Part 4 out of 7
Quite different things. You had better tell us at once, that that
fellow Slackbridge is not in the town, stirring up the people to
mutiny; and that he is not a regular qualified leader of the
people: that is, a most confounded scoundrel. You had better tell
us so at once; you can't deceive me. You want to tell us so. Why
'I'm as sooary as yo, sir, when the people's leaders is bad,' said
Stephen, shaking his head. 'They taks such as offers. Haply 'tis
na' the sma'est o' their misfortuns when they can get no better.'
The wind began to get boisterous.
'Now, you'll think this pretty well, Harthouse,' said Mr.
Bounderby. 'You'll think this tolerably strong. You'll say, upon
my soul this is a tidy specimen of what my friends have to deal
with; but this is nothing, sir! You shall hear me ask this man a
question. Pray, Mr. Blackpool' - wind springing up very fast -
'may I take the liberty of asking you how it happens that you
refused to be in this Combination?'
'How 't happens?'
'Ah!' said Mr. Bounderby, with his thumbs in the arms of his coat,
and jerking his head and shutting his eyes in confidence with the
opposite wall: 'how it happens.'
'I'd leefer not coom to 't, sir; but sin you put th' question - an'
not want'n t' be ill-manner'n - I'll answer. I ha passed a
'Not to me, you know,' said Bounderby. (Gusty weather with
deceitful calms. One now prevailing.)
'O no, sir. Not to yo.'
'As for me, any consideration for me has had just nothing at all to
do with it,' said Bounderby, still in confidence with the wall.
'If only Josiah Bounderby of Coketown had been in question, you
would have joined and made no bones about it?'
'Why yes, sir. 'Tis true.'
'Though he knows,' said Mr. Bounderby, now blowing a gale, 'that
there are a set of rascals and rebels whom transportation is too
good for! Now, Mr. Harthouse, you have been knocking about in the
world some time. Did you ever meet with anything like that man out
of this blessed country?' And Mr. Bounderby pointed him out for
inspection, with an angry finger.
'Nay, ma'am,' said Stephen Blackpool, staunchly protesting against
the words that had been used, and instinctively addressing himself
to Louisa, after glancing at her face. 'Not rebels, nor yet
rascals. Nowt o' th' kind, ma'am, nowt o' th' kind. They've not
doon me a kindness, ma'am, as I know and feel. But there's not a
dozen men amoong 'em, ma'am - a dozen? Not six - but what believes
as he has doon his duty by the rest and by himseln. God forbid as
I, that ha' known, and had'n experience o' these men aw my life -
I, that ha' ett'n an' droonken wi' 'em, an' seet'n wi' 'em, and
toil'n wi' 'em, and lov'n 'em, should fail fur to stan by 'em wi'
the truth, let 'em ha' doon to me what they may!'
He spoke with the rugged earnestness of his place and character -
deepened perhaps by a proud consciousness that he was faithful to
his class under all their mistrust; but he fully remembered where
he was, and did not even raise his voice.
'No, ma'am, no. They're true to one another, faithfo' to one
another, 'fectionate to one another, e'en to death. Be poor amoong
'em, be sick amoong 'em, grieve amoong 'em for onny o' th' monny
causes that carries grief to the poor man's door, an' they'll be
tender wi' yo, gentle wi' yo, comfortable wi' yo, Chrisen wi' yo.
Be sure o' that, ma'am. They'd be riven to bits, ere ever they'd
'In short,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'it's because they are so full of
virtues that they have turned you adrift. Go through with it while
you are about it. Out with it.'
'How 'tis, ma'am,' resumed Stephen, appearing still to find his
natural refuge in Louisa's face, 'that what is best in us fok,
seems to turn us most to trouble an' misfort'n an' mistake, I
dunno. But 'tis so. I know 'tis, as I know the heavens is over me
ahint the smoke. We're patient too, an' wants in general to do
right. An' I canna think the fawt is aw wi' us.'
'Now, my friend,' said Mr. Bounderby, whom he could not have
exasperated more, quite unconscious of it though he was, than by
seeming to appeal to any one else, 'if you will favour me with your
attention for half a minute, I should like to have a word or two
with you. You said just now, that you had nothing to tell us about
this business. You are quite sure of that before we go any
'Sir, I am sure on 't.'
'Here's a gentleman from London present,' Mr. Bounderby made a
backhanded point at Mr. James Harthouse with his thumb, 'a
Parliament gentleman. I should like him to hear a short bit of
dialogue between you and me, instead of taking the substance of it
- for I know precious well, beforehand, what it will be; nobody
knows better than I do, take notice! - instead of receiving it on
trust from my mouth.'
Stephen bent his head to the gentleman from London, and showed a
rather more troubled mind than usual. He turned his eyes
involuntarily to his former refuge, but at a look from that quarter
(expressive though instantaneous) he settled them on Mr.
'Now, what do you complain of?' asked Mr. Bounderby.
'I ha' not coom here, sir,' Stephen reminded him, 'to complain. I
coom for that I were sent for.'
'What,' repeated Mr. Bounderby, folding his arms, 'do you people,
in a general way, complain of?'
Stephen looked at him with some little irresolution for a moment,
and then seemed to make up his mind.
'Sir, I were never good at showin o 't, though I ha had'n my share
in feeling o 't. 'Deed we are in a muddle, sir. Look round town -
so rich as 'tis - and see the numbers o' people as has been
broughten into bein heer, fur to weave, an' to card, an' to piece
out a livin', aw the same one way, somehows, 'twixt their cradles
and their graves. Look how we live, an' wheer we live, an' in what
numbers, an' by what chances, and wi' what sameness; and look how
the mills is awlus a goin, and how they never works us no nigher to
ony dis'ant object - ceptin awlus, Death. Look how you considers
of us, and writes of us, and talks of us, and goes up wi' yor
deputations to Secretaries o' State 'bout us, and how yo are awlus
right, and how we are awlus wrong, and never had'n no reason in us
sin ever we were born. Look how this ha growen an' growen, sir,
bigger an' bigger, broader an' broader, harder an' harder, fro year
to year, fro generation unto generation. Who can look on 't, sir,
and fairly tell a man 'tis not a muddle?'
'Of course,' said Mr. Bounderby. 'Now perhaps you'll let the
gentleman know, how you would set this muddle (as you're so fond of
calling it) to rights.'
'I donno, sir. I canna be expecten to 't. 'Tis not me as should
be looken to for that, sir. 'Tis them as is put ower me, and ower
aw the rest of us. What do they tak upon themseln, sir, if not to
'I'll tell you something towards it, at any rate,' returned Mr.
Bounderby. 'We will make an example of half a dozen Slackbridges.
We'll indict the blackguards for felony, and get 'em shipped off to
Stephen gravely shook his head.
'Don't tell me we won't, man,' said Mr. Bounderby, by this time
blowing a hurricane, 'because we will, I tell you!'
'Sir,' returned Stephen, with the quiet confidence of absolute
certainty, 'if yo was t' tak a hundred Slackbridges - aw as there
is, and aw the number ten times towd - an' was t' sew 'em up in
separate sacks, an' sink 'em in the deepest ocean as were made ere
ever dry land coom to be, yo'd leave the muddle just wheer 'tis.
Mischeevous strangers!' said Stephen, with an anxious smile; 'when
ha we not heern, I am sure, sin ever we can call to mind, o' th'
mischeevous strangers! 'Tis not by them the trouble's made, sir.
'Tis not wi' them 't commences. I ha no favour for 'em - I ha no
reason to favour 'em - but 'tis hopeless and useless to dream o'
takin them fro their trade, 'stead o' takin their trade fro them!
Aw that's now about me in this room were heer afore I coom, an'
will be heer when I am gone. Put that clock aboard a ship an' pack
it off to Norfolk Island, an' the time will go on just the same.
So 'tis wi' Slackbridge every bit.'
Reverting for a moment to his former refuge, he observed a
cautionary movement of her eyes towards the door. Stepping back,
he put his hand upon the lock. But he had not spoken out of his
own will and desire; and he felt it in his heart a noble return for
his late injurious treatment to be faithful to the last to those
who had repudiated him. He stayed to finish what was in his mind.
'Sir, I canna, wi' my little learning an' my common way, tell the
genelman what will better aw this - though some working men o' this
town could, above my powers - but I can tell him what I know will
never do 't. The strong hand will never do 't. Vict'ry and
triumph will never do 't. Agreeing fur to mak one side unnat'rally
awlus and for ever right, and toother side unnat'rally awlus and
for ever wrong, will never, never do 't. Nor yet lettin alone will
never do 't. Let thousands upon thousands alone, aw leading the
like lives and aw faw'en into the like muddle, and they will be as
one, and yo will be as anoother, wi' a black unpassable world
betwixt yo, just as long or short a time as sich-like misery can
last. Not drawin nigh to fok, wi' kindness and patience an' cheery
ways, that so draws nigh to one another in their monny troubles,
and so cherishes one another in their distresses wi' what they need
themseln - like, I humbly believe, as no people the genelman ha
seen in aw his travels can beat - will never do 't till th' Sun
turns t' ice. Most o' aw, rating 'em as so much Power, and
reg'latin 'em as if they was figures in a soom, or machines:
wi'out loves and likens, wi'out memories and inclinations, wi'out
souls to weary and souls to hope - when aw goes quiet, draggin on
wi' 'em as if they'd nowt o' th' kind, and when aw goes onquiet,
reproachin 'em for their want o' sitch humanly feelins in their
dealins wi' yo - this will never do 't, sir, till God's work is
Stephen stood with the open door in his hand, waiting to know if
anything more were expected of him.
'Just stop a moment,' said Mr. Bounderby, excessively red in the
face. 'I told you, the last time you were here with a grievance,
that you had better turn about and come out of that. And I also
told you, if you remember, that I was up to the gold spoon look-
'I were not up to 't myseln, sir; I do assure yo.'
'Now it's clear to me,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'that you are one of
those chaps who have always got a grievance. And you go about,
sowing it and raising crops. That's the business of your life, my
Stephen shook his head, mutely protesting that indeed he had other
business to do for his life.
'You are such a waspish, raspish, ill-conditioned chap, you see,'
said Mr. Bounderby, 'that even your own Union, the men who know you
best, will have nothing to do with you. I never thought those
fellows could be right in anything; but I tell you what! I so far
go along with them for a novelty, that I'll have nothing to do with
Stephen raised his eyes quickly to his face.
'You can finish off what you're at,' said Mr. Bounderby, with a
meaning nod, 'and then go elsewhere.'
'Sir, yo know weel,' said Stephen expressively, 'that if I canna
get work wi' yo, I canna get it elsewheer.'
The reply was, 'What I know, I know; and what you know, you know.
I have no more to say about it.'
Stephen glanced at Louisa again, but her eyes were raised to his no
more; therefore, with a sigh, and saying, barely above his breath,
'Heaven help us aw in this world!' he departed.
CHAPTER VI - FADING AWAY
IT was falling dark when Stephen came out of Mr. Bounderby's house.
The shadows of night had gathered so fast, that he did not look
about him when he closed the door, but plodded straight along the
street. Nothing was further from his thoughts than the curious old
woman he had encountered on his previous visit to the same house,
when he heard a step behind him that he knew, and turning, saw her
in Rachael's company.
He saw Rachael first, as he had heard her only.
'Ah, Rachael, my dear! Missus, thou wi' her!'
'Well, and now you are surprised to be sure, and with reason I must
say,' the old woman returned. 'Here I am again, you see.'
'But how wi' Rachael?' said Stephen, falling into their step,
walking between them, and looking from the one to the other.
'Why, I come to be with this good lass pretty much as I came to be
with you,' said the old woman, cheerfully, taking the reply upon
herself. 'My visiting time is later this year than usual, for I
have been rather troubled with shortness of breath, and so put it
off till the weather was fine and warm. For the same reason I
don't make all my journey in one day, but divide it into two days,
and get a bed to-night at the Travellers' Coffee House down by the
railroad (a nice clean house), and go back Parliamentary, at six in
the morning. Well, but what has this to do with this good lass,
says you? I'm going to tell you. I have heard of Mr. Bounderby
being married. I read it in the paper, where it looked grand - oh,
it looked fine!' the old woman dwelt on it with strange enthusiasm:
'and I want to see his wife. I have never seen her yet. Now, if
you'll believe me, she hasn't come out of that house since noon to-
day. So not to give her up too easily, I was waiting about, a
little last bit more, when I passed close to this good lass two or
three times; and her face being so friendly I spoke to her, and she
spoke to me. There!' said the old woman to Stephen, 'you can make
all the rest out for yourself now, a deal shorter than I can, I
Once again, Stephen had to conquer an instinctive propensity to
dislike this old woman, though her manner was as honest and simple
as a manner possibly could be. With a gentleness that was as
natural to him as he knew it to be to Rachael, he pursued the
subject that interested her in her old age.
'Well, missus,' said he, 'I ha seen the lady, and she were young
and hansom. Wi' fine dark thinkin eyes, and a still way, Rachael,
as I ha never seen the like on.'
'Young and handsome. Yes!' cried the old woman, quite delighted.
'As bonny as a rose! And what a happy wife!'
'Aye, missus, I suppose she be,' said Stephen. But with a doubtful
glance at Rachael.
'Suppose she be? She must be. She's your master's wife,' returned
the old woman.
Stephen nodded assent. 'Though as to master,' said he, glancing
again at Rachael, 'not master onny more. That's aw enden 'twixt
him and me.'
'Have you left his work, Stephen?' asked Rachael, anxiously and
'Why, Rachael,' he replied, 'whether I ha lef'n his work, or
whether his work ha lef'n me, cooms t' th' same. His work and me
are parted. 'Tis as weel so - better, I were thinkin when yo coom
up wi' me. It would ha brought'n trouble upon trouble if I had
stayed theer. Haply 'tis a kindness to monny that I go; haply 'tis
a kindness to myseln; anyways it mun be done. I mun turn my face
fro Coketown fur th' time, and seek a fort'n, dear, by beginnin
'Where will you go, Stephen?'
'I donno t'night,' said he, lifting off his hat, and smoothing his
thin hair with the flat of his hand. 'But I'm not goin t'night,
Rachael, nor yet t'morrow. 'Tan't easy overmuch t' know wheer t'
turn, but a good heart will coom to me.'
Herein, too, the sense of even thinking unselfishly aided him.
Before he had so much as closed Mr. Bounderby's door, he had
reflected that at least his being obliged to go away was good for
her, as it would save her from the chance of being brought into
question for not withdrawing from him. Though it would cost him a
hard pang to leave her, and though he could think of no similar
place in which his condemnation would not pursue him, perhaps it
was almost a relief to be forced away from the endurance of the
last four days, even to unknown difficulties and distresses.
So he said, with truth, 'I'm more leetsome, Rachael, under 't, than
I could'n ha believed.' It was not her part to make his burden
heavier. She answered with her comforting smile, and the three
walked on together.
Age, especially when it strives to be self-reliant and cheerful,
finds much consideration among the poor. The old woman was so
decent and contented, and made so light of her infirmities, though
they had increased upon her since her former interview with
Stephen, that they both took an interest in her. She was too
sprightly to allow of their walking at a slow pace on her account,
but she was very grateful to be talked to, and very willing to talk
to any extent: so, when they came to their part of the town, she
was more brisk and vivacious than ever.
'Come to my poor place, missus,' said Stephen, 'and tak a coop o'
tea. Rachael will coom then; and arterwards I'll see thee safe t'
thy Travellers' lodgin. 'T may be long, Rachael, ere ever I ha th'
chance o' thy coompany agen.'
They complied, and the three went on to the house where he lodged.
When they turned into a narrow street, Stephen glanced at his
window with a dread that always haunted his desolate home; but it
was open, as he had left it, and no one was there. The evil spirit
of his life had flitted away again, months ago, and he had heard no
more of her since. The only evidence of her last return now, were
the scantier moveables in his room, and the grayer hair upon his
He lighted a candle, set out his little tea-board, got hot water
from below, and brought in small portions of tea and sugar, a loaf,
and some butter from the nearest shop. The bread was new and
crusty, the butter fresh, and the sugar lump, of course - in
fulfilment of the standard testimony of the Coketown magnates, that
these people lived like princes, sir. Rachael made the tea (so
large a party necessitated the borrowing of a cup), and the visitor
enjoyed it mightily. It was the first glimpse of sociality the
host had had for many days. He too, with the world a wide heath
before him, enjoyed the meal - again in corroboration of the
magnates, as exemplifying the utter want of calculation on the part
of these people, sir.
'I ha never thowt yet, missus,' said Stephen, 'o' askin thy name.'
The old lady announced herself as 'Mrs. Pegler.'
'A widder, I think?' said Stephen.
'Oh, many long years!' Mrs. Pegler's husband (one of the best on
record) was already dead, by Mrs. Pegler's calculation, when
Stephen was born.
''Twere a bad job, too, to lose so good a one,' said Stephen.
Mrs. Pegler's cup, rattling against her saucer as she held it,
denoted some nervousness on her part. 'No,' she said. 'Not now,
'Dead, Stephen,' Rachael softly hinted.
'I'm sooary I ha spok'n on 't,' said Stephen, 'I ought t' hadn in
my mind as I might touch a sore place. I - I blame myseln.'
While he excused himself, the old lady's cup rattled more and more.
'I had a son,' she said, curiously distressed, and not by any of
the usual appearances of sorrow; 'and he did well, wonderfully
well. But he is not to be spoken of if you please. He is - '
Putting down her cup, she moved her hands as if she would have
added, by her action, 'dead!' Then she said aloud, 'I have lost
Stephen had not yet got the better of his having given the old lady
pain, when his landlady came stumbling up the narrow stairs, and
calling him to the door, whispered in his ear. Mrs. Pegler was by
no means deaf, for she caught a word as it was uttered.
'Bounderby!' she cried, in a suppressed voice, starting up from the
table. 'Oh hide me! Don't let me be seen for the world. Don't
let him come up till I've got away. Pray, pray!' She trembled,
and was excessively agitated; getting behind Rachael, when Rachael
tried to reassure her; and not seeming to know what she was about.
'But hearken, missus, hearken,' said Stephen, astonished. "Tisn't
Mr. Bounderby; 'tis his wife. Yo'r not fearfo' o' her. Yo was
hey-go-mad about her, but an hour sin.'
'But are you sure it's the lady, and not the gentleman?' she asked,
'Well then, pray don't speak to me, nor yet take any notice of me,'
said the old woman. 'Let me be quite to myself in this corner.'
Stephen nodded; looking to Rachael for an explanation, which she
was quite unable to give him; took the candle, went downstairs, and
in a few moments returned, lighting Louisa into the room. She was
followed by the whelp.
Rachael had risen, and stood apart with her shawl and bonnet in her
hand, when Stephen, himself profoundly astonished by this visit,
put the candle on the table. Then he too stood, with his doubled
hand upon the table near it, waiting to be addressed.
For the first time in her life Louisa had come into one of the
dwellings of the Coketown Hands; for the first time in her life she
was face to face with anything like individuality in connection
with them. She knew of their existence by hundreds and by
thousands. She knew what results in work a given number of them
would produce in a given space of time. She knew them in crowds
passing to and from their nests, like ants or beetles. But she
knew from her reading infinitely more of the ways of toiling
insects than of these toiling men and women.
Something to be worked so much and paid so much, and there ended;
something to be infallibly settled by laws of supply and demand;
something that blundered against those laws, and floundered into
difficulty; something that was a little pinched when wheat was
dear, and over-ate itself when wheat was cheap; something that
increased at such a rate of percentage, and yielded such another
percentage of crime, and such another percentage of pauperism;
something wholesale, of which vast fortunes were made; something
that occasionally rose like a sea, and did some harm and waste
(chiefly to itself), and fell again; this she knew the Coketown
Hands to be. But, she had scarcely thought more of separating them
into units, than of separating the sea itself into its component
She stood for some moments looking round the room. From the few
chairs, the few books, the common prints, and the bed, she glanced
to the two women, and to Stephen.
'I have come to speak to you, in consequence of what passed just
now. I should like to be serviceable to you, if you will let me.
Is this your wife?'
Rachael raised her eyes, and they sufficiently answered no, and
'I remember,' said Louisa, reddening at her mistake; 'I recollect,
now, to have heard your domestic misfortunes spoken of, though I
was not attending to the particulars at the time. It was not my
meaning to ask a question that would give pain to any one here. If
I should ask any other question that may happen to have that
result, give me credit, if you please, for being in ignorance how
to speak to you as I ought.'
As Stephen had but a little while ago instinctively addressed
himself to her, so she now instinctively addressed herself to
Rachael. Her manner was short and abrupt, yet faltering and timid.
'He has told you what has passed between himself and my husband?
You would be his first resource, I think.'
'I have heard the end of it, young lady,' said Rachael.
'Did I understand, that, being rejected by one employer, he would
probably be rejected by all? I thought he said as much?'
'The chances are very small, young lady - next to nothing - for a
man who gets a bad name among them.'
'What shall I understand that you mean by a bad name?'
'The name of being troublesome.'
'Then, by the prejudices of his own class, and by the prejudices of
the other, he is sacrificed alike? Are the two so deeply separated
in this town, that there is no place whatever for an honest workman
Rachael shook her head in silence.
'He fell into suspicion,' said Louisa, 'with his fellow-weavers,
because - he had made a promise not to be one of them. I think it
must have been to you that he made that promise. Might I ask you
why he made it?'
Rachael burst into tears. 'I didn't seek it of him, poor lad. I
prayed him to avoid trouble for his own good, little thinking he'd
come to it through me. But I know he'd die a hundred deaths, ere
ever he'd break his word. I know that of him well.'
Stephen had remained quietly attentive, in his usual thoughtful
attitude, with his hand at his chin. He now spoke in a voice
rather less steady than usual.
'No one, excepting myseln, can ever know what honour, an' what
love, an' respect, I bear to Rachael, or wi' what cause. When I
passed that promess, I towd her true, she were th' Angel o' my
life. 'Twere a solemn promess. 'Tis gone fro' me, for ever.'
Louisa turned her head to him, and bent it with a deference that
was new in her. She looked from him to Rachael, and her features
softened. 'What will you do?' she asked him. And her voice had
'Weel, ma'am,' said Stephen, making the best of it, with a smile;
'when I ha finished off, I mun quit this part, and try another.
Fortnet or misfortnet, a man can but try; there's nowt to be done
wi'out tryin' - cept laying down and dying.'
'How will you travel?'
'Afoot, my kind ledy, afoot.'
Louisa coloured, and a purse appeared in her hand. The rustling of
a bank-note was audible, as she unfolded one and laid it on the
'Rachael, will you tell him - for you know how, without offence -
that this is freely his, to help him on his way? Will you entreat
him to take it?'
'I canna do that, young lady,' she answered, turning her head
aside. 'Bless you for thinking o' the poor lad wi' such
tenderness. But 'tis for him to know his heart, and what is right
according to it.'
Louisa looked, in part incredulous, in part frightened, in part
overcome with quick sympathy, when this man of so much self-
command, who had been so plain and steady through the late
interview, lost his composure in a moment, and now stood with his
hand before his face. She stretched out hers, as if she would have
touched him; then checked herself, and remained still.
'Not e'en Rachael,' said Stephen, when he stood again with his face
uncovered, 'could mak sitch a kind offerin, by onny words, kinder.
T' show that I'm not a man wi'out reason and gratitude, I'll tak
two pound. I'll borrow 't for t' pay 't back. 'Twill be the
sweetest work as ever I ha done, that puts it in my power t'
acknowledge once more my lastin thankfulness for this present
She was fain to take up the note again, and to substitute the much
smaller sum he had named. He was neither courtly, nor handsome,
nor picturesque, in any respect; and yet his manner of accepting
it, and of expressing his thanks without more words, had a grace in
it that Lord Chesterfield could not have taught his son in a
Tom had sat upon the bed, swinging one leg and sucking his walking-
stick with sufficient unconcern, until the visit had attained this
stage. Seeing his sister ready to depart, he got up, rather
hurriedly, and put in a word.
'Just wait a moment, Loo! Before we go, I should like to speak to
him a moment. Something comes into my head. If you'll step out on
the stairs, Blackpool, I'll mention it. Never mind a light, man!'
Tom was remarkably impatient of his moving towards the cupboard, to
get one. 'It don't want a light.'
Stephen followed him out, and Tom closed the room door, and held
the lock in his hand.
'I say!' he whispered. 'I think I can do you a good turn. Don't
ask me what it is, because it may not come to anything. But
there's no harm in my trying.'
His breath fell like a flame of fire on Stephen's ear, it was so
'That was our light porter at the Bank,' said Tom, 'who brought you
the message to-night. I call him our light porter, because I
belong to the Bank too.'
Stephen thought, 'What a hurry he is in!' He spoke so confusedly.
'Well!' said Tom. 'Now look here! When are you off?'
'T' day's Monday,' replied Stephen, considering. 'Why, sir, Friday
or Saturday, nigh 'bout.'
'Friday or Saturday,' said Tom. 'Now look here! I am not sure
that I can do you the good turn I want to do you - that's my
sister, you know, in your room - but I may be able to, and if I
should not be able to, there's no harm done. So I tell you what.
You'll know our light porter again?'
'Yes, sure,' said Stephen.
'Very well,' returned Tom. 'When you leave work of a night,
between this and your going away, just hang about the Bank an hour
or so, will you? Don't take on, as if you meant anything, if he
should see you hanging about there; because I shan't put him up to
speak to you, unless I find I can do you the service I want to do
you. In that case he'll have a note or a message for you, but not
else. Now look here! You are sure you understand.'
He had wormed a finger, in the darkness, through a button-hole of
Stephen's coat, and was screwing that corner of the garment tight
up round and round, in an extraordinary manner.
'I understand, sir,' said Stephen.
'Now look here!' repeated Tom. 'Be sure you don't make any mistake
then, and don't forget. I shall tell my sister as we go home, what
I have in view, and she'll approve, I know. Now look here! You're
all right, are you? You understand all about it? Very well then.
Come along, Loo!'
He pushed the door open as he called to her, but did not return
into the room, or wait to be lighted down the narrow stairs. He
was at the bottom when she began to descend, and was in the street
before she could take his arm.
Mrs. Pegler remained in her corner until the brother and sister
were gone, and until Stephen came back with the candle in his hand.
She was in a state of inexpressible admiration of Mrs. Bounderby,
and, like an unaccountable old woman, wept, 'because she was such a
pretty dear.' Yet Mrs. Pegler was so flurried lest the object of
her admiration should return by chance, or anybody else should
come, that her cheerfulness was ended for that night. It was late
too, to people who rose early and worked hard; therefore the party
broke up; and Stephen and Rachael escorted their mysterious
acquaintance to the door of the Travellers' Coffee House, where
they parted from her.
They walked back together to the corner of the street where Rachael
lived, and as they drew nearer and nearer to it, silence crept upon
them. When they came to the dark corner where their unfrequent
meetings always ended, they stopped, still silent, as if both were
afraid to speak.
'I shall strive t' see thee agen, Rachael, afore I go, but if not -
'Thou wilt not, Stephen, I know. 'Tis better that we make up our
minds to be open wi' one another.'
'Thou'rt awlus right. 'Tis bolder and better. I ha been thinkin
then, Rachael, that as 'tis but a day or two that remains, 'twere
better for thee, my dear, not t' be seen wi' me. 'T might bring
thee into trouble, fur no good.'
''Tis not for that, Stephen, that I mind. But thou know'st our old
agreement. 'Tis for that.'
'Well, well,' said he. "Tis better, onnyways.'
'Thou'lt write to me, and tell me all that happens, Stephen?'
'Yes. What can I say now, but Heaven be wi' thee, Heaven bless
thee, Heaven thank thee and reward thee!'
'May it bless thee, Stephen, too, in all thy wanderings, and send
thee peace and rest at last!'
'I towd thee, my dear,' said Stephen Blackpool - 'that night - that
I would never see or think o' onnything that angered me, but thou,
so much better than me, should'st be beside it. Thou'rt beside it
now. Thou mak'st me see it wi' a better eye. Bless thee. Good
It was but a hurried parting in a common street, yet it was a
sacred remembrance to these two common people. Utilitarian
economists, skeletons of schoolmasters, Commissioners of Fact,
genteel and used-up infidels, gabblers of many little dog's-eared
creeds, the poor you will have always with you. Cultivate in them,
while there is yet time, the utmost graces of the fancies and
affections, to adorn their lives so much in need of ornament; or,
in the day of your triumph, when romance is utterly driven out of
their souls, and they and a bare existence stand face to face,
Reality will take a wolfish turn, and make an end of you.
Stephen worked the next day, and the next, uncheered by a word from
any one, and shunned in all his comings and goings as before. At
the end of the second day, he saw land; at the end of the third,
his loom stood empty.
He had overstayed his hour in the street outside the Bank, on each
of the two first evenings; and nothing had happened there, good or
bad. That he might not be remiss in his part of the engagement, he
resolved to wait full two hours, on this third and last night.
There was the lady who had once kept Mr. Bounderby's house, sitting
at the first-floor window as he had seen her before; and there was
the light porter, sometimes talking with her there, and sometimes
looking over the blind below which had BANK upon it, and sometimes
coming to the door and standing on the steps for a breath of air.
When he first came out, Stephen thought he might be looking for
him, and passed near; but the light porter only cast his winking
eyes upon him slightly, and said nothing.
Two hours were a long stretch of lounging about, after a long day's
labour. Stephen sat upon the step of a door, leaned against a wall
under an archway, strolled up and down, listened for the church
clock, stopped and watched children playing in the street. Some
purpose or other is so natural to every one, that a mere loiterer
always looks and feels remarkable. When the first hour was out,
Stephen even began to have an uncomfortable sensation upon him of
being for the time a disreputable character.
Then came the lamplighter, and two lengthening lines of light all
down the long perspective of the street, until they were blended
and lost in the distance. Mrs. Sparsit closed the first-floor
window, drew down the blind, and went up-stairs. Presently, a
light went up-stairs after her, passing first the fanlight of the
door, and afterwards the two staircase windows, on its way up. By
and by, one corner of the second-floor blind was disturbed, as if
Mrs. Sparsit's eye were there; also the other corner, as if the
light porter's eye were on that side. Still, no communication was
made to Stephen. Much relieved when the two hours were at last
accomplished, he went away at a quick pace, as a recompense for so
He had only to take leave of his landlady, and lie down on his
temporary bed upon the floor; for his bundle was made up for to-
morrow, and all was arranged for his departure. He meant to be
clear of the town very early; before the Hands were in the streets.
It was barely daybreak, when, with a parting look round his room,
mournfully wondering whether he should ever see it again, he went
out. The town was as entirely deserted as if the inhabitants had
abandoned it, rather than hold communication with him. Everything
looked wan at that hour. Even the coming sun made but a pale waste
in the sky, like a sad sea.
By the place where Rachael lived, though it was not in his way; by
the red brick streets; by the great silent factories, not trembling
yet; by the railway, where the danger-lights were waning in the
strengthening day; by the railway's crazy neighbourhood, half
pulled down and half built up; by scattered red brick villas, where
the besmoked evergreens were sprinkled with a dirty powder, like
untidy snuff-takers; by coal-dust paths and many varieties of
ugliness; Stephen got to the top of the hill, and looked back.
Day was shining radiantly upon the town then, and the bells were
going for the morning work. Domestic fires were not yet lighted,
and the high chimneys had the sky to themselves. Puffing out their
poisonous volumes, they would not be long in hiding it; but, for
half an hour, some of the many windows were golden, which showed
the Coketown people a sun eternally in eclipse, through a medium of
So strange to turn from the chimneys to the birds. So strange, to
have the road-dust on his feet instead of the coal-grit. So
strange to have lived to his time of life, and yet to be beginning
like a boy this summer morning! With these musings in his mind,
and his bundle under his arm, Stephen took his attentive face along
the high road. And the trees arched over him, whispering that he
left a true and loving heart behind.
CHAPTER VII - GUNPOWDER
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE, 'going in' for his adopted party, soon began
to score. With the aid of a little more coaching for the political
sages, a little more genteel listlessness for the general society,
and a tolerable management of the assumed honesty in dishonesty,
most effective and most patronized of the polite deadly sins, he
speedily came to be considered of much promise. The not being
troubled with earnestness was a grand point in his favour, enabling
him to take to the hard Fact fellows with as good a grace as if he
had been born one of the tribe, and to throw all other tribes
overboard, as conscious hypocrites.
'Whom none of us believe, my dear Mrs. Bounderby, and who do not
believe themselves. The only difference between us and the
professors of virtue or benevolence, or philanthropy - never mind
the name - is, that we know it is all meaningless, and say so;
while they know it equally and will never say so.'
Why should she be shocked or warned by this reiteration? It was
not so unlike her father's principles, and her early training, that
it need startle her. Where was the great difference between the
two schools, when each chained her down to material realities, and
inspired her with no faith in anything else? What was there in her
soul for James Harthouse to destroy, which Thomas Gradgrind had
nurtured there in its state of innocence!
It was even the worse for her at this pass, that in her mind -
implanted there before her eminently practical father began to form
it - a struggling disposition to believe in a wider and nobler
humanity than she had ever heard of, constantly strove with doubts
and resentments. With doubts, because the aspiration had been so
laid waste in her youth. With resentments, because of the wrong
that had been done her, if it were indeed a whisper of the truth.
Upon a nature long accustomed to self-suppression, thus torn and
divided, the Harthouse philosophy came as a relief and
justification. Everything being hollow and worthless, she had
missed nothing and sacrificed nothing. What did it matter, she had
said to her father, when he proposed her husband. What did it
matter, she said still. With a scornful self-reliance, she asked
herself, What did anything matter - and went on.
Towards what? Step by step, onward and downward, towards some end,
yet so gradually, that she believed herself to remain motionless.
As to Mr. Harthouse, whither he tended, he neither considered nor
cared. He had no particular design or plan before him: no
energetic wickedness ruffled his lassitude. He was as much amused
and interested, at present, as it became so fine a gentleman to be;
perhaps even more than it would have been consistent with his
reputation to confess. Soon after his arrival he languidly wrote
to his brother, the honourable and jocular member, that the
Bounderbys were 'great fun;' and further, that the female
Bounderby, instead of being the Gorgon he had expected, was young,
and remarkably pretty. After that, he wrote no more about them,
and devoted his leisure chiefly to their house. He was very often
in their house, in his flittings and visitings about the Coketown
district; and was much encouraged by Mr. Bounderby. It was quite
in Mr. Bounderby's gusty way to boast to all his world that he
didn't care about your highly connected people, but that if his
wife Tom Gradgrind's daughter did, she was welcome to their
Mr. James Harthouse began to think it would be a new sensation, if
the face which changed so beautifully for the whelp, would change
He was quick enough to observe; he had a good memory, and did not
forget a word of the brother's revelations. He interwove them with
everything he saw of the sister, and he began to understand her.
To be sure, the better and profounder part of her character was not
within his scope of perception; for in natures, as in seas, depth
answers unto depth; but he soon began to read the rest with a
Mr. Bounderby had taken possession of a house and grounds, about
fifteen miles from the town, and accessible within a mile or two,
by a railway striding on many arches over a wild country,
undermined by deserted coal-shafts, and spotted at night by fires
and black shapes of stationary engines at pits' mouths. This
country, gradually softening towards the neighbourhood of Mr.
Bounderby's retreat, there mellowed into a rustic landscape, golden
with heath, and snowy with hawthorn in the spring of the year, and
tremulous with leaves and their shadows all the summer time. The
bank had foreclosed a mortgage effected on the property thus
pleasantly situated, by one of the Coketown magnates, who, in his
determination to make a shorter cut than usual to an enormous
fortune, overspeculated himself by about two hundred thousand
pounds. These accidents did sometimes happen in the best regulated
families of Coketown, but the bankrupts had no connexion whatever
with the improvident classes.
It afforded Mr. Bounderby supreme satisfaction to instal himself in
this snug little estate, and with demonstrative humility to grow
cabbages in the flower-garden. He delighted to live, barrack-
fashion, among the elegant furniture, and he bullied the very
pictures with his origin. 'Why, sir,' he would say to a visitor,
'I am told that Nickits,' the late owner, 'gave seven hundred pound
for that Seabeach. Now, to be plain with you, if I ever, in the
whole course of my life, take seven looks at it, at a hundred pound
a look, it will be as much as I shall do. No, by George! I don't
forget that I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. For years upon
years, the only pictures in my possession, or that I could have got
into my possession, by any means, unless I stole 'em, were the
engravings of a man shaving himself in a boot, on the blacking
bottles that I was overjoyed to use in cleaning boots with, and
that I sold when they were empty for a farthing a-piece, and glad
to get it!'
Then he would address Mr. Harthouse in the same style.
'Harthouse, you have a couple of horses down here. Bring half a
dozen more if you like, and we'll find room for 'em. There's
stabling in this place for a dozen horses; and unless Nickits is
belied, he kept the full number. A round dozen of 'em, sir. When
that man was a boy, he went to Westminster School. Went to
Westminster School as a King's Scholar, when I was principally
living on garbage, and sleeping in market baskets. Why, if I
wanted to keep a dozen horses - which I don't, for one's enough for
me - I couldn't bear to see 'em in their stalls here, and think
what my own lodging used to be. I couldn't look at 'em, sir, and
not order 'em out. Yet so things come round. You see this place;
you know what sort of a place it is; you are aware that there's not
a completer place of its size in this kingdom or elsewhere - I
don't care where - and here, got into the middle of it, like a
maggot into a nut, is Josiah Bounderby. While Nickits (as a man
came into my office, and told me yesterday), Nickits, who used to
act in Latin, in the Westminster School plays, with the chief-
justices and nobility of this country applauding him till they were
black in the face, is drivelling at this minute - drivelling, sir!
- in a fifth floor, up a narrow dark back street in Antwerp.'
It was among the leafy shadows of this retirement, in the long
sultry summer days, that Mr. Harthouse began to prove the face
which had set him wondering when he first saw it, and to try if it
would change for him.
'Mrs. Bounderby, I esteem it a most fortunate accident that I find
you alone here. I have for some time had a particular wish to
speak to you.'
It was not by any wonderful accident that he found her, the time of
day being that at which she was always alone, and the place being
her favourite resort. It was an opening in a dark wood, where some
felled trees lay, and where she would sit watching the fallen
leaves of last year, as she had watched the falling ashes at home.
He sat down beside her, with a glance at her face.
'Your brother. My young friend Tom - '
Her colour brightened, and she turned to him with a look of
interest. 'I never in my life,' he thought, 'saw anything so
remarkable and so captivating as the lighting of those features!'
His face betrayed his thoughts - perhaps without betraying him, for
it might have been according to its instructions so to do.
'Pardon me. The expression of your sisterly interest is so
beautiful - Tom should be so proud of it - I know this is
inexcusable, but I am so compelled to admire.'
'Being so impulsive,' she said composedly.
'Mrs. Bounderby, no: you know I make no pretence with you. You
know I am a sordid piece of human nature, ready to sell myself at
any time for any reasonable sum, and altogether incapable of any
Arcadian proceeding whatever.'
'I am waiting,' she returned, 'for your further reference to my
'You are rigid with me, and I deserve it. I am as worthless a dog
as you will find, except that I am not false - not false. But you
surprised and started me from my subject, which was your brother.
I have an interest in him.'
'Have you an interest in anything, Mr. Harthouse?' she asked, half
incredulously and half gratefully.
'If you had asked me when I first came here, I should have said no.
I must say now - even at the hazard of appearing to make a
pretence, and of justly awakening your incredulity - yes.'
She made a slight movement, as if she were trying to speak, but
could not find voice; at length she said, 'Mr. Harthouse, I give
you credit for being interested in my brother.'
'Thank you. I claim to deserve it. You know how little I do
claim, but I will go that length. You have done so much for him,
you are so fond of him; your whole life, Mrs. Bounderby, expresses
such charming self-forgetfulness on his account - pardon me again -
I am running wide of the subject. I am interested in him for his
She had made the slightest action possible, as if she would have
risen in a hurry and gone away. He had turned the course of what
he said at that instant, and she remained.
'Mrs. Bounderby,' he resumed, in a lighter manner, and yet with a
show of effort in assuming it, which was even more expressive than
the manner he dismissed; 'it is no irrevocable offence in a young
fellow of your brother's years, if he is heedless, inconsiderate,
and expensive - a little dissipated, in the common phrase. Is he?'
'Allow me to be frank. Do you think he games at all?'
'I think he makes bets.' Mr. Harthouse waiting, as if that were
not her whole answer, she added, 'I know he does.'
'Of course he loses?'
'Everybody does lose who bets. May I hint at the probability of
your sometimes supplying him with money for these purposes?'
She sat, looking down; but, at this question, raised her eyes
searchingly and a little resentfully.
'Acquit me of impertinent curiosity, my dear Mrs. Bounderby. I
think Tom may be gradually falling into trouble, and I wish to
stretch out a helping hand to him from the depths of my wicked
experience. - Shall I say again, for his sake? Is that necessary?'
She seemed to try to answer, but nothing came of it.
'Candidly to confess everything that has occurred to me,' said
James Harthouse, again gliding with the same appearance of effort
into his more airy manner; 'I will confide to you my doubt whether
he has had many advantages. Whether - forgive my plainness -
whether any great amount of confidence is likely to have been
established between himself and his most worthy father.'
'I do not,' said Louisa, flushing with her own great remembrance in
that wise, 'think it likely.'
'Or, between himself, and - I may trust to your perfect
understanding of my meaning, I am sure - and his highly esteemed
She flushed deeper and deeper, and was burning red when she replied
in a fainter voice, 'I do not think that likely, either.'
'Mrs. Bounderby,' said Harthouse, after a short silence, 'may there
be a better confidence between yourself and me? Tom has borrowed a
considerable sum of you?'
'You will understand, Mr. Harthouse,' she returned, after some
indecision: she had been more or less uncertain, and troubled
throughout the conversation, and yet had in the main preserved her
self-contained manner; 'you will understand that if I tell you what
you press to know, it is not by way of complaint or regret. I
would never complain of anything, and what I have done I do not in
the least regret.'
'So spirited, too!' thought James Harthouse.
'When I married, I found that my brother was even at that time
heavily in debt. Heavily for him, I mean. Heavily enough to
oblige me to sell some trinkets. They were no sacrifice. I sold
them very willingly. I attached no value to them. They, were
quite worthless to me.'
Either she saw in his face that he knew, or she only feared in her
conscience that he knew, that she spoke of some of her husband's
gifts. She stopped, and reddened again. If he had not known it
before, he would have known it then, though he had been a much
duller man than he was.
'Since then, I have given my brother, at various times, what money
I could spare: in short, what money I have had. Confiding in you
at all, on the faith of the interest you profess for him, I will
not do so by halves. Since you have been in the habit of visiting
here, he has wanted in one sum as much as a hundred pounds. I have
not been able to give it to him. I have felt uneasy for the
consequences of his being so involved, but I have kept these
secrets until now, when I trust them to your honour. I have held
no confidence with any one, because - you anticipated my reason
just now.' She abruptly broke off.
He was a ready man, and he saw, and seized, an opportunity here of
presenting her own image to her, slightly disguised as her brother.
'Mrs. Bounderby, though a graceless person, of the world worldly, I
feel the utmost interest, I assure you, in what you tell me. I
cannot possibly be hard upon your brother. I understand and share
the wise consideration with which you regard his errors. With all
possible respect both for Mr. Gradgrind and for Mr. Bounderby, I
think I perceive that he has not been fortunate in his training.
Bred at a disadvantage towards the society in which he has his part
to play, he rushes into these extremes for himself, from opposite
extremes that have long been forced - with the very best intentions
we have no doubt - upon him. Mr. Bounderby's fine bluff English
independence, though a most charming characteristic, does not - as
we have agreed - invite confidence. If I might venture to remark
that it is the least in the world deficient in that delicacy to
which a youth mistaken, a character misconceived, and abilities
misdirected, would turn for relief and guidance, I should express
what it presents to my own view.'
As she sat looking straight before her, across the changing lights
upon the grass into the darkness of the wood beyond, he saw in her
face her application of his very distinctly uttered words.
'All allowance,' he continued, 'must be made. I have one great
fault to find with Tom, however, which I cannot forgive, and for
which I take him heavily to account.'
Louisa turned her eyes to his face, and asked him what fault was
'Perhaps,' he returned, 'I have said enough. Perhaps it would have
been better, on the whole, if no allusion to it had escaped me.'
'You alarm me, Mr. Harthouse. Pray let me know it.'
'To relieve you from needless apprehension - and as this confidence
regarding your brother, which I prize I am sure above all possible
things, has been established between us - I obey. I cannot forgive
him for not being more sensible in every word, look, and act of his
life, of the affection of his best friend; of the devotion of his
best friend; of her unselfishness; of her sacrifice. The return he
makes her, within my observation, is a very poor one. What she has
done for him demands his constant love and gratitude, not his ill-
humour and caprice. Careless fellow as I am, I am not so
indifferent, Mrs. Bounderby, as to be regardless of this vice in
your brother, or inclined to consider it a venial offence.'
The wood floated before her, for her eyes were suffused with tears.
They rose from a deep well, long concealed, and her heart was
filled with acute pain that found no relief in them.
'In a word, it is to correct your brother in this, Mrs. Bounderby,
that I must aspire. My better knowledge of his circumstances, and
my direction and advice in extricating them - rather valuable, I
hope, as coming from a scapegrace on a much larger scale - will
give me some influence over him, and all I gain I shall certainly
use towards this end. I have said enough, and more than enough. I
seem to be protesting that I am a sort of good fellow, when, upon
my honour, I have not the least intention to make any protestation
to that effect, and openly announce that I am nothing of the sort.
Yonder, among the trees,' he added, having lifted up his eyes and
looked about; for he had watched her closely until now; 'is your
brother himself; no doubt, just come down. As he seems to be
loitering in this direction, it may be as well, perhaps, to walk
towards him, and throw ourselves in his way. He has been very
silent and doleful of late. Perhaps, his brotherly conscience is
touched - if there are such things as consciences. Though, upon my
honour, I hear of them much too often to believe in them.'
He assisted her to rise, and she took his arm, and they advanced to
meet the whelp. He was idly beating the branches as he lounged
along: or he stooped viciously to rip the moss from the trees with
his stick. He was startled when they came upon him while he was
engaged in this latter pastime, and his colour changed.
'Halloa!' he stammered; 'I didn't know you were here.'
'Whose name, Tom,' said Mr. Harthouse, putting his hand upon his
shoulder and turning him, so that they all three walked towards the
house together, 'have you been carving on the trees?'
'Whose name?' returned Tom. 'Oh! You mean what girl's name?'
'You have a suspicious appearance of inscribing some fair
creature's on the bark, Tom.'
'Not much of that, Mr. Harthouse, unless some fair creature with a
slashing fortune at her own disposal would take a fancy to me. Or
she might be as ugly as she was rich, without any fear of losing
me. I'd carve her name as often as she liked.'
'I am afraid you are mercenary, Tom.'
'Mercenary,' repeated Tom. 'Who is not mercenary? Ask my sister.'
'Have you so proved it to be a failing of mine, Tom?' said Louisa,
showing no other sense of his discontent and ill-nature.
'You know whether the cap fits you, Loo,' returned her brother
sulkily. 'If it does, you can wear it.'
'Tom is misanthropical to-day, as all bored people are now and
then,' said Mr. Harthouse. 'Don't believe him, Mrs. Bounderby. He
knows much better. I shall disclose some of his opinions of you,
privately expressed to me, unless he relents a little.'
'At all events, Mr. Harthouse,' said Tom, softening in his
admiration of his patron, but shaking his head sullenly too, 'you
can't tell her that I ever praised her for being mercenary. I may
have praised her for being the contrary, and I should do it again,
if I had as good reason. However, never mind this now; it's not
very interesting to you, and I am sick of the subject.'
They walked on to the house, where Louisa quitted her visitor's arm
and went in. He stood looking after her, as she ascended the
steps, and passed into the shadow of the door; then put his hand
upon her brother's shoulder again, and invited him with a
confidential nod to a walk in the garden.
'Tom, my fine fellow, I want to have a word with you.'
They had stopped among a disorder of roses - it was part of Mr.
Bounderby's humility to keep Nickits's roses on a reduced scale -
and Tom sat down on a terrace-parapet, plucking buds and picking
them to pieces; while his powerful Familiar stood over him, with a
foot upon the parapet, and his figure easily resting on the arm
supported by that knee. They were just visible from her window.
Perhaps she saw them.
'Tom, what's the matter?'
'Oh! Mr. Harthouse,' said Tom with a groan, 'I am hard up, and
bothered out of my life.'
'My good fellow, so am I.'
'You!' returned Tom. 'You are the picture of independence. Mr.
Harthouse, I am in a horrible mess. You have no idea what a state
I have got myself into - what a state my sister might have got me
out of, if she would only have done it.'
He took to biting the rosebuds now, and tearing them away from his
teeth with a hand that trembled like an infirm old man's. After
one exceedingly observant look at him, his companion relapsed into
his lightest air.
'Tom, you are inconsiderate: you expect too much of your sister.
You have had money of her, you dog, you know you have.'
'Well, Mr. Harthouse, I know I have. How else was I to get it?
Here's old Bounderby always boasting that at my age he lived upon
twopence a month, or something of that sort. Here's my father
drawing what he calls a line, and tying me down to it from a baby,
neck and heels. Here's my mother who never has anything of her
own, except her complaints. What is a fellow to do for money, and
where am I to look for it, if not to my sister?'
He was almost crying, and scattered the buds about by dozens. Mr.
Harthouse took him persuasively by the coat.
'But, my dear Tom, if your sister has not got it - '
'Not got it, Mr. Harthouse? I don't say she has got it. I may
have wanted more than she was likely to have got. But then she
ought to get it. She could get it. It's of no use pretending to
make a secret of matters now, after what I have told you already;
you know she didn't marry old Bounderby for her own sake, or for
his sake, but for my sake. Then why doesn't she get what I want,
out of him, for my sake? She is not obliged to say what she is
going to do with it; she is sharp enough; she could manage to coax
it out of him, if she chose. Then why doesn't she choose, when I
tell her of what consequence it is? But no. There she sits in his
company like a stone, instead of making herself agreeable and
getting it easily. I don't know what you may call this, but I call
it unnatural conduct.'
There was a piece of ornamental water immediately below the
parapet, on the other side, into which Mr. James Harthouse had a
very strong inclination to pitch Mr. Thomas Gradgrind junior, as
the injured men of Coketown threatened to pitch their property into
the Atlantic. But he preserved his easy attitude; and nothing more
solid went over the stone balustrades than the accumulated rosebuds
now floating about, a little surface-island.
'My dear Tom,' said Harthouse, 'let me try to be your banker.'
'For God's sake,' replied Tom, suddenly, 'don't talk about
bankers!' And very white he looked, in contrast with the roses.
Mr. Harthouse, as a thoroughly well-bred man, accustomed to the
best society, was not to be surprised - he could as soon have been
affected - but he raised his eyelids a little more, as if they were
lifted by a feeble touch of wonder. Albeit it was as much against
the precepts of his school to wonder, as it was against the
doctrines of the Gradgrind College.
'What is the present need, Tom? Three figures? Out with them.
Say what they are.'
'Mr. Harthouse,' returned Tom, now actually crying; and his tears
were better than his injuries, however pitiful a figure he made:
'it's too late; the money is of no use to me at present. I should
have had it before to be of use to me. But I am very much obliged
to you; you're a true friend.'
A true friend! 'Whelp, whelp!' thought Mr. Harthouse, lazily;
'what an Ass you are!'
'And I take your offer as a great kindness,' said Tom, grasping his
hand. 'As a great kindness, Mr. Harthouse.'
'Well,' returned the other, 'it may be of more use by and by. And,
my good fellow, if you will open your bedevilments to me when they
come thick upon you, I may show you better ways out of them than
you can find for yourself.'
'Thank you,' said Tom, shaking his head dismally, and chewing
rosebuds. 'I wish I had known you sooner, Mr. Harthouse.'
'Now, you see, Tom,' said Mr. Harthouse in conclusion, himself
tossing over a rose or two, as a contribution to the island, which
was always drifting to the wall as if it wanted to become a part of
the mainland: 'every man is selfish in everything he does, and I
am exactly like the rest of my fellow-creatures. I am desperately
intent;' the languor of his desperation being quite tropical; 'on
your softening towards your sister - which you ought to do; and on
your being a more loving and agreeable sort of brother - which you
ought to be.'
'I will be, Mr. Harthouse.'
'No time like the present, Tom. Begin at once.'
'Certainly I will. And my sister Loo shall say so.'
'Having made which bargain, Tom,' said Harthouse, clapping him on
the shoulder again, with an air which left him at liberty to infer
- as he did, poor fool - that this condition was imposed upon him
in mere careless good nature to lessen his sense of obligation, 'we
will tear ourselves asunder until dinner-time.'
When Tom appeared before dinner, though his mind seemed heavy
enough, his body was on the alert; and he appeared before Mr.
Bounderby came in. 'I didn't mean to be cross, Loo,' he said,
giving her his hand, and kissing her. 'I know you are fond of me,
and you know I am fond of you.'
After this, there was a smile upon Louisa's face that day, for some
one else. Alas, for some one else!
'So much the less is the whelp the only creature that she cares
for,' thought James Harthouse, reversing the reflection of his
first day's knowledge of her pretty face. 'So much the less, so
much the less.'
CHAPTER VIII - EXPLOSION
THE next morning was too bright a morning for sleep, and James
Harthouse rose early, and sat in the pleasant bay window of his
dressing-room, smoking the rare tobacco that had had so wholesome
an influence on his young friend. Reposing in the sunlight, with
the fragrance of his eastern pipe about him, and the dreamy smoke
vanishing into the air, so rich and soft with summer odours, he
reckoned up his advantages as an idle winner might count his gains.
He was not at all bored for the time, and could give his mind to
He had established a confidence with her, from which her husband
was excluded. He had established a confidence with her, that
absolutely turned upon her indifference towards her husband, and
the absence, now and at all times, of any congeniality between
them. He had artfully, but plainly, assured her that he knew her
heart in its last most delicate recesses; he had come so near to
her through its tenderest sentiment; he had associated himself with
that feeling; and the barrier behind which she lived, had melted
away. All very odd, and very satisfactory!
And yet he had not, even now, any earnest wickedness of purpose in
him. Publicly and privately, it were much better for the age in
which he lived, that he and the legion of whom he was one were
designedly bad, than indifferent and purposeless. It is the
drifting icebergs setting with any current anywhere, that wreck the
When the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion, he goeth about in a
shape by which few but savages and hunters are attracted. But,
when he is trimmed, smoothed, and varnished, according to the mode;
when he is aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue, used up as to
brimstone, and used up as to bliss; then, whether he take to the
serving out of red tape, or to the kindling of red fire, he is the
So James Harthouse reclined in the window, indolently smoking, and
reckoning up the steps he had taken on the road by which he
happened to be travelling. The end to which it led was before him,
pretty plainly; but he troubled himself with no calculations about
it. What will be, will be.
As he had rather a long ride to take that day - for there was a
public occasion 'to do' at some distance, which afforded a
tolerable opportunity of going in for the Gradgrind men - he
dressed early and went down to breakfast. He was anxious to see if
she had relapsed since the previous evening. No. He resumed where
he had left off. There was a look of interest for him again.
He got through the day as much (or as little) to his own
satisfaction, as was to be expected under the fatiguing
circumstances; and came riding back at six o'clock. There was a
sweep of some half-mile between the lodge and the house, and he was
riding along at a foot pace over the smooth gravel, once Nickits's,
when Mr. Bounderby burst out of the shrubbery, with such violence
as to make his horse shy across the road.
'Harthouse!' cried Mr. Bounderby. 'Have you heard?'
'Heard what?' said Harthouse, soothing his horse, and inwardly
favouring Mr. Bounderby with no good wishes.
'Then you haven't heard!'
'I have heard you, and so has this brute. I have heard nothing
Mr. Bounderby, red and hot, planted himself in the centre of the
path before the horse's head, to explode his bombshell with more
'The Bank's robbed!'
'You don't mean it!'
'Robbed last night, sir. Robbed in an extraordinary manner.
Robbed with a false key.'
Mr. Bounderby, in his desire to make the most of it, really seemed
mortified by being obliged to reply, 'Why, no; not of very much.
But it might have been.'
'Of how much?'
'Oh! as a sum - if you stick to a sum - of not more than a hundred
and fifty pound,' said Bounderby, with impatience. 'But it's not
the sum; it's the fact. It's the fact of the Bank being robbed,
that's the important circumstance. I am surprised you don't see
'My dear Bounderby,' said James, dismounting, and giving his bridle
to his servant, 'I do see it; and am as overcome as you can
possibly desire me to be, by the spectacle afforded to my mental
view. Nevertheless, I may be allowed, I hope, to congratulate you
- which I do with all my soul, I assure you - on your not having
sustained a greater loss.'
'Thank'ee,' replied Bounderby, in a short, ungracious manner. 'But
I tell you what. It might have been twenty thousand pound.'
'I suppose it might.'
'Suppose it might! By the Lord, you may suppose so. By George!'
said Mr. Bounderby, with sundry menacing nods and shakes of his
head. 'It might have been twice twenty. There's no knowing what
it would have been, or wouldn't have been, as it was, but for the
fellows' being disturbed.'
Louisa had come up now, and Mrs. Sparsit, and Bitzer.
'Here's Tom Gradgrind's daughter knows pretty well what it might
have been, if you don't,' blustered Bounderby. 'Dropped, sir, as
if she was shot when I told her! Never knew her do such a thing
before. Does her credit, under the circumstances, in my opinion!'
She still looked faint and pale. James Harthouse begged her to
take his arm; and as they moved on very slowly, asked her how the
robbery had been committed.
'Why, I am going to tell you,' said Bounderby, irritably giving his
arm to Mrs. Sparsit. 'If you hadn't been so mighty particular
about the sum, I should have begun to tell you before. You know
this lady (for she is a lady), Mrs. Sparsit?'
'I have already had the honour - '
'Very well. And this young man, Bitzer, you saw him too on the
same occasion?' Mr. Harthouse inclined his head in assent, and
Bitzer knuckled his forehead.
'Very well. They live at the Bank. You know they live at the
Bank, perhaps? Very well. Yesterday afternoon, at the close of
business hours, everything was put away as usual. In the iron room
that this young fellow sleeps outside of, there was never mind how
much. In the little safe in young Tom's closet, the safe used for
petty purposes, there was a hundred and fifty odd pound.'
'A hundred and fifty-four, seven, one,' said Bitzer.
'Come!' retorted Bounderby, stopping to wheel round upon him,
'let's have none of your interruptions. It's enough to be robbed
while you're snoring because you're too comfortable, without being
put right with your four seven ones. I didn't snore, myself, when
I was your age, let me tell you. I hadn't victuals enough to
snore. And I didn't four seven one. Not if I knew it.'
Bitzer knuckled his forehead again, in a sneaking manner, and
seemed at once particularly impressed and depressed by the instance
last given of Mr. Bounderby's moral abstinence.
'A hundred and fifty odd pound,' resumed Mr. Bounderby. 'That sum
of money, young Tom locked in his safe, not a very strong safe, but
that's no matter now. Everything was left, all right. Some time
in the night, while this young fellow snored - Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am,
you say you have heard him snore?'
'Sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I cannot say that I have heard him
precisely snore, and therefore must not make that statement. But
on winter evenings, when he has fallen asleep at his table, I have
heard him, what I should prefer to describe as partially choke. I
have heard him on such occasions produce sounds of a nature similar
to what may be sometimes heard in Dutch clocks. Not,' said Mrs.
Sparsit, with a lofty sense of giving strict evidence, 'that I
would convey any imputation on his moral character. Far from it.
I have always considered Bitzer a young man of the most upright
principle; and to that I beg to bear my testimony.'
'Well!' said the exasperated Bounderby, 'while he was snoring, or
choking, or Dutch-clocking, or something or other - being asleep -
some fellows, somehow, whether previously concealed in the house or
not remains to be seen, got to young Tom's safe, forced it, and
abstracted the contents. Being then disturbed, they made off;
letting themselves out at the main door, and double-locking it
again (it was double-locked, and the key under Mrs. Sparsit's
pillow) with a false key, which was picked up in the street near
the Bank, about twelve o'clock to-day. No alarm takes place, till
this chap, Bitzer, turns out this morning, and begins to open and
prepare the offices for business. Then, looking at Tom's safe, he
sees the door ajar, and finds the lock forced, and the money gone.'
'Where is Tom, by the by?' asked Harthouse, glancing round.
'He has been helping the police,' said Bounderby, 'and stays behind
at the Bank. I wish these fellows had tried to rob me when I was
at his time of life. They would have been out of pocket if they
had invested eighteenpence in the job; I can tell 'em that.'
'Is anybody suspected?'
'Suspected? I should think there was somebody suspected. Egod!'
said Bounderby, relinquishing Mrs. Sparsit's arm to wipe his heated
head. 'Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is not to be plundered and
nobody suspected. No, thank you!'
Might Mr. Harthouse inquire Who was suspected?
'Well,' said Bounderby, stopping and facing about to confront them
all, 'I'll tell you. It's not to be mentioned everywhere; it's not
to be mentioned anywhere: in order that the scoundrels concerned
(there's a gang of 'em) may be thrown off their guard. So take
this in confidence. Now wait a bit.' Mr. Bounderby wiped his head
again. 'What should you say to;' here he violently exploded: 'to
a Hand being in it?'
'I hope,' said Harthouse, lazily, 'not our friend Blackpot?'
'Say Pool instead of Pot, sir,' returned Bounderby, 'and that's the
Louisa faintly uttered some word of incredulity and surprise.
'O yes! I know!' said Bounderby, immediately catching at the
sound. 'I know! I am used to that. I know all about it. They
are the finest people in the world, these fellows are. They have
got the gift of the gab, they have. They only want to have their
rights explained to them, they do. But I tell you what. Show me a
dissatisfied Hand, and I'll show you a man that's fit for anything
bad, I don't care what it is.'
Another of the popular fictions of Coketown, which some pains had
been taken to disseminate - and which some people really believed.
'But I am acquainted with these chaps,' said Bounderby. 'I can
read 'em off, like books. Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am, I appeal to you.
What warning did I give that fellow, the first time he set foot in
the house, when the express object of his visit was to know how he
could knock Religion over, and floor the Established Church? Mrs.
Sparsit, in point of high connexions, you are on a level with the
aristocracy, - did I say, or did I not say, to that fellow, "you
can't hide the truth from me: you are not the kind of fellow I
like; you'll come to no good"?'
'Assuredly, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'you did, in a highly
impressive manner, give him such an admonition.'
'When he shocked you, ma'am,' said Bounderby; 'when he shocked your
'Yes, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a meek shake of her head,
'he certainly did so. Though I do not mean to say but that my
feelings may be weaker on such points - more foolish if the term is
preferred - than they might have been, if I had always occupied my
Mr. Bounderby stared with a bursting pride at Mr. Harthouse, as
much as to say, 'I am the proprietor of this female, and she's
worth your attention, I think.' Then, resumed his discourse.
'You can recall for yourself, Harthouse, what I said to him when
you saw him. I didn't mince the matter with him. I am never mealy
with 'em. I KNOW 'em. Very well, sir. Three days after that, he
bolted. Went off, nobody knows where: as my mother did in my
infancy - only with this difference, that he is a worse subject
than my mother, if possible. What did he do before he went? What
do you say;' Mr. Bounderby, with his hat in his hand, gave a beat
upon the crown at every little division of his sentences, as if it
were a tambourine; 'to his being seen - night after night -
watching the Bank? - to his lurking about there - after dark? - To
its striking Mrs. Sparsit - that he could be lurking for no good -
To her calling Bitzer's attention to him, and their both taking
notice of him - And to its appearing on inquiry to-day - that he
was also noticed by the neighbours?' Having come to the climax,
Mr. Bounderby, like an oriental dancer, put his tambourine on his
'Suspicious,' said James Harthouse, 'certainly.'
'I think so, sir,' said Bounderby, with a defiant nod. 'I think
so. But there are more of 'em in it. There's an old woman. One
never hears of these things till the mischief's done; all sorts of
defects are found out in the stable door after the horse is stolen;
there's an old woman turns up now. An old woman who seems to have
been flying into town on a broomstick, every now and then. She
watches the place a whole day before this fellow begins, and on the
night when you saw him, she steals away with him and holds a
council with him - I suppose, to make her report on going off duty,
and be damned to her.'
There was such a person in the room that night, and she shrunk from
observation, thought Louisa.
'This is not all of 'em, even as we already know 'em,' said
Bounderby, with many nods of hidden meaning. 'But I have said
enough for the present. You'll have the goodness to keep it quiet,
and mention it to no one. It may take time, but we shall have 'em.
It's policy to give 'em line enough, and there's no objection to
'Of course, they will be punished with the utmost rigour of the
law, as notice-boards observe,' replied James Harthouse, 'and serve
them right. Fellows who go in for Banks must take the
consequences. If there were no consequences, we should all go in
for Banks.' He had gently taken Louisa's parasol from her hand,
and had put it up for her; and she walked under its shade, though
the sun did not shine there.
'For the present, Loo Bounderby,' said her husband, 'here's Mrs.
Sparsit to look after. Mrs. Sparsit's nerves have been acted upon
by this business, and she'll stay here a day or two. So make her
'Thank you very much, sir,' 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 establishment, it was that she was
so excessively regardless of herself and regardful of others, as to
be a nuisance. On being shown her chamber, she was so dreadfully
sensible of its comforts as to suggest the inference that she would
have preferred to pass the night on the mangle in the laundry.
True, the Powlers and the Scadgerses were accustomed to splendour,
'but it is my duty to remember,' Mrs. Sparsit was fond of observing
with a lofty grace: particularly when any of the domestics were
present, 'that what I was, I am no longer. Indeed,' said she, 'if
I could altogether cancel the remembrance that Mr. Sparsit was a
Powler, or that I myself am related to the Scadgers family; or if I
could even revoke the fact, and make myself a person of common
descent and ordinary connexions; I would gladly do so. I should
think it, under existing circumstances, right to do so.' The same
Hermitical state of mind led to her renunciation of made dishes and
wines at dinner, until fairly commanded by Mr. Bounderby to take
them; when she said, 'Indeed you are very good, sir;' and departed
from a resolution of which she had made rather formal and public
announcement, to 'wait for the simple mutton.' She was likewise
deeply apologetic for wanting the salt; and, feeling amiably bound
to bear out Mr. Bounderby to the fullest extent in the testimony he
had borne to her nerves, occasionally sat back in her chair and
silently wept; at which periods a tear of large dimensions, like a
crystal ear-ring, might be observed (or rather, must be, for it
insisted on public notice) sliding down her Roman nose.
But Mrs. Sparsit's greatest point, first and last, was her
determination to pity Mr. Bounderby. There were occasions when in
looking at him she was involuntarily moved to shake her head, as
who would say, 'Alas, poor Yorick!' After allowing herself to be
betrayed into these evidences of emotion, she would force a lambent
brightness, and would be fitfully cheerful, and would say, 'You
have still good spirits, sir, I am thankful to find;' and would
appear to hail it as a blessed dispensation that Mr. Bounderby bore
up as he did. One idiosyncrasy for which she often apologized, she
found it excessively difficult to conquer. She had a curious
propensity to call Mrs. Bounderby 'Miss Gradgrind,' and yielded to
it some three or four score times in the course of the evening.
Her repetition of this mistake covered Mrs. Sparsit with modest
confusion; but indeed, she said, it seemed so natural to say Miss
Gradgrind: whereas, to persuade herself that the young lady whom
she had had the happiness of knowing from a child could be really
and truly Mrs. Bounderby, she found almost impossible. It was a
further singularity of this remarkable case, that the more she
thought about it, the more impossible it appeared; 'the
differences,' she observed, 'being such.'
In the drawing-room after dinner, Mr. Bounderby tried the case of
the robbery, examined the witnesses, made notes of the evidence,
found the suspected persons guilty, and sentenced them to the
extreme punishment of the law. That done, Bitzer was dismissed to
town with instructions to recommend Tom to come home by the mail-
When candles were brought, Mrs. Sparsit murmured, 'Don't be low,
sir. Pray let me see you cheerful, sir, as I used to do.' Mr.
Bounderby, upon whom these consolations had begun to produce the
effect of making him, in a bull-headed blundering way, sentimental,
sighed like some large sea-animal. 'I cannot bear to see you so,
sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Try a hand at backgammon, sir, as you
used to do when I had the honour of living under your roof.' 'I
haven't played backgammon, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'since that
time.' 'No, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, soothingly, 'I am aware that
you have not. I remember that Miss Gradgrind takes no interest in
the game. But I shall be happy, sir, if you will condescend.'
They played near a window, opening on the garden. It was a fine
night: not moonlight, but sultry and fragrant. Louisa and Mr.
Harthouse strolled out into the garden, where their voices could be
heard in the stillness, though not what they said. Mrs. Sparsit,
from her place at the backgammon board, was constantly straining
her eyes to pierce the shadows without. 'What's the matter, ma'am?
' said Mr. Bounderby; 'you don't see a Fire, do you?' 'Oh dear no,
sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I was thinking of the dew.' 'What
have you got to do with the dew, ma'am?' said Mr. Bounderby. 'It's
not myself, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I am fearful of Miss
Gradgrind's taking cold.' 'She never takes cold,' said Mr.
Bounderby. 'Really, sir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. And was affected
with a cough in her throat.
When the time drew near for retiring, Mr. Bounderby took a glass of
water. 'Oh, sir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Not your sherry warm, with
lemon-peel and nutmeg?' 'Why, I have got out of the habit of
taking it now, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby. 'The more's the pity,
sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit; 'you are losing all your good old
habits. Cheer up, sir! If Miss Gradgrind will permit me, I will
offer to make it for you, as I have often done.'
Miss Gradgrind readily permitting Mrs. Sparsit to do anything she
pleased, that considerate lady made the beverage, and handed it to
Mr. Bounderby. 'It will do you good, sir. It will warm your
heart. It is the sort of thing you want, and ought to take, sir.'
And when Mr. Bounderby said, 'Your health, ma'am!' she answered
with great feeling, 'Thank you, sir. The same to you, and
happiness also.' Finally, she wished him good night, with great
pathos; and Mr. Bounderby went to bed, with a maudlin persuasion
that he had been crossed in something tender, though he could not,
for his life, have mentioned what it was.
Long after Louisa had undressed and lain down, she watched and
waited for her brother's coming home. That could hardly be, she
knew, until an hour past midnight; but in the country silence,
which did anything but calm the trouble of her thoughts, time
lagged wearily. At last, when the darkness and stillness had
seemed for hours to thicken one another, she heard the bell at the
gate. She felt as though she would have been glad that it rang on
until daylight; but it ceased, and the circles of its last sound
spread out fainter and wider in the air, and all was dead again.
She waited yet some quarter of an hour, as she judged. Then she
arose, put on a loose robe, and went out of her room in the dark,
and up the staircase to her brother's room. His door being shut,
she softly opened it and spoke to him, approaching his bed with a
She kneeled down beside it, passed her arm over his neck, and drew
his face to hers. She knew that he only feigned to be asleep, but
she said nothing to him.
He started by and by as if he were just then awakened, and asked
who that was, and what was the matter?
'Tom, have you anything to tell me? If ever you loved me in your
life, and have anything concealed from every one besides, tell it
'I don't know what you mean, Loo. You have been dreaming.'
'My dear brother:' she laid her head down on his pillow, and her
hair flowed over him as if she would hide him from every one but
herself: 'is there nothing that you have to tell me? Is there
nothing you can tell me if you will? You can tell me nothing that
will change me. O Tom, tell me the truth!'
'I don't know what you mean, Loo!'
'As you lie here alone, my dear, in the melancholy night, so you
must lie somewhere one night, when even I, if I am living then,
shall have left you. As I am here beside you, barefoot, unclothed,
undistinguishable in darkness, so must I lie through all the night
of my decay, until I am dust. In the name of that time, Tom, tell
me the truth now!'
'What is it you want to know?'
'You may be certain;' in the energy of her love she took him to her
bosom as if he were a child; 'that I will not reproach you. You
may be certain that I will be compassionate and true to you. You
may be certain that I will save you at whatever cost. O Tom, have
you nothing to tell me? Whisper very softly. Say only "yes," and
I shall understand you!'
She turned her ear to his lips, but he remained doggedly silent.
'Not a word, Tom?'
'How can I say Yes, or how can I say No, when I don't know what you
mean? Loo, you are a brave, kind girl, worthy I begin to think of
a better brother than I am. But I have nothing more to say. Go to
bed, go to bed.'
'You are tired,' she whispered presently, more in her usual way.
'Yes, I am quite tired out.'
'You have been so hurried and disturbed to-day. Have any fresh
discoveries been made?'
'Only those you have heard of, from - him.'
'Tom, have you said to any one that we made a visit to those
people, and that we saw those three together?'
'No. Didn't you yourself particularly ask me to keep it quiet when
you asked me to go there with you?'
'Yes. But I did not know then what was going to happen.'
'Nor I neither. How could I?'
He was very quick upon her with this retort.
'Ought I to say, after what has happened,' said his sister,
standing by the bed - she had gradually withdrawn herself and
risen, 'that I made that visit? Should I say so? Must I say so?'
'Good Heavens, Loo,' returned her brother, 'you are not in the
habit of asking my advice. say what you like. If you keep it to
yourself, I shall keep it to 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.