectwhosoever 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 handintimated that such confirmation
was quite unnecessaryand gave Mr. Bounderby's addresswith all
needful clues and directions in aid.
'Thousand thanks' said the stranger. 'Of course you know the
'Yessir' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit. 'In my dependent relation
towards himI have known him ten years.'
'Quite an eternity! I think he married Gradgrind's daughter?'
'Yes' said Mrs. Sparsitsuddenly compressing her mouth'he had
that - honour.'
'The lady is quite a philosopherI am told?'
'Indeedsir' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Is she?'
'Excuse my impertinent curiosity' pursued the strangerfluttering
over Mrs. Sparsit's eyebrowswith a propitiatory air'but you
know the familyand know the world. I am about to know the
familyand may have much to do with them. Is the lady so very
alarming? Her father gives her such a portentously hard-headed
reputationthat I have a burning desire to know. Is she
absolutely unapproachable? Repellently and stunningly clever? I
seeby your meaning smileyou think not. You have poured balm
into my anxious soul. As to agenow. Forty? Five and thirty?'
Mrs. Sparsit laughed outright. 'A chit' said she. 'Not twenty
when she was married.'
'I give you my honourMrs. Powler' returned the stranger
detaching himself from the table'that I never was so astonished
in my life!'
It really did seem to impress himto the utmost extent of his
capacity of being impressed. He looked at his informant for full a
quarter of a minuteand appeared to have the surprise in his mind
all the time. 'I assure youMrs. Powler' he then saidmuch
exhausted'that the father's manner prepared me for a grim and
stony maturity. I am obliged to youof all thingsfor correcting
so absurd a mistake. Pray excuse my intrusion. Many thanks. Good
He bowed himself out; and Mrs. Sparsithiding in the window
curtainsaw him languishing down the street on the shady side of
the wayobserved of all the town.
'What do you think of the gentlemanBitzer?' she asked the light
porterwhen he came to take away.
'Spends a deal of money on his dressma'am.'
'It must be admitted' said Mrs. Sparsit'that it's very
'Yesma'am' returned Bitzer'if that's worth the money.'
'Besides whichma'am' resumed Bitzerwhile he was polishing the
table'he looks to me as if he gamed.'
'It's immoral to game' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'It's ridiculousma'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 outshe did no work that
night. She sat at the windowwhen the sun began to sink behind
the smoke; she sat therewhen the smoke was burning redwhen the
colour faded from itwhen darkness seemed to rise slowly out of
the groundand creep upwardupwardup to the house-topsup the
church steepleup to the summits of the factory chimneysup to
the sky. Without a candle in the roomMrs. Sparsit sat at the
windowwith her hands before hernot thinking much of the sounds
of evening; the whooping of boysthe barking of dogsthe rumbling
of wheelsthe steps and voices of passengersthe shrill street
criesthe clogs upon the pavement when it was their hour for going
bythe shutting-up of shop-shutters. Not until the light porter
announced that her nocturnal sweetbread was readydid Mrs. Sparsit
arouse herself from her reverieand convey her dense black
eyebrows - by that time creased with meditationas if they needed
'Oyou Fool!' said Mrs. Sparsitwhen she was alone at her supper.
Whom she meantshe did not say; but she could scarcely have meant
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 hopefullythan among the fine gentlemen whohaving
found out everything to be worth nothingwere equally ready for
Moreoverthe 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 notbut they did.
They became exhausted in imitation of them; and they yaw-yawed in
their speech like them; and they served outwith an enervated air
the little mouldy rations of political economyon 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
schoolthere 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 accidentin which the most
careful officers ever knownemployed by the most liberal managers
ever heard ofassisted by the finest mechanical contrivances ever
devisedthe whole in action on the best line ever constructedhad
killed five people and wounded thirty-twoby a casualty without
which the excellence of the whole system would have been positively
incomplete. Among the slain was a cowand among the scattered
articles unowneda 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 cowthat it became impatient of any serious
reference to the Coroner's Inquestand brought the railway off
with Cheers and Laughter.
Nowthis gentleman had a younger brother of still better
appearance than himselfwho had tried life as a Cornet of
Dragoonsand found it a bore; and had afterwards tried it in the
train of an English minister abroadand found it a bore; and had
then strolled to Jerusalemand got bored there; and had then gone
yachting about the worldand got bored everywhere. To whom this
honourable and jocularmember fraternally said one day'Jem
there's a good opening among the hard Fact fellowsand they want
men. I wonder you don't go in for statistics.' Jemrather taken
by the novelty of the ideaand very hard up for a changewas as
ready to 'go in' for statistics as for anything else. Sohe went
in. He coached himself up with a blue-book or two; and his brother
put it about among the hard Fact fellowsand said'If you want to
bring infor any placea handsome dog who can make you a devilish
good speechlook after my brother Jemfor he's your man.' After
a few dashes in the public meeting wayMr. Gradgrind and a council
of political sages approved of Jemand it was resolved to send him
down to Coketownto become known there and in the neighbourhood.
Hence the letter Jem had last night shown to Mrs. Sparsitwhich
Mr. Bounderby now held in his hand; superscribed'Josiah
BounderbyEsquireBankerCoketown. Specially to introduce James
HarthouseEsquire. Thomas Gradgrind.'
Within an hour of the receipt of this dispatch and Mr. James
Harthouse's cardMr. 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 disconsolatethat he was already halfdisposed
to 'go in' for something else.
'My namesir' said his visitor'is Josiah Bounderbyof
Mr. James Harthouse was very happy indeed (though he scarcely
looked so) to have a pleasure he had long expected.
'Coketownsir' said Bounderbyobstinately taking a chair'is
not the kind of place you have been accustomed to. Thereforeif
you will allow me - or whether you will or notfor 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 allyou see our smoke. That's meat and drink to us.
It's the healthiest thing in the world in all respectsand
particularly for the lungs. If you are one of those who want us to
consume itI differ from you. We are not going to wear the
bottoms of our boilers out any faster than we wear 'em out nowfor
all the humbugging sentiment in Great Britain and Ireland.'
By way of 'going in' to the fullest extentMr. Harthouse rejoined
'Mr. BounderbyI assure you I am entirely and completely of your
way of thinking. On conviction.'
'I am glad to hear it' said Bounderby. 'Nowyou have heard a lot
of talk about the work in our millsno doubt. You have? Very
good. I'll state the fact of it to you. It's the pleasantest work
there isand it's the lightest work there isand it's the bestpaid
work there is. More than thatwe couldn't improve the mills
themselvesunless we laid down Turkey carpets on the floors.
Which we're not a-going to do.'
'Mr. Bounderbyperfectly right.'
'Lastly' said Bounderby'as to our Hands. There's not a Hand in
this townsirmanwomanor childbut has one ultimate object
in life. That object isto be fed on turtle soup and venison with
a gold spoon. Nowthey're not a-going - none of 'em - ever to be
fed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon. And now you know
Mr. Harthouse professed himself in the highest degree instructed
and refreshedby this condensed epitome of the whole Coketown
'Whyyou see' replied Mr. Bounderby'it suits my disposition to
have a full understanding with a manparticularly with a public
manwhen I make his acquaintance. I have only one thing more to
say to youMr. Harthousebefore assuring you of the pleasure with
which I shall respondto the utmost of my poor abilityto 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-raffand a genuine
scrap of tagragand bobtail.'
If anything could have exalted Jem's interest in Mr. Bounderbyit
would have been this very circumstance. Orso he told him.
'So now' said Bounderby'we may shake hands on equal terms. I
sayequal termsbecause although I know what I amand the exact
depth of the gutter I have lifted myself out ofbetter than any
man doesI am as proud as you are. I am just as proud as you are.
Having now asserted my independence in a proper mannerI may come
to how do you find yourselfand I hope you're pretty well.'
The betterMr. Harthouse gave him to understand as they shook
handsfor the salubrious air of Coketown. Mr. Bounderby received
the answer with favour.
'Perhaps you know' said he'or perhaps you don't knowI married
Tom Gradgrind's daughter. If you have nothing better to do than to
walk up town with meI shall be glad to introduce you to Tom
'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 himto the
private red brick dwellingwith the black outside shuttersthe
green inside blindsand the black street door up the two white
steps. In the drawing-room of which mansionthere presently
entered to them the most remarkable girl Mr. James Harthouse had
ever seen. She was so constrainedand yet so careless; so
reservedand yet so watchful; so cold and proudand 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 upthat it seemed impossible to guess
at their genuine expression. Utterly indifferentperfectly selfreliant
never at a lossand yet never at her easewith her
figure in company with them thereand her mind apparently quite
alone - it was of no use 'going in' yet awhile to comprehend this
girlfor she baffled all penetration.
From the mistress of the housethe visitor glanced to the house
itself. There was no mute sign of a woman in the room. No
graceful little adornmentno fanciful little devicehowever
trivialanywhere expressed her influence. Cheerless and
comfortlessboastfully and doggedly richthere the room stared at
its present occupantsunsoftened and unrelieved by the least trace
of any womanly occupation. As Mr. Bounderby stood in the midst of
his household godsso those unrelenting divinities occupied their
places around Mr. Bounderbyand they were worthy of one another
and well matched.
'Thissir' said Bounderby'is my wifeMrs. Bounderby: Tom
Gradgrind's eldest daughter. LooMr. James Harthouse. Mr.
Harthouse has joined your father's muster-roll. If he is not Torn
Gradgrind's colleague before longI believe we shall at least hear
of him in connexion with one of our neighbouring towns. You
observeMr. Harthousethat my wife is my junior. I don't know
what she saw in me to marry mebut she saw something in meI
supposeor she wouldn't have married me. She has lots of
expensive knowledgesirpolitical and otherwise. If you want to
cram for anythingI should be troubled to recommend you to a
better adviser than Loo Bounderby.'
To a more agreeable adviseror one from whom he would be more
likely to learnMr. Harthouse could never be recommended.
'Come!' said his host. 'If you're in the complimentary line
you'll get on herefor you'll meet with no competition. I have
never been in the way of learning compliments myselfand I don't
profess to understand the art of paying 'em. In factdespise 'em.
Butyour bringing-up was different from mine; mine was a real
thingby George! You're a gentlemanand I don't pretend to be
one. I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketownand that's enough for me.
Howeverthough I am not influenced by manners and stationLoo
Bounderby may be. She hadn't my advantages - disadvantages you
would call 'embut I call 'em advantages - so you'll not waste
your powerI dare say.'
'Mr. Bounderby' said Jemturning with a smile to Louisa'is a
noble animal in a comparatively natural statequite 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 outfor a gentleman who had seen so
much of the worldand thought'Nowhow am I to take this?'
'You are going to devote yourselfas I gather from what Mr.
Bounderby has saidto the service of your country. You have made
up your mind' said Louisastill standing before him where she had
first stopped - in all the singular contrariety of her selfpossession
and her being obviously very ill at ease - 'to show the
nation the way out of all its difficulties.'
'Mrs. Bounderby' he returnedlaughing'upon my honourno. I
will make no such pretence to you. I have seen a littlehere and
thereup and down; I have found it all to be very worthlessas
everybody hasand as some confess they haveand some do not; and
I am going in for your respected father's opinions - really because
I have no choice of opinionsand may as well back them as anything
'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 undergoneis 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 setand just as much harm as any other set.
There's an English family with a charming Italian motto. What will
bewill be. It's the only truth going!'
This vicious assumption of honesty in dishonesty - a vice so
dangerousso deadlyand so common - seemedhe observeda little
to impress her in his favour. He followed up the advantageby
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 unitstenshundredsand
thousandsMrs. Bounderbyseems to me to afford the most funand
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 itto the same
extent as if I believed it. And what more could I possibly doif
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 stateI assure youMrs. Bounderbyif we all fell out of
our adopted ranks and were reviewed together.'
Mr. Bounderbywho had been in danger of bursting in silence
interposed here with a project for postponing the family dinner
till half-past sixand 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 Harthousewith a discreet use of his blue coachingcame off
triumphantlythough with a considerable accession of boredom.
In the eveninghe found the dinner-table laid for fourbut 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 waterspecially used for laying the dustwith which he
had washed down that repast. He likewise entertained his guest
over the soup and fishwith the calculation that he (Bounderby)
had eaten in his youth at least three horses under the guise of
polonies and saveloys. These recitalsJemin 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
morninghad he been less curious respecting Louisa.
'Is there nothing' he thoughtglancing at her as she sat at the
head of the tablewhere her youthful figuresmall and slightbut
very gracefullooked as pretty as it looked misplaced; 'is there
nothing that will move that face?'
Yes! By Jupiterthere was somethingand here it wasin 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 itbut 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'sas if she would have carried them to her
'Ayay?' thought the visitor. 'This whelp is the only creature
she cares for. Soso!'
The whelp was presentedand took his chair. The appellation was
not flatteringbut not unmerited.
'When I was your ageyoung 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 rightand hadn't to dress afterwards.'
'Never mind that now' said Bounderby.
'Wellthen' grumbled Tom. 'Don't begin with me.'
'Mrs. Bounderby' said Harthouseperfectly hearing this understrain
as it went on; 'your brother's face is quite familiar to me.
Can I have seen him abroad? Or at some public schoolperhaps?'
'No' she resumedquite interested'he has never been abroad yet
and was educated hereat home. TomloveI am telling Mr.
Harthouse that he never saw you abroad.'
'No such lucksir' said Tom.
There was little enough in him to brighten her facefor he was a
sullen young fellowand ungracious in his manner even to her. So
much the greater must have been the solitude of her heartand 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
Harthouseturning it over and over. 'So much the more. So much
Both in his sister's presenceand after she had left the roomthe
whelp took no pains to hide his contempt for Mr. Bounderby
whenever he could indulge it without the observation of that
independent manby making wry facesor shutting one eye. Without
responding to these telegraphic communicationsMr. Harthouse
encouraged him much in the course of the eveningand showed an
unusual liking for him. At lastwhen he rose to return to his
hoteland was a little doubtful whether he knew the way by night
the whelp immediately proffered his services as guideand turned
out with him to escort him thither.
CHAPTER III - THE WHELP
IT was very remarkable that a young gentleman who had been brought
up under one continuous system of unnatural restraintshould 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 minutesshould 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 cradleshould be still inconvenienced by its
ghost in the form of grovelling sensualities; but such a monster
beyond all doubtwas Tom.
'Do you smoke?' asked Mr. James Harthousewhen they came to the
'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 weatherbut 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 sofaand more than ever disposed to admire his
new friend at the other end.
Tom blew his smoke asideafter 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 Harthousehappening to catch Tom's eyeremarked that he
drank nothingand filled his glass with his own negligent hand.
'Thank'ee' said Tom. 'Thank'ee. WellMr. HarthouseI hope you
have had about a dose of old Bounderby to-night.' Tom said this
with one eye shut up againand looking over his glass knowingly
at his entertainer.
'A very good fellow indeed!' returned Mr. James Harthouse.
'You think sodon'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-pieceso that he
stood before the empty fire-grate as he smokedin front of Tom and
looking down at himobserved:
'What a comical brother-in-law you are!'
'What a comical brother-in-law old Bounderby isI think you mean'
'You are a piece of causticTom' retorted Mr. James Harthouse.
There was something so very agreeable in being so intimate with
such a waistcoat; in being called Tomin such an intimate wayby
such a voice; in being on such off-hand terms so soonwith 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 himand I have always thought of him in the same way.
I am not going to begin to be polite nowabout old Bounderby. It
would be rather late in the day.'
'Don't mind me' returned James; 'but take care when his wife is
'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 wayand looking pleasantly at
the whelpas if he knew himself to be a kind of agreeable demon
who had only to hover over himand 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 sneakinglyhe looked at him
admiringlyhe looked at him boldlyand put up one leg on the
'My sister Loo?' said Tom. 'She never cared for old Bounderby.'
'That's the past tenseTom' returned Mr. James Harthouse
striking the ash from his cigar with his little finger. 'We are in
the present tensenow.'
'Verb neuternot to care. Indicative moodpresent tense. First
person singularI do not care; second person singularthou dost
not care; third person singularshe 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! Whyyou won't
tell meMr. Harthousethat 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 fellowhe
would have put it up at that great stage of the conversation.
Feeling it necessary to do something thenhe stretched himself out
at greater lengthandreclining with the back of his head on the
end of the sofaand smoking with an infinite assumption of
negligenceturned his common faceand not too sober eyestowards
the face looking down upon him so carelessly yet so potently.
'You know our governorMr. Harthouse' said Tom'and therefore
you needn't be surprised that Loo married old Bounderby. She never
had a loverand the governor proposed old Bounderbyand she took
'Very dutiful in your interesting sister' said Mr. James
'Yesbut she wouldn't have been as dutifuland it would not have
come off as easily' returned the whelp'if it hadn't been for
The tempter merely lifted his eyebrows; but the whelp was obliged
to go on.
'I persuaded her' he saidwith 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 thereif she put old
Bounderby's pipe out; so I told her my wishesand she came into
them. She would do anything for me. It was very game of her
'It was charmingTom!'
'Not that it was altogether so important to her as it was to me'
continued Tom coolly'because my liberty and comfortand perhaps
my getting ondepended on it; and she had no other loverand
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 Tomwith contemptuous patronage'she's a regular
girl. A girl can get on anywhere. She has settled down to the
lifeand she don't mind. It does just as well as another.
Besidesthough Loo is a girlshe's not a common sort of girl.
She can shut herself up within herselfand think - as I have often
known her sit and watch the fire - for an hour at a stretch.'
'Ayay? Has resources of her own' said Harthousesmoking
'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. Whyhe formed Me that
way!' said Tom.
'He didthough' said Tomshaking his head. 'I mean to sayMr.
Harthousethat when I first left home and went to old Bounderby's
I was as flat as a warming-panand knew no more about lifethan
any oyster does.'
'ComeTom! 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 whileand then
addedin 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
'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 uponthat 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 addedpuffing at
his cigar again. 'Girls can always get onsomehow.'
'Calling at the Bank yesterday eveningfor Mr. Bounderby's
addressI found an ancient lady therewho 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
'Mother Sparsit!' said Tom. 'What! you have seen her alreadyhave
His friend nodded. Tom took his cigar out of his mouthto shut up
his eye (which had grown rather unmanageable) with the greater
expressionand to tap his nose several times with his finger.
'Mother Sparsit's feeling for Loo is more than admirationI 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 whelpbefore a giddy
drowsiness came upon himfollowed by complete oblivion. He was
roused from the latter state by an uneasy dream of being stirred up
with a bootand also of a voice saying: 'Comeit's late. Be
'Well!' he saidscrambling from the sofa. 'I must take my leave
of you though. I say. Yours is very good tobacco. But it's too
'Yesit's too mild' returned his entertainer.
'It's - it's ridiculously mild' said Tom. 'Where's the door!
'He had another odd dream of being taken by a waiter through a
mistwhichafter giving him some trouble and difficultyresolved
itself into the main streetin which he stood alone. He then
walked home pretty easilythough not yet free from an impression
of the presence and influence of his new friend - as if he were
lounging somewhere in the airin the same negligent attitude
regarding him with the same look.
The whelp went homeand went to bed. If he had had any sense of
what he had done that nightand had been less of a whelp and more
of a brotherhe might have turned short on the roadmight have
gone down to the ill-smelling river that was dyed blackmight have
gone to bed in it for good and alland have curtained his head for
ever with its filthy waters.
CHAPTER IV - MEN AND BROTHERS
'OHmy friendsthe down-trodden operatives of Coketown! Ohmy
friends and fellow-countrymenthe slaves of an iron-handed and a
grinding despotism! Ohmy friends and fellow-sufferersand
fellow-workmenand fellow-men! I tell you that the hour is come
when we must rally round one another as One united powerand
crumble into dust the oppressors that too long have battened upon
the plunder of our familiesupon the sweat of our browsupon the
labour of our handsupon the strength of our sinewsupon the Godcreated
glorious rights of Humanityand upon the holy and eternal
privileges of Brotherhood!'
'Good!' 'Hearhearhear!' 'Hurrah!' and other criesarose in
many voices from various parts of the densely crowded and
suffocatingly close Hallin which the oratorperched on a stage
delivered himself of this and what other froth and fume he had in
him. He had declaimed himself into a violent heatand was as
hoarse as he was hot. By dint of roaring at the top of his voice
under a flaring gaslightclenching his fistsknitting his brows
setting his teethand pounding with his armshe had taken so much
out of himself by this timethat he was brought to a stopand
called for a glass of water.
As he stood theretrying to quench his fiery face with his drink
of waterthe comparison between the orator and the crowd of
attentive faces turned towards himwas extremely to his
disadvantage. Judging him by Nature's evidencehe 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 honesthe
was not so manlyhe was not so good-humoured; he substituted
cunning for their simplicityand passion for their safe solid
sense. An ill-madehigh-shouldered manwith lowering browsand
his features crushed into an habitually sour expressionhe
contrasted most unfavourablyeven in his mongrel dresswith 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 personlord
or commonerwhom three-fourths of it couldby no human means
raise out of the slough of inanity to their own intellectual level
it was particularly strangeand it was even particularly
affectingto see this crowd of earnest faceswhose honesty in the
main no competent observer free from bias could doubtso agitated
by such a leader.
Good! Hearhear! Hurrah! The eagerness both of attention and
intentionexhibited in all the countenancesmade them a most
impressive sight. There was no carelessnessno languorno idle
curiosity; none of the many shades of indifference to be seen in
all other assembliesvisible for one moment there. That every man
felt his condition to besomehow or otherworse 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 beliefright or wrong (unhappily
wrong then)the whole of that crowd were gravelydeeply
faithfully in earnest; must have been as plain to any one who chose
to see what was thereas the bare beams of the roof and the
whitened brick walls. Nor could any such spectator fail to know in
his own breastthat these menthrough their very delusions
showed great qualitiessusceptible of being turned to the happiest
and best account; and that to pretend (on the strength of sweeping
axiomshowsoever cut and dried) that they went astray wholly
without causeand of their own irrational willswas to pretend
that there could be smoke without firedeath without birth
harvest without seedanything or everything produced from nothing.
The orator having refreshed himselfwiped his corrugated forehead
from left to right several times with his handkerchief folded into
a padand concentrated all his revived forcesin a sneer of great
disdain and bitterness.
'But ohmy friends and brothers! Ohmen and Englishmenthe
down-trodden operatives of Coketown! What shall we say of that man
-that working-manthat I should find it necessary so to libel the
glorious name - whobeing practically and well acquainted with the
grievances and wrongs of youthe injured pith and marrow of this
landand having heard youwith a noble and majestic unanimity
that will make Tyrants trembleresolve for to subscribe to the
funds of the United Aggregate Tribunaland to abide by the
injunctions issued by that body for your benefitwhatever they may
be - whatI ask youwill you say of that working-mansince such
I must acknowledge him to bewhoat such a timedeserts his
postand sells his flag; whoat such a timeturns a traitor and
a craven and a recreantwhoat such a timeis not ashamed to
make to you the dastardly and humiliating avowal that he will hold
himself aloofand 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
hissesbut 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. Finallyone strong voice called out'Is the
man heer? If the man's heerSlackbridgelet's hear the man
himseln'stead o' yo.' Which was received with a round of
Slackbridgethe oratorlooked about him with a withering smile;
andholding out his right hand at arm's length (as the manner of
all Slackbridges is)to still the thundering seawaited until
there was a profound silence.
'Ohmy friends and fellow-men!' said Slackbridge thenshaking his
head with violent scorn'I do not wonder that youthe prostrate
sons of labourare incredulous of the existence of such a man.
But he who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage existedand
Judas Iscariot existedand Castlereagh existedand this man
Herea brief press and confusion near the stageended 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 quietwith his left hand at his chinwaiting to
be heard. There was a chairman to regulate the proceedingsand
this functionary now took the case into his own hands.
'My friends' said he'by virtue o' my office as your presidentI
askes o' our friend Slackbridgewho may be a little over hetter in
this businessto take his seatwhiles this man Stephen Blackpool
is heern. You all know this man Stephen Blackpool. You know him
awlung o' his misfort'nsand his good name.'
With thatthe chairman shook him frankly by the handand sat down
again. Slackbridge likewise sat downwiping his hot forehead always
from left to rightand never the reverse way.
'My friends' Stephen beganin the midst of a dead calm; 'I ha'
hed what's been spok'n o' meand 'tis lickly that I shan't mend
it. But I'd liefer you'd hearn the truth concernin myselnfro my
lips than fro onny other man'sthough I never cud'n speak afore so
monnywi'out bein moydert and muddled.'
Slackbridge shook his head as if he would shake it offin his
'I'm th' one single Hand in Bounderby's millo' a' the men theer
as don't coom in wi' th' proposed reg'lations. I canna coom in wi'
'em. My friendsI doubt their doin' yo onny good. Licker they'll
do yo hurt.'
Slackbridge laughedfolded his armsand 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 - mineyo see for
being hindered; not on'y nowbut awlus - awlus - life long!'
Slackbridge jumped up and stood beside himgnashing and tearing.
'Ohmy friendswhat but this did I tell you? Ohmy fellowcountrymen
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? Ohyou EnglishmenI ask you how does this
subornation show in one of yourselveswho is thus consenting to
his own undoing and to yoursand to your children's and your
There was some applauseand some crying of Shame upon the man; but
the greater part of the audience were quiet. They looked at
Stephen's worn facerendered more pathetic by the homely emotions
it evinced; andin the kindness of their naturethey were more
sorry than indignant.
''Tis this Delegate's trade for t' speak' said Stephen'an' he's
paid for 'tan' 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 proprietynot to say a dignity in these wordsthat
made the hearers yet more quiet and attentive. The same strong
voice called out'Slackbridgelet the man be heernand howd thee
tongue!' Then the place was wonderfully still.
'My brothers' said Stephenwhose low voice was distinctly heard
'and my fellow-workmen - for that yo are to methough notas I
knows onto this delegate here - I ha but a word to senand I
could sen nommore if I was to speak till Strike o' day. I know
weelaw 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' roadyo'd feel it right
to pass me byas a forrenner and stranger. What I ha getnI mun
mak th' best on.'
'Stephen Blackpool' said the chairmanrising'think on 't agen.
Think on 't once agenladafore thou'rt shunned by aw owd
There was an universal murmur to the same effectthough no man
articulated a word. Every eye was fixed on Stephen's face. To
repent of his determinationwould be to take a load from all their
minds. He looked around himand knew that it was so. Not a grain
of anger with them was in his heart; he knew themfar below their
surface weaknesses and misconceptionsas no one but their fellowlabourer
'I ha thowt on 'tabove a bitsir. 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 armsand
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 heeras I first seen when I were yoong and lighter
heart'n than now. I ha' never had no fratch aforesin ever I were
bornwi' 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
He had moved away a pace or two to come down from the platform
when he remembered something he had not saidand returned again.
'Haply' he saidturning his furrowed face slowly aboutthat he
might as it were individually address the whole audiencethose
both near and distant; 'haplywhen this question has been tak'n up
and discoosedthere'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 coomsand I
shall work solitary among yo unless it cooms - trulyI mun do 't
my friends; not to brave yobut to live. I ha nobbut work to live
by; and wheerever can I goI who ha worked sin I were no heighth
at awin 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
awmy friendsI 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 apartall along the
centre of the roomto open a means of passing outto the man with
whom they had all bound themselves to renounce companionship.
Looking at no oneand going his way with a lowly steadiness upon
him that asserted nothing and sought nothingOld Stephenwith all
his troubles on his headleft the scene.
Then Slackbridgewho had kept his oratorical arm extended during
the going outas if he were repressing with infinite solicitude
and by a wonderful moral power the vehement passions of the
multitudeapplied himself to raising their spirits. Had not the
Roman Brutusohmy British countrymencondemned his son to
death; and had not the Spartan mothersoh my soon to be victorious
friendsdriven their flying children on the points of their
enemies' swords? Then was it not the sacred duty of the men of
Coketownwith forefathers before theman admiring world in
company with themand a posterity to come after themto 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 Yeseastwest
northand south. And consequently three cheers for the United
Slackbridge acted as fuglemanand gave the time. The multitude of
doubtful faces (a little conscience-stricken) brightened at the
soundand took it up. Private feeling must yield to the common
cause. Hurrah! The roof yet vibrated with the cheeringwhen the
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 itis in cheering society as compared with him who
passes ten averted faces dailythat were once the countenances of
friends. Such experience was to be Stephen's nowin every waking
moment of his life; at his workon his way to it and from itat
his doorat his windoweverywhere. By general consentthey even
avoided that side of the street on which he habitually walked; and
left itof all the working mento him only.
He had been for many yearsa quiet silent manassociating but
little with other menand 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 noda looka 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 possibleto separate in his own conscience his
abandonment by all his fellows from a baseless sense of shame and
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 timebut he avoided every chance of
seeing her; foralthough he knew that the prohibition did not yet
formally extend to the women working in the factorieshe found
that some of them with whom he was acquainted were changed to him
and he feared to try othersand dreaded that Rachael might be even
singled out from the rest if she were seen in his company. Sohe
had been quite alone during the four daysand had spoken to no
onewhenas he was leaving his work at nighta young man of a
very light complexion accosted him in the street.
'Your name's Blackpoolain't it?' said the young man.
Stephen coloured to find himself with his hat in his handin his
gratitude for being spoken toor in the suddenness of itor both.
He made a feint of adjusting the liningand said'Yes.'
'You are the Hand they have sent to CoventryI mean?' said Bitzer
the very light young man in question.
Stephen answered 'Yes' again.
'I supposed sofrom their all appearing to keep away from you.
Mr. Bounderby wants to speak to you. You know his housedon't
Stephen said 'Yes' again.
'Then go straight up therewill you?' said Bitzer. 'You're
expectedand have only to tell the servant it's you. I belong to
the Bank; soif you go straight up without me (I was sent to fetch
you)you'll save me a walk.'
Stephenwhose way had been in the contrary directionturned
aboutand betook himself as in duty boundto the red brick castle
of the giant Bounderby.
CHAPTER V - MEN AND MASTERS
'WELLStephen' said Bounderbyin his windy manner'what's this
I hear? What have these pests of the earth been doing to you?
Come inand speak up.'
It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden. A tea-table
was set out; and Mr. Bounderby's young wifeand her brotherand a
great gentleman from Londonwere present. To whom Stephen made
his obeisanceclosing the door and standing near itwith his hat
in his hand.
'This is the man I was telling you aboutHarthouse' said Mr.
Bounderby. The gentleman he addressedwho was talking to Mrs.
Bounderby on the sofagot upsaying 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 passedthis address fell rudely and
discordantly on Stephen's ear. Besides being a rough handling of
his wounded mindit seemed to assume that he really was the selfinterested
deserter he had been called.
'What were itsir' said Stephen'as yo were pleased to want wi'
'WhyI have told you' returned Bounderby. 'Speak up like a man
since you are a manand tell us about yourself and this
'Wi' yor pardonsir' said Stephen Blackpool'I ha' nowt to sen
Mr. Bounderbywho was always more or less like a Windfinding
something in his way herebegan to blow at it directly.
'Nowlook hereHarthouse' said he'here's a specimen of 'em.
When this man was here once beforeI 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. Nowwould you believe itthat
although they have put this mark upon himhe is such a slave to
them stillthat he's afraid to open his lips about them?'
'I sed as I had nowt to sensir; not as I was fearfo' o' openin'
'You said! Ah! I know what you said; more than thatI know what
you meanyou see. Not always the same thingby the Lord Harry!
Quite different things. You had better tell us at oncethat that
fellow Slackbridge is not in the townstirring up the people to
mutiny; and that he is not a regular qualified leader of the
people: that isa most confounded scoundrel. You had better tell
us so at once; you can't deceive me. You want to tell us so. Why
'I'm as sooary as yosirwhen the people's leaders is bad' said
Stephenshaking 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.
'Nowyou'll think this pretty wellHarthouse' said Mr.
Bounderby. 'You'll think this tolerably strong. You'll sayupon
my soul this is a tidy specimen of what my friends have to deal
with; but this is nothingsir! You shall hear me ask this man a
question. PrayMr. 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. Bounderbywith 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 'tsir; but sin you put th' question - an'
not want'n t' be ill-manner'n - I'll answer. I ha passed a
'Not to meyou know' said Bounderby. (Gusty weather with
deceitful calms. One now prevailing.)
'O nosir. Not to yo.'
'As for meany consideration for me has had just nothing at all to
do with it' said Bounderbystill in confidence with the wall.
'If only Josiah Bounderby of Coketown had been in questionyou
would have joined and made no bones about it?'
'Why yessir. 'Tis true.'
'Though he knows' said Mr. Bounderbynow blowing a gale'that
there are a set of rascals and rebels whom transportation is too
good for! NowMr. Harthouseyou 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
inspectionwith an angry finger.
'Nayma'am' said Stephen Blackpoolstaunchly protesting against
the words that had been usedand instinctively addressing himself
to Louisaafter glancing at her face. 'Not rebelsnor yet
rascals. Nowt o' th' kindma'amnowt o' th' kind. They've not
doon me a kindnessma'amas I know and feel. But there's not a
dozen men amoong 'emma'am - a dozen? Not six - but what believes
as he has doon his duty by the rest and by himseln. God forbid as
Ithat ha' knownand had'n experience o' these men aw my life I
that ha' ett'n an' droonken wi' 'eman' seet'n wi' 'emand
toil'n wi' 'emand lov'n 'emshould fail fur to stan by 'em wi'
the truthlet '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 wasand did not even raise his voice.
'Noma'amno. They're true to one anotherfaithfo' to one
another'fectionate to one anothere'en to death. Be poor amoong
'embe sick amoong 'emgrieve amoong 'em for onny o' th' monny
causes that carries grief to the poor man's dooran' they'll be
tender wi' yogentle wi' yocomfortable wi' yoChrisen wi' yo.
Be sure o' thatma'am. They'd be riven to bitsere ever they'd
'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 'tisma'am' resumed Stephenappearing 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' mistakeI
dunno. But 'tis so. I know 'tisas I know the heavens is over me
ahint the smoke. We're patient tooan' wants in general to do
right. An' I canna think the fawt is aw wi' us.'
'Nowmy friend' said Mr. Bounderbywhom he could not have
exasperated morequite unconscious of it though he wasthan by
seeming to appeal to any one else'if you will favour me with your
attention for half a minuteI should like to have a word or two
with you. You said just nowthat you had nothing to tell us about
this business. You are quite sure of that before we go any
'SirI 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 meinstead of taking the substance of it
-for I know precious wellbeforehandwhat it will be; nobody
knows better than I dotake notice! - instead of receiving it on
trust from my mouth.'
Stephen bent his head to the gentleman from Londonand showed a
rather more troubled mind than usual. He turned his eyes
involuntarily to his former refugebut at a look from that quarter
(expressive though instantaneous) he settled them on Mr.
'Nowwhat do you complain of?' asked Mr. Bounderby.
'I ha' not coom heresir' Stephen reminded him'to complain.
coom for that I were sent for.'
'What' repeated Mr. Bounderbyfolding his arms'do you people
in a general waycomplain of?'
Stephen looked at him with some little irresolution for a moment
and then seemed to make up his mind.
'SirI were never good at showin o 'tthough I ha had'n my share
in feeling o 't. 'Deed we are in a muddlesir. Look round town so
rich as 'tis - and see the numbers o' people as has been
broughten into bein heerfur to weavean' to cardan' to piece
out a livin'aw the same one waysomehows'twixt their cradles
and their graves. Look how we livean' wheer we livean' in what
numbersan' by what chancesand wi' what sameness; and look how
the mills is awlus a goinand how they never works us no nigher to
ony dis'ant object - ceptin awlusDeath. Look how you considers
of usand writes of usand talks of usand goes up wi' yor
deputations to Secretaries o' State 'bout usand how yo are awlus
rightand how we are awlus wrongand never had'n no reason in us
sin ever we were born. Look how this ha growen an' growensir
bigger an' biggerbroader an' broaderharder an' harderfro year
to yearfro generation unto generation. Who can look on 'tsir
and fairly tell a man 'tis not a muddle?'
'Of course' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Now perhaps you'll let the
gentleman knowhow you would set this muddle (as you're so fond of
calling it) to rights.'
'I donnosir. I canna be expecten to 't. 'Tis not me as should
be looken to for thatsir. 'Tis them as is put ower meand ower
aw the rest of us. What do they tak upon themselnsirif not to
'I'll tell you something towards itat any rate' returned Mr.
Bounderby. 'We will make an example of half a dozen Slackbridges.
We'll indict the blackguards for felonyand get 'em shipped off to
Stephen gravely shook his head.
'Don't tell me we won'tman' said Mr. Bounderbyby this time
blowing a hurricane'because we willI tell you!'
'Sir' returned Stephenwith the quiet confidence of absolute
certainty'if yo was t' tak a hundred Slackbridges - aw as there
isand aw the number ten times towd - an' was t' sew 'em up in
separate sacksan' sink 'em in the deepest ocean as were made ere
ever dry land coom to beyo'd leave the muddle just wheer 'tis.
Mischeevous strangers!' said Stephenwith an anxious smile; 'when
ha we not heernI am suresin ever we can call to mindo' th'
mischeevous strangers! 'Tis not by them the trouble's madesir.
'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 cooman'
will be heer when I am gone. Put that clock aboard a ship an' pack
it off to Norfolk Islandan' the time will go on just the same.
So 'tis wi' Slackbridge every bit.'
Reverting for a moment to his former refugehe 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.
'SirI cannawi' my little learning an' my common waytell the
genelman what will better aw this - though some working men o' this
town couldabove 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 rightand toother side unnat'rally awlus and
for ever wrongwill nevernever do 't. Nor yet lettin alone will
never do 't. Let thousands upon thousands aloneaw leading the
like lives and aw faw'en into the like muddleand they will be as
oneand yo will be as anootherwi' a black unpassable world
betwixt yojust as long or short a time as sich-like misery can
last. Not drawin nigh to fokwi' kindness and patience an' cheery
waysthat so draws nigh to one another in their monny troubles
and so cherishes one another in their distresses wi' what they need
themseln - likeI humbly believeas no people the genelman ha
seen in aw his travels can beat - will never do 't till th' Sun
turns t' ice. Most o' awrating 'em as so much Powerand
reg'latin 'em as if they was figures in a soomor machines:
wi'out loves and likenswi'out memories and inclinationswi'out
souls to weary and souls to hope - when aw goes quietdraggin on
wi' 'em as if they'd nowt o' th' kindand when aw goes onquiet
reproachin 'em for their want o' sitch humanly feelins in their
dealins wi' yo - this will never do 'tsirtill God's work is
Stephen stood with the open door in his handwaiting to know if
anything more were expected of him.
'Just stop a moment' said Mr. Bounderbyexcessively red in the
face. 'I told youthe last time you were here with a grievance
that you had better turn about and come out of that. And I also
told youif you rememberthat I was up to the gold spoon look-
'I were not up to 't myselnsir; 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 lifemy
Stephen shook his headmutely protesting that indeed he had other
business to do for his life.
'You are such a waspishraspishill-conditioned chapyou see'
said Mr. Bounderby'that even your own Unionthe men who know you
bestwill 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 noveltythat I'll have nothing to do with
Stephen raised his eyes quickly to his face.
'You can finish off what you're at' said Mr. Bounderbywith a
meaning nod'and then go elsewhere.'
'Siryo know weel' said Stephen expressively'that if I canna
get work wi' yoI canna get it elsewheer.'
The reply was'What I knowI know; and what you knowyou know.
I have no more to say about it.'
Stephen glanced at Louisa againbut her eyes were raised to his no
more; thereforewith a sighand sayingbarely 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 fastthat he did not look
about him when he closed the doorbut 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 knewand turningsaw her
in Rachael's company.
He saw Rachael firstas he had heard her only.
'AhRachaelmy dear! Missusthou wi' her!'
'Welland now you are surprised to be sureand with reason I must
say' the old woman returned. 'Here I am againyou see.'
'But how wi' Rachael?' said Stephenfalling into their step
walking between themand looking from the one to the other.
'WhyI come to be with this good lass pretty much as I came to be
with you' said the old womancheerfullytaking the reply upon
herself. 'My visiting time is later this year than usualfor I
have been rather troubled with shortness of breathand so put it
off till the weather was fine and warm. For the same reason I
don't make all my journey in one daybut 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 Parliamentaryat six in
the morning. Wellbut 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 paperwhere 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. Nowif
you'll believe meshe hasn't come out of that house since noon today.
So not to give her up too easilyI was waiting abouta
little last bit morewhen I passed close to this good lass two or
three times; and her face being so friendly I spoke to herand she
spoke to me. There!' said the old woman to Stephen'you can make
all the rest out for yourself nowa deal shorter than I canI
Once againStephen had to conquer an instinctive propensity to
dislike this old womanthough 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 Rachaelhe pursued the
subject that interested her in her old age.
'Wellmissus' said he'I ha seen the ladyand she were young
and hansom. Wi' fine dark thinkin eyesand a still wayRachael
as I ha never seen the like on.'
'Young and handsome. Yes!' cried the old womanquite delighted.
'As bonny as a rose! And what a happy wife!'
'AyemissusI 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 heglancing
again at Rachael'not master onny more. That's aw enden 'twixt
him and me.'
'Have you left his workStephen?' asked Rachaelanxiously and
'WhyRachael' he replied'whether I ha lef'n his workor
whether his work ha lef'n mecooms t' th' same. His work and me
are parted. 'Tis as weel so - betterI 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' timeand seek a fort'ndearby beginnin
'Where will you goStephen?'
'I donno t'night' said helifting off his hatand smoothing his
thin hair with the flat of his hand. 'But I'm not goin t'night
Rachaelnor yet t'morrow. 'Tan't easy overmuch t' know wheer t'
turnbut a good heart will coom to me.'
Hereintoothe sense of even thinking unselfishly aided him.
Before he had so much as closed Mr. Bounderby's doorhe had
reflected that at least his being obliged to go away was good for
heras 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 herand though he could think of no similar
place in which his condemnation would not pursue himperhaps it
was almost a relief to be forced away from the endurance of the
last four dayseven to unknown difficulties and distresses.
So he saidwith truth'I'm more leetsomeRachaelunder 'tthan
I could'n ha believed.' It was not her part to make his burden
heavier. She answered with her comforting smileand the three
walked on together.
Ageespecially when it strives to be self-reliant and cheerful
finds much consideration among the poor. The old woman was so
decent and contentedand made so light of her infirmitiesthough
they had increased upon her since her former interview with
Stephenthat 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 toand very willing to talk
to any extent: sowhen they came to their part of the townshe
was more brisk and vivacious than ever.
'Come to my poor placemissus' 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 longRachaelere ever I ha th'
chance o' thy coompany agen.'
They compliedand the three went on to the house where he lodged.
When they turned into a narrow streetStephen glanced at his
window with a dread that always haunted his desolate home; but it
was openas he had left itand no one was there. The evil spirit
of his life had flitted away againmonths agoand he had heard no
more of her since. The only evidence of her last return nowwere
the scantier moveables in his roomand the grayer hair upon his
He lighted a candleset out his little tea-boardgot hot water
from belowand brought in small portions of tea and sugara loaf
and some butter from the nearest shop. The bread was new and
crustythe butter freshand the sugar lumpof course - in
fulfilment of the standard testimony of the Coketown magnatesthat
these people lived like princessir. 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 toowith the world a wide heath
before himenjoyed the meal - again in corroboration of the
magnatesas exemplifying the utter want of calculation on the part
of these peoplesir.
'I ha never thowt yetmissus' said Stephen'o' askin thy name.'
The old lady announced herself as 'Mrs. Pegler.'
'A widderI think?' said Stephen.
'Ohmany long years!' Mrs. Pegler's husband (one of the best on
record) was already deadby Mrs. Pegler's calculationwhen
Stephen was born.
''Twere a bad jobtooto lose so good a one' said Stephen.
Mrs. Pegler's cuprattling against her saucer as she held it
denoted some nervousness on her part. 'No' she said. 'Not now
'DeadStephen' 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 himselfthe old lady's cup rattled more and more.
'I had a son' she saidcuriously distressedand not by any of
the usual appearances of sorrow; 'and he did wellwonderfully
well. But he is not to be spoken of if you please. He is - '
Putting down her cupshe moved her hands as if she would have
addedby her action'dead!' Then she said aloud'I have lost
Stephen had not yet got the better of his having given the old lady
painwhen his landlady came stumbling up the narrow stairsand
calling him to the doorwhispered in his ear. Mrs. Pegler was by
no means deaffor she caught a word as it was uttered.
'Bounderby!' she criedin a suppressed voicestarting 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. Praypray!' She trembled
and was excessively agitated; getting behind Rachaelwhen Rachael
tried to reassure her; and not seeming to know what she was about.
'But hearkenmissushearken' said Stephenastonished. "Tisn't
Mr. Bounderby; 'tis his wife. Yo'r not fearfo' o' her. Yo was
hey-go-mad about herbut an hour sin.'
'But are you sure it's the ladyand not the gentleman?' she asked
'Well thenpray don't speak to menor 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 explanationwhich she
was quite unable to give him; took the candlewent downstairsand
in a few moments returnedlighting Louisa into the room. She was
followed by the whelp.
Rachael had risenand stood apart with her shawl and bonnet in her
handwhen Stephenhimself profoundly astonished by this visit
put the candle on the table. Then he too stoodwith his doubled
hand upon the table near itwaiting 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 nestslike 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 muchand there ended;
something to be infallibly settled by laws of supply and demand;
something that blundered against those lawsand floundered into
difficulty; something that was a little pinched when wheat was
dearand over-ate itself when wheat was cheap; something that
increased at such a rate of percentageand yielded such another
percentage of crimeand such another percentage of pauperism;
something wholesaleof which vast fortunes were made; something
that occasionally rose like a seaand did some harm and waste
(chiefly to itself)and fell again; this she knew the Coketown
Hands to be. Butshe had scarcely thought more of separating them
into unitsthan of separating the sea itself into its component
She stood for some moments looking round the room. From the few
chairsthe few booksthe common printsand the bedshe glanced
to the two womenand to Stephen.
'I have come to speak to youin consequence of what passed just
now. I should like to be serviceable to youif you will let me.
Is this your wife?'
Rachael raised her eyesand they sufficiently answered noand
'I remember' said Louisareddening at her mistake; 'I recollect
nowto have heard your domestic misfortunes spoken ofthough 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
resultgive me creditif you pleasefor being in ignorance how
to speak to you as I ought.'
As Stephen had but a little while ago instinctively addressed
himself to herso she now instinctively addressed herself to
Rachael. Her manner was short and abruptyet faltering and timid.
'He has told you what has passed between himself and my husband?
You would be his first resourceI think.'
'I have heard the end of ityoung lady' said Rachael.
'Did I understandthatbeing rejected by one employerhe would
probably be rejected by all? I thought he said as much?'
'The chances are very smallyoung 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.'
'Thenby the prejudices of his own classand by the prejudices of
the otherhe is sacrificed alike? Are the two so deeply separated
in this townthat there is no place whatever for an honest workman
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 himpoor lad. I
prayed him to avoid trouble for his own goodlittle thinking he'd
come to it through me. But I know he'd die a hundred deathsere
ever he'd break his word. I know that of him well.'
Stephen had remained quietly attentivein his usual thoughtful
attitudewith his hand at his chin. He now spoke in a voice
rather less steady than usual.
'No oneexcepting myselncan ever know what honouran' what
lovean' respectI bear to Rachaelor wi' what cause. When I
passed that promessI towd her trueshe were th' Angel o' my
life. 'Twere a solemn promess. 'Tis gone fro' mefor ever.'
Louisa turned her head to himand bent it with a deference that
was new in her. She looked from him to Rachaeland her features
softened. 'What will you do?' she asked him. And her voice had
'Weelma'am' said Stephenmaking the best of itwith a smile;
'when I ha finished offI mun quit this partand try another.
Fortnet or misfortneta man can but try; there's nowt to be done
wi'out tryin' - cept laying down and dying.'
'How will you travel?'
'Afootmy kind ledyafoot.'
Louisa colouredand a purse appeared in her hand. The rustling of
a bank-note was audibleas she unfolded one and laid it on the
'Rachaelwill you tell him - for you know howwithout offence that
this is freely histo help him on his way? Will you entreat
him to take it?'
'I canna do thatyoung lady' she answeredturning her head
aside. 'Bless you for thinking o' the poor lad wi' such
tenderness. But 'tis for him to know his heartand what is right
according to it.'
Louisa lookedin part incredulousin part frightenedin part
overcome with quick sympathywhen this man of so much selfcommand
who had been so plain and steady through the late
interviewlost his composure in a momentand now stood with his
hand before his face. She stretched out hersas if she would have
touched him; then checked herselfand remained still.
'Not e'en Rachael' said Stephenwhen he stood again with his face
uncovered'could mak sitch a kind offerinby onny wordskinder.
T' show that I'm not a man wi'out reason and gratitudeI'll tak
two pound. I'll borrow 't for t' pay 't back. 'Twill be the
sweetest work as ever I ha donethat puts it in my power t'
acknowledge once more my lastin thankfulness for this present
She was fain to take up the note againand to substitute the much
smaller sum he had named. He was neither courtlynor handsome
nor picturesquein any respect; and yet his manner of accepting
itand of expressing his thanks without more wordshad a grace in
it that Lord Chesterfield could not have taught his son in a
Tom had sat upon the bedswinging one leg and sucking his walkingstick
with sufficient unconcernuntil the visit had attained this
stage. Seeing his sister ready to departhe got uprather
hurriedlyand put in a word.
'Just wait a momentLoo! Before we goI should like to speak to
him a moment. Something comes into my head. If you'll step out on
the stairsBlackpoolI'll mention it. Never mind a lightman!'
Tom was remarkably impatient of his moving towards the cupboardto
get one. 'It don't want a light.'
Stephen followed him outand Tom closed the room doorand 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 isbecause 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 earit was so
'That was our light porter at the Bank' said Tom'who brought you
the message to-night. I call him our light porterbecause 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 Stephenconsidering. 'WhysirFriday
or Saturdaynigh '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
sisteryou knowin your room - but I may be able toand if I
should not be able tothere's no harm done. So I tell you what.
You'll know our light porter again?'
'Yessure' said Stephen.
'Very well' returned Tom. 'When you leave work of a night
between this and your going awayjust hang about the Bank an hour
or sowill you? Don't take onas if you meant anythingif he
should see you hanging about there; because I shan't put him up to
speak to youunless 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 youbut not
else. Now look here! You are sure you understand.'
He had wormed a fingerin the darknessthrough a button-hole of
Stephen's coatand was screwing that corner of the garment tight
up round and roundin an extraordinary manner.
'I understandsir' said Stephen.
'Now look here!' repeated Tom. 'Be sure you don't make any mistake
thenand don't forget. I shall tell my sister as we go homewhat
I have in viewand she'll approveI know. Now look here! You're
all rightare you? You understand all about it? Very well then.
He pushed the door open as he called to herbut did not return
into the roomor wait to be lighted down the narrow stairs. He
was at the bottom when she began to descendand was in the street
before she could take his arm.
Mrs. Pegler remained in her corner until the brother and sister
were goneand until Stephen came back with the candle in his hand.
She was in a state of inexpressible admiration of Mrs. Bounderby
andlike an unaccountable old womanwept'because she was such a
pretty dear.' Yet Mrs. Pegler was so flurried lest the object of
her admiration should return by chanceor anybody else should
comethat her cheerfulness was ended for that night. It was late
tooto 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 Housewhere
they parted from her.
They walked back together to the corner of the street where Rachael
livedand as they drew nearer and nearer to itsilence crept upon
them. When they came to the dark corner where their unfrequent
meetings always endedthey stoppedstill silentas if both were
afraid to speak.
'I shall strive t' see thee agenRachaelafore I gobut if not '
'Thou wilt notStephenI 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
thenRachaelthat as 'tis but a day or two that remains'twere
better for theemy dearnot t' be seen wi' me. 'T might bring
thee into troublefur no good.'
''Tis not for thatStephenthat I mind. But thou know'st our old
agreement. 'Tis for that.'
'Wellwell' said he. "Tis betteronnyways.'
'Thou'lt write to meand tell me all that happensStephen?'
'Yes. What can I say nowbut Heaven be wi' theeHeaven bless
theeHeaven thank thee and reward thee!'
'May it bless theeStephentooin all thy wanderingsand send
thee peace and rest at last!'
'I towd theemy dear' said Stephen Blackpool - 'that night - that
I would never see or think o' onnything that angered mebut thou
so much better than meshould'st be beside it. Thou'rt beside it
now. Thou mak'st me see it wi' a better eye. Bless thee. Good
It was but a hurried parting in a common streetyet it was a
sacred remembrance to these two common people. Utilitarian
economistsskeletons of schoolmastersCommissioners of Fact
genteel and used-up infidelsgabblers of many little dog's-eared
creedsthe poor you will have always with you. Cultivate in them
while there is yet timethe utmost graces of the fancies and
affectionsto adorn their lives so much in need of ornament; or
in the day of your triumphwhen romance is utterly driven out of
their soulsand they and a bare existence stand face to face
Reality will take a wolfish turnand make an end of you.
Stephen worked the next dayand the nextuncheered by a word from
any oneand shunned in all his comings and goings as before. At
the end of the second dayhe saw land; at the end of the third
his loom stood empty.
He had overstayed his hour in the street outside the Bankon each
of the two first evenings; and nothing had happened theregood or
bad. That he might not be remiss in his part of the engagementhe
resolved to wait full two hourson this third and last night.
There was the lady who had once kept Mr. Bounderby's housesitting
at the first-floor window as he had seen her before; and there was
the light portersometimes talking with her thereand sometimes
looking over the blind below which had BANK upon itand sometimes
coming to the door and standing on the steps for a breath of air.
When he first came outStephen thought he might be looking for
himand passed near; but the light porter only cast his winking
eyes upon him slightlyand said nothing.
Two hours were a long stretch of lounging aboutafter a long day's
labour. Stephen sat upon the step of a doorleaned against a wall
under an archwaystrolled up and downlistened for the church
clockstopped and watched children playing in the street. Some
purpose or other is so natural to every onethat 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 lamplighterand two lengthening lines of light all
down the long perspective of the streetuntil they were blended
and lost in the distance. Mrs. Sparsit closed the first-floor
windowdrew down the blindand went up-stairs. Presentlya
light went up-stairs after herpassing first the fanlight of the
doorand afterwards the two staircase windowson its way up. By
and byone corner of the second-floor blind was disturbedas if
Mrs. Sparsit's eye were there; also the other corneras if the
light porter's eye were on that side. Stillno communication was
made to Stephen. Much relieved when the two hours were at last
accomplishedhe went away at a quick paceas a recompense for so
He had only to take leave of his landladyand lie down on his
temporary bed upon the floor; for his bundle was made up for tomorrow
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 daybreakwhenwith a parting look round his room
mournfully wondering whether he should ever see it againhe went
out. The town was as entirely deserted as if the inhabitants had
abandoned itrather than hold communication with him. Everything
looked wan at that hour. Even the coming sun made but a pale waste
in the skylike a sad sea.
By the place where Rachael livedthough it was not in his way; by
the red brick streets; by the great silent factoriesnot trembling
yet; by the railwaywhere the danger-lights were waning in the
strengthening day; by the railway's crazy neighbourhoodhalf
pulled down and half built up; by scattered red brick villaswhere
the besmoked evergreens were sprinkled with a dirty powderlike
untidy snuff-takers; by coal-dust paths and many varieties of
ugliness; Stephen got to the top of the hilland looked back.
Day was shining radiantly upon the town thenand 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 volumesthey would not be long in hiding it; butfor
half an hoursome of the many windows were goldenwhich showed
the Coketown people a sun eternally in eclipsethrough a medium of
So strange to turn from the chimneys to the birds. So strangeto
have the road-dust on his feet instead of the coal-grit. So
strange to have lived to his time of lifeand yet to be beginning
like a boy this summer morning! With these musings in his mind
and his bundle under his armStephen took his attentive face along
the high road. And the trees arched over himwhispering that he
left a true and loving heart behind.
CHAPTER VII - GUNPOWDER
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE'going in' for his adopted partysoon began
to score. With the aid of a little more coaching for the political
sagesa 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 sinshe
speedily came to be considered of much promise. The not being
troubled with earnestness was a grand point in his favourenabling
him to take to the hard Fact fellows with as good a grace as if he
had been born one of the tribeand to throw all other tribes
overboardas conscious hypocrites.
'Whom none of us believemy dear Mrs. Bounderbyand who do not
believe themselves. The only difference between us and the
professors of virtue or benevolenceor philanthropy - never mind
the name - isthat we know it is all meaninglessand 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 principlesand her early trainingthat
it need startle her. Where was the great difference between the
two schoolswhen each chained her down to material realitiesand
inspired her with no faith in anything else? What was there in her
soul for James Harthouse to destroywhich Thomas Gradgrind had
nurtured there in its state of innocence!
It was even the worse for her at this passthat 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 ofconstantly strove with doubts
and resentments. With doubtsbecause the aspiration had been so
laid waste in her youth. With resentmentsbecause of the wrong
that had been done herif it were indeed a whisper of the truth.
Upon a nature long accustomed to self-suppressionthus torn and
dividedthe Harthouse philosophy came as a relief and
justification. Everything being hollow and worthlessshe had
missed nothing and sacrificed nothing. What did it mattershe had
said to her fatherwhen he proposed her husband. What did it
mattershe said still. With a scornful self-relianceshe asked
herselfWhat did anything matter - and went on.
Towards what? Step by steponward and downwardtowards some end
yet so graduallythat she believed herself to remain motionless.
As to Mr. Harthousewhither he tendedhe 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 interestedat presentas 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 brotherthe honourable and jocular memberthat the
Bounderbys were 'great fun;' and furtherthat the female
Bounderbyinstead of being the Gorgon he had expectedwas young
and remarkably pretty. After thathe wrote no more about them
and devoted his leisure chiefly to their house. He was very often
in their housein 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 peoplebut that if his
wife Tom Gradgrind's daughter didshe was welcome to their
Mr. James Harthouse began to think it would be a new sensationif
the face which changed so beautifully for the whelpwould change
He was quick enough to observe; he had a good memoryand did not
forget a word of the brother's revelations. He interwove them with
everything he saw of the sisterand he began to understand her.
To be surethe better and profounder part of her character was not
within his scope of perception; for in naturesas in seasdepth
answers unto depth; but he soon began to read the rest with a
Mr. Bounderby had taken possession of a house and groundsabout
fifteen miles from the townand accessible within a mile or two
by a railway striding on many arches over a wild country
undermined by deserted coal-shaftsand spotted at night by fires
and black shapes of stationary engines at pits' mouths. This
countrygradually softening towards the neighbourhood of Mr.
Bounderby's retreatthere mellowed into a rustic landscapegolden
with heathand snowy with hawthorn in the spring of the yearand
tremulous with leaves and their shadows all the summer time. The
bank had foreclosed a mortgage effected on the property thus
pleasantly situatedby one of the Coketown magnateswhoin his
determination to make a shorter cut than usual to an enormous
fortuneoverspeculated himself by about two hundred thousand
pounds. These accidents did sometimes happen in the best regulated
families of Coketownbut the bankrupts had no connexion whatever
with the improvident classes.
It afforded Mr. Bounderby supreme satisfaction to instal himself in
this snug little estateand with demonstrative humility to grow
cabbages in the flower-garden. He delighted to livebarrackfashion
among the elegant furnitureand he bullied the very
pictures with his origin. 'Whysir' he would say to a visitor
'I am told that Nickits' the late owner'gave seven hundred pound
for that Seabeach. Nowto be plain with youif I everin the
whole course of my lifetake seven looks at itat a hundred pound
a lookit will be as much as I shall do. Noby George! I don't
forget that I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. For years upon
yearsthe only pictures in my possessionor that I could have got
into my possessionby any meansunless I stole 'emwere the
engravings of a man shaving himself in a booton the blacking
bottles that I was overjoyed to use in cleaning boots withand
that I sold when they were empty for a farthing a-pieceand glad
to get it!'
Then he would address Mr. Harthouse in the same style.
'Harthouseyou have a couple of horses down here. Bring half a
dozen more if you likeand we'll find room for 'em. There's
stabling in this place for a dozen horses; and unless Nickits is
beliedhe kept the full number. A round dozen of 'emsir. When
that man was a boyhe went to Westminster School. Went to
Westminster School as a King's Scholarwhen I was principally
living on garbageand sleeping in market baskets. Whyif I
wanted to keep a dozen horses - which I don'tfor one's enough for
me - I couldn't bear to see 'em in their stalls hereand think
what my own lodging used to be. I couldn't look at 'emsirand
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 heregot into the middle of itlike a
maggot into a nutis Josiah Bounderby. While Nickits (as a man
came into my officeand told me yesterday)Nickitswho used to
act in Latinin the Westminster School playswith the chiefjustices
and nobility of this country applauding him till they were
black in the faceis drivelling at this minute - drivellingsir!
-in a fifth floorup a narrow dark back street in Antwerp.'
It was among the leafy shadows of this retirementin the long
sultry summer daysthat Mr. Harthouse began to prove the face
which had set him wondering when he first saw itand to try if it
would change for him.
'Mrs. BounderbyI 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 herthe time of
day being that at which she was always aloneand the place being
her favourite resort. It was an opening in a dark woodwhere some
felled trees layand where she would sit watching the fallen
leaves of last yearas she had watched the falling ashes at home.
He sat down beside herwith a glance at her face.
'Your brother. My young friend Tom - '
Her colour brightenedand 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 himfor
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
inexcusablebut I am so compelled to admire.'
'Being so impulsive' she said composedly.
'Mrs. Bounderbyno: you know I make no pretence with you. You
know I am a sordid piece of human natureready to sell myself at
any time for any reasonable sumand altogether incapable of any
Arcadian proceeding whatever.'
'I am waiting' she returned'for your further reference to my
'You are rigid with meand I deserve it. I am as worthless a dog
as you will findexcept that I am not false - not false. But you
surprised and started me from my subjectwhich was your brother.
I have an interest in him.'
'Have you an interest in anythingMr. Harthouse?' she askedhalf
incredulously and half gratefully.
'If you had asked me when I first came hereI should have said no.
I must say now - even at the hazard of appearing to make a
pretenceand of justly awakening your incredulity - yes.'
She made a slight movementas if she were trying to speakbut
could not find voice; at length she said'Mr. HarthouseI give
you credit for being interested in my brother.'
'Thank you. I claim to deserve it. You know how little I do
claimbut I will go that length. You have done so much for him
you are so fond of him; your whole lifeMrs. Bounderbyexpresses
such charming self-forgetfulness on his account - pardon me again I
am running wide of the subject. I am interested in him for his
She had made the slightest action possibleas if she would have
risen in a hurry and gone away. He had turned the course of what
he said at that instantand she remained.
'Mrs. Bounderby' he resumedin a lighter mannerand yet with a
show of effort in assuming itwhich was even more expressive than
the manner he dismissed; 'it is no irrevocable offence in a young
fellow of your brother's yearsif he is heedlessinconsiderate
and expensive - a little dissipatedin the common phrase. Is he?'
'Allow me to be frank. Do you think he games at all?'
'I think he makes bets.' Mr. Harthouse waitingas if that were
not her whole answershe added'I know he does.'
'Of course he loses?'
'Everybody does lose who bets. May I hint at the probability of
your sometimes supplying him with money for these purposes?'
She satlooking down; butat this questionraised her eyes
searchingly and a little resentfully.
'Acquit me of impertinent curiositymy dear Mrs. Bounderby. I
think Tom may be gradually falling into troubleand I wish to
stretch out a helping hand to him from the depths of my wicked
experience. - Shall I say againfor his sake? Is that necessary?'
She seemed to try to answerbut nothing came of it.
'Candidly to confess everything that has occurred to me' said
James Harthouseagain 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 Louisaflushing with her own great remembrance in
that wise'think it likely.'
'Orbetween himselfand - I may trust to your perfect
understanding of my meaningI am sure - and his highly esteemed
She flushed deeper and deeperand was burning red when she replied
in a fainter voice'I do not think that likelyeither.'
'Mrs. Bounderby' said Harthouseafter a short silence'may there
be a better confidence between yourself and me? Tom has borrowed a
considerable sum of you?'
'You will understandMr. Harthouse' she returnedafter some
indecision: she had been more or less uncertainand troubled
throughout the conversationand yet had in the main preserved her
self-contained manner; 'you will understand that if I tell you what
you press to knowit is not by way of complaint or regret. I
would never complain of anythingand what I have done I do not in
the least regret.'
'So spiritedtoo!' thought James Harthouse.
'When I marriedI found that my brother was even at that time
heavily in debt. Heavily for himI 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. Theywere
quite worthless to me.'
Either she saw in his face that he knewor she only feared in her
conscience that he knewthat she spoke of some of her husband's
gifts. She stoppedand reddened again. If he had not known it
beforehe would have known it thenthough he had been a much
duller man than he was.
'Since thenI have given my brotherat various timeswhat money
I could spare: in shortwhat money I have had. Confiding in you
at allon the faith of the interest you profess for himI will
not do so by halves. Since you have been in the habit of visiting
herehe 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 involvedbut I have kept these
secrets until nowwhen I trust them to your honour. I have held
no confidence with any onebecause - you anticipated my reason
just now.' She abruptly broke off.
He was a ready manand he sawand seizedan opportunity here of
presenting her own image to herslightly disguised as her brother.
'Mrs. Bounderbythough a graceless personof the world worldlyI
feel the utmost interestI assure youin 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. BounderbyI
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 playhe rushes into these extremes for himselffrom opposite
extremes that have long been forced - with the very best intentions
we have no doubt - upon him. Mr. Bounderby's fine bluff English
independencethough a most charming characteristicdoes 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 mistakena character misconceivedand abilities
misdirectedwould turn for relief and guidanceI should express
what it presents to my own view.'
As she sat looking straight before heracross the changing lights
upon the grass into the darkness of the wood beyondhe 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 Tomhoweverwhich I cannot forgiveand for
which I take him heavily to account.'
Louisa turned her eyes to his faceand asked him what fault was
'Perhaps' he returned'I have said enough. Perhaps it would have
been betteron the wholeif no allusion to it had escaped me.'
'You alarm meMr. Harthouse. Pray let me know it.'
'To relieve you from needless apprehension - and as this confidence
regarding your brotherwhich I prize I am sure above all possible
thingshas been established between us - I obey. I cannot forgive
him for not being more sensible in every wordlookand act of his
lifeof the affection of his best friend; of the devotion of his
best friend; of her unselfishness; of her sacrifice. The return he
makes herwithin my observationis a very poor one. What she has
done for him demands his constant love and gratitudenot his illhumour
and caprice. Careless fellow as I amI am not so
indifferentMrs. Bounderbyas to be regardless of this vice in
your brotheror inclined to consider it a venial offence.'
The wood floated before herfor her eyes were suffused with tears.
They rose from a deep welllong concealedand her heart was
filled with acute pain that found no relief in them.
'In a wordit is to correct your brother in thisMrs. Bounderby
that I must aspire. My better knowledge of his circumstancesand
my direction and advice in extricating them - rather valuableI
hopeas coming from a scapegrace on a much larger scale - will
give me some influence over himand all I gain I shall certainly
use towards this end. I have said enoughand more than enough. I
seem to be protesting that I am a sort of good fellowwhenupon
my honourI have not the least intention to make any protestation
to that effectand openly announce that I am nothing of the sort.
Yonderamong the trees' he addedhaving lifted up his eyes and
looked about; for he had watched her closely until now; 'is your
brother himself; no doubtjust come down. As he seems to be
loitering in this directionit may be as wellperhapsto walk
towards himand throw ourselves in his way. He has been very
silent and doleful of late. Perhapshis brotherly conscience is
touched - if there are such things as consciences. Thoughupon my
honourI hear of them much too often to believe in them.'
He assisted her to riseand she took his armand 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 pastimeand his colour changed.
'Halloa!' he stammered; 'I didn't know you were here.'
'Whose nameTom' said Mr. Harthouseputting his hand upon his
shoulder and turning himso 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 barkTom.'
'Not much of thatMr. Harthouseunless 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 richwithout any fear of losing
me. I'd carve her name as often as she liked.'
'I am afraid you are mercenaryTom.'
'Mercenary' repeated Tom. 'Who is not mercenary? Ask my sister.'
'Have you so proved it to be a failing of mineTom?' said Louisa
showing no other sense of his discontent and ill-nature.
'You know whether the cap fits youLoo' returned her brother
sulkily. 'If it doesyou can wear it.'
'Tom is misanthropical to-dayas all bored people are now and
then' said Mr. Harthouse. 'Don't believe himMrs. Bounderby. He
knows much better. I shall disclose some of his opinions of you
privately expressed to meunless he relents a little.'
'At all eventsMr. Harthouse' said Tomsoftening in his
admiration of his patronbut 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 contraryand I should do it again
if I had as good reason. Howevernever mind this now; it's not
very interesting to youand I am sick of the subject.'
They walked on to the housewhere Louisa quitted her visitor's arm
and went in. He stood looking after heras she ascended the
stepsand passed into the shadow of the door; then put his hand
upon her brother's shoulder againand invited him with a
confidential nod to a walk in the garden.
'Tommy fine fellowI 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-parapetplucking buds and picking
them to pieces; while his powerful Familiar stood over himwith a
foot upon the parapetand his figure easily resting on the arm
supported by that knee. They were just visible from her window.
Perhaps she saw them.
'Tomwhat's the matter?'
'Oh! Mr. Harthouse' said Tom with a groan'I am hard upand
bothered out of my life.'
'My good fellowso am I.'
'You!' returned Tom. 'You are the picture of independence. Mr.
HarthouseI 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 ofif she would only have done it.'
He took to biting the rosebuds nowand tearing them away from his
teeth with a hand that trembled like an infirm old man's. After
one exceedingly observant look at himhis companion relapsed into
his lightest air.
'Tomyou are inconsiderate: you expect too much of your sister.
You have had money of heryou dogyou know you have.'
'WellMr. HarthouseI 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 monthor something of that sort. Here's my father
drawing what he calls a lineand tying me down to it from a baby
neck and heels. Here's my mother who never has anything of her
ownexcept her complaints. What is a fellow to do for moneyand
where am I to look for itif not to my sister?'
He was almost cryingand scattered the buds about by dozens. Mr.
Harthouse took him persuasively by the coat.
'Butmy dear Tomif your sister has not got it - '
'Not got itMr. 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 nowafter what I have told you already;
you know she didn't marry old Bounderby for her own sakeor for
his sakebut for my sake. Then why doesn't she get what I want
out of himfor 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 himif she chose. Then why doesn't she choosewhen I
tell her of what consequence it is? But no. There she sits in his
company like a stoneinstead of making herself agreeable and
getting it easily. I don't know what you may call thisbut I call
it unnatural conduct.'
There was a piece of ornamental water immediately below the
parapeton the other sideinto which Mr. James Harthouse had a
very strong inclination to pitch Mr. Thomas Gradgrind junioras
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 abouta little surface-island.
'My dear Tom' said Harthouse'let me try to be your banker.'
'For God's sake' replied Tomsuddenly'don't talk about
bankers!' And very white he lookedin contrast with the roses.
Mr. Harthouseas a thoroughly well-bred manaccustomed to the
best societywas not to be surprised - he could as soon have been
affected - but he raised his eyelids a little moreas if they were
lifted by a feeble touch of wonder. Albeit it was as much against
the precepts of his school to wonderas it was against the
doctrines of the Gradgrind College.
'What is the present needTom? Three figures? Out with them.
Say what they are.'
'Mr. Harthouse' returned Tomnow actually crying; and his tears
were better than his injurieshowever 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! 'Whelpwhelp!' thought Mr. Harthouselazily;
'what an Ass you are!'
'And I take your offer as a great kindness' said Tomgrasping his
hand. 'As a great kindnessMr. Harthouse.'
'Well' returned the other'it may be of more use by and by. And
my good fellowif you will open your bedevilments to me when they
come thick upon youI may show you better ways out of them than
you can find for yourself.'
'Thank you' said Tomshaking his head dismallyand chewing
rosebuds. 'I wish I had known you soonerMr. Harthouse.'
'Nowyou seeTom' said Mr. Harthouse in conclusionhimself
tossing over a rose or twoas a contribution to the islandwhich
was always drifting to the wall as if it wanted to become a part of
the mainland: 'every man is selfish in everything he doesand 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 beMr. Harthouse.'
'No time like the presentTom. Begin at once.'
'Certainly I will. And my sister Loo shall say so.'
'Having made which bargainTom' said Harthouseclapping him on
the shoulder againwith an air which left him at liberty to infer
-as he didpoor 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 dinnerthough his mind seemed heavy
enoughhis body was on the alert; and he appeared before Mr.
Bounderby came in. 'I didn't mean to be crossLoo' he said
giving her his handand kissing her. 'I know you are fond of me
and you know I am fond of you.'
After thisthere was a smile upon Louisa's face that dayfor some
one else. Alasfor some one else!
'So much the less is the whelp the only creature that she cares
for' thought James Harthousereversing the reflection of his
first day's knowledge of her pretty face. 'So much the lessso
much the less.'
CHAPTER VIII - EXPLOSION
THE next morning was too bright a morning for sleepand James
Harthouse rose earlyand sat in the pleasant bay window of his
dressing-roomsmoking the rare tobacco that had had so wholesome
an influence on his young friend. Reposing in the sunlightwith
the fragrance of his eastern pipe about himand the dreamy smoke
vanishing into the airso rich and soft with summer odourshe
reckoned up his advantages as an idle winner might count his gains.
He was not at all bored for the timeand could give his mind to
He had established a confidence with herfrom which her husband
was excluded. He had established a confidence with herthat
absolutely turned upon her indifference towards her husbandand
the absencenow and at all timesof any congeniality between
them. He had artfullybut plainlyassured 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 livedhad melted
away. All very oddand very satisfactory!
And yet he had noteven nowany earnest wickedness of purpose in
him. Publicly and privatelyit were much better for the age in
which he livedthat he and the legion of whom he was one were
designedly badthan indifferent and purposeless. It is the
drifting icebergs setting with any current anywherethat wreck the
When the Devil goeth about like a roaring lionhe goeth about in a
shape by which few but savages and hunters are attracted. But
when he is trimmedsmoothedand varnishedaccording to the mode;
when he is aweary of viceand aweary of virtueused up as to
brimstoneand used up as to bliss; thenwhether he take to the
serving out of red tapeor to the kindling of red firehe is the
So James Harthouse reclined in the windowindolently smokingand
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 bewill be.
As he had rather a long ride to take that day - for there was a
public occasion 'to do' at some distancewhich 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
satisfactionas 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 houseand he was
riding along at a foot pace over the smooth gravelonce Nickits's
when Mr. Bounderby burst out of the shrubberywith such violence
as to make his horse shy across the road.
'Harthouse!' cried Mr. Bounderby. 'Have you heard?'
'Heard what?' said Harthousesoothing his horseand inwardly
favouring Mr. Bounderby with no good wishes.
'Then you haven't heard!'
'I have heard youand so has this brute. I have heard nothing
Mr. Bounderbyred and hotplanted himself in the centre of the
path before the horse's headto explode his bombshell with more
'The Bank's robbed!'
'You don't mean it!'
'Robbed last nightsir. Robbed in an extraordinary manner.
Robbed with a false key.'
Mr. Bounderbyin his desire to make the most of itreally seemed
mortified by being obliged to reply'Whyno; 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 Bounderbywith 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
'My dear Bounderby' said Jamesdismountingand giving his bridle
to his servant'I do see it; and am as overcome as you can
possibly desire me to beby the spectacle afforded to my mental
view. NeverthelessI may be allowedI hopeto congratulate you
-which I do with all my soulI assure you - on your not having
sustained a greater loss.'
'Thank'ee' replied Bounderbyin a shortungracious manner. 'But
I tell you what. It might have been twenty thousand pound.'
'I suppose it might.'
'Suppose it might! By the Lordyou may suppose so. By George!'
said Mr. Bounderbywith sundry menacing nods and shakes of his
head. 'It might have been twice twenty. There's no knowing what
it would have beenor wouldn't have beenas it wasbut for the
fellows' being disturbed.'
Louisa had come up nowand Mrs. Sparsitand Bitzer.
'Here's Tom Gradgrind's daughter knows pretty well what it might
have beenif you don't' blustered Bounderby. 'Droppedsiras
if she was shot when I told her! Never knew her do such a thing
before. Does her creditunder the circumstancesin my opinion!'
She still looked faint and pale. James Harthouse begged her to
take his arm; and as they moved on very slowlyasked her how the
robbery had been committed.
'WhyI am going to tell you' said Bounderbyirritably giving his
arm to Mrs. Sparsit. 'If you hadn't been so mighty particular
about the sumI 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 manBitzeryou saw him too on the
same occasion?' Mr. Harthouse inclined his head in assentand
Bitzer knuckled his forehead.
'Very well. They live at the Bank. You know they live at the
Bankperhaps? Very well. Yesterday afternoonat the close of
business hourseverything was put away as usual. In the iron room
that this young fellow sleeps outside ofthere was never mind how
much. In the little safe in young Tom's closetthe safe used for
petty purposesthere was a hundred and fifty odd pound.'
'A hundred and fifty-foursevenone' said Bitzer.
'Come!' retorted Bounderbystopping 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 comfortablewithout being
put right with your four seven ones. I didn't snoremyselfwhen
I was your agelet 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 againin a sneaking mannerand
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 moneyyoung Tom locked in his safenot a very strong safebut
that's no matter now. Everything was leftall right. Some time
in the nightwhile this young fellow snored - Mrs. Sparsitma'am
you say you have heard him snore?'
'Sir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'I cannot say that I have heard him
precisely snoreand therefore must not make that statement. But
on winter eveningswhen he has fallen asleep at his tableI have
heard himwhat I should prefer to describe as partially choke.
have heard him on such occasions produce sounds of a nature similar
to what may be sometimes heard in Dutch clocks. Not' said Mrs.
Sparsitwith 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 snoringor
chokingor Dutch-clockingor something or other - being asleep some
fellowssomehowwhether previously concealed in the house or
not remains to be seengot to young Tom's safeforced itand
abstracted the contents. Being then disturbedthey made off;
letting themselves out at the main doorand double-locking it
again (it was double-lockedand the key under Mrs. Sparsit's
pillow) with a false keywhich was picked up in the street near
the Bankabout twelve o'clock to-day. No alarm takes placetill
this chapBitzerturns out this morningand begins to open and
prepare the offices for business. Thenlooking at Tom's safehe
sees the door ajarand finds the lock forcedand the money gone.'
'Where is Tomby the by?' asked Harthouseglancing 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 Bounderbyrelinquishing Mrs. Sparsit's arm to wipe his heated
head. 'Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is not to be plundered and
nobody suspected. Nothank you!'
Might Mr. Harthouse inquire Who was suspected?
'Well' said Bounderbystopping 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 Harthouselazily'not our friend Blackpot?'
'Say Pool instead of Potsir' returned Bounderby'and that's the
Louisa faintly uttered some word of incredulity and surprise.
'O yes! I know!' said Bounderbyimmediately catching at the
sound. 'I know! I am used to that. I know all about it. They
are the finest people in the worldthese fellows are. They have
got the gift of the gabthey have. They only want to have their
rights explained to themthey do. But I tell you what. Show me a
dissatisfied Handand I'll show you a man that's fit for anything
badI don't care what it is.'
Another of the popular fictions of Coketownwhich 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 offlike books. Mrs. Sparsitma'amI appeal to you.
What warning did I give that fellowthe first time he set foot in
the housewhen the express object of his visit was to know how he
could knock Religion overand floor the Established Church? Mrs.
Sparsitin point of high connexionsyou are on a level with the
aristocracy- did I sayor did I not sayto that fellowyou
can't hide the truth from me: you are not the kind of fellow I
like; you'll come to no good?'
'Assuredlysir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'you didin a highly
impressive mannergive him such an admonition.'
'When he shocked youma'am' said Bounderby; 'when he shocked your
'Yessir' returned Mrs. Sparsitwith 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 beenif I had always occupied my
Mr. Bounderby stared with a bursting pride at Mr. Harthouseas
much as to say'I am the proprietor of this femaleand she's
worth your attentionI think.' Thenresumed his discourse.
'You can recall for yourselfHarthousewhat 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 wellsir. Three days after thathe
bolted. Went offnobody knows where: as my mother did in my
infancy - only with this differencethat he is a worse subject
than my motherif possible. What did he do before he went? What
do you say;' Mr. Bounderbywith his hat in his handgave a beat
upon the crown at every little division of his sentencesas 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 himand 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. Bounderbylike an oriental dancerput his tambourine on his
'Suspicious' said James Harthouse'certainly.'
'I think sosir' said Bounderbywith 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 broomstickevery now and then. She
watches the place a whole day before this fellow beginsand on the
night when you saw himshe steals away with him and holds a
council with him - I supposeto make her report on going off duty
and be damned to her.'
There was such a person in the room that nightand she shrunk from
'This is not all of 'emeven as we already know 'em' said
Bounderbywith 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 timebut we shall have 'em.
It's policy to give 'em line enoughand there's no objection to
'Of coursethey will be punished with the utmost rigour of the
lawas notice-boards observe' replied James Harthouse'and serve
them right. Fellows who go in for Banks must take the
consequences. If there were no consequenceswe 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 shadethough
the sun did not shine there.
'For the presentLoo Bounderby' said her husband'here's Mrs.
Sparsit to look after. Mrs. Sparsit's nerves have been acted upon
by this businessand she'll stay here a day or two. So make her
'Thank you very muchsir' that discreet lady observed'but pray
do not let My comfort be a consideration. Anything will do for
It soon appeared that if Mrs. Sparsit had a failing in her
association with that domestic establishmentit was that she was
so excessively regardless of herself and regardful of othersas to
be a nuisance. On being shown her chambershe 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.
Truethe 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 wasI am no longer. Indeed' said she'if
I could altogether cancel the remembrance that Mr. Sparsit was a
Powleror that I myself am related to the Scadgers family; or if I
could even revoke the factand make myself a person of common
descent and ordinary connexions; I would gladly do so. I should
think itunder existing circumstancesright to do so.' The same
Hermitical state of mind led to her renunciation of made dishes and
wines at dinneruntil fairly commanded by Mr. Bounderby to take
them; when she said'Indeed you are very goodsir;' and departed
from a resolution of which she had made rather formal and public
announcementto 'wait for the simple mutton.' She was likewise
deeply apologetic for wanting the salt; andfeeling amiably bound
to bear out Mr. Bounderby to the fullest extent in the testimony he
had borne to her nervesoccasionally sat back in her chair and
silently wept; at which periods a tear of large dimensionslike a
crystal ear-ringmight be observed (or rathermust befor it
insisted on public notice) sliding down her Roman nose.
But Mrs. Sparsit's greatest pointfirst and lastwas her
determination to pity Mr. Bounderby. There were occasions when in
looking at him she was involuntarily moved to shake her headas
who would say'Alaspoor Yorick!' After allowing herself to be
betrayed into these evidences of emotionshe would force a lambent
brightnessand would be fitfully cheerfuland would say'You
have still good spiritssirI 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 apologizedshe
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 indeedshe saidit seemed so natural to say Miss
Gradgrind: whereasto persuade herself that the young lady whom
she had had the happiness of knowing from a child could be really
and truly Mrs. Bounderbyshe found almost impossible. It was a
further singularity of this remarkable casethat the more she
thought about itthe more impossible it appeared; 'the
differences' she observed'being such.'
In the drawing-room after dinnerMr. Bounderby tried the case of
the robberyexamined the witnessesmade notes of the evidence
found the suspected persons guiltyand sentenced them to the
extreme punishment of the law. That doneBitzer was dismissed to
town with instructions to recommend Tom to come home by the mailtrain.
When candles were broughtMrs. Sparsit murmured'Don't be low
sir. Pray let me see you cheerfulsiras I used to do.' Mr.
Bounderbyupon whom these consolations had begun to produce the
effect of making himin a bull-headed blundering waysentimental
sighed like some large sea-animal. 'I cannot bear to see you so
sir' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Try a hand at backgammonsiras you
used to do when I had the honour of living under your roof.' 'I
haven't played backgammonma'am' said Mr. Bounderby'since that
time.' 'Nosir' said Mrs. Sparsitsoothingly'I am aware that
you have not. I remember that Miss Gradgrind takes no interest in
the game. But I shall be happysirif you will condescend.'
They played near a windowopening on the garden. It was a fine
night: not moonlightbut sultry and fragrant. Louisa and Mr.
Harthouse strolled out into the gardenwhere their voices could be
heard in the stillnessthough not what they said. Mrs. Sparsit
from her place at the backgammon boardwas constantly straining
her eyes to pierce the shadows without. 'What's the matterma'am?
' said Mr. Bounderby; 'you don't see a Firedo you?' 'Oh dear no
sir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'I was thinking of the dew.' 'What
have you got to do with the dewma'am?' said Mr. Bounderby. 'It's
not myselfsir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'I am fearful of Miss
Gradgrind's taking cold.' 'She never takes cold' said Mr.
Bounderby. 'Reallysir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. And was affected
with a cough in her throat.
When the time drew near for retiringMr. Bounderby took a glass of
water. 'Ohsir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Not your sherry warmwith
lemon-peel and nutmeg?' 'WhyI have got out of the habit of
taking it nowma'am' said Mr. Bounderby. 'The more's the pity
sir' returned Mrs. Sparsit; 'you are losing all your good old
habits. Cheer upsir! If Miss Gradgrind will permit meI will
offer to make it for youas I have often done.'
Miss Gradgrind readily permitting Mrs. Sparsit to do anything she
pleasedthat considerate lady made the beverageand handed it to
Mr. Bounderby. 'It will do you goodsir. It will warm your
heart. It is the sort of thing you wantand ought to takesir.'
And when Mr. Bounderby said'Your healthma'am!' she answered
with great feeling'Thank yousir. The same to youand
happiness also.' Finallyshe wished him good nightwith great
pathos; and Mr. Bounderby went to bedwith a maudlin persuasion
that he had been crossed in something tenderthough he could not
for his lifehave mentioned what it was.
Long after Louisa had undressed and lain downshe watched and
waited for her brother's coming home. That could hardly beshe
knewuntil an hour past midnight; but in the country silence
which did anything but calm the trouble of her thoughtstime
lagged wearily. At lastwhen the darkness and stillness had
seemed for hours to thicken one anothershe heard the bell at the
gate. She felt as though she would have been glad that it rang on
until daylight; but it ceasedand the circles of its last sound
spread out fainter and wider in the airand all was dead again.
She waited yet some quarter of an houras she judged. Then she
aroseput on a loose robeand 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 himapproaching his bed with a
She kneeled down beside itpassed her arm over his neckand drew
his face to hers. She knew that he only feigned to be asleepbut
she said nothing to him.
He started by and by as if he were just then awakenedand asked
who that wasand what was the matter?
'Tomhave you anything to tell me? If ever you loved me in your
lifeand have anything concealed from every one besidestell it
'I don't know what you meanLoo. You have been dreaming.'
'My dear brother:' she laid her head down on his pillowand 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 Tomtell me the truth!'
'I don't know what you meanLoo!'
'As you lie here alonemy dearin the melancholy nightso you
must lie somewhere one nightwhen even Iif I am living then
shall have left you. As I am here beside youbarefootunclothed
undistinguishable in darknessso must I lie through all the night
of my decayuntil I am dust. In the name of that timeTomtell
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 Tomhave
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 myself. 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
'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
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
'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
'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.
'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
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 oldfashioned,
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
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 coalpits,
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,
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 dustyard.
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
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 crosspurposes,
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
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
'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
'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?'
'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 fellowyou 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?'
'Nor of any other such person?'
'How can I' she returnedwith more of her first manner on her
than he had lately seen'when I know nothing of themmen or
'My dear Louisathen consent to receive the submissive
representation of your devoted friendwho knows something of
several varieties of his excellent fellow-creatures - for excellent
they areI am quite ready to believein 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 Correctionthere is a general
profession of moralityexcept 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 - whoas we knowis not
possessed of that delicacy which would soften so tight a hand. The
member of the fluffy classes was injuredexasperatedleft the
house grumblingmet somebody who proposed to him to go in for some
share in this Bank businesswent input something in his pocket
which had nothing in it beforeand relieved his mind extremely.
Really he would have been an uncommoninstead of a commonfellow
if he had not availed himself of such an opportunity. Or he may
have originated it altogetherif 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
opinionand I am quite of his. Will you walk?'
They strolled awayamong the lanes beginning to be indistinct in
the twilight - she leaning on his arm - and she little thought how
she was going downdowndownMrs. Sparsit's staircase.
Night and dayMrs. Sparsit kept it standing. When Louisa had
arrived at the bottom and disappeared in the gulfit might fall in
upon her if it would; butuntil thenthere it was to bea
Buildingbefore Mrs. Sparsit's eyes. And there Louisa always was
And always gliding downdowndown!
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
tooremarked to a nicety how and when it cloudedhow and when it
cleared; she kept her black eyes wide openwith no touch of pity
with no touch of compunctionall absorbed in interest. In the
interest of seeing herever drawingwith 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 portraitMrs. Sparsit had not the smallest intention of
interrupting the descent. Eager to see it accomplishedand yet
patientshe waited for the last fallas for the ripeness and
fulness of the harvest of her hopes. Hushed in expectancyshe
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
CHAPTER XI - LOWER AND LOWER
THE figure descended the great stairssteadilysteadily; always
verginglike a weight in deep waterto the black gulf at the
Mr. Gradgrindapprised of his wife's deceasemade an expedition
from Londonand buried her in a business-like manner. He then
returned with promptitude to the national cinder-heapand resumed
his sifting for the odds and ends he wantedand 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 meantimeMrs. Sparsit kept unwinking watch and ward.
Separated from her staircaseall the weekby the length of iron
road dividing Coketown from the country houseshe yet maintained
her cat-like observation of Louisathrough her husbandthrough
her brotherthrough James Harthousethrough the outsides of
letters and packetsthrough everything animate and inanimate that
at any time went near the stairs. 'Your foot on the last stepmy
lady' said Mrs. Sparsitapostrophizing the descending figure
with the aid of her threatening mitten'and all your art shall
never blind me.'
Art or nature thoughthe original stock of Louisa's character or
the graft of circumstances upon it- her curious reserve did
bafflewhile it stimulatedone 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 himthan
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
elsewherefor three or four days. It was on a Friday that he
intimated this to Mrs. Sparsit at the Bankadding: 'But you'll go
down to-morrowma'amall the same. You'll go down just as if I
was there. It will make no difference to you.'
'Praysir' returned Mrs. Sparsitreproachfully'let me beg you
not to say that. Your absence will make a vast difference to me
siras I think you very well know.'
'Wellma'amthen you must get on in my absence as well as you
can' said Mr. Bounderbynot displeased.
'Mr. Bounderby' retorted Mrs. Sparsit'your will is to me a law
sir; otherwiseit might be my inclination to dispute your kind
commandsnot feeling sure that it will be quite so agreeable to
Miss Gradgrind to receive meas it ever is to your own munificent
hospitality. But you shall say no moresir. I will goupon your
'Whywhen I invite you to my housema'am' said Bounderby
opening his eyes'I should hope you want no other invitation.'
'Noindeedsir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'I should hope not. Say
no moresir. I wouldsirI could see you gay again.'
'What do you meanma'am?' blustered Bounderby.
'Sir' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit'there was wont to be an elasticity
in you which I sadly miss. Be buoyantsir!'
Mr. Bounderbyunder the influence of this difficult adjuration
backed up by her compassionate eyecould only scratch his head in
a feeble and ridiculous mannerand afterwards assert himself at a
distanceby being heard to bully the small fry of business all the
'Bitzer' said Mrs. Sparsit that afternoonwhen her patron was
gone on his journeyand the Bank was closing'present my
compliments to young Mr. Thomasand ask him if he would step up
and partake of a lamb chop and walnut ketchupwith a glass of
India ale?' Young Mr. Thomas being usually ready for anything in
that wayreturned a gracious answerand followed on its heels.
'Mr. Thomas' said Mrs. Sparsit'these plain viands being on
tableI thought you might be tempted.'
'Thank'eeMrs. Sparsit' said the whelp. And gloomily fell to.
'How is Mr. HarthouseMr. Tom?' asked Mrs. Sparsit.
'Ohhe's all right' said Tom.
'Where may he be at present?' Mrs. Sparsit asked in a light
conversational mannerafter 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 churchyesterday.'
'The kind of gentlemannow' said Mrs. Sparsitsweetly'whom one
might wager to be a good shot!'
'Crack' said Tom.
He had long been a down-looking young fellowbut this
characteristic had so increased of latethat he never raised his
eyes to any face for three seconds together. Mrs. Sparsit
consequently had ample means of watching his looksif she were so
'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
'WhyI expect to see him to-morrow' returned the whelp.
'Good news!' cried Mrs. Sparsitblandly.
'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
afterwardsI believe. He is not coming down to the country house
for a week or sobeing due somewhere else. At leasthe says so;
but I shouldn't wonder if he was to stop here over Sundayand
stray that way.'
'Which reminds me!' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Would you remember a
message to your sisterMr. Tomif I was to charge you with one?'
'Well? I'll try' returned the reluctant whelp'if it isn't a
'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 nervousand better perhaps by my poor self.'
'Oh! If that's all' observed Tom'it wouldn't much mattereven
if I was to forget itfor 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 leftwhen he said'WellMrs. SparsitI must be off!' and
Next daySaturdayMrs. Sparsit sat at her window all day long
looking at the customers coming in and outwatching the postmen
keeping an eye on the general traffic of the streetrevolving many
things in her mindbutabove allkeeping her attention on her
staircase. The evening comeshe put on her bonnet and shawland
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 cornersand
out of ladies' waiting-room windowsto appearing in its precincts
Tom was in attendanceand loitered about until the expected train
came in. It brought no Mr. Harthouse. Tom waited until the crowd
had dispersedand the bustle was over; and then referred to a
posted list of trainsand took counsel with porters. That done
he strolled away idlystopping in the street and looking up it and
down itand lifting his hat off and putting it on againand
yawning and stretching himselfand exhibiting all the symptoms of
mortal weariness to be expected in one who had still to wait until
the next train should come inan 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 momentand she shot off with
her utmost swiftness to work it out. The station for the country
house was at the opposite end of the townthe time was shortthe
road not easy; but she was so quick in pouncing on a disengaged
coachso quick in darting out of itproducing her moneyseizing
her ticketand diving into the trainthat she was borne along the
arches spanning the land of coal-pits past and presentas if she
had been caught up in a cloud and whirled away.
All the journeyimmovable in the air though never left behind;
plain to the dark eyes of her mindas the electric wires which
ruled a colossal strip of music-paper out of the evening skywere
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 eveningjust at nightfallsaw beneath its
drooping eyelids Mrs. Sparsit glide out of her carriagepass down
the wooden steps of the little station into a stony roadcross it
into a green laneand become hidden in a summer-growth of leaves
and branches. One or two late birds sleepily chirping in their
nestsand a bat heavily crossing and recrossing herand the reek
of her own tread in the thick dust that felt like velvetwere all
Mrs. Sparsit heard or saw until she very softly closed a gate.
She went up to the housekeeping within the shrubberyand went
round itpeeping between the leaves at the lower windows. Most of
them were openas they usually were in such warm weatherbut
there were no lights yetand all was silent. She tried the garden
with no better effect. She thought of the woodand stole towards
itheedless of long grass and briers: of wormssnailsand
slugsand all the creeping things that be. With her dark eyes and
her hook nose warily in advance of herMrs. Sparsit softly crushed
her way through the thick undergrowthso intent upon her object
that she probably would have done no lessif the wood had been a
wood of adders.
The smaller birds might have tumbled out of their nestsfascinated
by the glittering of Mrs. Sparsit's eyes in the gloomas 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 yonderby the
Bending low among the dewy grassMrs. Sparsit advanced closer to
them. She drew herself upand stood behind a treelike Robinson
Crusoe in his ambuscade against the savages; so near to them that
at a springand that no great oneshe could have touched them
both. He was there secretlyand had not shown himself at the
house. He had come on horsebackand must have passed through the
neighbouring fields; for his horse was tied to the meadow side of
the fencewithin a few paces.
'My dearest love' said he'what could I do? Knowing you were
alonewas it possible that I could stay away?'
'You may hang your headto 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 thinkmy dearest lovewhose eyes are on
That she hung her headwas certain. She urged him to go awayshe
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 sitat any period in
her life. Her hands rested in one anotherlike 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
'But we have so little time to make so much ofand I have come so
farand am altogether so devotedand 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 lifeand to be
received in your frozen manneris heart-rending.'
'Am I to say againthat I must be left to myself here?'
'But we must meetmy dear Louisa. Where shall we meet?'
They both started. The listener startedguiltilytoo; for she
thought there was another listener among the trees. It was only
rainbeginning to fall fastin heavy drops.
'Shall I ride up to the house a few minutes henceinnocently
supposing that its master is at home and will be charmed to receive
'Your cruel commands are implicitly to be obeyed; though I am the
most unfortunate fellow in the worldI believeto have been
insensible to all other womenand to have fallen prostrate at last
under the foot of the most beautifuland the most engagingand
the most imperious. My dearest LouisaI cannot go myselfor let
you goin this hard abuse of your power.'
Mrs. Sparsit saw him detain her with his encircling armand heard
him then and therewithin her (Mrs. Sparsit's) greedy hearing
tell her how he loved herand how she was the stake for which he
ardently desired to play away all that he had in life. The objects
he had lately pursuedturned worthless beside her; such success as
was almost in his grasphe flung away from him like the dirt it
wascompared with her. Its pursuitneverthelessif it kept him
near heror its renunciation if it took him from heror flight if
she shared itor secrecy if she commanded itor any fateor
every fateall was alike to himso that she was true to himthe
man who had seen how cast away she waswhom she had inspired
at their first meeting with an admirationan interestof which he
had thought himself incapablewhom she had received into her
confidencewho was devoted to her and adored her. All thisand
morein his hurryand in hersin the whirl of her own gratified
malicein the dread of being discoveredin the rapidly increasing
noise of heavy rain among the leavesand a thunderstorm rolling up
-Mrs. Sparsit received into her mindset off with such an
unavoidable halo of confusion and indistinctnessthat when at
length he climbed the fence and led his horse awayshe was not
sure where they were to meetor whenexcept 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. 'Ohmy dearest love'
thought Mrs. Sparsit'you little think how well attended you are!'
Mrs. Sparsit saw her out of the woodand saw her enter the house.
What to do next? It rained nowin a sheet of water. Mrs.
Sparsit's white stockings were of many coloursgreen
predominating; prickly things were in her shoes; caterpillars slung
themselvesin hammocks of their own makingfrom various parts of
her dress; rills ran from her bonnetand her Roman nose. In such
conditionMrs. Sparsit stood hidden in the density of the
shrubberyconsidering what next?
LoLouisa coming out of the house! Hastily cloaked and muffled
and stealing away. She elopes! She falls from the lowermost
stairand is swallowed up in the gulf.
Indifferent to the rainand moving with a quick determined step
she struck into a side-path parallel with the ride. Mrs. Sparsit
followed in the shadow of the treesat but a short distance; for
it was not easy to keep a figure in view going quickly through the
When she stopped to close the side-gate without noiseMrs. Sparsit
stopped. When she went onMrs. Sparsit went on. She went by the
way Mrs. Sparsit had comeemerged from the green lanecrossed the
stony roadand ascended the wooden steps to the railroad. A train
for Coketown would come through presentlyMrs. Sparsit knew; so
she understood Coketown to be her first place of destination.
In Mrs. Sparsit's limp and streaming stateno extensive
precautions were necessary to change her usual appearance; butshe
stopped under the lee of the station walltumbled her shawl into a
new shapeand 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 thunderwhich was loudand to the rainas it washed off
the roofand pattered on the parapets of the arches. Two or three
lamps were rained out and blown out; soboth saw the lightning to
advantage as it quivered and zigzagged on the iron tracks.
The seizure of the station with a fit of tremblinggradually
deepening to a complaint of the heartannounced the train. Fire
and steamand smokeand red light; a hissa crasha belland a
shriek; Louisa put into one carriageMrs. Sparsit put into
another: the little station a desert speck in the thunderstorm.
Though her teeth chattered in her head from wet and coldMrs.
Sparsit exulted hugely. The figure had plunged down the precipice
and she felt herselfas it wereattending on the body. Could
shewho had been so active in the getting up of the funeral
triumphdo 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 confusionwhen the train
stopped at its destination. Gutters and pipes had burstdrains
had overflowedand streets were under water. In the first instant
of alightingMrs. Sparsit turned her distracted eyes towards the
waiting coacheswhich 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 overI must see the number
and hear the order given to the coachman.'
ButMrs. Sparsit was wrong in her calculation. Louisa got into no
coachand was already gone. The black eyes kept upon the
railroad-carriage in which she had travelledsettled upon it a
moment too late. The door not being opened after several minutes
Mrs. Sparsit passed it and repassed itsaw nothinglooked inand
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
buttonstringand hook-and-eye she woreprinted off upon her
highly connected back; with a stagnant verdure on her general
exteriorsuch 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 dustmenafter entertaining one another with a great
many noisy little fights among themselveshad dispersed for the
presentand Mr. Gradgrind was at home for the vacation.
He sat writing in the room with the deadly statistical clock
proving something no doubt - probablyin the mainthat 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 sometimesas if he were rather
remonstrating with the elements. When it thundered very loudlyhe
glanced towards Coketownhaving it in his mind that some of the
tall chimneys might be struck by lightning.
The thunder was rolling into distanceand the rain was pouring
down like a delugewhen the door of his room opened. He looked
round the lamp upon his tableand sawwith amazementhis eldest
'FatherI want to speak to you.'
'What is the matter? How strange you look! And good Heaven' said
Mr. Gradgrindwondering more and more'have you come here exposed
to this storm?'
She put her hands to her dressas if she hardly knew. 'Yes.'
Then she uncovered her headand letting her cloak and hood fall
where they mightstood looking at him: so colourlessso
dishevelledso defiant and despairingthat he was afraid of her.
'What is it? I conjure youLouisatell me what is the matter.'
She dropped into a chair before himand put her cold hand on his
'Fatheryou have trained me from my cradle?'
'I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny.'
He looked at her in doubt and dreadvacantly repeating: 'Curse
the hour? Curse the hour?'
'How could you give me lifeand 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 doneO fatherwhat have you donewith the garden that
should have bloomed oncein this great wilderness here!'
She struck herself with both her hands upon her bosom.
'If it had ever been hereits ashes alone would save me from the
void in which my whole life sinks. I did not mean to say this;
butfatheryou remember the last time we conversed in this room?'
He had been so wholly unprepared for what he heard nowthat it was
with difficulty he answered'YesLouisa.'
'What has risen to my lips nowwould have risen to my lips then
if you had given me a moment's help. I don't reproach youfather.
What you have never nurtured in meyou have never nurtured in
yourself; but O! if you had only done so long agoor if you had
only neglected mewhat a much better and much happier creature I
should have been this day!'
On hearing thisafter all his carehe bowed his head upon his
hand and groaned aloud.
'Fatherif you had knownwhen we were last together herewhat
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
breastsensibilitiesaffectionsweaknesses capable of being
cherished into strengthdefying all the calculations ever made by
manand no more known to his arithmetic than his Creator iswould
you have given me to the husband whom I am now sure that I
He said'No. Nomy poor child.'
'Would you have doomed meat any timeto 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 lifethe spring and summer of my
beliefmy refuge from what is sordid and bad in the real things
around memy school in which I should have learned to be more
humble and more trusting with themand to hope in my little sphere
to make them better?'
'O nono. NoLouisa.'
'Yetfatherif I had been stone blind; if I had groped my way by
my sense of touchand had been freewhile I knew the shapes and
surfaces of thingsto exercise my fancy somewhatin regard to
them; I should have been a million times wiserhappiermore
lovingmore contentedmore innocent and human in all good
respectsthan I am with the eyes I have. Nowhear what I have
come to say.'
He movedto support her with his arm. She rising as he did so
they stood close together: shewith a hand upon his shoulder
looking fixedly in his face.
'With a hunger and thirst upon mefatherwhich have never been
for a moment appeased; with an ardent impulse towards some region
where rulesand figuresand definitions were not quite absolute;
I have grown upbattling every inch of my way.'
'I never knew you were unhappymy child.'
'FatherI 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 doubtingmisbelievingdespisingregrettingwhat I have
not learned; and my dismal resource has been to think that life
would soon go byand that nothing in it could be worth the pain
and trouble of a contest.'
'And you so youngLouisa!' he said with pity.
'And I so young. In this conditionfather - for I show you now
without fear or favourthe 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 knewandfather
you knewand he knewthat I never did. I was not wholly
indifferentfor I had a hope of being pleasant and useful to Tom.
I made that wild escape into something visionaryand 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 nowexcept as it may
dispose you to think more leniently of his errors.'
As her father held her in his armsshe put her other hand upon his
other shoulderand still looking fixedly in his facewent on.
'When I was irrevocably marriedthere rose up into rebellion
against the tiethe old strifemade fiercer by all those causes
of disparity which arise out of our two individual naturesand
which no general laws shall ever rule or state for mefather
until they shall be able to direct the anatomist where to strike
his knife into the secrets of my soul.'
'Louisa!' he saidand said imploringly; for he well remembered
what had passed between them in their former interview.
'I do not reproach youfatherI make no complaint. I am here
with another object.'
'What can I dochild? Ask me what you will.'
'I am coming to it. Fatherchance then threw into my way a new
acquaintance; a man such as I had had no experience of; used to the
world; lightpolishedeasy; making no pretences; avowing the low
estimate of everythingthat I was half afraid to form in secret;
conveying to me almost immediatelythough I don't know how or by
what degreesthat he understood meand 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 elseto care so much for me.'
Her father might instinctively have loosened his holdbut that he
felt her strength departing from herand 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. Fatherhe did gain it. What you
know of the story of my marriagehe soon knewjust as well.'
Her father's face was ashy whiteand he held her in both his arms.
'I have done no worseI have not disgraced you. But if you ask me
whether I have loved himor do love himI tell you plainly
fatherthat it may be so. I don't know.'
She took her hands suddenly from his shouldersand pressed them
both upon her side; while in her facenot like itself - and in her
figuredrawn upresolute to finish by a last effort what she had
to say - the feelings long suppressed broke loose.
'This nightmy husband being awayhe has been with medeclaring
himself my lover. This minute he expects mefor I could release
myself of his presence by no other means. I do not know that I am
sorryI do not know that I am ashamedI do not know that I am
degraded in my own esteem. All that I know isyour philosophy and
your teaching will not save me. Nowfatheryou 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 thereand saw
the pride of his heart and the triumph of his systemlyingan
insensible heapat his feet.
END OF THE SECOND BOOK
BOOK THE THIRD - GARNERING
CHAPTER I - ANOTHER THING NEEDFUL
LOUISA awoke from a torporand her eyes languidly opened on her
old bed at homeand her old room. It seemedat firstas if all
that had happened since the days when these objects were familiar
to her were the shadows of a dreambut graduallyas the objects
became more real to her sightthe events became more real to her
She could scarcely move her head for pain and heavinessher eyes
were strained and soreand she was very weak. A curious passive
inattention had such possession of herthat the presence of her
little sister in the room did not attract her notice for some time.
Even when their eyes had metand her sister had approached the
bedLouisa lay for minutes looking at her in silenceand
suffering her timidly to hold her passive handbefore she asked:
'When was I brought to this room?'
'Who brought me here?'
'Why do you believe so?'
'Because I found her here this morning. She didn't come to my
bedside to wake meas 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 houseuntil 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 haveJane!' said Louisaas 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
The arm Louisa had begun to twine around her neckunbent itself.
'You can tell father if you will.' Thenstaying her for a moment
she said'It was you who made my room so cheerfuland gave it
this look of welcome?'
'Oh noLouisait was done before I came. It was - '
Louisa turned upon her pillowand heard no more. When her sister
had withdrawnshe turned her head back againand lay with her
face towards the dooruntil it opened and her father entered.
He had a jaded anxious look upon himand his handusually steady
trembled in hers. He sat down at the side of the bedtenderly
asking how she wasand 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 voicevery different
from his usual dictatorial manner; and was often at a loss for
'My dear Louisa. My poor daughter.' He was so much at a loss at
that placethat 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 meLouisato endeavour to tell you how
overwhelmed I have beenand still amby 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 leanedand the strength of
which it seemedand still does seemimpossible to questionhas
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 nightto 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 sayLouisathat if you had by any happy chance
undeceived me some time agoit would have been better for us both;
better for your peaceand 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 myselfand I have
rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its
failures. I only entreat you to believemy favourite childthat
I have meant to do right.'
He said it earnestlyand to do him justice he had. In gauging
fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rodand in staggering
over the universe with his rusty stiff-legged compasseshe had
meant to do great things. Within the limits of his short tether he
had tumbled aboutannihilating 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 sayfather. I know I have been
your favourite child. I know you have intended to make me happy.
I have never blamed youand I never shall.'
He took her outstretched handand retained it in his.
'My dearI have remained all night at my tablepondering 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 hourshas 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
He might have added more than allwhen he saw the face now looking
at him. He did add it in effectperhapsas he softly moved her
scattered hair from her forehead with his hand. Such little
actionsslight in another manwere very noticeable in him; and
his daughter received them as if they had been words of contrition.
'But' said Mr. Gradgrindslowlyand with hesitationas well as
with a wretched sense of happiness'if I see reason to mistrust
myself for the pastLouisaI should also mistrust myself for the
present and the future. To speak unreservedly to youI do. I am
far from feeling convinced nowhowever differently I might have
felt only this time yesterdaythat 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
youand to set you rightmy child.'
She had turned upon her pillowand lay with her face upon her arm
so that he could not see it. All her wildness and passion had
subsided; butthough softenedshe 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 pursuedstill hesitating'that there is a
wisdom of the Headand that there is a wisdom of the Heart. I
have not supposed so; butas I have saidI mistrust myself now.
I have supposed the head to be all-sufficient. It may not be allsufficient;
how can I venture this morning to say it is! If that
other kind of wisdom should be what I have neglectedand should be
the instinct that is wantedLouisa - '
He suggested it very doubtfullyas if he were half unwilling to
admit it even now. She made him no answerlying before him on her
bedstill half-dressedmuch 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 heremy deara 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 begunin her case
at an early age. I ask you - ignorantly and humblymy daughter for
the betterdo you think?'
'Father' she repliedwithout stirring'if any harmony has been
awakened in her young breast that was mute in mine until it turned
to discordlet her thank Heaven for itand go upon her happier
waytaking it as her greatest blessing that she has avoided my
'O my childmy child!' he saidin a forlorn manner'I am an
unhappy man to see you thus! What avails it to me that you do not
reproach meif I so bitterly reproach myself!' He bent his head
and spoke low to her. 'LouisaI have a misgiving that some change
may have been slowly working about me in this houseby mere love
and gratitude: that what the Head had left undone and could not
dothe Heart may have been doing silently. Can it be so?'
She made him no reply.
'I am not too proud to believe itLouisa. How could I be
arrogantand you before me! Can it be so? Is it somy dear?'
He looked upon her once morelying cast away there; and without
another word went out of the room. He had not been long gonewhen
she heard a light tread near the doorand knew that some one stood
She did not raise her head. A dull anger that she should be seen
in her distressand that the involuntary look she had so resented
should come to this fulfilmentsmouldered within her like an
unwholesome fire. All closely imprisoned forces rend and destroy.
The air that would be healthful to the earththe water that would
enrich itthe heat that would ripen ittear it when caged up. So
in her bosom even now; the strongest qualities she possessedlong
turned upon themselvesbecame a heap of obduracythat rose
against a friend.
It was well that soft touch came upon her neckand 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 therewarming into life a crowd of gentler thoughts; and
she rested. As she softened with the quietand the consciousness
of being so watchedsome tears made their way into her eyes. The
face touched hersand she knew that there were tears upon it too
and she the cause of them.
As Louisa feigned to rouse herselfand sat upSissy retiredso
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 Sissyshaking her head. 'I would be something to
youif I might.'
'What?' said Louisaalmost sternly.
'Whatever you want mostif I could be that. At all eventsI
would like to try to be as near it as I can. And however far off
that may beI 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 leastwhat?' said Louisawith her searching eyes upon her.
'I thought it best myself that I should be sent awayfor I felt
very uncertain whether you would like to find me here.'
'Have I always hated you so much?'
'I hope notfor I have always loved youand have always wished
that you should know it. But you changed to me a littleshortly
before you left home. Not that I wondered at it. You knew so
muchand I knew so littleand it was so natural in many ways
going as you were among other friendsthat I had nothing to
complain ofand was not at all hurt.'
Her colour rose as she said it modestly and hurriedly. Louisa
understood the loving pretenceand her heart smote her.
'May I try?' said Sissyemboldened to raise her hand to the neck
that was insensibly drooping towards her.
Louisataking down the hand that would have embraced her in
another momentheld it in one of hersand answered:
'FirstSissydo you know what I am? I am so proud and so
hardenedso confused and troubledso resentful and unjust to
every one and to myselfthat everything is stormydarkand
wicked to me. Does not that repel you?'
'I am so unhappyand all that should have made me otherwise is so
laid wastethat if I had been bereft of sense to this hourand
instead of being as learned as you think mehad to begin to
acquire the simplest truthsI could not want a guide to peace
contentmenthonourall the good of which I am quite devoidmore
abjectly than I do. Does not that repel you?'
In the innocence of her brave affectionand the brimming up of her
old devoted spiritthe 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 kneesand clinging to this
stroller's child looked up at her almost with veneration.
'Forgive mepity mehelp 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 heremy dear.'
CHAPTER II - VERY RIDICULOUS
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE passed a whole night and a day in a state of so
much hurrythat the Worldwith its best glass in his eyewould
scarcely have recognized him during that insane intervalas 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 waylike a man without an object. He rode like a
highwayman. In a wordhe was so horribly bored by existing
circumstancesthat he forgot to go in for boredom in the manner
prescribed by the authorities.
After putting his horse at Coketown through the stormas if it
were a leaphe waited up all night: from time to time ringing his
bell with the greatest furycharging the porter who kept watch
with delinquency in withholding letters or messages that could not
fail to have been entrusted to himand demanding restitution on
the spot. The dawn comingthe morning comingand the day coming
and neither message nor letter coming with eitherhe went down to
the country house. Therethe report wasMr. Bounderby awayand
Mrs. Bounderby in town. Left for town suddenly last evening. Not
even known to be gone until receipt of messageimporting 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 Tomwho 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 nightTom?'
'Where was I last night!' said Tom. 'Come! I like that. I was
waiting for youMr. Harthousetill it came down as I never saw it
come down before. Where was I too! Where were youyou mean.'
'I was prevented from coming - detained.'
'Detained!' murmured Tom. 'Two of us were detained. I was
detained looking for youtill 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? Whyin my own bed at Bounderby's.'
'Did you see your sister?'
'How the deuce' returned Tomstaring'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 friendMr. Harthouse disembarrassed himself of that
interview with the smallest conceivable amount of ceremonyand
debated for the hundredth time what all this could mean? He made
only one thing clear. It wasthat whether she was in town or out
of townwhether he had been premature with her who was so hard to
comprehendor she had lost courageor they were discoveredor
some mischance or mistakeat present incomprehensiblehad
occurredhe must remain to confront his fortunewhatever it was.
The hotel where he was known to live when condemned to that region
of blacknesswas the stake to which he was tied. As to all the
rest - What will bewill be.
'Sowhether I am waiting for a hostile messageor an assignation
or a penitent remonstranceor 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
usit may be as well to be in training.'
Therefore he rang the belland tossing himself negligently on a
sofaordered '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 perplexityand
as the hours went onand no kind of explanation offered itself
his perplexity augmented at compound interest.
Howeverhe 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 shillingsand 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 afternoonor his suspense; andsooth to say
they both lagged fearfully.
It was impossibleeven before dinnerto avoid often walking about
in the pattern of the carpetlooking out of the windowlistening
at the door for footstepsand occasionally becoming rather hot
when any steps approached that room. Butafter dinnerwhen the
day turned to twilightand the twilight turned to nightand still
no communication was made to himit began to be as he expressed
it'like the Holy Office and slow torture.' Howeverstill 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 vainfor half an hourto read this
newspaperwhen the waiter appeared and saidat once mysteriously
'Beg your pardonsir. You're wantedsirif you please.'
A general recollection that this was the kind of thing the Police
said to the swell mobcaused Mr. Harthouse to ask the waiter in
returnwith bristling indignationwhat the Devil he meant by
'Beg your pardonsir. Young lady outsidesirwishes to see
'Outside this doorsir.'
Giving the waiter to the personage before mentionedas a blockhead
duly qualified for that consignmentMr. Harthouse hurried
into the gallery. A young woman whom he had never seen stood
there. Plainly dressedvery quietvery pretty. As he conducted
her into the room and placed a chair for herhe observedby the
light of the candlesthat she was even prettier than he had at
first believed. Her face was innocent and youthfuland its
expression remarkably pleasant. She was not afraid of himor in
any way disconcerted; she seemed to have her mind entirely
preoccupied with the occasion of her visitand to have substituted
that consideration for herself.
'I speak to Mr. Harthouse?' she saidwhen they were alone.
'To Mr. Harthouse.' He added in his mind'And you speak to him
with the most confiding eyes I ever sawand the most earnest voice
(though so quiet) I ever heard.'
'If I do not understand - and I do notsir' - said Sissy'what
your honour as a gentleman binds you toin 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 secretand to keep secret
what I am going to say. I will rely upon itif you will tell me I
may so far trust - '
'You mayI assure you.'
'I am youngas you see; I am aloneas you see. In coming to you
sirI 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
'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 ladydo not deceive meI trust.'
'I left her within an hour.'
'At her father's.'
Mr. Harthouse's face lengthened in spite of his coolnessand 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
agitationand was insensible all through the night. I live at her
father'sand was with her. You may be suresiryou will never
see her again as long as you live.'
Mr. Harthouse drew a long breath; andif ever man found himself in
the position of not knowing what to saymade the discovery beyond
all question that he was so circumstanced. The child-like
ingenuousness with which his visitor spokeher modest
fearlessnessher truthfulness which put all artifice asideher
entire forgetfulness of herself in her earnest quiet holding to the
object with which she had come; all thistogether with her
reliance on his easily given promise - which in itself shamed him presented
something in which he was so inexperiencedand 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 announcementso confidently madeand by such
lipsis really disconcerting in the last degree. May I be
permitted to inquireif you are charged to convey that information
to me in those hopeless wordsby the lady of whom we speak?'
'I have no charge from her.'
'The drowning man catches at the straw. With no disrespect for
your judgmentand with no doubt of your sincerityexcuse 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
siris to assure you that you must believe that there is no more
hope of your ever speaking with her againthan there would be if
she had died when she came home last night.'
'Must believe? But if I can't - or if I shouldby infirmity of
naturebe 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 himand the smile was
quite thrown away.
He bit his lipand took a little time for consideration.
'Well! If it should unhappily appear' he said'after due pains
and duty on my partthat I am brought to a position so desolate as
this banishmentI 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 herand her love for
me. I have no other trustthan that I have been with her since
she came homeand that she has given me her confidence. I have no
further trustthan that I know something of her character and her
marriage. O Mr. HarthouseI think you had that trust too!'
He was touched in the cavity where his heart should have been - in
that nest of addled eggswhere the birds of heaven would have
lived if they had not been whistled away - by the fervour of this
'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 timein bringing any distress
upon the lady who is the subject of the present conversationor in
unfortunately compromising her in any wayor in committing myself
by any expression of sentiments towards hernot perfectly
reconcilable with - in fact with - the domestic hearth; or in
taking any advantage of her father's being a machineor of her
brother's being a whelpor of her husband's being a bear; I beg to
be allowed to assure you that I have had no particularly evil
intentionsbut have glided on from one step to another with a
smoothness so perfectly diabolicalthat 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 Harthousein conclusion'that it
is really in several volumes.'
Though he said all this in his frivolous waythe way seemedfor
that oncea conscious polishing of but an ugly surface. He was
silent for a moment; and then proceeded with a more self-possessed
airthough with traces of vexation and disappointment that would
not be polished out.
'After what has been just now represented to mein 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
youin 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 - andI cannot say' he
addedrather hard up for a general peroration'that I have any
sanguine expectation of ever becoming a moral sort of fellowor
that I have any belief in any moral sort of fellow whatever.'
Sissy's face sufficiently showed that her appeal to him was not
'You spoke' he resumedas she raised her eyes to him again'of
your first object. I may assume that there is a second to be
'Will you oblige me by confiding it?'
'Mr. Harthouse' returned Sissywith a blending of gentleness and
steadiness that quite defeated himand with a simple confidence in
his being bound to do what she requiredthat 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 muchor that it is
enough; but it is somethingand it is necessary. Therefore
though without any other authority than I have given youand even
without the knowledge of any other person than yourself and myself
I ask you to depart from this place to-nightunder 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 irresolutionor had harboured for the best purpose
any reserve or pretence; if she had shownor feltthe lightest
trace of any sensitiveness to his ridicule or his astonishmentor
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 surpriseas affect her.
'But do you know' he askedquite at a loss'the extent of what
you ask? You probably are not aware that I am here on a public
kind of businesspreposterous enough in itselfbut which I have
gone in forand sworn byand am supposed to be devoted to in
quite a desperate manner? You probably are not aware of thatbut
I assure you it's the fact.'
It had no effect on Sissyfact or no fact.
'Besides which' said Mr. Harthousetaking a turn or two across
the roomdubiously'it's so alarmingly absurd. It would make a
man so ridiculousafter going in for these fellowsto back out in
such an incomprehensible way.'
'I am quite sure' repeated Sissy'that it is the only reparation
in your powersir. I am quite sureor I would not have come
He glanced at her faceand walked about again. 'Upon my soulI
don't know what to say. So immensely absurd!'
It fell to his lotnowto stipulate for secrecy.
'If I were to do such a very ridiculous thing' he saidstopping
again presentlyand leaning against the chimney-piece'it could
only be in the most inviolable confidence.'
'I will trust to yousir' returned Sissy'and you will trust to
His leaning against the chimney-piece reminded him of the night
with the whelp. It was the self-same chimney-pieceand somehow he
felt as if he were the whelp to-night. He could make no way at
'I suppose a man never was placed in a more ridiculous position'
he saidafter looking downand looking upand laughingand
frowningand walking offand walking back again. 'But I see no
way out of it. What will bewill be. This will beI suppose. I
must take off myselfI imagine - in shortI engage to do it.'
Sissy rose. She was not surprised by the resultbut she was happy
in itand her face beamed brightly.
'You will permit me to say' continued Mr. James Harthouse'that I
doubt if any other ambassadoror ambassadresscould have
addressed me with the same success. I must not only regard myself
as being in a very ridiculous positionbut as being vanquished at
all points. Will you allow me the privilege of remembering my
'My name?' said the ambassadress.
'The only name I could possibly care to knowto-night.'
'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
sinkingwith a resigned airon the sofaafter 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 instantand wrote the following note (in
appropriate hieroglyphics) to his brother:
Dear Jack- All up at Coketown. Bored out of the placeand going
in for camels. AffectionatelyJEM
He rang the bell.
'Send my fellow here.'
'Gone to bedsir.'
'Tell him to get upand pack up.'
He wrote two more notes. Oneto Mr. Bounderbyannouncing his
retirement from that part of the countryand showing where he
would be found for the next fortnight. The othersimilar in
effectto Mr. Gradgrind. Almost as soon as the ink was dry upon
their superscriptionshe had left the tall chimneys of Coketown
behindand was in a railway carriagetearing and glaring over the
The moral sort of fellows might suppose that Mr. James Harthouse
derived some comfortable reflections afterwardsfrom this prompt
retreatas one of his few actions that made any amends for
anythingand as a token to himself that he had escaped the climax
of a very bad business. But it was not soat all. A secret sense
of having failed and been ridiculous - a dread of what other
fellows who went in for similar sorts of thingswould say at his
expense if they knew it - so oppressed himthat what was about the
very best passage in his life was the one of all others he would
not have owned to on any accountand the only one that made him
ashamed of himself.
CHAPTER III - VERY DECIDED
THE indefatigable Mrs. Sparsitwith a violent cold upon herher
voice reduced to a whisperand her stately frame so racked by
continual sneezes that it seemed in danger of dismembermentgave
chase to her patron until she found him in the metropolis; and
theremajestically sweeping in upon him at his hotel in St.
James's Streetexploded the combustibles with which she was
chargedand blew up. Having executed her mission with infinite
relishthis high-minded woman then fainted away on Mr. Bounderby's
Mr. Bounderby's first procedure was to shake Mrs. Sparsit offand
leave her to progress as she might through various stages of
suffering on the floor. He next had recourse to the administration
of potent restorativessuch as screwing the patient's thumbs
smiting her handsabundantly watering her faceand 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 refreshmentand carried her back to Coketown more dead
Regarded as a classical ruinMrs. Sparsit was an interesting
spectacle on her arrival at her journey's end; but considered in
any other lightthe amount of damage she had by that time
sustained was excessiveand impaired her claims to admiration.
Utterly heedless of the wear and tear of her clothes and
constitutionand adamant to her pathetic sneezesMr. Bounderby
immediately crammed her into a coachand bore her off to Stone
'NowTom Gradgrind' said Bounderbybursting into his father-inlaw'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. Gradgrindsurprised by
'Missed your lettersir!' bawled Bounderby. 'The present time is
no time for letters. No man shall talk to Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown about letterswith his mind in the state it's in now.'
'Bounderby' said Mr. Gradgrindin a tone of temperate
remonstrance'I speak of a very special letter I have written to
youin reference to Louisa.'
'Tom Gradgrind' replied Bounderbyknocking the flat of his hand
several times with great vehemence on the table'I speak of a very
special messenger that has come to mein reference to Louisa.
Mrs. Sparsitma'amstand forward!'
That unfortunate lady hereupon essaying to offer testimonywithout
any voice and with painful gestures expressive of an inflamed
throatbecame so aggravating and underwent so many facial
contortionsthat Mr. Bounderbyunable to bear itseized her by
the arm and shook her.
'If you can't get it outma'am' said Bounderby'leave me to get
it out. This is not a time for a ladyhowever highly connected
to be totally inaudibleand seemingly swallowing marbles. Tom
GradgrindMrs. Sparsit latterly found herselfby accidentin a
situation to overhear a conversation out of doors between your
daughter and your precious gentleman-friendMr. James Harthouse.'
'Indeed!' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Ah! Indeed!' cried Bounderby. 'And in that conversation - '
'It is not necessary to repeat its tenorBounderby. I know what
'You do? Perhaps' said Bounderbystaring 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.'
'My dear Bounderbylet me beg you to restrain these loud outbreaks
on all accounts. Louisa is here. The moment she could
detach herself from that interview with the person of whom you
speakand whom I deeply regret to have been the means of
introducing to youLouisa hurried herefor protection. I myself
had not been at home many hourswhen I received her - herein
this room. She hurried by the train to townshe ran from town to
this housethrough a raging stormand presented herself before me
in a state of distraction. Of courseshe has remained here ever
since. Let me entreat youfor your own sake and for hersto be
Mr. Bounderby silently gazed about him for some momentsin every
direction except Mrs. Sparsit's direction; and thenabruptly
turning upon the niece of Lady Scadgerssaid to that wretched
'Nowma'am! We shall be happy to hear any little apology you may
think proper to offerfor going about the country at express pace
with no other luggage than a Cock-and-a-Bullma'am!'
'Sir' whispered Mrs. Sparsit'my nerves are at present too much
shakenand my health is at present too much impairedin your
serviceto admit of my doing more than taking refuge in tears.'
(Which she did.)
'Wellma'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 thatis that there is something else in
which it appears to me you may take refugenamelya coach. And
the coach in which we came here being at the dooryou'll allow me
to hand you down to itand pack you home to the Bank: where the
best course for you to pursuewill be to put your feet into the
hottest water you can bearand take a glass of scalding rum and
butter after you get into bed.' With these wordsMr. Bounderby
extended his right hand to the weeping ladyand escorted her to
the conveyance in questionshedding many plaintive sneezes by the
way. He soon returned alone.
'Nowas you showed me in your faceTom Gradgrindthat you wanted
to speak to me' he resumed'here I am. ButI am not in a very
agreeable stateI tell you plainly: not relishing this business
even as it isand not considering that I am at any time as
dutifully and submissively treated by your daughteras Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown ought to be treated by his wife. You have
your opinionI dare say; and I have mineI know. If you mean to
say anything to me to-nightthat goes against this candid remark
you had better let it alone.'
Mr. Gradgrindit will be observedbeing much softenedMr.
Bounderby took particular pains to harden himself at all points.
It was his amiable nature.
'My dear Bounderby' Mr. Gradgrind began in reply.
'Nowyou'll excuse me' said Bounderby'but I don't want to be
too dear. Thatto 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; butas you are awareI am not polite.
If you like politenessyou know where to get it. You have your
gentleman-friendsyou knowand 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. ButI say we are all liable to mistakes
and I should feel sensible of your delicacyand 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.
'Wellwell!' returned Mr. Gradgrindwith a patienteven a
submissiveair. And he sat for a little while pondering.
'BounderbyI see reason to doubt whether we have ever quite
'Who do you mean by We?'
'Let me say Ithen' he returnedin 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
'There you hit it' returned Bounderby. 'There I agree with you.
You have found it out at lasthave you? Education! I'll tell you
what education is - To be tumbled out of doorsneck and cropand
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 allsir' 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 amissif I possibly can; and I hope you will assist
me in a good spiritBounderbyfor I have been very much
'I don't understand youyet' said Bounderbywith determined
obstinacy'and therefore I won't make any promises.'
'In the course of a few hoursmy dear Bounderby' Mr. Gradgrind
proceededin 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 meand the discovery is not mine. I think there are -
Bounderbyyou will be surprised to hear me say this - I think
there are qualities in Louisawhich - which have been harshly
neglectedand - and a little perverted. And - and I would suggest
to youthat - 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. Gradgrindshading his face with his hand'has always
been my favourite child.'
The blustrous Bounderby crimsoned and swelled to such an extent on
hearing these wordsthat he seemed to beand probably wason the
brink of a fit. With his very ears a bright purple shot with
crimsonhe pent up his indignationhoweverand said:
'You'd like to keep her here for a time?'
'I - I had intended to recommendmy dear Bounderbythat you
should allow Louisa to remain here on a visitand be attended by
Sissy (I mean of course Cecilia Jupe)who understands herand in
whom she trusts.'
'I gather from all thisTom Gradgrind' said Bounderbystanding
up with his hands in his pockets'that you are of opinion that
there's what people call some incompatibility between Loo Bounderby
'I fear there is at present a general incompatibility between
Louisaand - and - and almost all the relations in which I have
placed her' was her father's sorrowful reply.
'Nowlook you hereTom Gradgrind' said Bounderby the flushed
confronting him with his legs wide aparthis hands deeper in his
pocketsand 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 townand I know the works of this townand I know
the chimneys of this townand I know the smoke of this townand I
know the Hands of this town. I know 'em all pretty well. They're
real. When a man tells me anything about imaginative qualitiesI
always tell that manwhoever he isthat I know what he means. He
means turtle soup and venisonwith a gold spoonand 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
wantsI recommend you to provide it for her. BecauseTom
Gradgrindshe will never have it from me.'
'Bounderby' said Mr. Gradgrind'I hopedafter my entreatyyou
would have taken a different tone.'
'Just wait a bit' retorted Bounderby; 'you have said your sayI
believe. I heard you out; hear me outif you please. Don't make
yourself a spectacle of unfairness as well as inconsistency
becausealthough I am sorry to see Tom Gradgrind reduced to his
present positionI should be doubly sorry to see him brought so
low as that. Nowthere's an incompatibility of some sort or
anotherI am given to understand by youbetween your daughter and
me. I'll give you to understandin reply to thatthat 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 meritsand is not impressed with such a sense as would
become herby George! of the honour of his alliance. That's plain
'Bounderby' urged Mr. Gradgrind'this is unreasonable.'
'Is it?' said Bounderby. 'I am glad to hear you say so. Because
when Tom Gradgrindwith his new lightstells me that what I say
is unreasonableI 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-hornin consequence of not having a shoe. Yet you may
believe or notas you think properthat there are ladies - born
ladies - belonging to families - Families! - who next to worship
the ground I walk on.'
He discharged this like a Rocketat his father-in-law's head.
'Whereas your daughter' proceeded Bounderby'is far from being a
born lady. That you knowyourself. Not that I care a pinch of
candle-snuff about such thingsfor you are very well aware I
don't; but that such is the factand youTom Gradgrindcan't
change it. Why do I say this?'
'NotI fear' observed Mr. Gradgrindin a low voice'to spare
'Hear me out' said Bounderby'and refrain from cutting in till
your turn comes round. I say thisbecause highly connected
females have been astonished to see the way in which your daughter
has conducted herselfand to witness her insensibility. They have
wondered how I have suffered it. And I wonder myself nowand I
won't suffer it.'
'Bounderby' returned Mr. Gradgrindrising'the less we say to-
night the betterI think.'
'On the contraryTom Gradgrindthe more we say to-nightthe
betterI think. That is' the consideration checked him'till I
have said all I mean to sayand 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 meanBounderby?'
'By your visiting proposition' said Bounderbywith an inflexible
jerk of the hayfield.
'I mean that I hope you may be induced to arrange in a friendly
mannerfor allowing Louisa a period of repose and reflection here
which may tend to a gradual alteration for the better in many
'To a softening down of your ideas of the incompatibility?' said
'If you put it in those terms.'
'What made you think of this?' said Bounderby.
'I have already saidI fear Louisa has not been understood. Is it
asking too muchBounderbythat youso far her eldershould aid
in trying to set her right? You have accepted a great charge of
her; for better for worsefor - '
Mr. Bounderby may have been annoyed by the repetition of his own
words to Stephen Blackpoolbut he cut the quotation short with an
'Come!' said he'I don't want to be told about that. I know what
I took her foras well as you do. Never you mind what I took her
for; that's my look out.'
'I was merely going on to remarkBounderbythat we may all be
more or less in the wrongnot even excepting you; and that some
yielding on your partremembering the trust you have acceptedmay
not only be an act of true kindnessbut perhaps a debt incurred
'I think differently' blustered Bounderby. 'I am going to finish
this business according to my own opinions. NowI don't want to
make a quarrel of it with youTom Gradgrind. To tell you the
truthI don't think it would be worthy of my reputation to quarrel
on such a subject. As to your gentleman-friendhe may take
himself offwherever he likes best. If he falls in my wayI
shall tell him my mind; if he don't fall in my wayI shan'tfor
it won't be worth my while to do it. As to your daughterwhom I
made Loo Bounderbyand might have done better by leaving Loo
Gradgrindif she don't come home to-morrowby twelve o'clock at
noonI shall understand that she prefers to stay awayand I shall
send her wearing apparel and so forth over hereand you'll take
charge of her for the future. What I shall say to people in
generalof the incompatibility that led to my so laying down the
lawwill be this. I am Josiah Bounderbyand I had my bringingup;
she's the daughter of Tom Gradgrindand she had her bringingup;
and the two horses wouldn't pull together. I am pretty well
known to be rather an uncommon manI believe; and most people will
understand fast enough that it must be a woman rather out of the
commonalsowhoin the long runwould come up to my mark.'
'Let me seriously entreat you to reconsider thisBounderby' urged
Mr. Gradgrind'before you commit yourself to such a decision.'
'I always come to a decision' said Bounderbytossing his hat on:
'and whatever I doI do at once. I should be surprised at Tom
Gradgrind's addressing such a remark to Josiah Bounderby of
Coketownknowing what he knows of himif I could be surprised by
anything Tom Gradgrind didafter his making himself a party to
sentimental humbug. I have given you my decisionand 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 dayhe 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 beforeand 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
activityas a remarkable manand a self-made manand a
commercial wonder more admirable than Venuswho had risen out of
the mud instead of the seahe liked to show how little his
domestic affairs abated his business ardour. Consequentlyin the
first few weeks of his resumed bachelorhoodhe even advanced upon
his usual display of bustleand every day made such a rout in
renewing his investigations into the robberythat the officers who
had it in hand almost wished it had never been committed.
They were at fault tooand off the scent. Although they had been
so quiet since the first outbreak of the matterthat most people
really did suppose it to have been abandoned as hopelessnothing
new occurred. No implicated man or woman took untimely courageor
made a self-betraying step. More remarkable yetStephen Blackpool
could not be heard ofand the mysterious old woman remained a
Things having come to this passand showing no latent signs of
stirring beyond itthe upshot of Mr. Bounderby's investigations
wasthat he resolved to hazard a bold burst. He drew up a
placardoffering Twenty Pounds reward for the apprehension of
Stephen Blackpoolsuspected of complicity in the robbery of
Coketown Bank on such a night; he described the said Stephen
Blackpool by dresscomplexionestimated heightand manneras
minutely as he could; he recited how he had left the townand 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 nightso that
it should strike upon the sight of the whole population at one
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 placardsdevouring them with eager eyes. Not
the least eager of the eyes assembledwere the eyes of those who
could not read. These peopleas 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 ludicrousif 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 placardsamong turning spindlesrattling looms
and whirling wheelsfor hours afterwards; and when the Hands
cleared out again into the streetsthere were still as many
readers as before.
Slackbridgethe delegatehad to address his audience too that
night; and Slackbridge had obtained a clean bill from the printer
and had brought it in his pocket. Ohmy friends and fellowcountrymen
the down-trodden operatives of Coketownohmy fellowbrothers
and fellow-workmen and fellow-citizens and fellowmenwhat
a to-do was therewhen Slackbridge unfolded what he called 'that
damning document' and held it up to the gazeand for the
execration of the working-man community! 'Ohmy 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 Unionis
appropriately capable! Ohmy prostrate friendswith the galling
yoke of tyrants on your necks and the iron foot of despotism
treading down your fallen forms into the dust of the earthupon
which right glad would your oppressors be to see you creeping on
your bellies all the days of your liveslike the serpent in the
garden - ohmy brothersand shall I as a man not addmy sisters
toowhat do you saynowof Stephen Blackpoolwith a slight
stoop in his shoulders and about five foot seven in heightas set
forth in this degrading and disgusting documentthis blighting
billthis pernicious placardthis abominable advertisement; and
with what majesty of denouncement will you crush the viperwho
would bring this stain and shame upon the God-like race that
happily has cast him out for ever! Yesmy compatriotshappily
cast him out and sent him forth! For you remember how he stood
here before you on this platform; you remember howface to face
and foot to footI pursued him through all his intricate windings;
you remember how he sneaked and slunkand sidledand splitted of
strawsuntilwith not an inch of ground to which to clingI
hurled him out from amongst us: an object for the undying finger
of scorn to point atand for the avenging fire of every free and
thinking mind to scorch and scar! And nowmy friends - my
labouring friendsfor I rejoice and triumph in that stigma - my
friends whose hard but honest beds are made in toiland whose
scanty but independent pots are boiled in hardship; and nowI say
my friendswhat appellation has that dastard craven taken to
himselfwhenwith the mask torn from his featureshe stands
before us in all his native deformitya What? A thief! A
plunderer! A proscribed fugitivewith a price upon his head; a
fester and a wound upon the noble character of the Coketown
operative! Thereforemy band of brothers in a sacred bondto
which your children and your children's children yet unborn have
set their infant hands and sealsI propose to you on the part of
the United Aggregate Tribunalever watchful for your welfareever
zealous for your benefitthat this meeting does Resolve: That
Stephen Blackpoolweaverreferred to in this placardhaving been
already solemnly disowned by the community of Coketown Handsthe
same are free from the shame of his misdeedsand 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 hailedwith
assenting cries of 'Hearhear!' the caution from one man
'Slackbridgey'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 Slackbridgeand gave three
cheers for himas he sat demonstratively panting at them.
These men and women were yet in the streetspassing quietly to
their homeswhen Sissywho had been called away from Louisa some
'Who is it?' asked Louisa.
'It is Mr. Bounderby' said Sissytimid of the name'and your
brother Mr. Tomand a young woman who says her name is Rachael
and that you know her.'
'What do they wantSissy dear?'
'They want to see you. Rachael has been cryingand seems angry.'
'Father' said Louisafor he was present'I cannot refuse to see
themfor a reason that will explain itself. Shall they come in
As he answered in the affirmativeSissy went away to bring them.
She reappeared with them directly. Tom was last; and remained
standing in the obscurest part of the roomnear the door.
'Mrs. Bounderby' said her husbandentering with a cool nod'I
don't disturb youI hope. This is an unseasonable hourbut here
is a young woman who has been making statements which render my
visit necessary. Tom Gradgrindas your sonyoung Tomrefuses
for some obstinate reason or other to say anything at all about
those statementsgood or badI am obliged to confront her with
'You have seen me once beforeyoung lady' said Rachaelstanding
in front of Louisa.
'You have seen meyoung lady' repeated Rachaelas she did not
Tom coughed again.
Rachael cast her eyes proudly towards Mr. Bounderbyand said
'Will you make it knownyoung ladywhereand who was there?'
'I went to the house where Stephen Blackpool lodgedon the night
of his discharge from his workand I saw you there. He was there
too; and an old woman who did not speakand whom I could scarcely
seestood in a dark corner. My brother was with me.'
'Why couldn't you say soyoung 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!'
'Sayyoung ladyif you please' pursued Rachael'whyin an evil
houryou ever came to Stephen's that night.'
'I felt compassion for him' said Louisaher colour deepening
'and I wished to know what he was going to doand wished to offer
'Thank youma'am' said Bounderby. 'Much flattered and obliged.'
'Did you offer him' asked Rachael'a bank-note?'
'Yes; but he refused itand would only take two pounds in gold.'
Rachael cast her eyes towards Mr. Bounderby again.
'Ohcertainly!' said Bounderby. 'If you put the question whether
your ridiculous and improbable account was true or notI 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 townand where else! There
have been a meeting to-night where he have been spoken of in the
same shameful way. Stephen! The honestest ladthe truest lad
the best!' Her indignation failed herand she broke off sobbing.
'I am veryvery sorry' said Louisa.
'Ohyoung ladyyoung 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 usdon't care for usdon'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 ownnot mindin to what trouble
you brought such as the poor lad. I said thenBless you for
coming; and I said it of my heartyou seemed to take so pitifully
to him; but I don't know nowI don't know!'
Louisa could not reproach her for her unjust suspicions; she was so
faithful to her idea of the manand so afflicted.
'And when I think' said Rachael through her sobs'that the poor
lad was so gratefulthinkin 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 - OhI hope you may be sorryand ha' no bad
cause to be it; but I don't knowI don't know!'
'You're a pretty article' growled the whelpmoving 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 hearduntil Mr. Bounderby spoke.
'Come!' said he'you know what you have engaged to do. You had
better give your mind to that; not this.'
''DeedI am loath' returned Rachaeldrying her eyes'that any
here should see me like this; but I won't be seen so again. Young
ladywhen 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 wasand to
give a sure and certain promise that he should be here in two days.
I couldn't meet wi' Mr. Bounderby thenand your brother sent me
awayand I tried to find youbut you was not to be foundand I
went back to work. Soon as I come out of the Mill to-nightI
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.
Bounderbyand I found himand I told him every word I knew; and
he believed no word I saidand brought me here.'
'So farthat's true enough' assented Mr. Bounderbywith his
hands in his pockets and his hat on. 'But I have known you people
before to-dayyou'll observeand I know you never die for want of
talking. NowI recommend you not so much to mind talking just
nowas doing. You have undertaken to do something; all I remark
upon that at present isdo it!'
'I have written to Stephen by the post that went out this
afternoonas I have written to him once before sin' he went away'
said Rachael; 'and he will be hereat furthestin two days.'
'ThenI'll tell you something. You are not aware perhaps'
retorted Mr. Bounderby'that you yourself have been looked after
now and thennot being considered quite free from suspicion in
this businesson 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 isthat no letter to Stephen Blackpool
has ever got into it. Thereforewhat has become of yoursI leave
you to guess. Perhaps you're mistakenand never wrote any.'
'He hadn't been gone from hereyoung lady' said Rachaelturning
appealingly to Louisa'as much as a weekwhen he sent me the only
letter I have had from himsaying that he was forced to seek work
in another name.'
'Ohby George!' cried Bounderbyshaking his headwith a whistle
'he changes his namedoes he! That's rather unluckytoofor
such an immaculate chap. It's considered a little suspicious in
Courts of JusticeI believewhen an Innocent happens to have many
'What' said Rachaelwith the tears in her eyes again'what
young ladyin the name of Mercywas left the poor lad to do! The
masters against him on one handthe men against him on the other
he only wantin to work hard in peaceand do what he felt right.
Can a man have no soul of his ownno mind of his own? Must he go
wrong all through wi' this sideor must he go wrong all through
wi' thator else be hunted like a hare?'
'IndeedindeedI pity him from my heart' returned Louisa; 'and I
hope that he will clear himself.'
'You need have no fear of thatyoung lady. He is sure!'
'All the surerI suppose' said Mr. Bounderby'for your refusing
to tell where he is? Eh?'
'He shall notthrough any act of minecome back wi' the unmerited
reproach of being brought back. He shall come back of his own
accord to clear himselfand put all those that have injured his
good characterand he not here for its defenceto shame. I have
told him what has been done against him' said Rachaelthrowing
off all distrust as a rock throws of the sea'and he will be here
at furthestin two days.'
'Notwithstanding which' added Mr. Bounderby'if he can be laid
hold of any soonerhe shall have an earlier opportunity of
clearing himself. As to youI have nothing against you; what you
came and told me turns out to be trueand I have given you the
means of proving it to be trueand there's an end of it. I wish
you good night all! I must be off to look a little further into
Tom came out of his corner when Mr. Bounderby movedmoved with
himkept close to himand went away with him. The only parting
salutation of which he delivered himself was a sulky 'Good night
father!' With a brief speechand a scowl at his sisterhe left
Since his sheet-anchor had come homeMr. Gradgrind had been
sparing of speech. He still sat silentwhen Louisa mildly said:
'Rachaelyou will not distrust me one daywhen you know me
'It goes against me' Rachael answeredin 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 againwi' the poor lad so wronged.'
'Did you tell him in your letter' inquired Sissy'that suspicion
seemed to have fallen upon himbecause he had been seen about the
Bank at night? He would then know what he would have to explain on
coming backand would be ready.'
'Yesdear' 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 mineand not near it.'
Sissy had already been at her side asking her where she livedand
whether she might come to-morrow nightto 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 Rachaelassenting to thiswas goneMr. Gradgrind lifted up
his headand said to his daughter:
'Louisamy dearI have neverthat I know ofseen this man. Do
you believe him to be implicated?'
'I think I have believed itfatherthough with great difficulty.
I do not believe it now.'
'That is to sayyou once persuaded yourself to believe itfrom
knowing him to be suspected. His appearance and manner; are they
'And her confidence not to be shaken! I ask myself' said Mr.
Gradgrindmusing'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 againlooking gray and oldLouisawith a face of
fear and pityhurriedly went over to himand sat close at his
side. Her eyes by accident met Sissy's at the moment. Sissy
flushed and startedand Louisa put her finger on her lip.
Next nightwhen Sissy returned home and told Louisa that Stephen
was not comeshe told it in a whisper. Next night againwhen she
came home with the same accountand added that he had not been
heard ofshe spoke in the same low frightened tone. From the
moment of that interchange of looksthey never uttered his name
or any reference to himaloud; nor ever pursued the subject of the
robberywhen Mr. Gradgrind spoke of it.
The two appointed days ran outthree days and nights ran outand
Stephen Blackpool was not comeand remained unheard of. On the
fourth dayRachaelwith unabated confidencebut considering her
despatch to have miscarriedwent up to the Bankand showed her
letter from him with his addressat a working colonyone of many
not upon the main roadsixty miles away. Messengers were sent to
that placeand the whole town looked for Stephen to be brought in
During this whole time the whelp moved about with Mr. Bounderby
like his shadowassisting in all the proceedings. He was greatly
excitedhorribly feveredbit his nails down to the quickspoke
in a hard rattling voiceand with lips that were black and burnt
up. At the hour when the suspected man was looked forthe whelp
was at the station; offering to wager that he had made off before
the arrival of those who were sent in quest of himand that he
would not appear.
The whelp was right. The messengers returned alone. Rachael's
letter had goneRachael'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 waswhether Rachael had written
in good faithbelieving that he really would come backor warning
him to fly. On this point opinion was divided.
Six daysseven daysfar on into another week. The wretched whelp
plucked up a ghastly courageand began to grow defiant. 'Was the
suspected fellow the thief? A pretty question! If notwhere was
the manand why did he not come back?'
Where was the manand why did he not come back? In the dead of
night the echoes of his own wordswhich had rolled Heaven knows
how far away in the daytimecame back insteadand abided by him
CHAPTER V - FOUND
DAY and night againday and night again. No Stephen Blackpool.
Where was the manand why did he not come back?
Every nightSissy went to Rachael's lodgingand sat with her in
her small neat room. All dayRachael toiled as such people must
toilwhatever their anxieties. The smoke-serpents were
indifferent who was lost or foundwho turned out bad or good; the
melancholy mad elephantslike the Hard Fact menabated nothing of
their set routinewhatever happened. Day and night againday and
night again. The monotony was unbroken. Even Stephen Blackpool's
disappearance was falling into the general wayand 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 placewho have any trust in the poor dear lad now.'
She said it to Sissyas they sat in her lodginglighted only by
the lamp at the street corner. Sissy had come there when it was
already darkto await her return from work; and they had since sat
at the window where Rachael had found herwanting no brighter
light to shine on their sorrowful talk.
'If it hadn't been mercifully brought aboutthat I was to have you
to speak to' pursued Rachael'times arewhen 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
certainRachaelthat the confidence you hold in yours against all
discouragementis not like to be wrongthat I have no more doubt
of him than if I had known him through as many years of trial as
'And Imy dear' said Rachelwith a tremble in her voice'have
known him through them allto beaccording to his quiet waysso
faithful to everything honest and goodthat if he was never to be
heard of moreand I was to live to be a hundred years oldI could
say with my last breathGod knows my heart. I have never once
left trusting Stephen Blackpool!'
'We all believeup at the LodgeRachaelthat he will be freed
from suspicionsooner or later.'
'The better I know it to be so believed theremy dear' said
Rachael'and the kinder I feel it that you come away from there
purposely to comfort meand keep me companyand be seen wi' me
when I am not yet free from all suspicion myselfthe 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 nowRachael?'
'Now that you have brought us more togetherno. But I can't at
all times keep out of my mind - '
Her voice so sunk into a low and slow communing with herselfthat
Sissysitting by her sidewas obliged to listen with attention.
'I can't at all times keep out of my mindmistrustings of some
one. I can't think who 'tisI can't think how or why it may be
donebut I mistrust that some one has put Stephen out of the way.
I mistrust that by his coming back of his own accordand showing
himself innocent before them allsome one would be confoundedwho
-to prevent that - has stopped himand put him out of the way.'
'That is a dreadful thought' said Sissyturning pale.
'It is a dreadful thought to think he may be murdered.'
Sissy shudderedand turned paler yet.
'When it makes its way into my minddear' said Rachael'and it
will come sometimesthough I do all I can to keep it outwi'
counting on to high numbers as I workand saying over and over
again pieces that I knew when I were a child - I fall into such a
wildhot hurrythathowever tired I amI 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 Sissyfaintly
offering a worn-out scrap of hope; 'and in such a casethere are
many places on the road where he might stop.'
'But he is in none of them. He has been sought for in alland
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 walkI sent himin the letter he gotthe money to ride
lest he should have none of his own to spare.'
'Let us hope that to-morrow will bring something betterRachael.
Come into the air!'
Her gentle hand adjusted Rachael's shawl upon her shining black
hair in the usual manner of her wearing itand they went out. The
night being finelittle knots of Hands were here and there
lingering at street corners; but it was supper-time with the
greater part of themand there were but few people in the streets.
'You're not so hurried nowRachaeland your hand is cooler.'
'I get betterdearif I can only walkand breathe a little
fresh. 'Times when I can'tI turn weak and confused.'
'But you must not begin to failRachaelfor you may be wanted at
any time to stand by Stephen. To-morrow is Saturday. If no news
comes to-morrowlet us walk in the country on Sunday morningand
strengthen you for another week. Will you go?'
They were by this time in the street where Mr. Bounderby's house
stood. The way to Sissy's destination led them past the doorand
they were going straight towards it. Some train had newly arrived
in Coketownwhich had put a number of vehicles in motionand
scattered a considerable bustle about the town. Several coaches
were rattling before them and behind them as they approached Mr.
Bounderby'sand one of the latter drew up with such briskness as
they were in the act of passing the housethat they looked round
involuntarily. The bright gaslight over Mr. Bounderby's steps
showed them Mrs. Sparsit in the coachin an ecstasy of excitement
struggling to open the door; Mrs. Sparsit seeing them at the same
momentcalled to them to stop.
'It's a coincidence' exclaimed Mrs. Sparsitas she was released
by the coachman. 'It's a Providence! Come outma'am!' then said
Mrs. Sparsitto some one inside'come outor we'll have you
Hereuponno other than the mysterious old woman descended. Whom
Mrs. Sparsit incontinently collared.
'Leave her aloneeverybody!' cried Mrs. Sparsitwith great
energy. 'Let nobody touch her. She belongs to me. Come in
ma'am!' then said Mrs. Sparsitreversing her former word of
command. 'Come inma'amor we'll have you dragged in!'
The spectacle of a matron of classical deportmentseizing an
ancient woman by the throatand hauling her into a dwelling-house
would have been under any circumstancessufficient temptation to
all true English stragglers so blest as to witness itto 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 robberyit would have
lured the stragglers inwith an irresistible attractionthough
the roof had been expected to fall upon their heads. Accordingly
the chance witnesses on the groundconsisting of the busiest of
the neighbours to the number of some five-and-twentyclosed in
after Sissy and Rachaelas they closed in after Mrs. Sparsit and
her prize; and the whole body made a disorderly irruption into Mr.
Bounderby's dining-roomwhere the people behind lost not a
moment's time in mounting on the chairsto get the better of the
people in front.
'Fetch Mr. Bounderby down!' cried Mrs. Sparsit. 'Rachaelyoung
woman; you know who this is?'
'It's Mrs. Pegler' said Rachael.
'I should think it is!' cried Mrs. Sparsitexulting. 'Fetch Mr.
Bounderby. Stand awayeverybody!' Here old Mrs. Peglermuffling
herself upand shrinking from observationwhispered a word of
entreaty. 'Don't tell me' said Mrs. Sparsitaloud. 'I have told
you twenty timescoming alongthat I will not leave you till I
have handed you over to him myself.'
Mr. Bounderby now appearedaccompanied by Mr. Gradgrind and the
whelpwith whom he had been holding conference up-stairs. Mr.
Bounderby looked more astonished than hospitableat sight of this
uninvited party in his dining-room.
'Whywhat's the matter now!' said he. 'Mrs. Sparsitma'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 mindsirand connecting together such
imperfect clues to the part of the country in which that person
might be supposed to resideas have been afforded by the young
womanRachaelfortunately now present to identifyI have had the
happiness to succeedand to bring that person with me - I need not
say most unwillingly on her part. It has not beensirwithout
some trouble that I have effected this; but trouble in your service
is to me a pleasureand hungerthirstand cold a real
Here Mrs. Sparsit ceased; for Mr. Bounderby's visage exhibited an
extraordinary combination of all possible colours and expressions
of discomfitureas old Mrs. Pegler was disclosed to his view.
'Whywhat do you mean by this?' was his highly unexpected demand
in great warmth. 'I ask youwhat do you mean by thisMrs.
'Sir!' exclaimed Mrs. Sparsitfaintly.
'Why don't you mind your own businessma'am?' roared Bounderby.
'How dare you go and poke your officious nose into my family
This allusion to her favourite feature overpowered Mrs. Sparsit.
She sat down stiffly in a chairas if she were frozen; and with a
fixed stare at Mr. Bounderbyslowly grated her mittens against one
anotheras if they were frozen too.
'My dear Josiah!' cried Mrs. Peglertrembling. 'My darling boy!
I am not to blame. It's not my faultJosiah. I told this lady
over and over againthat I knew she was doing what would not be
agreeable to youbut she would do it.'
'What did you let her bring you for? Couldn't you knock her cap
offor her tooth outor scratch heror do something or other to
her?' asked Bounderby.
'My own boy! She threatened me that if I resisted herI should be
brought by constablesand 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. Indeedindeedit
is not my fault! My dearnoblestately boy! I have always lived
quietand secretJosiahmy 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 betweento take a proud peep at youI have done
it unbeknownmy loveand gone away again.'
Mr. Bounderbywith his hands in his pocketswalked 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 appealand at each succeeding syllable became more and
more round-eyed. Mr. Bounderby still walking up and down when Mrs.
Pegler had doneMr. Gradgrind addressed that maligned old lady:
'I am surprisedmadam' 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!' repeated Mr. Gradgrind. 'Yes; dear in his self-made
prosperitymadamI dare say. Not very dearhoweverwhen you
deserted him in his infancyand left him to the brutality of a
'I deserted my Josiah!' cried Mrs. Peglerclasping her hands.
'NowLord forgive yousirfor your wicked imaginationsand for
your scandal against the memory of my poor motherwho died in my
arms before Josiah was born. May you repent of itsirand live
to know better!'
She was so very earnest and injuredthat Mr. Gradgrindshocked by
the possibility which dawned upon himsaid in a gentler tone:
'Do you denythenmadamthat 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 knowsand will give
you to knowthat though he come of humble parentshe come of
parents that loved him as dear as the best couldand never thought
it hardship on themselves to pinch a bit that he might write and
cipher beautifuland I've his books at home to show it! Ayehave
I!' said Mrs. Peglerwith indignant pride. 'And my dear boy
knowsand will give you to knowsirthat after his beloved
father diedwhen he was eight years oldhis mothertoocould
pinch a bitas it was her duty and her pleasure and her pride to
do itto help him out in lifeand put him 'prentice. And a
steady lad he wasand a kind master he had to lend him a handand
well he worked his own way forward to be rich and thriving. And
I'll give you to knowsir - for this my dear boy won't - that
though his mother kept but a little village shophe never forgot
herbut 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 partand make no boasts about himand not
trouble him. And I never haveexcept with looking at him once a
yearwhen he has never knowed it. And it's right' said poor old
Mrs. Peglerin affectionate championship'that I should keep down
in my own partand I have no doubts that if I was here I should do
a many unbefitting thingsand I am well contentedand I can keep
my pride in my Josiah to myselfand I can love for love's own
sake! And I am ashamed of yousir' said Mrs. Peglerlastly
'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 nowif it hadn't been for being brought here.
And for shame upon youOhfor shameto accuse me of being a bad
mother to my sonwith my son standing here to tell you so
The bystanderson and off the dining-room chairsraised a murmur
of sympathy with Mrs. Peglerand Mr. Gradgrind felt himself
innocently placed in a very distressing predicamentwhen Mr.
Bounderbywho had never ceased walking up and downand had every
moment swelled larger and largerand grown redder and redder
'I don't exactly know' said Mr. Bounderby'how I come to be
favoured with the attendance of the present companybut I don't
inquire. When they're quite satisfiedperhaps they'll be so good
as to disperse; whether they're satisfied or notperhaps they'll
be so good as to disperse. I'm not bound to deliver a lecture on
my family affairsI have not undertaken to do itand I'm not a
going to do it. Therefore those who expect any explanation
whatever upon that branch of the subjectwill be disappointed particularly
Tom Gradgrindand he can't know it too soon. In
reference to the Bank robberythere has been a mistake made
concerning my mother. If there hadn't been over-officiousness it
wouldn't have been madeand I hate over-officiousness at all
timeswhether or no. Good evening!'
Although Mr. Bounderby carried it off in these termsholding the
door open for the company to departthere was a blustering
sheepishness upon himat once extremely crestfallen and
superlatively absurd. Detected as the Bully of humilitywho had
built his windy reputation upon liesand 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 heldwho he knew would carry what had passed to the whole
townto be given to the four windshe could not have looked a
Bully more shorn and forlornif he had had his ears cropped. Even
that unlucky femaleMrs. Sparsitfallen from her pinnacle of
exultation into the Slough of Despondwas not in so bad a plight
as that remarkable man and self-made HumbugJosiah Bounderby of
Rachael and Sissyleaving Mrs. Pegler to occupy a bed at her son's
for that nightwalked together to the gate of Stone Lodge and
there parted. Mr. Gradgrind joined them before they had gone very
farand 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
occasionshe 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 sisterand had only seen
her once since she went home: that is to say on the night when he
still stuck close to Bounderbyas already related.
There was one dim unformed fear lingering about his sister's mind
to which she never gave utterancewhich surrounded the graceless
and ungrateful boy with a dreadful mystery. The same dark
possibility had presented itself in the same shapeless guisethis
very dayto Sissywhen Rachael spoke of some one who would be
confounded by Stephen's returnhaving put him out of the way.
Louisa had never spoken of harbouring any suspicion of her brother
in connexion with the robberyshe and Sissy had held no confidence
on the subjectsave in that one interchange of looks when the
unconscious father rested his gray head on his hand; but it was
understood between themand they both knew it. This other fear
was so awfulthat it hovered about each of them like a ghostly
shadow; neither daring to think of its being near herselffar less
of its being near the other.
And still the forced spirit which the whelp had plucked upthrove
with him. If Stephen Blackpool was not the thieflet him show
himself. Why didn't he?
Another night. Another day and night. No Stephen Blackpool.
Where was the manand why did he not come back?
CHAPTER VI - THE STARLIGHT
THE Sunday was a bright Sunday in autumnclear and coolwhen
early in the morning Sissy and Rachael metto 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 airwhich is not absolutely the most wicked
among the vanities of lifeto get a few miles away by the
railroadand then begin their walkor their lounge in the fields.
Sissy and Rachael helped themselves out of the smoke by the usual
meansand 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
coalit was green elsewhereand there were trees to seeand
there were larks singing (though it was Sunday)and there were
pleasant scents in the airand all was over-arched by a bright
blue sky. In the distance one wayCoketown showed as a black
mist; in another distance hills began to rise; in a thirdthere
was a faint change in the light of the horizon where it shone upon
the far-off sea. Under their feetthe grass was fresh; beautiful
shadows of branches flickered upon itand 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 groundwere 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 footsometimes passing near a wreck of
bricks and beams overgrown with grassmarking the site of deserted
works. They followed paths and trackshowever slight. Mounds
where the grass was rank and highand where bramblesdock-weed
and such-like vegetationwere confusedly heaped togetherthey
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 distantfor a long time; and the solitude remained
unbroken. 'It is so still hereRachaeland the way is so
untroddenthat I think we must be the first who have been here all
As Sissy said ither 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.
She ran backand caught her round the neck. Rachael had already
'What is the matter?'
'I don't know. There is a hat lying in the grass.' They went
forward together. Rachael took it upshaking 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 ladthe 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 itand found no
mark of violenceinside or out. It had been lying there some
daysfor rain and dew had stained itand the mark of its shape
was on the grass where it had fallen. They looked fearfully about
themwithout movingbut could see nothing more. 'Rachael' Sissy
whispered'I will go on a little by myself.'
She had unclasped her handand was in the act of stepping forward
when Rachael caught her in both arms with a scream that resounded
over the wide landscape. Before themat their very feetwas the
brink of a black ragged chasm hidden by the thick grass. They
sprang backand fell upon their kneeseach hiding her face upon
the other's neck.
'Omy good Lord! He's down there! Down there!' At first this
and her terrific screamswere all that could be got from Rachael
by any tearsby any prayersby any representationsby any means.
It was impossible to hush her; and it was deadly necessary to hold
heror she would have flung herself down the shaft.
'Rachaeldear Rachaelgood Rachaelfor the love of Heavennot
these dreadful cries! Think of Stephenthink of Stephenthink of
By an earnest repetition of this entreatypoured out in all the
agony of such a momentSissy at last brought her to be silentand
to look at her with a tearless face of stone.
'RachaelStephen may be living. You wouldn't leave him lying
maimed at the bottom of this dreadful placea momentif you could
bring help to him?'
'Don't stir from herefor his sake! Let me go and listen.'
She shuddered to approach the pit; but she crept towards it on her
hands and kneesand called to him as loud as she could call. She
listenedbut no sound replied. She called again and listened;
still no answering sound. She did thistwentythirty times. She
took a little clod of earth from the broken ground where he had
stumbledand threw it in. She could not hear it fall.
The wide prospectso beautiful in its stillness but a few minutes
agoalmost carried despair to her brave heartas she rose and
looked all round herseeing no help. 'Rachaelwe must lose not a
moment. We must go in different directionsseeking aid. You
shall go by the way we have comeand I will go forward by the
path. Tell any one you seeand every one what has happened.
Think of Stephenthink of Stephen!'
She knew by Rachael's face that she might trust her now. And after
standing for a moment to see her runningwringing her hands as she
ranshe turned and went upon her own search; she stopped at the
hedge to tie her shawl there as a guide to the placethen threw
her bonnet asideand ran as she had never run before.
RunSissyrunin Heaven's name! Don't stop for breath. Run
run! Quickening herself by carrying such entreaties in her
thoughtsshe ran from field to fieldand lane to laneand place
to placeas she had never run before; until she came to a shed by
an engine-housewhere two men lay in the shadeasleep on straw.
First to wake themand next to tell themall so wild and
breathless as she waswhat had brought her therewere
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 Shafthe started out to a pool of dirty waterput his
head in itand came back sober.
With these two men she ran to another half-a-mile furtherand with
that one to anotherwhile they ran elsewhere. Then a horse was
found; and she got another man to ride for life or death to the
railroadand send a message to Louisawhich she wrote and gave
him. By this time a whole village was up: and windlassesropes
polescandleslanternsall things necessarywere fast
collecting and being brought into one placeto 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 backaccompanied by half-a-dozen labourers
including the drunken man whom the news had soberedand who was
the best man of all. When they came to the Old Hell Shaftthey
found it as lonely as she had left it. The men called and listened
as she had doneand examined the edge of the chasmand settled
how it had happenedand then sat down to wait until the implements
they wanted should come up.
Every sound of insects in the airevery stirring of the leaves
every whisper among these menmade Sissy tremblefor she thought
it was a cry at the bottom of the pit. But the wind blew idly over
itand no sound arose to the surfaceand they sat upon the grass
waiting and waiting. After they had waited some timestraggling
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 surgeonwho
brought some wine and medicines. Butthe expectation among the
people that the man would be found alive was very slight indeed.
There being now people enough present to impede the workthe
sobered man put himself at the head of the restor was put there
by the general consentand made a large ring round the Old Hell
Shaftand appointed men to keep it. Besides such volunteers as
were accepted to workonly Sissy and Rachael were at first
permitted within this ring; butlater in the daywhen the message
brought an express from CoketownMr. Gradgrind and Louisaand Mr.
Bounderbyand the whelpwere also there.
The sun was four hours lower than when Sissy and Rachael had first
sat down upon the grassbefore a means of enabling two men to
descend securely was rigged with poles and ropes. Difficulties had
arisen in the construction of this machinesimple as it was;
requisites had been found wantingand messages had had to go and
return. It was five o'clock in the afternoon of the bright
autumnal Sundaybefore 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 againfeebly burningand
then some water was cast in. Then the bucket was hooked on; and
the sobered man and another got in with lightsgiving the word
As the rope went outtight and strainedand the windlass creaked
there was not a breath among the one or two hundred men and women
looking onthat came as it was wont to come. The signal was given
and the windlass stoppedwith abundant rope to spare. Apparently
so long an interval ensued with the men at the windlass standing
idlethat some women shrieked that another accident had happened!
But the surgeon who held the watchdeclared five minutes not to
have elapsed yetand sternly admonished them to keep silence. He
had not well done speakingwhen 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 upand that only one was
The rope came in tight and strained; and ring after ring was coiled
upon the barrel of the windlassand 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
When he said 'Alive!' a great shout arose and many eyes had tears
'But he's hurt very bad' he addedas soon as he could make
himself heard again. 'Where's doctor? He's hurt so very badsir
that we donno how to get him up.'
They all consulted togetherand looked anxiously at the surgeon
as he asked some questionsand shook his head on receiving the
replies. The sun was setting now; and the red light in the evening
sky touched every face thereand caused it to be distinctly seen
in all its rapt suspense.
The consultation ended in the men returning to the windlassand
the pitman going down againcarrying the wine and some other small
matters with him. Then the other man came up. In the meantime
under the surgeon's directionssome men brought a hurdleon 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 madethey were hung upon an arm of
the pitman who had last come upwith instructions how to use them:
and as he stoodshown by the light he carriedleaning his
powerful loose hand upon one of the polesand sometimes glancing
down the pitand sometimes glancing round upon the peoplehe 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 himwhich
was quickly repeated all over the circlethat the lost man had
fallen upon a mass of crumbled rubbish with which the pit was half
choked upand that his fall had been further broken by some jagged
earth at the side. He lay upon his back with one arm doubled under
himand according to his own belief had hardly stirred since he
fellexcept that he had moved his free hand to a side pocketin
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 workon being
written toand had walked the whole journey; and was on his way to
Mr. Bounderby's country house after darkwhen he fell. He was
crossing that dangerous country at such a dangerous timebecause
he was innocent of what was laid to his chargeand couldn't rest
from coming the nearest way to deliver himself up. The Old Hell
Shaftthe pitman saidwith a curse upon itwas worthy of its bad
name to the last; for though Stephen could speak nowhe believed
it would soon be found to have mangled the life out of him.
When all was readythis manstill taking his last hurried charges
from his comrades and the surgeon after the windlass had begun to
lower himdisappeared into the pit. The rope went out as before
the signal was made as beforeand 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 workready to reverse and wind in.
At length the signal was givenand all the ring leaned forward.
Fornowthe rope came intightened and strained to its utmost as
it appearedand the men turned heavilyand the windlass
complained. It was scarcely endurable to look at the ropeand
think of its giving way. Butring after ring was coiled upon the
barrel of the windlass safelyand the connecting chains appeared
and finally the bucket with the two men holding on at the sides - a
sight to make the head swimand oppress the heart - and tenderly
supporting between themslung and tied withinthe figure of a
A low murmur of pity went round the throngand the women wept
aloudas this formalmost without formwas moved very slowly
from its iron deliveranceand laid upon the bed of straw. At
firstnone but the surgeon went close to it. He did what he could
in its adjustment on the couchbut the best that he could do was
to cover it. That gently donehe called to him Rachael and Sissy.
And at that time the palewornpatient face was seen looking up
at the skywith the broken right hand lying bare on the outside of
the covering garmentsas if waiting to be taken by another hand.
They gave him drinkmoistened his face with waterand
administered some drops of cordial and wine. Though he lay quite
motionless looking up at the skyhe smiled and said'Rachael.'
She stooped down on the grass at his sideand bent over him until
her eyes were between his and the skyfor he could not so much as
turn them to look at her.
She took his hand. He smiled again and said'Don't let 't go.'
'Thou'rt in great painmy own dear Stephen?'
'I ha' beenbut not now. I ha' been - dreadfuland dreeand
longmy dear - but 'tis ower now. AhRachaelaw a muddle! Fro'
first to lasta muddle!'
The spectre of his old look seemed to pass as he said the word.
'I ha' fell into th' pitmy dearas have cost wi'in the knowledge
o' old fok now livinhundreds and hundreds o' men's lives fathers
sonsbrothersdear to thousands an' thousandsan'
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 petitionas onny one may readfro' the men that works
in pitsin which they ha' pray'n and pray'n the lawmakers for
Christ's sake not to let their work be murder to 'embut to spare
'em for th' wives and children that they loves as well as gentlefok
loves theirs. When it were in workit killed wi'out need; when
'tis let aloneit kills wi'out need. See how we die an' no need
one way an' another - in a muddle - every day!'
He faintly said itwithout any anger against any one. Merely as
'Thy little sisterRachaelthou hast not forgot her. Thou'rt not
like to forget her nowand me so nigh her. Thou know'st - poor
patientsuff'rindear - how thou didst work for herseet'n all
day long in her little chair at thy winderand how she diedyoung
and misshapenawlung o' sickly air as had'n no need to bean'
awlung o' working people's miserable homes. A muddle! Aw a
Louisa approached him; but he could not see herlying with his
face turned up to the night sky.
'If aw th' things that tooches usmy dearwas not so muddledI
should'n ha' had'n need to coom heer. If we was not in a muddle
among ourselnI should'n ha' beenby my own fellow weavers and
workin' brothersso 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 eyesshe saw that he was gazing at a star.
'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' theeRachaeltill the muddle in my mind have
cleared awaabove a bitI hope. If soom ha' been wantin' in
unnerstan'in me betterItooha' been wantin' in unnerstan'in
them better. When I got thy letterI easily believen that what
the yoong ledy sen and done to meand what her brother sen and
done to mewas oneand that there were a wicked plot betwixt 'em.
When I fellI were in anger wi' heran' hurryin on t' be as
onjust t' her as oothers was t' me. But in our judgmentslike as
in our doinswe 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 morean' get a better unnerstan'in o' one anotherthan
when I were in 't my own weak seln.'
Louisa hearing what he saidbent over him on the opposite side to
Rachaelso that he could see her.
'You ha' heard?' he saidafter a few moments' silence. 'I ha' not
'YesStephenI have heard you. And your prayer is mine.'
'You ha' a father. Will yo tak' a message to him?'
'He is here' said Louisawith dread. 'Shall I bring him to you?'
'If yo please.'
Louisa returned with her father. Standing hand-in-handthey both
looked down upon the solemn countenance.
'Siryo 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 sonone 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 awayand the surgeon
being anxious for his removalthose who had torches or lanterns
prepared to go in front of the litter. Before it was raisedand
while they were arranging how to gohe said to Rachaellooking
upward at the star:
'Often as I coom to myselnand found it shinin' on me down there
in my troubleI thowt it were the star as guided to Our Saviour's
home. I awmust think it be the very star!'
They lifted him upand he was overjoyed to find that they were
about to take him in the direction whither the star seemed to him
'Rachaelbeloved lass! Don't let go my hand. We may walk
toogether t'nightmy dear!'
'I will hold thy handand keep beside theeStephenall the way.'
'Bless thee! Will soombody be pleased to coover my face!'
They carried him very gently along the fieldsand 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 humilityand sorrowand forgivenesshe
had gone to his Redeemer's rest.
CHAPTER VII - WHELP-HUNTING
BEFORE the ring formed round the Old Hell Shaft was brokenone
figure had disappeared from within it. Mr. Bounderby and his
shadow had not stood near Louisawho held her father's armbut in
a retired place by themselves. When Mr. Gradgrind was summoned to
the couchSissyattentive to all that happenedslipped behind
that wicked shadow - a sight in the horror of his faceif there
had been eyes there for any sight but one - and whispered in his
ear. Without turning his headhe conferred with her a few
momentsand vanished. Thus the whelp had gone out of the circle
before the people moved.
When the father reached homehe sent a message to Mr. Bounderby's
desiring his son to come to him directly. The reply wasthat Mr.
Bounderby having missed him in the crowdand seeing nothing of him
sincehad supposed him to be at Stone Lodge.
'I believefather' said Louisa'he will not come back to town
to-night.' Mr. Gradgrind turned awayand said no more.
In the morninghe went down to the Bank himself as soon as it was
openedand 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 thatfor reasons he would soon
explainbut entreated not then to be asked forhe had found it
necessary to employ his son at a distance for a little while.
Alsothat he was charged with the duty of vindicating Stephen
Blackpool's memoryand declaring the thief. Mr. Bounderby quite
confoundedstood stock-still in the street after his father-in-law
had left himswelling like an immense soap-bubblewithout its
Mr. Gradgrind went homelocked himself in his roomand kept it
all that day. When Sissy and Louisa tapped at his doorhe said
without opening it'Not nowmy dears; in the evening.' On their
return in the eveninghe said'I am not able yet - to-morrow.'
He ate nothing all dayand had no candle after dark; and they
heard him walking to and fro late at night.
Butin the morning he appeared at breakfast at the usual hourand
took his usual place at the table. Aged and bent he lookedand
quite bowed down; and yet he looked a wiser manand a better man
than in the days when in this life he wanted nothing - but Facts.
Before he left the roomhe appointed a time for them to come to
him; and sowith his gray head droopingwent away.
'Dear father' said Louisawhen they kept their appointment'you
have three young children left. They will be differentI will be
different yetwith Heaven's help.'
She gave her hand to Sissyas if she meant with her help too.
'Your wretched brother' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Do you think he had
planned this robberywhen he went with you to the lodging?'
'I fear sofather. I know he had wanted money very muchand had
spent a great deal.'
'The poor man being about to leave the townit came into his evil
brain to cast suspicion on him?'
'I think it must have flashed upon him while he sat therefather.
For I asked him to go there with me. The visit did not originate
'He had some conversation with the poor man. Did he take him
'He took him out of the room. I asked him afterwardswhy he had
done soand he made a plausible excuse; but since last night
fatherand when I remember the circumstances by its lightI 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 fearfather' hesitated Louisa'that he must have made some
representation to Stephen Blackpool - perhaps in my nameperhaps
in his own - which induced him to do in good faith and honesty
what he had never done beforeand 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 faceand remained silent for some moments.
Recovering himselfhe said:
'And nowhow 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 truthhow is he to be found by usand only
by us? Ten thousand pounds could not effect it.'
'Sissy has effected itfather.'
He raised his eyes to where she stoodlike a good fairy in his
houseand said in a tone of softened gratitude and grateful
kindness'It is always youmy child!'
'We had our fears' Sissy explainedglancing at Louisa'before
yesterday; and when I saw you brought to the side of the litter
last nightand heard what passed (being close to Rachael all the
time)I went to him when no one sawand said to himDon'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 himand he
started and trembled more thenand saidWhere 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 yearand I read of him in a paper only the other
day. I told him to hurry thereand tell his nameand 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 wellremembered
booth. The flag with the inscription SLEARY'S HORSERIDING
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 whiplash,
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 threelegged
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
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 blackberryin'
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
Louisa uttered an exclamation, partly of distress, partly of
'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
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
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
'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.
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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.
'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
'What sum of money,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'will you set against your
'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
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
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
'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
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-athip
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
'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 Thlearyin 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 overand thedThleary, 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 publicand going about tho muthyou theethere
mutht be a number of dogth acquainted with meThquirethat I
Mr. Gradgrind seemed to be quite confounded by this speculation.
'Any way' said Slearyafter putting his lips to his brandy and
water'ith fourteen month agoThquirethinthe we wath at
Chethter. We wath getting up our Children in the Wood one morning
when there cometh into our Ringby the thtage doora dog. He had
travelled a long wayhe wath in a very bad condithonhe wath
lameand pretty well blind. He went round to our childrenone
after anotheras if he wath a theeking for a child he know'd; and
then he come to meand throwd hithelf up behindand thtood on
hith two forelegthweak ath he wathand then he wagged hith tail
and died. Thquirethat dog wath Merrylegth.'
'Sissy's father's dog!'
'Thethilia'th father'th old dog. NowThquireI can take my oath
from my knowledge of that dogthat that man wath dead - and buried
-afore that dog come back to me. Joth'phine and Childerth and me
talked it over a long timewhether I thould write or not. But we
agreedNo. There'th nothing comfortable to tell; why unthettle
her mind, and make her unhappy?Thowhether her father bathely
detherted her; or whether he broke hith own heart alonerather
than pull her down along with him; never will be knownnow
Thquiretill - nonot till we know how the dogth findth uth out!'
'She keeps the bottle that he sent her forto this hour; and she
will believe in his affection to the last moment of her life' said
'It theemth to prethent two thingth to a perthondon't it
Thquire?' said Mr. Slearymusing as he looked down into the depths
of his brandy and water: 'onethat there ith a love in the world
not all Thelf-interetht after allbut thomething very different;
t'otherthat it bath a way of ith own of calculating or not
calculatingwhith thomehow or another ith at leatht ath hard to
give a name toath the wayth of the dogth ith!'
Mr. Gradgrind looked out of windowand made no reply. Mr. Sleary
emptied his glass and recalled the ladies.
'Thethilia my dearkith me and good-bye! Mith Thquireto thee
you treating of her like a thithterand a thithter that you trutht
and honour with all your heart and moreith a very pretty thight
to me. I hope your brother may live to be better detherving of
youand a greater comfort to you. Thquirethake handthfirtht
and latht! Don't be croth with uth poor vagabondth. People mutht
be amuthed. They can't be alwayth a learningnor yet they can't
be alwayth a workingthey an't made for it. You mutht have uth
Thquire. Do the withe thing and the kind thing tooand make the
betht of uth; not the wurtht!'
'And I never thought before' said Mr. Slearyputting 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
blustererbefore 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. Peglerhe turned this
presumptionon the part of a woman in her dependent positionover
and over in his minduntil 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 familyand wanted to stick to mebut I wouldn't
have itand got rid of her' - would be to get the utmost possible
amount of crowning glory out of the connectionand at the same
time to punish Mrs. Sparsit according to her deserts.
Filled fuller than everwith this great ideaMr. Bounderby came
in to lunchand sat himself down in the dining-room of former
dayswhere his portrait was. Mrs. Sparsit sat by the firewith
her foot in her cotton stirruplittle thinking whither she was
Since the Pegler affairthis gentlewoman had covered her pity for
Mr. Bounderby with a veil of quiet melancholy and contrition. In
virtue thereofit had become her habit to assume a woful look
which woful look she now bestowed upon her patron.
'What's the matter nowma'am?' said Mr. Bounderbyin a very
'Praysir' returned Mrs. Sparsit'do not bite my nose off.'
'Bite your nose offma'am?' repeated Mr. Bounderby. 'Your nose!'
meaningas Mrs. Sparsit conceivedthat it was too developed a
nose for the purpose. After which offensive implicationhe cut
himself a crust of breadand threw the knife down with a noise.
Mrs. Sparsit took her foot out of her stirrupand said'Mr.
'Wellma'am?' retorted Mr. Bounderby. 'What are you staring at?'
'May I asksir' said Mrs. Sparsit'have you been ruffled this
'May I inquiresir' pursued the injured woman'whether I am the
unfortunate cause of your having lost your temper?'
'NowI'll tell you whatma'am' said Bounderby'I am not come
here to be bullied. A female may be highly connectedbut she
can't be permitted to bother and badger a man in my positionand I
am not going to put up with it.' (Mr. Bounderby felt it necessary
to get on: foreseeing that if he allowed of detailshe would be
Mrs. Sparsit first elevatedthen knittedher Coriolanian
eyebrows; gathered up her work into its proper basket; and rose.
'Sir' said shemajestically. '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 doorma'am.'
'Thank yousir; I can do it for myself.'
'You had better allow mema'am' said Bounderbypassing herand
getting his hand upon the lock; 'because I can take the opportunity
of saying a word to youbefore you go. Mrs. Sparsitma'amI
rather think you are cramped heredo you know? It appears to me
thatunder my humble roofthere's hardly opening enough for a
lady of your genius in other people's affairs.'
Mrs. Sparsit gave him a look of the darkest scornand said with
'I have been thinking it overyou seesince the late affairs have
happenedma'am' said Bounderby; 'and it appears to my poor
judgment - '
'Oh! Praysir' Mrs. Sparsit interposedwith 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 judgmentsir' said Mrs. Sparsit
Mr. Bounderbyvery red and uncomfortableresumed:
'It appears to mema'amI saythat a different sort of
establishment altogether would bring out a lady of your powers.
Such an establishment as your relationLady Scadgers'snow.
Don't you think you might find some affairs therema'amto
'It never occurred to me beforesir' returned Mrs. Sparsit; 'but
now you mention itshould think it highly probable.'
'Then suppose you tryma'am' said Bounderbylaying an envelope
with a cheque in it in her little basket. 'You can take your own
time for goingma'am; but perhaps in the meanwhileit will be
more agreeable to a lady of your powers of mindto eat her meals
by herselfand 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 itsir' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'If that
portrait could speaksir - but it has the advantage over the
original of not possessing the power of committing itself and
disgusting others- it would testifythat a long period has
elapsed since I first habitually addressed it as the picture of a
Noodle. Nothing that a Noodle doescan awaken surprise or
indignation; the proceedings of a Noodle can only inspire
Thus sayingMrs. Sparsitwith her Roman features like a medal
struck to commemorate her scorn of Mr. Bounderbysurveyed him
fixedly from head to footswept disdainfully past himand
ascended the staircase. Mr. Bounderby closed the doorand 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 grudgingsmartingpeevishtormenting Lady Scadgers
still laid up in bed with her mysterious legand gobbling her
insufficient income down by about the middle of every quarterin a
mean little airless lodginga mere closet for onea mere crib for
two; but did he see more? Did he catch any glimpse of himself
making a show of Bitzer to strangersas the rising young manso
devoted to his master's great meritswho had won young Tom's
placeand had almost captured young Tom himselfin the times when
by various rascals he was spirited away? Did he see any faint
reflection of his own image making a vain-glorious willwhereby
five-and-twenty Humbugspast five-and-fifty years of ageeach
taking upon himself the nameJosiah Bounderby of Coketownshould
for ever dine in Bounderby Hallfor ever lodge in Bounderby
buildingsfor ever attend a Bounderby chapelfor ever go to sleep
under a Bounderby chaplainfor ever be supported out of a
Bounderby estateand for ever nauseate all healthy stomachswith
a vast amount of Bounderby balderdash and bluster? Had he any
prescience of the dayfive years to comewhen Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown was to die of a fit in the Coketown streetand this same
precious will was to begin its long career of quibbleplunder
false pretencesvile examplelittle service and much law?
Probably not. Yet the portrait was to see it all out.
Here was Mr. Gradgrind on the same dayand in the same hour
sitting thoughtful in his own room. How much of futurity did he
see? Did he see himselfa white-haired decrepit manbending his
hitherto inflexible theories to appointed circumstances; making his
facts and figures subservient to FaithHopeand Charity; and no
longer trying to grind that Heavenly trio in his dusty little
mills? Did he catch sight of himselftherefore much despised by
his late political associates? Did he see themin the era of its
being quite settled that the national dustmen have only to do with
one anotherand owe no duty to an abstraction called a People
'taunting the honourable gentleman' with this and with that and
with what notfive nights a-weekuntil the small hours of the
morning? Probably he had that much foreknowledgeknowing his men.
Here was Louisa on the night of the same daywatching the fire as
in days of yorethough with a gentler and a humbler face. How
much of the future might arise before her vision? Broadsides in
the streetssigned with her father's nameexonerating the late
Stephen Blackpoolweaverfrom misplaced suspicionand publishing
the guilt of his own sonwith such extenuation as his years and
temptation (he could not bring himself to addhis education) might
beseech; were of the Present. SoStephen Blackpool's tombstone
with her father's record of his deathwas almost of the Present
for she knew it was to be. These things she could plainly see.
Buthow much of the Future?
A working womanchristened Rachaelafter a long illness once
again appearing at the ringing of the Factory belland passing to
and fro at the set hoursamong the Coketown Hands; a woman of
pensive beautyalways dressed in blackbut sweet-tempered and
sereneand even cheerful; whoof all the people in the place
alone appeared to have compassion on a degradeddrunken wretch of
her own sexwho was sometimes seen in the town secretly begging of
herand crying to her; a woman workingever workingbut content
to do itand preferring to do it as her natural lotuntil she
should be too old to labour any more? Did Louisa see this? Such a
thing was to be.
A lonely brothermany thousands of miles awaywritingon paper
blotted with tearsthat her words had too soon come trueand 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 herand being delayed by illness; and then a
letterin a strange handsaying 'he died in hospitalof fever
such a dayand died in penitence and love of you: his last word
being your name'? Did Louisa see these things? Such things were
Herself again a wife - a mother - lovingly watchful of her
childrenever careful that they should have a childhood of the
mind no less than a childhood of the bodyas knowing it to be even
a more beautiful thingand a possessionany hoarded scrap of
whichis a blessing and happiness to the wisest? Did Louisa see
this? Such a thing was never to be.
Buthappy Sissy's happy children loving her; all children loving
her; shegrown learned in childish lore; thinking no innocent and
pretty fancy ever to be despised; trying hard to know her humbler
fellow-creaturesand to beautify their lives of machinery and
reality with those imaginative graces and delightswithout which
the heart of infancy will wither upthe sturdiest physical manhood
will be morally stark deathand the plainest national prosperity
figures can showwill be the Writing on the Wall- she holding
this course as part of no fantastic vowor bondor brotherhood
or sisterhoodor pledgeor covenantor fancy dressor 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 mewhetherin our two fields
of actionsimilar things shall be or not. Let them be! We shall
sit with lighter bosoms on the hearthto see the ashes of our
fires turn gray and cold.