Part 5 out of 7
'There! Stop where you are, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'stop
where you are! Mrs. Bounderby will be very glad to be relieved of
the trouble, I believe.'
'Don't say that, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, almost with severity,
'because that is very unkind to Mrs. Bounderby. And to be unkind
is not to be you, sir.'
'You may set your mind at rest, ma'am. - You can take it very
quietly, can't you, Loo?' said Mr. Bounderby, in a blustering way
to his wife.
'Of course. It is of no moment. Why should it be of any
importance to me?'
'Why should it be of any importance to any one, Mrs. Sparsit,
ma'am?' said Mr. Bounderby, swelling with a sense of slight. 'You
attach too much importance to these things, ma'am. By George,
you'll be corrupted in some of your notions here. You are old-
fashioned, ma'am. You are behind Tom Gradgrind's children's time.'
'What is the matter with you?' asked Louisa, coldly surprised.
'What has given you offence?'
'Offence!' repeated Bounderby. 'Do you suppose if there was any
offence given me, I shouldn't name it, and request to have it
corrected? I am a straightforward man, I believe. I don't go
beating about for side-winds.'
'I suppose no one ever had occasion to think you too diffident, or
too delicate,' Louisa answered him composedly: 'I have never made
that objection to you, either as a child or as a woman. I don't
understand what you would have.'
'Have?' returned Mr. Bounderby. 'Nothing. Otherwise, don't you,
Loo Bounderby, know thoroughly well that I, Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown, would have it?'
She looked at him, as he struck the table and made the teacups
ring, with a proud colour in her face that was a new change, Mr.
Harthouse thought. 'You are incomprehensible this morning,' said
Louisa. 'Pray take no further trouble to explain yourself. I am
not curious to know your meaning. What does it matter?'
Nothing more was said on this theme, and Mr. Harthouse was soon
idly gay on indifferent subjects. But from this day, the Sparsit
action upon Mr. Bounderby threw Louisa and James Harthouse more
together, and strengthened the dangerous alienation from her
husband and confidence against him with another, into which she had
fallen by degrees so fine that she could not retrace them if she
tried. But whether she ever tried or no, lay hidden in her own
Mrs. Sparsit was so much affected on this particular occasion,
that, assisting Mr. Bounderby to his hat after breakfast, and being
then alone with him in the hall, she imprinted a chaste kiss upon
his hand, murmured 'My benefactor!' and retired, overwhelmed with
grief. Yet it is an indubitable fact, within the cognizance of
this history, that five minutes after he had left the house in the
self-same hat, the same descendant of the Scadgerses and connexion
by matrimony of the Powlers, shook her right-hand mitten at his
portrait, made a contemptuous grimace at that work of art, and said
'Serve you right, you Noodle, and I am glad of it.'
Mr. Bounderby had not been long gone, when Bitzer appeared. Bitzer
had come down by train, shrieking and rattling over the long line
of arches that bestrode the wild country of past and present coal-
pits, with an express from Stone Lodge. It was a hasty note to
inform Louisa that Mrs. Gradgrind lay very ill. She had never been
well within her daughter's knowledge; but, she had declined within
the last few days, had continued sinking all through the night, and
was now as nearly dead, as her limited capacity of being in any
state that implied the ghost of an intention to get out of it,
Accompanied by the lightest of porters, fit colourless servitor at
Death's door when Mrs. Gradgrind knocked, Louisa rumbled to
Coketown, over the coal-pits past and present, and was whirled into
its smoky jaws. She dismissed the messenger to his own devices,
and rode away to her old home.
She had seldom been there since her marriage. Her father was
usually sifting and sifting at his parliamentary cinder-heap in
London (without being observed to turn up many precious articles
among the rubbish), and was still hard at it in the national dust-
yard. Her mother had taken it rather as a disturbance than
otherwise, to be visited, as she reclined upon her sofa; young
people, Louisa felt herself all unfit for; Sissy she had never
softened to again, since the night when the stroller's child had
raised her eyes to look at Mr. Bounderby's intended wife. She had
no inducements to go back, and had rarely gone.
Neither, as she approached her old home now, did any of the best
influences of old home descend upon her. The dreams of childhood -
its airy fables; its graceful, beautiful, humane, impossible
adornments of the world beyond: so good to be believed in once, so
good to be remembered when outgrown, for then the least among them
rises to the stature of a great Charity in the heart, suffering
little children to come into the midst of it, and to keep with
their pure hands a garden in the stony ways of this world, wherein
it were better for all the children of Adam that they should
oftener sun themselves, simple and trustful, and not worldly-wise -
what had she to do with these? Remembrances of how she had
journeyed to the little that she knew, by the enchanted roads of
what she and millions of innocent creatures had hoped and imagined;
of how, first coming upon Reason through the tender light of Fancy,
she had seen it a beneficent god, deferring to gods as great as
itself; not a grim Idol, cruel and cold, with its victims bound
hand to foot, and its big dumb shape set up with a sightless stare,
never to be moved by anything but so many calculated tons of
leverage - what had she to do with these? Her remembrances of home
and childhood were remembrances of the drying up of every spring
and fountain in her young heart as it gushed out. The golden
waters were not there. They were flowing for the fertilization of
the land where grapes are gathered from thorns, and figs from
She went, with a heavy, hardened kind of sorrow upon her, into the
house and into her mother's room. Since the time of her leaving
home, Sissy had lived with the rest of the family on equal terms.
Sissy was at her mother's side; and Jane, her sister, now ten or
twelve years old, was in the room.
There was great trouble before it could be made known to Mrs.
Gradgrind that her eldest child was there. She reclined, propped
up, from mere habit, on a couch: as nearly in her old usual
attitude, as anything so helpless could be kept in. She had
positively refused to take to her bed; on the ground that if she
did, she would never hear the last of it.
Her feeble voice sounded so far away in her bundle of shawls, and
the sound of another voice addressing her seemed to take such a
long time in getting down to her ears, that she might have been
lying at the bottom of a well. The poor lady was nearer Truth than
she ever had been: which had much to do with it.
On being told that Mrs. Bounderby was there, she replied, at cross-
purposes, that she had never called him by that name since he
married Louisa; that pending her choice of an objectionable name,
she had called him J; and that she could not at present depart from
that regulation, not being yet provided with a permanent
substitute. Louisa had sat by her for some minutes, and had spoken
to her often, before she arrived at a clear understanding who it
was. She then seemed to come to it all at once.
'Well, my dear,' said Mrs. Gradgrind, 'and I hope you are going on
satisfactorily to yourself. It was all your father's doing. He
set his heart upon it. And he ought to know.'
'I want to hear of you, mother; not of myself.'
'You want to hear of me, my dear? That's something new, I am sure,
when anybody wants to hear of me. Not at all well, Louisa. Very
faint and giddy.'
'Are you in pain, dear mother?'
'I think there's a pain somewhere in the room,' said Mrs.
Gradgrind, 'but I couldn't positively say that I have got it.'
After this strange speech, she lay silent for some time. Louisa,
holding her hand, could feel no pulse; but kissing it, could see a
slight thin thread of life in fluttering motion.
'You very seldom see your sister,' said Mrs. Gradgrind. 'She grows
like you. I wish you would look at her. Sissy, bring her here.'
She was brought, and stood with her hand in her sister's. Louisa
had observed her with her arm round Sissy's neck, and she felt the
difference of this approach.
'Do you see the likeness, Louisa?'
'Yes, mother. I should think her like me. But - '
'Eh! Yes, I always say so,' Mrs. Gradgrind cried, with unexpected
quickness. 'And that reminds me. I - I want to speak to you, my
dear. Sissy, my good girl, leave us alone a minute.' Louisa had
relinquished the hand: had thought that her sister's was a better
and brighter face than hers had ever been: had seen in it, not
without a rising feeling of resentment, even in that place and at
that time, something of the gentleness of the other face in the
room; the sweet face with the trusting eyes, made paler than
watching and sympathy made it, by the rich dark hair.
Left alone with her mother, Louisa saw her lying with an awful lull
upon her face, like one who was floating away upon some great
water, all resistance over, content to be carried down the stream.
She put the shadow of a hand to her lips again, and recalled her.
'You were going to speak to me, mother.'
'Eh? Yes, to be sure, my dear. You know your father is almost
always away now, and therefore I must write to him about it.'
'About what, mother? Don't be troubled. About what?'
'You must remember, my dear, that whenever I have said anything, on
any subject, I have never heard the last of it: and consequently,
that I have long left off saying anything.'
'I can hear you, mother.' But, it was only by dint of bending down
to her ear, and at the same time attentively watching the lips as
they moved, that she could link such faint and broken sounds into
any chain of connexion.
'You learnt a great deal, Louisa, and so did your brother. Ologies
of all kinds from morning to night. If there is any Ology left, of
any description, that has not been worn to rags in this house, all
I can say is, I hope I shall never hear its name.'
'I can hear you, mother, when you have strength to go on.' This,
to keep her from floating away.
'But there is something - not an Ology at all - that your father
has missed, or forgotten, Louisa. I don't know what it is. I have
often sat with Sissy near me, and thought about it. I shall never
get its name now. But your father may. It makes me restless. I
want to write to him, to find out for God's sake, what it is. Give
me a pen, give me a pen.'
Even the power of restlessness was gone, except from the poor head,
which could just turn from side to side.
She fancied, however, that her request had been complied with, and
that the pen she could not have held was in her hand. It matters
little what figures of wonderful no-meaning she began to trace upon
her wrappers. The hand soon stopped in the midst of them; the
light that had always been feeble and dim behind the weak
transparency, went out; and even Mrs. Gradgrind, emerged from the
shadow in which man walketh and disquieteth himself in vain, took
upon her the dread solemnity of the sages and patriarchs.
CHAPTER X - MRS. SPARSIT'S STAIRCASE
MRS. SPARSIT'S nerves being slow to recover their tone, the worthy
woman made a stay of some weeks in duration at Mr. Bounderby's
retreat, where, notwithstanding her anchorite turn of mind based
upon her becoming consciousness of her altered station, she
resigned herself with noble fortitude to lodging, as one may say,
in clover, and feeding on the fat of the land. During the whole
term of this recess from the guardianship of the Bank, Mrs. Sparsit
was a pattern of consistency; continuing to take such pity on Mr.
Bounderby to his face, as is rarely taken on man, and to call his
portrait a Noodle to its face, with the greatest acrimony and
Mr. Bounderby, having got it into his explosive composition that
Mrs. Sparsit was a highly superior woman to perceive that he had
that general cross upon him in his deserts (for he had not yet
settled what it was), and further that Louisa would have objected
to her as a frequent visitor if it had comported with his greatness
that she should object to anything he chose to do, resolved not to
lose sight of Mrs. Sparsit easily. So when her nerves were strung
up to the pitch of again consuming sweetbreads in solitude, he said
to her at the dinner-table, on the day before her departure, 'I
tell you what, ma'am; you shall come down here of a Saturday, while
the fine weather lasts, and stay till Monday.' To which Mrs.
Sparsit returned, in effect, though not of the Mahomedan
persuasion: 'To hear is to obey.'
Now, Mrs. Sparsit was not a poetical woman; but she took an idea in
the nature of an allegorical fancy, into her head. Much watching
of Louisa, and much consequent observation of her impenetrable
demeanour, which keenly whetted and sharpened Mrs. Sparsit's edge,
must have given her as it were a lift, in the way of inspiration.
She erected in her mind a mighty Staircase, with a dark pit of
shame and ruin at the bottom; and down those stairs, from day to
day and hour to hour, she saw Louisa coming.
It became the business of Mrs. Sparsit's life, to look up at her
staircase, and to watch Louisa coming down. Sometimes slowly,
sometimes quickly, sometimes several steps at one bout, sometimes
stopping, never turning back. If she had once turned back, it
might have been the death of Mrs. Sparsit in spleen and grief.
She had been descending steadily, to the day, and on the day, when
Mr. Bounderby issued the weekly invitation recorded above. Mrs.
Sparsit was in good spirits, and inclined to be conversational.
'And pray, sir,' said she, 'if I may venture to ask a question
appertaining to any subject on which you show reserve - which is
indeed hardy in me, for I well know you have a reason for
everything you do - have you received intelligence respecting the
'Why, ma'am, no; not yet. Under the circumstances, I didn't expect
it yet. Rome wasn't built in a day, ma'am.'
'Very true, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her head.
'Nor yet in a week, ma'am.'
'No, indeed, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a gentle melancholy
'In a similar manner, ma'am,' said Bounderby, 'I can wait, you
know. If Romulus and Remus could wait, Josiah Bounderby can wait.
They were better off in their youth than I was, however. They had
a she-wolf for a nurse; I had only a she-wolf for a grandmother.
She didn't give any milk, ma'am; she gave bruises. She was a
regular Alderney at that.'
'Ah!' Mrs. Sparsit sighed and shuddered.
'No, ma'am,' continued Bounderby, 'I have not heard anything more
about it. It's in hand, though; and young Tom, who rather sticks
to business at present - something new for him; he hadn't the
schooling I had - is helping. My injunction is, Keep it quiet, and
let it seem to blow over. Do what you like under the rose, but
don't give a sign of what you're about; or half a hundred of 'em
will combine together and get this fellow who has bolted, out of
reach for good. Keep it quiet, and the thieves will grow in
confidence by little and little, and we shall have 'em.'
'Very sagacious indeed, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Very
interesting. The old woman you mentioned, sir - '
'The old woman I mentioned, ma'am,' said Bounderby, cutting the
matter short, as it was nothing to boast about, 'is not laid hold
of; but, she may take her oath she will be, if that is any
satisfaction to her villainous old mind. In the mean time, ma'am,
I am of opinion, if you ask me my opinion, that the less she is
talked about, the better.'
The same evening, Mrs. Sparsit, in her chamber window, resting from
her packing operations, looked towards her great staircase and saw
Louisa still descending.
She sat by Mr. Harthouse, in an alcove in the garden, talking very
low; he stood leaning over her, as they whispered together, and his
face almost touched her hair. 'If not quite!' said Mrs. Sparsit,
straining her hawk's eyes to the utmost. Mrs. Sparsit was too
distant to hear a word of their discourse, or even to know that
they were speaking softly, otherwise than from the expression of
their figures; but what they said was this:
'You recollect the man, Mr. Harthouse?'
'His face, and his manner, and what he said?'
'Perfectly. And an infinitely dreary person he appeared to me to
be. Lengthy and prosy in the extreme. It was knowing to hold
forth, in the humble-virtue school of eloquence; but, I assure you
I thought at the time, "My good fellow, you are over-doing this!"'
'It has been very difficult to me to think ill of that man.'
'My dear Louisa - as Tom says.' Which he never did say. 'You know
no good of the fellow?'
'Nor of any other such person?'
'How can I,' she returned, with more of her first manner on her
than he had lately seen, 'when I know nothing of them, men or
'My dear Louisa, then consent to receive the submissive
representation of your devoted friend, who knows something of
several varieties of his excellent fellow-creatures - for excellent
they are, I am quite ready to believe, in spite of such little
foibles as always helping themselves to what they can get hold of.
This fellow talks. Well; every fellow talks. He professes
morality. Well; all sorts of humbugs profess morality. From the
House of Commons to the House of Correction, there is a general
profession of morality, except among our people; it really is that
exception which makes our people quite reviving. You saw and heard
the case. Here was one of the fluffy classes pulled up extremely
short by my esteemed friend Mr. Bounderby - who, as we know, is not
possessed of that delicacy which would soften so tight a hand. The
member of the fluffy classes was injured, exasperated, left the
house grumbling, met somebody who proposed to him to go in for some
share in this Bank business, went in, put something in his pocket
which had nothing in it before, and relieved his mind extremely.
Really he would have been an uncommon, instead of a common, fellow,
if he had not availed himself of such an opportunity. Or he may
have originated it altogether, if he had the cleverness.'
'I almost feel as though it must be bad in me,' returned Louisa,
after sitting thoughtful awhile, 'to be so ready to agree with you,
and to be so lightened in my heart by what you say.'
'I only say what is reasonable; nothing worse. I have talked it
over with my friend Tom more than once - of course I remain on
terms of perfect confidence with Tom - and he is quite of my
opinion, and I am quite of his. Will you walk?'
They strolled away, among the lanes beginning to be indistinct in
the twilight - she leaning on his arm - and she little thought how
she was going down, down, down, Mrs. Sparsit's staircase.
Night and day, Mrs. Sparsit kept it standing. When Louisa had
arrived at the bottom and disappeared in the gulf, it might fall in
upon her if it would; but, until then, there it was to be, a
Building, before Mrs. Sparsit's eyes. And there Louisa always was,
And always gliding down, down, down!
Mrs. Sparsit saw James Harthouse come and go; she heard of him here
and there; she saw the changes of the face he had studied; she,
too, remarked to a nicety how and when it clouded, how and when it
cleared; she kept her black eyes wide open, with no touch of pity,
with no touch of compunction, all absorbed in interest. In the
interest of seeing her, ever drawing, with no hand to stay her,
nearer and nearer to the bottom of this new Giant's Staircase.
With all her deference for Mr. Bounderby as contradistinguished
from his portrait, Mrs. Sparsit had not the smallest intention of
interrupting the descent. Eager to see it accomplished, and yet
patient, she waited for the last fall, as for the ripeness and
fulness of the harvest of her hopes. Hushed in expectancy, she
kept her wary gaze upon the stairs; and seldom so much as darkly
shook her right mitten (with her fist in it), at the figure coming
CHAPTER XI - LOWER AND LOWER
THE figure descended the great stairs, steadily, steadily; always
verging, like a weight in deep water, to the black gulf at the
Mr. Gradgrind, apprised of his wife's decease, made an expedition
from London, and buried her in a business-like manner. He then
returned with promptitude to the national cinder-heap, and resumed
his sifting for the odds and ends he wanted, and his throwing of
the dust about into the eyes of other people who wanted other odds
and ends - in fact resumed his parliamentary duties.
In the meantime, Mrs. Sparsit kept unwinking watch and ward.
Separated from her staircase, all the week, by the length of iron
road dividing Coketown from the country house, she yet maintained
her cat-like observation of Louisa, through her husband, through
her brother, through James Harthouse, through the outsides of
letters and packets, through everything animate and inanimate that
at any time went near the stairs. 'Your foot on the last step, my
lady,' said Mrs. Sparsit, apostrophizing the descending figure,
with the aid of her threatening mitten, 'and all your art shall
never blind me.'
Art or nature though, the original stock of Louisa's character or
the graft of circumstances upon it, - her curious reserve did
baffle, while it stimulated, one as sagacious as Mrs. Sparsit.
There were times when Mr. James Harthouse was not sure of her.
There were times when he could not read the face he had studied so
long; and when this lonely girl was a greater mystery to him, than
any woman of the world with a ring of satellites to help her.
So the time went on; until it happened that Mr. Bounderby was
called away from home by business which required his presence
elsewhere, for three or four days. It was on a Friday that he
intimated this to Mrs. Sparsit at the Bank, adding: 'But you'll go
down to-morrow, ma'am, all the same. You'll go down just as if I
was there. It will make no difference to you.'
'Pray, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, reproachfully, 'let me beg you
not to say that. Your absence will make a vast difference to me,
sir, as I think you very well know.'
'Well, ma'am, then you must get on in my absence as well as you
can,' said Mr. Bounderby, not displeased.
'Mr. Bounderby,' retorted Mrs. Sparsit, 'your will is to me a law,
sir; otherwise, it might be my inclination to dispute your kind
commands, not feeling sure that it will be quite so agreeable to
Miss Gradgrind to receive me, as it ever is to your own munificent
hospitality. But you shall say no more, sir. I will go, upon your
'Why, when I invite you to my house, ma'am,' said Bounderby,
opening his eyes, 'I should hope you want no other invitation.'
'No, indeed, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I should hope not. Say
no more, sir. I would, sir, I could see you gay again.'
'What do you mean, ma'am?' blustered Bounderby.
'Sir,' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, 'there was wont to be an elasticity
in you which I sadly miss. Be buoyant, sir!'
Mr. Bounderby, under the influence of this difficult adjuration,
backed up by her compassionate eye, could only scratch his head in
a feeble and ridiculous manner, and afterwards assert himself at a
distance, by being heard to bully the small fry of business all the
'Bitzer,' said Mrs. Sparsit that afternoon, when her patron was
gone on his journey, and the Bank was closing, 'present my
compliments to young Mr. Thomas, and ask him if he would step up
and partake of a lamb chop and walnut ketchup, with a glass of
India ale?' Young Mr. Thomas being usually ready for anything in
that way, returned a gracious answer, and followed on its heels.
'Mr. Thomas,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'these plain viands being on
table, I thought you might be tempted.'
'Thank'ee, Mrs. Sparsit,' said the whelp. And gloomily fell to.
'How is Mr. Harthouse, Mr. Tom?' asked Mrs. Sparsit.
'Oh, he's all right,' said Tom.
'Where may he be at present?' Mrs. Sparsit asked in a light
conversational manner, after mentally devoting the whelp to the
Furies for being so uncommunicative.
'He is shooting in Yorkshire,' said Tom. 'Sent Loo a basket half
as big as a church, yesterday.'
'The kind of gentleman, now,' said Mrs. Sparsit, sweetly, 'whom one
might wager to be a good shot!'
'Crack,' said Tom.
He had long been a down-looking young fellow, but this
characteristic had so increased of late, that he never raised his
eyes to any face for three seconds together. Mrs. Sparsit
consequently had ample means of watching his looks, if she were so
'Mr. Harthouse is a great favourite of mine,' said Mrs. Sparsit,
'as indeed he is of most people. May we expect to see him again
shortly, Mr. Tom?'
'Why, I expect to see him to-morrow,' returned the whelp.
'Good news!' cried Mrs. Sparsit, blandly.
'I have got an appointment with him to meet him in the evening at
the station here,' said Tom, 'and I am going to dine with him
afterwards, I believe. He is not coming down to the country house
for a week or so, being due somewhere else. At least, he says so;
but I shouldn't wonder if he was to stop here over Sunday, and
stray that way.'
'Which reminds me!' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Would you remember a
message to your sister, Mr. Tom, if I was to charge you with one?'
'Well? I'll try,' returned the reluctant whelp, 'if it isn't a
'It is merely my respectful compliments,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'and I
fear I may not trouble her with my society this week; being still a
little nervous, and better perhaps by my poor self.'
'Oh! If that's all,' observed Tom, 'it wouldn't much matter, even
if I was to forget it, for Loo's not likely to think of you unless
she sees you.'
Having paid for his entertainment with this agreeable compliment,
he relapsed into a hangdog silence until there was no more India
ale left, when he said, 'Well, Mrs. Sparsit, I must be off!' and
Next day, Saturday, Mrs. Sparsit sat at her window all day long
looking at the customers coming in and out, watching the postmen,
keeping an eye on the general traffic of the street, revolving many
things in her mind, but, above all, keeping her attention on her
staircase. The evening come, she put on her bonnet and shawl, and
went quietly out: having her reasons for hovering in a furtive way
about the station by which a passenger would arrive from Yorkshire,
and for preferring to peep into it round pillars and corners, and
out of ladies' waiting-room windows, to appearing in its precincts
Tom was in attendance, and loitered about until the expected train
came in. It brought no Mr. Harthouse. Tom waited until the crowd
had dispersed, and the bustle was over; and then referred to a
posted list of trains, and took counsel with porters. That done,
he strolled away idly, stopping in the street and looking up it and
down it, and lifting his hat off and putting it on again, and
yawning and stretching himself, and exhibiting all the symptoms of
mortal weariness to be expected in one who had still to wait until
the next train should come in, an hour and forty minutes hence.
'This is a device to keep him out of the way,' said Mrs. Sparsit,
starting from the dull office window whence she had watched him
last. 'Harthouse is with his sister now!'
It was the conception of an inspired moment, and she shot off with
her utmost swiftness to work it out. The station for the country
house was at the opposite end of the town, the time was short, the
road not easy; but she was so quick in pouncing on a disengaged
coach, so quick in darting out of it, producing her money, seizing
her ticket, and diving into the train, that she was borne along the
arches spanning the land of coal-pits past and present, as if she
had been caught up in a cloud and whirled away.
All the journey, immovable in the air though never left behind;
plain to the dark eyes of her mind, as the electric wires which
ruled a colossal strip of music-paper out of the evening sky, were
plain to the dark eyes of her body; Mrs. Sparsit saw her staircase,
with the figure coming down. Very near the bottom now. Upon the
brink of the abyss.
An overcast September evening, just at nightfall, saw beneath its
drooping eyelids Mrs. Sparsit glide out of her carriage, pass down
the wooden steps of the little station into a stony road, cross it
into a green lane, and become hidden in a summer-growth of leaves
and branches. One or two late birds sleepily chirping in their
nests, and a bat heavily crossing and recrossing her, and the reek
of her own tread in the thick dust that felt like velvet, were all
Mrs. Sparsit heard or saw until she very softly closed a gate.
She went up to the house, keeping within the shrubbery, and went
round it, peeping between the leaves at the lower windows. Most of
them were open, as they usually were in such warm weather, but
there were no lights yet, and all was silent. She tried the garden
with no better effect. She thought of the wood, and stole towards
it, heedless of long grass and briers: of worms, snails, and
slugs, and all the creeping things that be. With her dark eyes and
her hook nose warily in advance of her, Mrs. Sparsit softly crushed
her way through the thick undergrowth, so intent upon her object
that she probably would have done no less, if the wood had been a
wood of adders.
The smaller birds might have tumbled out of their nests, fascinated
by the glittering of Mrs. Sparsit's eyes in the gloom, as she
stopped and listened.
Low voices close at hand. His voice and hers. The appointment was
a device to keep the brother away! There they were yonder, by the
Bending low among the dewy grass, Mrs. Sparsit advanced closer to
them. She drew herself up, and stood behind a tree, like Robinson
Crusoe in his ambuscade against the savages; so near to them that
at a spring, and that no great one, she could have touched them
both. He was there secretly, and had not shown himself at the
house. He had come on horseback, and must have passed through the
neighbouring fields; for his horse was tied to the meadow side of
the fence, within a few paces.
'My dearest love,' said he, 'what could I do? Knowing you were
alone, was it possible that I could stay away?'
'You may hang your head, to make yourself the more attractive; I
don't know what they see in you when you hold it up,' thought Mrs.
Sparsit; 'but you little think, my dearest love, whose eyes are on
That she hung her head, was certain. She urged him to go away, she
commanded him to go away; but she neither turned her face to him,
nor raised it. Yet it was remarkable that she sat as still as ever
the amiable woman in ambuscade had seen her sit, at any period in
her life. Her hands rested in one another, like the hands of a
statue; and even her manner of speaking was not hurried.
'My dear child,' said Harthouse; Mrs. Sparsit saw with delight that
his arm embraced her; 'will you not bear with my society for a
'But we have so little time to make so much of, and I have come so
far, and am altogether so devoted, and distracted. There never was
a slave at once so devoted and ill-used by his mistress. To look
for your sunny welcome that has warmed me into life, and to be
received in your frozen manner, is heart-rending.'
'Am I to say again, that I must be left to myself here?'
'But we must meet, my dear Louisa. Where shall we meet?'
They both started. The listener started, guiltily, too; for she
thought there was another listener among the trees. It was only
rain, beginning to fall fast, in heavy drops.
'Shall I ride up to the house a few minutes hence, innocently
supposing that its master is at home and will be charmed to receive
'Your cruel commands are implicitly to be obeyed; though I am the
most unfortunate fellow in the world, I believe, to have been
insensible to all other women, and to have fallen prostrate at last
under the foot of the most beautiful, and the most engaging, and
the most imperious. My dearest Louisa, I cannot go myself, or let
you go, in this hard abuse of your power.'
Mrs. Sparsit saw him detain her with his encircling arm, and heard
him then and there, within her (Mrs. Sparsit's) greedy hearing,
tell her how he loved her, and how she was the stake for which he
ardently desired to play away all that he had in life. The objects
he had lately pursued, turned worthless beside her; such success as
was almost in his grasp, he flung away from him like the dirt it
was, compared with her. Its pursuit, nevertheless, if it kept him
near her, or its renunciation if it took him from her, or flight if
she shared it, or secrecy if she commanded it, or any fate, or
every fate, all was alike to him, so that she was true to him, -
the man who had seen how cast away she was, whom she had inspired
at their first meeting with an admiration, an interest, of which he
had thought himself incapable, whom she had received into her
confidence, who was devoted to her and adored her. All this, and
more, in his hurry, and in hers, in the whirl of her own gratified
malice, in the dread of being discovered, in the rapidly increasing
noise of heavy rain among the leaves, and a thunderstorm rolling up
- Mrs. Sparsit received into her mind, set off with such an
unavoidable halo of confusion and indistinctness, that when at
length he climbed the fence and led his horse away, she was not
sure where they were to meet, or when, except that they had said it
was to be that night.
But one of them yet remained in the darkness before her; and while
she tracked that one she must be right. 'Oh, my dearest love,'
thought Mrs. Sparsit, 'you little think how well attended you are!'
Mrs. Sparsit saw her out of the wood, and saw her enter the house.
What to do next? It rained now, in a sheet of water. Mrs.
Sparsit's white stockings were of many colours, green
predominating; prickly things were in her shoes; caterpillars slung
themselves, in hammocks of their own making, from various parts of
her dress; rills ran from her bonnet, and her Roman nose. In such
condition, Mrs. Sparsit stood hidden in the density of the
shrubbery, considering what next?
Lo, Louisa coming out of the house! Hastily cloaked and muffled,
and stealing away. She elopes! She falls from the lowermost
stair, and is swallowed up in the gulf.
Indifferent to the rain, and moving with a quick determined step,
she struck into a side-path parallel with the ride. Mrs. Sparsit
followed in the shadow of the trees, at but a short distance; for
it was not easy to keep a figure in view going quickly through the
When she stopped to close the side-gate without noise, Mrs. Sparsit
stopped. When she went on, Mrs. Sparsit went on. She went by the
way Mrs. Sparsit had come, emerged from the green lane, crossed the
stony road, and ascended the wooden steps to the railroad. A train
for Coketown would come through presently, Mrs. Sparsit knew; so
she understood Coketown to be her first place of destination.
In Mrs. Sparsit's limp and streaming state, no extensive
precautions were necessary to change her usual appearance; but, she
stopped under the lee of the station wall, tumbled her shawl into a
new shape, and put it on over her bonnet. So disguised she had no
fear of being recognized when she followed up the railroad steps,
and paid her money in the small office. Louisa sat waiting in a
corner. Mrs. Sparsit sat waiting in another corner. Both listened
to the thunder, which was loud, and to the rain, as it washed off
the roof, and pattered on the parapets of the arches. Two or three
lamps were rained out and blown out; so, both saw the lightning to
advantage as it quivered and zigzagged on the iron tracks.
The seizure of the station with a fit of trembling, gradually
deepening to a complaint of the heart, announced the train. Fire
and steam, and smoke, and red light; a hiss, a crash, a bell, and a
shriek; Louisa put into one carriage, Mrs. Sparsit put into
another: the little station a desert speck in the thunderstorm.
Though her teeth chattered in her head from wet and cold, Mrs.
Sparsit exulted hugely. The figure had plunged down the precipice,
and she felt herself, as it were, attending on the body. Could
she, who had been so active in the getting up of the funeral
triumph, do less than exult? 'She will be at Coketown long before
him,' thought Mrs. Sparsit, 'though his horse is never so good.
Where will she wait for him? And where will they go together?
Patience. We shall see.'
The tremendous rain occasioned infinite confusion, when the train
stopped at its destination. Gutters and pipes had burst, drains
had overflowed, and streets were under water. In the first instant
of alighting, Mrs. Sparsit turned her distracted eyes towards the
waiting coaches, which were in great request. 'She will get into
one,' she considered, 'and will be away before I can follow in
another. At all risks of being run over, I must see the number,
and hear the order given to the coachman.'
But, Mrs. Sparsit was wrong in her calculation. Louisa got into no
coach, and was already gone. The black eyes kept upon the
railroad-carriage in which she had travelled, settled upon it a
moment too late. The door not being opened after several minutes,
Mrs. Sparsit passed it and repassed it, saw nothing, looked in, and
found it empty. Wet through and through: with her feet squelching
and squashing in her shoes whenever she moved; with a rash of rain
upon her classical visage; with a bonnet like an over-ripe fig;
with all her clothes spoiled; with damp impressions of every
button, string, and hook-and-eye she wore, printed off upon her
highly connected back; with a stagnant verdure on her general
exterior, such as accumulates on an old park fence in a mouldy
lane; Mrs. Sparsit had no resource but to burst into tears of
bitterness and say, 'I have lost her!'
CHAPTER XII - DOWN
THE national dustmen, after entertaining one another with a great
many noisy little fights among themselves, had dispersed for the
present, and Mr. Gradgrind was at home for the vacation.
He sat writing in the room with the deadly statistical clock,
proving something no doubt - probably, in the main, that the Good
Samaritan was a Bad Economist. The noise of the rain did not
disturb him much; but it attracted his attention sufficiently to
make him raise his head sometimes, as if he were rather
remonstrating with the elements. When it thundered very loudly, he
glanced towards Coketown, having it in his mind that some of the
tall chimneys might be struck by lightning.
The thunder was rolling into distance, and the rain was pouring
down like a deluge, when the door of his room opened. He looked
round the lamp upon his table, and saw, with amazement, his eldest
'Father, I want to speak to you.'
'What is the matter? How strange you look! And good Heaven,' said
Mr. Gradgrind, wondering more and more, 'have you come here exposed
to this storm?'
She put her hands to her dress, as if she hardly knew. 'Yes.'
Then she uncovered her head, and letting her cloak and hood fall
where they might, stood looking at him: so colourless, so
dishevelled, so defiant and despairing, that he was afraid of her.
'What is it? I conjure you, Louisa, tell me what is the matter.'
She dropped into a chair before him, and put her cold hand on his
'Father, you have trained me from my cradle?'
'I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny.'
He looked at her in doubt and dread, vacantly repeating: 'Curse
the hour? Curse the hour?'
'How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable
things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are
the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What
have you done, O father, what have you done, with the garden that
should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!'
She struck herself with both her hands upon her bosom.
'If it had ever been here, its ashes alone would save me from the
void in which my whole life sinks. I did not mean to say this;
but, father, you remember the last time we conversed in this room?'
He had been so wholly unprepared for what he heard now, that it was
with difficulty he answered, 'Yes, Louisa.'
'What has risen to my lips now, would have risen to my lips then,
if you had given me a moment's help. I don't reproach you, father.
What you have never nurtured in me, you have never nurtured in
yourself; but O! if you had only done so long ago, or if you had
only neglected me, what a much better and much happier creature I
should have been this day!'
On hearing this, after all his care, he bowed his head upon his
hand and groaned aloud.
'Father, if you had known, when we were last together here, what
even I feared while I strove against it - as it has been my task
from infancy to strive against every natural prompting that has
arisen in my heart; if you had known that there lingered in my
breast, sensibilities, affections, weaknesses capable of being
cherished into strength, defying all the calculations ever made by
man, and no more known to his arithmetic than his Creator is, -
would you have given me to the husband whom I am now sure that I
He said, 'No. No, my poor child.'
'Would you have doomed me, at any time, to the frost and blight
that have hardened and spoiled me? Would you have robbed me - for
no one's enrichment - only for the greater desolation of this world
- of the immaterial part of my life, the spring and summer of my
belief, my refuge from what is sordid and bad in the real things
around me, my school in which I should have learned to be more
humble and more trusting with them, and to hope in my little sphere
to make them better?'
'O no, no. No, Louisa.'
'Yet, father, if I had been stone blind; if I had groped my way by
my sense of touch, and had been free, while I knew the shapes and
surfaces of things, to exercise my fancy somewhat, in regard to
them; I should have been a million times wiser, happier, more
loving, more contented, more innocent and human in all good
respects, than I am with the eyes I have. Now, hear what I have
come to say.'
He moved, to support her with his arm. She rising as he did so,
they stood close together: she, with a hand upon his shoulder,
looking fixedly in his face.
'With a hunger and thirst upon me, father, which have never been
for a moment appeased; with an ardent impulse towards some region
where rules, and figures, and definitions were not quite absolute;
I have grown up, battling every inch of my way.'
'I never knew you were unhappy, my child.'
'Father, I always knew it. In this strife I have almost repulsed
and crushed my better angel into a demon. What I have learned has
left me doubting, misbelieving, despising, regretting, what I have
not learned; and my dismal resource has been to think that life
would soon go by, and that nothing in it could be worth the pain
and trouble of a contest.'
'And you so young, Louisa!' he said with pity.
'And I so young. In this condition, father - for I show you now,
without fear or favour, the ordinary deadened state of my mind as I
know it - you proposed my husband to me. I took him. I never made
a pretence to him or you that I loved him. I knew, and, father,
you knew, and he knew, that I never did. I was not wholly
indifferent, for I had a hope of being pleasant and useful to Tom.
I made that wild escape into something visionary, and have slowly
found out how wild it was. But Tom had been the subject of all the
little tenderness of my life; perhaps he became so because I knew
so well how to pity him. It matters little now, except as it may
dispose you to think more leniently of his errors.'
As her father held her in his arms, she put her other hand upon his
other shoulder, and still looking fixedly in his face, went on.
'When I was irrevocably married, there rose up into rebellion
against the tie, the old strife, made fiercer by all those causes
of disparity which arise out of our two individual natures, and
which no general laws shall ever rule or state for me, father,
until they shall be able to direct the anatomist where to strike
his knife into the secrets of my soul.'
'Louisa!' he said, and said imploringly; for he well remembered
what had passed between them in their former interview.
'I do not reproach you, father, I make no complaint. I am here
with another object.'
'What can I do, child? Ask me what you will.'
'I am coming to it. Father, chance then threw into my way a new
acquaintance; a man such as I had had no experience of; used to the
world; light, polished, easy; making no pretences; avowing the low
estimate of everything, that I was half afraid to form in secret;
conveying to me almost immediately, though I don't know how or by
what degrees, that he understood me, and read my thoughts. I could
not find that he was worse than I. There seemed to be a near
affinity between us. I only wondered it should be worth his while,
who cared for nothing else, to care so much for me.'
'For you, Louisa!'
Her father might instinctively have loosened his hold, but that he
felt her strength departing from her, and saw a wild dilating fire
in the eyes steadfastly regarding him.
'I say nothing of his plea for claiming my confidence. It matters
very little how he gained it. Father, he did gain it. What you
know of the story of my marriage, he soon knew, just as well.'
Her father's face was ashy white, and he held her in both his arms.
'I have done no worse, I have not disgraced you. But if you ask me
whether I have loved him, or do love him, I tell you plainly,
father, that it may be so. I don't know.'
She took her hands suddenly from his shoulders, and pressed them
both upon her side; while in her face, not like itself - and in her
figure, drawn up, resolute to finish by a last effort what she had
to say - the feelings long suppressed broke loose.
'This night, my husband being away, he has been with me, declaring
himself my lover. This minute he expects me, for I could release
myself of his presence by no other means. I do not know that I am
sorry, I do not know that I am ashamed, I do not know that I am
degraded in my own esteem. All that I know is, your philosophy and
your teaching will not save me. Now, father, you have brought me
to this. Save me by some other means!'
He tightened his hold in time to prevent her sinking on the floor,
but she cried out in a terrible voice, 'I shall die if you hold me!
Let me fall upon the ground!' And he laid her down there, and saw
the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an
insensible heap, at his feet.
END OF THE SECOND BOOK
BOOK THE THIRD - GARNERING
CHAPTER I - ANOTHER THING NEEDFUL
LOUISA awoke from a torpor, and her eyes languidly opened on her
old bed at home, and her old room. It seemed, at first, as if all
that had happened since the days when these objects were familiar
to her were the shadows of a dream, but gradually, as the objects
became more real to her sight, the events became more real to her
She could scarcely move her head for pain and heaviness, her eyes
were strained and sore, and she was very weak. A curious passive
inattention had such possession of her, that the presence of her
little sister in the room did not attract her notice for some time.
Even when their eyes had met, and her sister had approached the
bed, Louisa lay for minutes looking at her in silence, and
suffering her timidly to hold her passive hand, before she asked:
'When was I brought to this room?'
'Last night, Louisa.'
'Who brought me here?'
'Sissy, I believe.'
'Why do you believe so?'
'Because I found her here this morning. She didn't come to my
bedside to wake me, as she always does; and I went to look for her.
She was not in her own room either; and I went looking for her all
over the house, until I found her here taking care of you and
cooling your head. Will you see father? Sissy said I was to tell
him when you woke.'
'What a beaming face you have, Jane!' said Louisa, as her young
sister - timidly still - bent down to kiss her.
'Have I? I am very glad you think so. I am sure it must be
The arm Louisa had begun to twine around her neck, unbent itself.
'You can tell father if you will.' Then, staying her for a moment,
she said, 'It was you who made my room so cheerful, and gave it
this look of welcome?'
'Oh no, Louisa, it was done before I came. It was - '
Louisa turned upon her pillow, and heard no more. When her sister
had withdrawn, she turned her head back again, and lay with her
face towards the door, until it opened and her father entered.
He had a jaded anxious look upon him, and his hand, usually steady,
trembled in hers. He sat down at the side of the bed, tenderly
asking how she was, and dwelling on the necessity of her keeping
very quiet after her agitation and exposure to the weather last
night. He spoke in a subdued and troubled voice, very different
from his usual dictatorial manner; and was often at a loss for
'My dear Louisa. My poor daughter.' He was so much at a loss at
that place, that he stopped altogether. He tried again.
'My unfortunate child.' The place was so difficult to get over,
that he tried again.
'It would be hopeless for me, Louisa, to endeavour to tell you how
overwhelmed I have been, and still am, by what broke upon me last
night. The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my
feet. The only support on which I leaned, and the strength of
which it seemed, and still does seem, impossible to question, has
given way in an instant. I am stunned by these discoveries. I
have no selfish meaning in what I say; but I find the shock of what
broke upon me last night, to be very heavy indeed.'
She could give him no comfort herein. She had suffered the wreck
of her whole life upon the rock.
'I will not say, Louisa, that if you had by any happy chance
undeceived me some time ago, it would have been better for us both;
better for your peace, and better for mine. For I am sensible that
it may not have been a part of my system to invite any confidence
of that kind. I had proved my - my system to myself, and I have
rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its
failures. I only entreat you to believe, my favourite child, that
I have meant to do right.'
He said it earnestly, and to do him justice he had. In gauging
fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering
over the universe with his rusty stiff-legged compasses, he had
meant to do great things. Within the limits of his short tether he
had tumbled about, annihilating the flowers of existence with
greater singleness of purpose than many of the blatant personages
whose company he kept.
'I am well assured of what you say, father. I know I have been
your favourite child. I know you have intended to make me happy.
I have never blamed you, and I never shall.'
He took her outstretched hand, and retained it in his.
'My dear, I have remained all night at my table, pondering again
and again on what has so painfully passed between us. When I
consider your character; when I consider that what has been known
to me for hours, has been concealed by you for years; when I
consider under what immediate pressure it has been forced from you
at last; I come to the conclusion that I cannot but mistrust
He might have added more than all, when he saw the face now looking
at him. He did add it in effect, perhaps, as he softly moved her
scattered hair from her forehead with his hand. Such little
actions, slight in another man, were very noticeable in him; and
his daughter received them as if they had been words of contrition.
'But,' said Mr. Gradgrind, slowly, and with hesitation, as well as
with a wretched sense of happiness, 'if I see reason to mistrust
myself for the past, Louisa, I should also mistrust myself for the
present and the future. To speak unreservedly to you, I do. I am
far from feeling convinced now, however differently I might have
felt only this time yesterday, that I am fit for the trust you
repose in me; that I know how to respond to the appeal you have
come home to make to me; that I have the right instinct - supposing
it for the moment to be some quality of that nature - how to help
you, and to set you right, my child.'
She had turned upon her pillow, and lay with her face upon her arm,
so that he could not see it. All her wildness and passion had
subsided; but, though softened, she was not in tears. Her father
was changed in nothing so much as in the respect that he would have
been glad to see her in tears.
'Some persons hold,' he pursued, still hesitating, 'that there is a
wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart. I
have not supposed so; but, as I have said, I mistrust myself now.
I have supposed the head to be all-sufficient. It may not be all-
sufficient; how can I venture this morning to say it is! If that
other kind of wisdom should be what I have neglected, and should be
the instinct that is wanted, Louisa - '
He suggested it very doubtfully, as if he were half unwilling to
admit it even now. She made him no answer, lying before him on her
bed, still half-dressed, much as he had seen her lying on the floor
of his room last night.
'Louisa,' and his hand rested on her hair again, 'I have been
absent from here, my dear, a good deal of late; and though your
sister's training has been pursued according to - the system,' he
appeared to come to that word with great reluctance always, 'it has
necessarily been modified by daily associations begun, in her case,
at an early age. I ask you - ignorantly and humbly, my daughter -
for the better, do you think?'
'Father,' she replied, without stirring, 'if any harmony has been
awakened in her young breast that was mute in mine until it turned
to discord, let her thank Heaven for it, and go upon her happier
way, taking it as her greatest blessing that she has avoided my
'O my child, my child!' he said, in a forlorn manner, 'I am an
unhappy man to see you thus! What avails it to me that you do not
reproach me, if I so bitterly reproach myself!' He bent his head,
and spoke low to her. 'Louisa, I have a misgiving that some change
may have been slowly working about me in this house, by mere love
and gratitude: that what the Head had left undone and could not
do, the Heart may have been doing silently. Can it be so?'
She made him no reply.
'I am not too proud to believe it, Louisa. How could I be
arrogant, and you before me! Can it be so? Is it so, my dear?'
He looked upon her once more, lying cast away there; and without
another word went out of the room. He had not been long gone, when
she heard a light tread near the door, and knew that some one stood
She did not raise her head. A dull anger that she should be seen
in her distress, and that the involuntary look she had so resented
should come to this fulfilment, smouldered within her like an
unwholesome fire. All closely imprisoned forces rend and destroy.
The air that would be healthful to the earth, the water that would
enrich it, the heat that would ripen it, tear it when caged up. So
in her bosom even now; the strongest qualities she possessed, long
turned upon themselves, became a heap of obduracy, that rose
against a friend.
It was well that soft touch came upon her neck, and that she
understood herself to be supposed to have fallen asleep. The
sympathetic hand did not claim her resentment. Let it lie there,
let it lie.
It lay there, warming into life a crowd of gentler thoughts; and
she rested. As she softened with the quiet, and the consciousness
of being so watched, some tears made their way into her eyes. The
face touched hers, and she knew that there were tears upon it too,
and she the cause of them.
As Louisa feigned to rouse herself, and sat up, Sissy retired, so
that she stood placidly near the bedside.
'I hope I have not disturbed you. I have come to ask if you would
let me stay with you?'
'Why should you stay with me? My sister will miss you. You are
everything to her.'
'Am I?' returned Sissy, shaking her head. 'I would be something to
you, if I might.'
'What?' said Louisa, almost sternly.
'Whatever you want most, if I could be that. At all events, I
would like to try to be as near it as I can. And however far off
that may be, I will never tire of trying. Will you let me?'
'My father sent you to ask me.'
'No indeed,' replied Sissy. 'He told me that I might come in now,
but he sent me away from the room this morning - or at least - '
She hesitated and stopped.
'At least, what?' said Louisa, with her searching eyes upon her.
'I thought it best myself that I should be sent away, for I felt
very uncertain whether you would like to find me here.'
'Have I always hated you so much?'
'I hope not, for I have always loved you, and have always wished
that you should know it. But you changed to me a little, shortly
before you left home. Not that I wondered at it. You knew so
much, and I knew so little, and it was so natural in many ways,
going as you were among other friends, that I had nothing to
complain of, and was not at all hurt.'
Her colour rose as she said it modestly and hurriedly. Louisa
understood the loving pretence, and her heart smote her.
'May I try?' said Sissy, emboldened to raise her hand to the neck
that was insensibly drooping towards her.
Louisa, taking down the hand that would have embraced her in
another moment, held it in one of hers, and answered:
'First, Sissy, do you know what I am? I am so proud and so
hardened, so confused and troubled, so resentful and unjust to
every one and to myself, that everything is stormy, dark, and
wicked to me. Does not that repel you?'
'I am so unhappy, and all that should have made me otherwise is so
laid waste, that if I had been bereft of sense to this hour, and
instead of being as learned as you think me, had to begin to
acquire the simplest truths, I could not want a guide to peace,
contentment, honour, all the good of which I am quite devoid, more
abjectly than I do. Does not that repel you?'
In the innocence of her brave affection, and the brimming up of her
old devoted spirit, the once deserted girl shone like a beautiful
light upon the darkness of the other.
Louisa raised the hand that it might clasp her neck and join its
fellow there. She fell upon her knees, and clinging to this
stroller's child looked up at her almost with veneration.
'Forgive me, pity me, help me! Have compassion on my great need,
and let me lay this head of mine upon a loving heart!'
'O lay it here!' cried Sissy. 'Lay it here, my dear.'
CHAPTER II - VERY RIDICULOUS
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE passed a whole night and a day in a state of so
much hurry, that the World, with its best glass in his eye, would
scarcely have recognized him during that insane interval, as the
brother Jem of the honourable and jocular member. He was
positively agitated. He several times spoke with an emphasis,
similar to the vulgar manner. He went in and went out in an
unaccountable way, like a man without an object. He rode like a
highwayman. In a word, he was so horribly bored by existing
circumstances, that he forgot to go in for boredom in the manner
prescribed by the authorities.
After putting his horse at Coketown through the storm, as if it
were a leap, he waited up all night: from time to time ringing his
bell with the greatest fury, charging the porter who kept watch
with delinquency in withholding letters or messages that could not
fail to have been entrusted to him, and demanding restitution on
the spot. The dawn coming, the morning coming, and the day coming,
and neither message nor letter coming with either, he went down to
the country house. There, the report was, Mr. Bounderby away, and
Mrs. Bounderby in town. Left for town suddenly last evening. Not
even known to be gone until receipt of message, importing that her
return was not to be expected for the present.
In these circumstances he had nothing for it but to follow her to
town. He went to the house in town. Mrs. Bounderby not there. He
looked in at the Bank. Mr. Bounderby away and Mrs. Sparsit away.
Mrs. Sparsit away? Who could have been reduced to sudden extremity
for the company of that griffin!
'Well! I don't know,' said Tom, who had his own reasons for being
uneasy about it. 'She was off somewhere at daybreak this morning.
She's always full of mystery; I hate her. So I do that white chap;
he's always got his blinking eyes upon a fellow.'
'Where were you last night, Tom?'
'Where was I last night!' said Tom. 'Come! I like that. I was
waiting for you, Mr. Harthouse, till it came down as I never saw it
come down before. Where was I too! Where were you, you mean.'
'I was prevented from coming - detained.'
'Detained!' murmured Tom. 'Two of us were detained. I was
detained looking for you, till I lost every train but the mail. It
would have been a pleasant job to go down by that on such a night,
and have to walk home through a pond. I was obliged to sleep in
town after all.'
'Where? Why, in my own bed at Bounderby's.'
'Did you see your sister?'
'How the deuce,' returned Tom, staring, 'could I see my sister when
she was fifteen miles off?'
Cursing these quick retorts of the young gentleman to whom he was
so true a friend, Mr. Harthouse disembarrassed himself of that
interview with the smallest conceivable amount of ceremony, and
debated for the hundredth time what all this could mean? He made
only one thing clear. It was, that whether she was in town or out
of town, whether he had been premature with her who was so hard to
comprehend, or she had lost courage, or they were discovered, or
some mischance or mistake, at present incomprehensible, had
occurred, he must remain to confront his fortune, whatever it was.
The hotel where he was known to live when condemned to that region
of blackness, was the stake to which he was tied. As to all the
rest - What will be, will be.
'So, whether I am waiting for a hostile message, or an assignation,
or a penitent remonstrance, or an impromptu wrestle with my friend
Bounderby in the Lancashire manner - which would seem as likely as
anything else in the present state of affairs - I'll dine,' said
Mr. James Harthouse. 'Bounderby has the advantage in point of
weight; and if anything of a British nature is to come off between
us, it may be as well to be in training.'
Therefore he rang the bell, and tossing himself negligently on a
sofa, ordered 'Some dinner at six - with a beefsteak in it,' and
got through the intervening time as well as he could. That was not
particularly well; for he remained in the greatest perplexity, and,
as the hours went on, and no kind of explanation offered itself,
his perplexity augmented at compound interest.
However, he took affairs as coolly as it was in human nature to do,
and entertained himself with the facetious idea of the training
more than once. 'It wouldn't be bad,' he yawned at one time, 'to
give the waiter five shillings, and throw him.' At another time it
occurred to him, 'Or a fellow of about thirteen or fourteen stone
might be hired by the hour.' But these jests did not tell
materially on the afternoon, or his suspense; and, sooth to say,
they both lagged fearfully.
It was impossible, even before dinner, to avoid often walking about
in the pattern of the carpet, looking out of the window, listening
at the door for footsteps, and occasionally becoming rather hot
when any steps approached that room. But, after dinner, when the
day turned to twilight, and the twilight turned to night, and still
no communication was made to him, it began to be as he expressed
it, 'like the Holy Office and slow torture.' However, still true
to his conviction that indifference was the genuine high-breeding
(the only conviction he had), he seized this crisis as the
opportunity for ordering candles and a newspaper.
He had been trying in vain, for half an hour, to read this
newspaper, when the waiter appeared and said, at once mysteriously
'Beg your pardon, sir. You're wanted, sir, if you please.'
A general recollection that this was the kind of thing the Police
said to the swell mob, caused Mr. Harthouse to ask the waiter in
return, with bristling indignation, what the Devil he meant by
'Beg your pardon, sir. Young lady outside, sir, wishes to see
'Outside this door, sir.'
Giving the waiter to the personage before mentioned, as a block-
head duly qualified for that consignment, Mr. Harthouse hurried
into the gallery. A young woman whom he had never seen stood
there. Plainly dressed, very quiet, very pretty. As he conducted
her into the room and placed a chair for her, he observed, by the
light of the candles, that she was even prettier than he had at
first believed. Her face was innocent and youthful, and its
expression remarkably pleasant. She was not afraid of him, or in
any way disconcerted; she seemed to have her mind entirely
preoccupied with the occasion of her visit, and to have substituted
that consideration for herself.
'I speak to Mr. Harthouse?' she said, when they were alone.
'To Mr. Harthouse.' He added in his mind, 'And you speak to him
with the most confiding eyes I ever saw, and the most earnest voice
(though so quiet) I ever heard.'
'If I do not understand - and I do not, sir' - said Sissy, 'what
your honour as a gentleman binds you to, in other matters:' the
blood really rose in his face as she began in these words: 'I am
sure I may rely upon it to keep my visit secret, and to keep secret
what I am going to say. I will rely upon it, if you will tell me I
may so far trust - '
'You may, I assure you.'
'I am young, as you see; I am alone, as you see. In coming to you,
sir, I have no advice or encouragement beyond my own hope.' He
thought, 'But that is very strong,' as he followed the momentary
upward glance of her eyes. He thought besides, 'This is a very odd
beginning. I don't see where we are going.'
'I think,' said Sissy, 'you have already guessed whom I left just
'I have been in the greatest concern and uneasiness during the last
four-and-twenty hours (which have appeared as many years),' he
returned, 'on a lady's account. The hopes I have been encouraged
to form that you come from that lady, do not deceive me, I trust.'
'I left her within an hour.'
'At - !'
'At her father's.'
Mr. Harthouse's face lengthened in spite of his coolness, and his
perplexity increased. 'Then I certainly,' he thought, 'do not see
where we are going.'
'She hurried there last night. She arrived there in great
agitation, and was insensible all through the night. I live at her
father's, and was with her. You may be sure, sir, you will never
see her again as long as you live.'
Mr. Harthouse drew a long breath; and, if ever man found himself in
the position of not knowing what to say, made the discovery beyond
all question that he was so circumstanced. The child-like
ingenuousness with which his visitor spoke, her modest
fearlessness, her truthfulness which put all artifice aside, her
entire forgetfulness of herself in her earnest quiet holding to the
object with which she had come; all this, together with her
reliance on his easily given promise - which in itself shamed him -
presented something in which he was so inexperienced, and against
which he knew any of his usual weapons would fall so powerless;
that not a word could he rally to his relief.
At last he said:
'So startling an announcement, so confidently made, and by such
lips, is really disconcerting in the last degree. May I be
permitted to inquire, if you are charged to convey that information
to me in those hopeless words, by the lady of whom we speak?'
'I have no charge from her.'
'The drowning man catches at the straw. With no disrespect for
your judgment, and with no doubt of your sincerity, excuse my
saying that I cling to the belief that there is yet hope that I am
not condemned to perpetual exile from that lady's presence.'
'There is not the least hope. The first object of my coming here,
sir, is to assure you that you must believe that there is no more
hope of your ever speaking with her again, than there would be if
she had died when she came home last night.'
'Must believe? But if I can't - or if I should, by infirmity of
nature, be obstinate - and won't - '
'It is still true. There is no hope.'
James Harthouse looked at her with an incredulous smile upon his
lips; but her mind looked over and beyond him, and the smile was
quite thrown away.
He bit his lip, and took a little time for consideration.
'Well! If it should unhappily appear,' he said, 'after due pains
and duty on my part, that I am brought to a position so desolate as
this banishment, I shall not become the lady's persecutor. But you
said you had no commission from her?'
'I have only the commission of my love for her, and her love for
me. I have no other trust, than that I have been with her since
she came home, and that she has given me her confidence. I have no
further trust, than that I know something of her character and her
marriage. O Mr. Harthouse, I think you had that trust too!'
He was touched in the cavity where his heart should have been - in
that nest of addled eggs, where the birds of heaven would have
lived if they had not been whistled away - by the fervour of this
'I am not a moral sort of fellow,' he said, 'and I never make any
pretensions to the character of a moral sort of fellow. I am as
immoral as need be. At the same time, in bringing any distress
upon the lady who is the subject of the present conversation, or in
unfortunately compromising her in any way, or in committing myself
by any expression of sentiments towards her, not perfectly
reconcilable with - in fact with - the domestic hearth; or in
taking any advantage of her father's being a machine, or of her
brother's being a whelp, or of her husband's being a bear; I beg to
be allowed to assure you that I have had no particularly evil
intentions, but have glided on from one step to another with a
smoothness so perfectly diabolical, that I had not the slightest
idea the catalogue was half so long until I began to turn it over.
Whereas I find,' said Mr. James Harthouse, in conclusion, 'that it
is really in several volumes.'
Though he said all this in his frivolous way, the way seemed, for
that once, a conscious polishing of but an ugly surface. He was
silent for a moment; and then proceeded with a more self-possessed
air, though with traces of vexation and disappointment that would
not be polished out.
'After what has been just now represented to me, in a manner I find
it impossible to doubt - I know of hardly any other source from
which I could have accepted it so readily - I feel bound to say to
you, in whom the confidence you have mentioned has been reposed,
that I cannot refuse to contemplate the possibility (however
unexpected) of my seeing the lady no more. I am solely to blame
for the thing having come to this - and - and, I cannot say,' he
added, rather hard up for a general peroration, 'that I have any
sanguine expectation of ever becoming a moral sort of fellow, or
that I have any belief in any moral sort of fellow whatever.'
Sissy's face sufficiently showed that her appeal to him was not
'You spoke,' he resumed, as she raised her eyes to him again, 'of
your first object. I may assume that there is a second to be
'Will you oblige me by confiding it?'
'Mr. Harthouse,' returned Sissy, with a blending of gentleness and
steadiness that quite defeated him, and with a simple confidence in
his being bound to do what she required, that held him at a
singular disadvantage, 'the only reparation that remains with you,
is to leave here immediately and finally. I am quite sure that you
can mitigate in no other way the wrong and harm you have done. I
am quite sure that it is the only compensation you have left it in
your power to make. I do not say that it is much, or that it is
enough; but it is something, and it is necessary. Therefore,
though without any other authority than I have given you, and even
without the knowledge of any other person than yourself and myself,
I ask you to depart from this place to-night, under an obligation
never to return to it.'
If she had asserted any influence over him beyond her plain faith
in the truth and right of what she said; if she had concealed the
least doubt or irresolution, or had harboured for the best purpose
any reserve or pretence; if she had shown, or felt, the lightest
trace of any sensitiveness to his ridicule or his astonishment, or
any remonstrance he might offer; he would have carried it against
her at this point. But he could as easily have changed a clear sky
by looking at it in surprise, as affect her.
'But do you know,' he asked, quite at a loss, 'the extent of what
you ask? You probably are not aware that I am here on a public
kind of business, preposterous enough in itself, but which I have
gone in for, and sworn by, and am supposed to be devoted to in
quite a desperate manner? You probably are not aware of that, but
I assure you it's the fact.'
It had no effect on Sissy, fact or no fact.
'Besides which,' said Mr. Harthouse, taking a turn or two across
the room, dubiously, 'it's so alarmingly absurd. It would make a
man so ridiculous, after going in for these fellows, to back out in
such an incomprehensible way.'
'I am quite sure,' repeated Sissy, 'that it is the only reparation
in your power, sir. I am quite sure, or I would not have come
He glanced at her face, and walked about again. 'Upon my soul, I
don't know what to say. So immensely absurd!'
It fell to his lot, now, to stipulate for secrecy.
'If I were to do such a very ridiculous thing,' he said, stopping
again presently, and leaning against the chimney-piece, 'it could
only be in the most inviolable confidence.'
'I will trust to you, sir,' returned Sissy, 'and you will trust to
His leaning against the chimney-piece reminded him of the night
with the whelp. It was the self-same chimney-piece, and somehow he
felt as if he were the whelp to-night. He could make no way at
'I suppose a man never was placed in a more ridiculous position,'
he said, after looking down, and looking up, and laughing, and
frowning, and walking off, and walking back again. 'But I see no
way out of it. What will be, will be. This will be, I suppose. I
must take off myself, I imagine - in short, I engage to do it.'
Sissy rose. She was not surprised by the result, but she was happy
in it, and her face beamed brightly.
'You will permit me to say,' continued Mr. James Harthouse, 'that I
doubt if any other ambassador, or ambassadress, could have
addressed me with the same success. I must not only regard myself
as being in a very ridiculous position, but as being vanquished at
all points. Will you allow me the privilege of remembering my
'My name?' said the ambassadress.
'The only name I could possibly care to know, to-night.'
'Pardon my curiosity at parting. Related to the family?'
'I am only a poor girl,' returned Sissy. 'I was separated from my
father - he was only a stroller - and taken pity on by Mr.
Gradgrind. I have lived in the house ever since.'
She was gone.
'It wanted this to complete the defeat,' said Mr. James Harthouse,
sinking, with a resigned air, on the sofa, after standing
transfixed a little while. 'The defeat may now be considered
perfectly accomplished. Only a poor girl - only a stroller - only
James Harthouse made nothing of - only James Harthouse a Great
Pyramid of failure.'
The Great Pyramid put it into his head to go up the Nile. He took
a pen upon the instant, and wrote the following note (in
appropriate hieroglyphics) to his brother:
Dear Jack, - All up at Coketown. Bored out of the place, and going
in for camels. Affectionately, JEM,
He rang the bell.
'Send my fellow here.'
'Gone to bed, sir.'
'Tell him to get up, and pack up.'
He wrote two more notes. One, to Mr. Bounderby, announcing his
retirement from that part of the country, and showing where he
would be found for the next fortnight. The other, similar in
effect, to Mr. Gradgrind. Almost as soon as the ink was dry upon
their superscriptions, he had left the tall chimneys of Coketown
behind, and was in a railway carriage, tearing and glaring over the
The moral sort of fellows might suppose that Mr. James Harthouse
derived some comfortable reflections afterwards, from this prompt
retreat, as one of his few actions that made any amends for
anything, and as a token to himself that he had escaped the climax
of a very bad business. But it was not so, at all. A secret sense
of having failed and been ridiculous - a dread of what other
fellows who went in for similar sorts of things, would say at his
expense if they knew it - so oppressed him, that what was about the
very best passage in his life was the one of all others he would
not have owned to on any account, and the only one that made him
ashamed of himself.
CHAPTER III - VERY DECIDED
THE indefatigable Mrs. Sparsit, with a violent cold upon her, her
voice reduced to a whisper, and her stately frame so racked by
continual sneezes that it seemed in danger of dismemberment, gave
chase to her patron until she found him in the metropolis; and
there, majestically sweeping in upon him at his hotel in St.
James's Street, exploded the combustibles with which she was
charged, and blew up. Having executed her mission with infinite
relish, this high-minded woman then fainted away on Mr. Bounderby's
Mr. Bounderby's first procedure was to shake Mrs. Sparsit off, and
leave her to progress as she might through various stages of
suffering on the floor. He next had recourse to the administration
of potent restoratives, such as screwing the patient's thumbs,
smiting her hands, abundantly watering her face, and inserting salt
in her mouth. When these attentions had recovered her (which they
speedily did), he hustled her into a fast train without offering
any other refreshment, and carried her back to Coketown more dead
Regarded as a classical ruin, Mrs. Sparsit was an interesting
spectacle on her arrival at her journey's end; but considered in
any other light, the amount of damage she had by that time
sustained was excessive, and impaired her claims to admiration.
Utterly heedless of the wear and tear of her clothes and
constitution, and adamant to her pathetic sneezes, Mr. Bounderby
immediately crammed her into a coach, and bore her off to Stone
'Now, Tom Gradgrind,' said Bounderby, bursting into his father-in-
law's room late at night; 'here's a lady here - Mrs. Sparsit - you
know Mrs. Sparsit - who has something to say to you that will
strike you dumb.'
'You have missed my letter!' exclaimed Mr. Gradgrind, surprised by
'Missed your letter, sir!' bawled Bounderby. 'The present time is
no time for letters. No man shall talk to Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown about letters, with his mind in the state it's in now.'
'Bounderby,' said Mr. Gradgrind, in a tone of temperate
remonstrance, 'I speak of a very special letter I have written to
you, in reference to Louisa.'
'Tom Gradgrind,' replied Bounderby, knocking the flat of his hand
several times with great vehemence on the table, 'I speak of a very
special messenger that has come to me, in reference to Louisa.
Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am, stand forward!'
That unfortunate lady hereupon essaying to offer testimony, without
any voice and with painful gestures expressive of an inflamed
throat, became so aggravating and underwent so many facial
contortions, that Mr. Bounderby, unable to bear it, seized her by
the arm and shook her.
'If you can't get it out, ma'am,' said Bounderby, 'leave me to get
it out. This is not a time for a lady, however highly connected,
to be totally inaudible, and seemingly swallowing marbles. Tom
Gradgrind, Mrs. Sparsit latterly found herself, by accident, in a
situation to overhear a conversation out of doors between your
daughter and your precious gentleman-friend, Mr. James Harthouse.'
'Indeed!' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'Ah! Indeed!' cried Bounderby. 'And in that conversation - '
'It is not necessary to repeat its tenor, Bounderby. I know what
'You do? Perhaps,' said Bounderby, staring with all his might at
his so quiet and assuasive father-in-law, 'you know where your
daughter is at the present time!'
'Undoubtedly. She is here.'
'My dear Bounderby, let me beg you to restrain these loud out-
breaks, on all accounts. Louisa is here. The moment she could
detach herself from that interview with the person of whom you
speak, and whom I deeply regret to have been the means of
introducing to you, Louisa hurried here, for protection. I myself
had not been at home many hours, when I received her - here, in
this room. She hurried by the train to town, she ran from town to
this house, through a raging storm, and presented herself before me
in a state of distraction. Of course, she has remained here ever
since. Let me entreat you, for your own sake and for hers, to be
Mr. Bounderby silently gazed about him for some moments, in every
direction except Mrs. Sparsit's direction; and then, abruptly
turning upon the niece of Lady Scadgers, said to that wretched
'Now, ma'am! We shall be happy to hear any little apology you may
think proper to offer, for going about the country at express pace,
with no other luggage than a Cock-and-a-Bull, ma'am!'
'Sir,' whispered Mrs. Sparsit, 'my nerves are at present too much
shaken, and my health is at present too much impaired, in your
service, to admit of my doing more than taking refuge in tears.'
(Which she did.)
'Well, ma'am,' said Bounderby, 'without making any observation to
you that may not be made with propriety to a woman of good family,
what I have got to add to that, is that there is something else in
which it appears to me you may take refuge, namely, a coach. And
the coach in which we came here being at the door, you'll allow me
to hand you down to it, and pack you home to the Bank: where the
best course for you to pursue, will be to put your feet into the
hottest water you can bear, and take a glass of scalding rum and
butter after you get into bed.' With these words, Mr. Bounderby
extended his right hand to the weeping lady, and escorted her to
the conveyance in question, shedding many plaintive sneezes by the
way. He soon returned alone.
'Now, as you showed me in your face, Tom Gradgrind, that you wanted
to speak to me,' he resumed, 'here I am. But, I am not in a very
agreeable state, I tell you plainly: not relishing this business,
even as it is, and not considering that I am at any time as
dutifully and submissively treated by your daughter, as Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown ought to be treated by his wife. You have
your opinion, I dare say; and I have mine, I know. If you mean to
say anything to me to-night, that goes against this candid remark,
you had better let it alone.'
Mr. Gradgrind, it will be observed, being much softened, Mr.
Bounderby took particular pains to harden himself at all points.
It was his amiable nature.
'My dear Bounderby,' Mr. Gradgrind began in reply.
'Now, you'll excuse me,' said Bounderby, 'but I don't want to be
too dear. That, to start with. When I begin to be dear to a man,
I generally find that his intention is to come over me. I am not
speaking to you politely; but, as you are aware, I am not polite.
If you like politeness, you know where to get it. You have your
gentleman-friends, you know, and they'll serve you with as much of
the article as you want. I don't keep it myself.'
'Bounderby,' urged Mr. Gradgrind, 'we are all liable to mistakes -
'I thought you couldn't make 'em,' interrupted Bounderby.
'Perhaps I thought so. But, I say we are all liable to mistakes
and I should feel sensible of your delicacy, and grateful for it,
if you would spare me these references to Harthouse. I shall not
associate him in our conversation with your intimacy and
encouragement; pray do not persist in connecting him with mine.'
'I never mentioned his name!' said Bounderby.
'Well, well!' returned Mr. Gradgrind, with a patient, even a
submissive, air. And he sat for a little while pondering.
'Bounderby, I see reason to doubt whether we have ever quite
'Who do you mean by We?'
'Let me say I, then,' he returned, in answer to the coarsely
blurted question; 'I doubt whether I have understood Louisa. I
doubt whether I have been quite right in the manner of her
'There you hit it,' returned Bounderby. 'There I agree with you.
You have found it out at last, have you? Education! I'll tell you
what education is - To be tumbled out of doors, neck and crop, and
put upon the shortest allowance of everything except blows. That's
what I call education.'
'I think your good sense will perceive,' Mr. Gradgrind remonstrated
in all humility, 'that whatever the merits of such a system may be,
it would be difficult of general application to girls.'
'I don't see it at all, sir,' returned the obstinate Bounderby.
'Well,' sighed Mr. Gradgrind, 'we will not enter into the question.
I assure you I have no desire to be controversial. I seek to
repair what is amiss, if I possibly can; and I hope you will assist
me in a good spirit, Bounderby, for I have been very much
'I don't understand you, yet,' said Bounderby, with determined
obstinacy, 'and therefore I won't make any promises.'
'In the course of a few hours, my dear Bounderby,' Mr. Gradgrind
proceeded, in the same depressed and propitiatory manner, 'I appear
to myself to have become better informed as to Louisa's character,
than in previous years. The enlightenment has been painfully
forced upon me, and the discovery is not mine. I think there are -
Bounderby, you will be surprised to hear me say this - I think
there are qualities in Louisa, which - which have been harshly
neglected, and - and a little perverted. And - and I would suggest
to you, that - that if you would kindly meet me in a timely
endeavour to leave her to her better nature for a while - and to
encourage it to develop itself by tenderness and consideration - it
- it would be the better for the happiness of all of us. Louisa,'
said Mr. Gradgrind, shading his face with his hand, 'has always
been my favourite child.'
The blustrous Bounderby crimsoned and swelled to such an extent on
hearing these words, that he seemed to be, and probably was, on the
brink of a fit. With his very ears a bright purple shot with
crimson, he pent up his indignation, however, and said:
'You'd like to keep her here for a time?'
'I - I had intended to recommend, my dear Bounderby, that you
should allow Louisa to remain here on a visit, and be attended by
Sissy (I mean of course Cecilia Jupe), who understands her, and in
whom she trusts.'
'I gather from all this, Tom Gradgrind,' said Bounderby, standing
up with his hands in his pockets, 'that you are of opinion that
there's what people call some incompatibility between Loo Bounderby
'I fear there is at present a general incompatibility between
Louisa, and - and - and almost all the relations in which I have
placed her,' was her father's sorrowful reply.
'Now, look you here, Tom Gradgrind,' said Bounderby the flushed,
confronting him with his legs wide apart, his hands deeper in his
pockets, and his hair like a hayfield wherein his windy anger was
boisterous. 'You have said your say; I am going to say mine. I am
a Coketown man. I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. I know the
bricks of this town, and I know the works of this town, and I know
the chimneys of this town, and I know the smoke of this town, and I
know the Hands of this town. I know 'em all pretty well. They're
real. When a man tells me anything about imaginative qualities, I
always tell that man, whoever he is, that I know what he means. He
means turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, and that he wants
to be set up with a coach and six. That's what your daughter
wants. Since you are of opinion that she ought to have what she
wants, I recommend you to provide it for her. Because, Tom
Gradgrind, she will never have it from me.'
'Bounderby,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'I hoped, after my entreaty, you
would have taken a different tone.'
'Just wait a bit,' retorted Bounderby; 'you have said your say, I
believe. I heard you out; hear me out, if you please. Don't make
yourself a spectacle of unfairness as well as inconsistency,
because, although I am sorry to see Tom Gradgrind reduced to his
present position, I should be doubly sorry to see him brought so
low as that. Now, there's an incompatibility of some sort or
another, I am given to understand by you, between your daughter and
me. I'll give you to understand, in reply to that, that there
unquestionably is an incompatibility of the first magnitude - to be
summed up in this - that your daughter don't properly know her
husband's merits, and is not impressed with such a sense as would
become her, by George! of the honour of his alliance. That's plain
speaking, I hope.'
'Bounderby,' urged Mr. Gradgrind, 'this is unreasonable.'
'Is it?' said Bounderby. 'I am glad to hear you say so. Because
when Tom Gradgrind, with his new lights, tells me that what I say
is unreasonable, I am convinced at once it must be devilish
sensible. With your permission I am going on. You know my origin;
and you know that for a good many years of my life I didn't want a
shoeing-horn, in consequence of not having a shoe. Yet you may
believe or not, as you think proper, that there are ladies - born
ladies - belonging to families - Families! - who next to worship
the ground I walk on.'
He discharged this like a Rocket, at his father-in-law's head.
'Whereas your daughter,' proceeded Bounderby, 'is far from being a
born lady. That you know, yourself. Not that I care a pinch of
candle-snuff about such things, for you are very well aware I
don't; but that such is the fact, and you, Tom Gradgrind, can't
change it. Why do I say this?'
'Not, I fear,' observed Mr. Gradgrind, in a low voice, 'to spare
'Hear me out,' said Bounderby, 'and refrain from cutting in till
your turn comes round. I say this, because highly connected
females have been astonished to see the way in which your daughter
has conducted herself, and to witness her insensibility. They have
wondered how I have suffered it. And I wonder myself now, and I