Part 3 out of 7
am using synonymous terms) sentimental. Mr. Bounderby would have
seen you grow up under his eyes, to very little purpose, if he
could so far forget what is due to your good sense, not to say to
his, as to address you from any such ground. Therefore, perhaps
the expression itself - I merely suggest this to you, my dear - may
be a little misplaced.'
'What would you advise me to use in its stead, father?'
'Why, my dear Louisa,' said Mr. Gradgrind, completely recovered by
this time, 'I would advise you (since you ask me) to consider this
question, as you have been accustomed to consider every other
question, simply as one of tangible Fact. The ignorant and the
giddy may embarrass such subjects with irrelevant fancies, and
other absurdities that have no existence, properly viewed - really
no existence - but it is no compliment to you to say, that you know
better. Now, what are the Facts of this case? You are, we will
say in round numbers, twenty years of age; Mr. Bounderby is, we
will say in round numbers, fifty. There is some disparity in your
respective years, but in your means and positions there is none; on
the contrary, there is a great suitability. Then the question
arises, Is this one disparity sufficient to operate as a bar to
such a marriage? In considering this question, it is not
unimportant to take into account the statistics of marriage, so far
as they have yet been obtained, in England and Wales. I find, on
reference to the figures, that a large proportion of these
marriages are contracted between parties of very unequal ages, and
that the elder of these contracting parties is, in rather more than
three-fourths of these instances, the bridegroom. It is remarkable
as showing the wide prevalence of this law, that among the natives
of the British possessions in India, also in a considerable part of
China, and among the Calmucks of Tartary, the best means of
computation yet furnished us by travellers, yield similar results.
The disparity I have mentioned, therefore, almost ceases to be
disparity, and (virtually) all but disappears.'
'What do you recommend, father,' asked Louisa, her reserved
composure not in the least affected by these gratifying results,
'that I should substitute for the term I used just now? For the
'Louisa,' returned her father, 'it appears to me that nothing can
be plainer. Confining yourself rigidly to Fact, the question of
Fact you state to yourself is: Does Mr. Bounderby ask me to marry
him? Yes, he does. The sole remaining question then is: Shall I
marry him? I think nothing can be plainer than that?'
'Shall I marry him?' repeated Louisa, with great deliberation.
'Precisely. And it is satisfactory to me, as your father, my dear
Louisa, to know that you do not come to the consideration of that
question with the previous habits of mind, and habits of life, that
belong to many young women.'
'No, father,' she returned, 'I do not.'
'I now leave you to judge for yourself,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'I
have stated the case, as such cases are usually stated among
practical minds; I have stated it, as the case of your mother and
myself was stated in its time. The rest, my dear Louisa, is for
you to decide.'
From the beginning, she had sat looking at him fixedly. As he now
leaned back in his chair, and bent his deep-set eyes upon her in
his turn, perhaps he might have seen one wavering moment in her,
when she was impelled to throw herself upon his breast, and give
him the pent-up confidences of her heart. But, to see it, he must
have overleaped at a bound the artificial barriers he had for many
years been erecting, between himself and all those subtle essences
of humanity which will elude the utmost cunning of algebra until
the last trumpet ever to be sounded shall blow even algebra to
wreck. The barriers were too many and too high for such a leap.
With his unbending, utilitarian, matter-of-fact face, he hardened
her again; and the moment shot away into the plumbless depths of
the past, to mingle with all the lost opportunities that are
Removing her eyes from him, she sat so long looking silently
towards the town, that he said, at length: 'Are you consulting the
chimneys of the Coketown works, Louisa?'
'There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke.
Yet when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father!' she answered,
'Of course I know that, Louisa. I do not see the application of
the remark.' To do him justice he did not, at all.
She passed it away with a slight motion of her hand, and
concentrating her attention upon him again, said, 'Father, I have
often thought that life is very short.' - This was so distinctly
one of his subjects that he interposed.
'It is short, no doubt, my dear. Still, the average duration of
human life is proved to have increased of late years. The
calculations of various life assurance and annuity offices, among
other figures which cannot go wrong, have established the fact.'
'I speak of my own life, father.'
'O indeed? Still,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'I need not point out to
you, Louisa, that it is governed by the laws which govern lives in
'While it lasts, I would wish to do the little I can, and the
little I am fit for. What does it matter?'
Mr. Gradgrind seemed rather at a loss to understand the last four
words; replying, 'How, matter? What matter, my dear?'
'Mr. Bounderby,' she went on in a steady, straight way, without
regarding this, 'asks me to marry him. The question I have to ask
myself is, shall I marry him? That is so, father, is it not? You
have told me so, father. Have you not?'
'Certainly, my dear.'
'Let it be so. Since Mr. Bounderby likes to take me thus, I am
satisfied to accept his proposal. Tell him, father, as soon as you
please, that this was my answer. Repeat it, word for word, if you
can, because I should wish him to know what I said.'
'It is quite right, my dear,' retorted her father approvingly, 'to
be exact. I will observe your very proper request. Have you any
wish in reference to the period of your marriage, my child?'
'None, father. What does it matter!'
Mr. Gradgrind had drawn his chair a little nearer to her, and taken
her hand. But, her repetition of these words seemed to strike with
some little discord on his ear. He paused to look at her, and,
still holding her hand, said:
'Louisa, I have not considered it essential to ask you one
question, because the possibility implied in it appeared to me to
be too remote. But perhaps I ought to do so. You have never
entertained in secret any other proposal?'
'Father,' she returned, almost scornfully, 'what other proposal can
have been made to me? Whom have I seen? Where have I been? What
are my heart's experiences?'
'My dear Louisa,' returned Mr. Gradgrind, reassured and satisfied.
'You correct me justly. I merely wished to discharge my duty.'
'What do I know, father,' said Louisa in her quiet manner, 'of
tastes and fancies; of aspirations and affections; of all that part
of my nature in which such light things might have been nourished?
What escape have I had from problems that could be demonstrated,
and realities that could be grasped?' As she said it, she
unconsciously closed her hand, as if upon a solid object, and
slowly opened it as though she were releasing dust or ash.
'My dear,' assented her eminently practical parent, 'quite true,
'Why, father,' she pursued, 'what a strange question to ask me!
The baby-preference that even I have heard of as common among
children, has never had its innocent resting-place in my breast.
You have been so careful of me, that I never had a child's heart.
You have trained me so well, that I never dreamed a child's dream.
You have dealt so wisely with me, father, from my cradle to this
hour, that I never had a child's belief or a child's fear.'
Mr. Gradgrind was quite moved by his success, and by this testimony
to it. 'My dear Louisa,' said he, 'you abundantly repay my care.
Kiss me, my dear girl.'
So, his daughter kissed him. Detaining her in his embrace, he
said, 'I may assure you now, my favourite child, that I am made
happy by the sound decision at which you have arrived. Mr.
Bounderby is a very remarkable man; and what little disparity can
be said to exist between you - if any - is more than
counterbalanced by the tone your mind has acquired. It has always
been my object so to educate you, as that you might, while still in
your early youth, be (if I may so express myself) almost any age.
Kiss me once more, Louisa. Now, let us go and find your mother.'
Accordingly, they went down to the drawing-room, where the esteemed
lady with no nonsense about her, was recumbent as usual, while
Sissy worked beside her. She gave some feeble signs of returning
animation when they entered, and presently the faint transparency
was presented in a sitting attitude.
'Mrs. Gradgrind,' said her husband, who had waited for the
achievement of this feat with some impatience, 'allow me to present
to you Mrs. Bounderby.'
'Oh!' said Mrs. Gradgrind, 'so you have settled it! Well, I'm sure
I hope your health may be good, Louisa; for if your head begins to
split as soon as you are married, which was the case with mine, I
cannot consider that you are to be envied, though I have no doubt
you think you are, as all girls do. However, I give you joy, my
dear - and I hope you may now turn all your ological studies to
good account, I am sure I do! I must give you a kiss of
congratulation, Louisa; but don't touch my right shoulder, for
there's something running down it all day long. And now you see,'
whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind, adjusting her shawls after the
affectionate ceremony, 'I shall be worrying myself, morning, noon,
and night, to know what I am to call him!'
'Mrs. Gradgrind,' said her husband, solemnly, 'what do you mean?'
'Whatever I am to call him, Mr. Gradgrind, when he is married to
Louisa! I must call him something. It's impossible,' said Mrs.
Gradgrind, with a mingled sense of politeness and injury, 'to be
constantly addressing him and never giving him a name. I cannot
call him Josiah, for the name is insupportable to me. You yourself
wouldn't hear of Joe, you very well know. Am I to call my own son-
in-law, Mister! Not, I believe, unless the time has arrived when,
as an invalid, I am to be trampled upon by my relations. Then,
what am I to call him!'
Nobody present having any suggestion to offer in the remarkable
emergency, Mrs. Gradgrind departed this life for the time being,
after delivering the following codicil to her remarks already
'As to the wedding, all I ask, Louisa, is, - and I ask it with a
fluttering in my chest, which actually extends to the soles of my
feet, - that it may take place soon. Otherwise, I know it is one
of those subjects I shall never hear the last of.'
When Mr. Gradgrind had presented Mrs. Bounderby, Sissy had suddenly
turned her head, and looked, in wonder, in pity, in sorrow, in
doubt, in a multitude of emotions, towards Louisa. Louisa had
known it, and seen it, without looking at her. From that moment
she was impassive, proud and cold - held Sissy at a distance -
changed to her altogether.
CHAPTER XVI - HUSBAND AND WIFE
MR. BOUNDERBY'S first disquietude on hearing of his happiness, was
occasioned by the necessity of imparting it to Mrs. Sparsit. He
could not make up his mind how to do that, or what the consequences
of the step might be. Whether she would instantly depart, bag and
baggage, to Lady Scadgers, or would positively refuse to budge from
the premises; whether she would be plaintive or abusive, tearful or
tearing; whether she would break her heart, or break the looking-
glass; Mr. Bounderby could not all foresee. However, as it must be
done, he had no choice but to do it; so, after attempting several
letters, and failing in them all, he resolved to do it by word of
On his way home, on the evening he set aside for this momentous
purpose, he took the precaution of stepping into a chemist's shop
and buying a bottle of the very strongest smelling-salts. 'By
George!' said Mr. Bounderby, 'if she takes it in the fainting way,
I'll have the skin off her nose, at all events!' But, in spite of
being thus forearmed, he entered his own house with anything but a
courageous air; and appeared before the object of his misgivings,
like a dog who was conscious of coming direct from the pantry.
'Good evening, Mr. Bounderby!'
'Good evening, ma'am, good evening.' He drew up his chair, and
Mrs. Sparsit drew back hers, as who should say, 'Your fireside,
sir. I freely admit it. It is for you to occupy it all, if you
'Don't go to the North Pole, ma'am!' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Thank you, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, and returned, though short of
her former position.
Mr. Bounderby sat looking at her, as, with the points of a stiff,
sharp pair of scissors, she picked out holes for some inscrutable
ornamental purpose, in a piece of cambric. An operation which,
taken in connexion with the bushy eyebrows and the Roman nose,
suggested with some liveliness the idea of a hawk engaged upon the
eyes of a tough little bird. She was so steadfastly occupied, that
many minutes elapsed before she looked up from her work; when she
did so Mr. Bounderby bespoke her attention with a hitch of his
'Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby, putting his hands in his
pockets, and assuring himself with his right hand that the cork of
the little bottle was ready for use, 'I have no occasion to say to
you, that you are not only a lady born and bred, but a devilish
'Sir,' returned the lady, 'this is indeed not the first time that
you have honoured me with similar expressions of your good
'Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'I am going to astonish
'Yes, sir?' returned Mrs. Sparsit, interrogatively, and in the most
tranquil manner possible. She generally wore mittens, and she now
laid down her work, and smoothed those mittens.
'I am going, ma'am,' said Bounderby, 'to marry Tom Gradgrind's
'Yes, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'I hope you may be happy, Mr.
Bounderby. Oh, indeed I hope you may be happy, sir!' And she said
it with such great condescension as well as with such great
compassion for him, that Bounderby, - far more disconcerted than if
she had thrown her workbox at the mirror, or swooned on the
hearthrug, - corked up the smelling-salts tight in his pocket, and
thought, 'Now confound this woman, who could have even guessed that
she would take it in this way!'
'I wish with all my heart, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, in a highly
superior manner; somehow she seemed, in a moment, to have
established a right to pity him ever afterwards; 'that you may be
in all respects very happy.'
'Well, ma'am,' returned Bounderby, with some resentment in his
tone: which was clearly lowered, though in spite of himself, 'I am
obliged to you. I hope I shall be.'
'Do you, sir!' said Mrs. Sparsit, with great affability. 'But
naturally you do; of course you do.'
A very awkward pause on Mr. Bounderby's part, succeeded. Mrs.
Sparsit sedately resumed her work and occasionally gave a small
cough, which sounded like the cough of conscious strength and
'Well, ma'am,' resumed Bounderby, 'under these circumstances, I
imagine it would not be agreeable to a character like yours to
remain here, though you would be very welcome here.'
'Oh, dear no, sir, I could on no account think of that!' Mrs.
Sparsit shook her head, still in her highly superior manner, and a
little changed the small cough - coughing now, as if the spirit of
prophecy rose within her, but had better be coughed down.
'However, ma'am,' said Bounderby, 'there are apartments at the
Bank, where a born and bred lady, as keeper of the place, would be
rather a catch than otherwise; and if the same terms - '
'I beg your pardon, sir. You were so good as to promise that you
would always substitute the phrase, annual compliment.'
'Well, ma'am, annual compliment. If the same annual compliment
would be acceptable there, why, I see nothing to part us, unless
'Sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'The proposal is like yourself, and
if the position I shall assume at the Bank is one that I could
occupy without descending lower in the social scale - '
'Why, of course it is,' said Bounderby. 'If it was not, ma'am, you
don't suppose that I should offer it to a lady who has moved in the
society you have moved in. Not that I care for such society, you
know! But you do.'
'Mr. Bounderby, you are very considerate.'
'You'll have your own private apartments, and you'll have your
coals and your candles, and all the rest of it, and you'll have
your maid to attend upon you, and you'll have your light porter to
protect you, and you'll be what I take the liberty of considering
precious comfortable,' said Bounderby.
'Sir,' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, 'say no more. In yielding up my
trust here, I shall not be freed from the necessity of eating the
bread of dependence:' she might have said the sweetbread, for that
delicate article in a savoury brown sauce was her favourite supper:
'and I would rather receive it from your hand, than from any other.
Therefore, sir, I accept your offer gratefully, and with many
sincere acknowledgments for past favours. And I hope, sir,' said
Mrs. Sparsit, concluding in an impressively compassionate manner,
'I fondly hope that Miss Gradgrind may be all you desire, and
Nothing moved Mrs. Sparsit from that position any more. It was in
vain for Bounderby to bluster or to assert himself in any of his
explosive ways; Mrs. Sparsit was resolved to have compassion on
him, as a Victim. She was polite, obliging, cheerful, hopeful;
but, the more polite, the more obliging, the more cheerful, the
more hopeful, the more exemplary altogether, she; the forlorner
Sacrifice and Victim, he. She had that tenderness for his
melancholy fate, that his great red countenance used to break out
into cold perspirations when she looked at him.
Meanwhile the marriage was appointed to be solemnized in eight
weeks' time, and Mr. Bounderby went every evening to Stone Lodge as
an accepted wooer. Love was made on these occasions in the form of
bracelets; and, on all occasions during the period of betrothal,
took a manufacturing aspect. Dresses were made, jewellery was
made, cakes and gloves were made, settlements were made, and an
extensive assortment of Facts did appropriate honour to the
contract. The business was all Fact, from first to last. The
Hours did not go through any of those rosy performances, which
foolish poets have ascribed to them at such times; neither did the
clocks go any faster, or any slower, than at other seasons. The
deadly statistical recorder in the Gradgrind observatory knocked
every second on the head as it was born, and buried it with his
So the day came, as all other days come to people who will only
stick to reason; and when it came, there were married in the church
of the florid wooden legs - that popular order of architecture -
Josiah Bounderby Esquire of Coketown, to Louisa eldest daughter of
Thomas Gradgrind Esquire of Stone Lodge, M.P. for that borough.
And when they were united in holy matrimony, they went home to
breakfast at Stone Lodge aforesaid.
There was an improving party assembled on the auspicious occasion,
who knew what everything they had to eat and drink was made of, and
how it was imported or exported, and in what quantities, and in
what bottoms, whether native or foreign, and all about it. The
bridesmaids, down to little Jane Gradgrind, were, in an
intellectual point of view, fit helpmates for the calculating boy;
and there was no nonsense about any of the company.
After breakfast, the bridegroom addressed them in the following
'Ladies and gentlemen, I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. Since
you have done my wife and myself the honour of drinking our healths
and happiness, I suppose I must acknowledge the same; though, as
you all know me, and know what I am, and what my extraction was,
you won't expect a speech from a man who, when he sees a Post, says
"that's a Post," and when he sees a Pump, says "that's a Pump," and
is not to be got to call a Post a Pump, or a Pump a Post, or either
of them a Toothpick. If you want a speech this morning, my friend
and father-in-law, Tom Gradgrind, is a Member of Parliament, and
you know where to get it. I am not your man. However, if I feel a
little independent when I look around this table to-day, and
reflect how little I thought of marrying Tom Gradgrind's daughter
when I was a ragged street-boy, who never washed his face unless it
was at a pump, and that not oftener than once a fortnight, I hope I
may be excused. So, I hope you like my feeling independent; if you
don't, I can't help it. I do feel independent. Now I have
mentioned, and you have mentioned, that I am this day married to
Tom Gradgrind's daughter. I am very glad to be so. It has long
been my wish to be so. I have watched her bringing-up, and I
believe she is worthy of me. At the same time - not to deceive you
- I believe I am worthy of her. So, I thank you, on both our
parts, for the good-will you have shown towards us; and the best
wish I can give the unmarried part of the present company, is this:
I hope every bachelor may find as good a wife as I have found. And
I hope every spinster may find as good a husband as my wife has
Shortly after which oration, as they were going on a nuptial trip
to Lyons, in order that Mr. Bounderby might take the opportunity of
seeing how the Hands got on in those parts, and whether they, too,
required to be fed with gold spoons; the happy pair departed for
the railroad. The bride, in passing down-stairs, dressed for her
journey, found Tom waiting for her - flushed, either with his
feelings, or the vinous part of the breakfast.
'What a game girl you are, to be such a first-rate sister, Loo!'
She clung to him as she should have clung to some far better nature
that day, and was a little shaken in her reserved composure for the
'Old Bounderby's quite ready,' said Tom. 'Time's up. Good-bye! I
shall be on the look-out for you, when you come back. I say, my
dear Loo! AN'T it uncommonly jolly now!'
END OF THE FIRST BOOK
BOOK THE SECOND - REAPING
CHAPTER I - EFFECTS IN THE BANK
A SUNNY midsummer day. There was such a thing sometimes, even in
Seen from a distance in such weather, Coketown lay shrouded in a
haze of its own, which appeared impervious to the sun's rays. You
only knew the town was there, because you knew there could have
been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect without a town. A blur
of soot and smoke, now confusedly tending this way, now that way,
now aspiring to the vault of Heaven, now murkily creeping along the
earth, as the wind rose and fell, or changed its quarter: a dense
formless jumble, with sheets of cross light in it, that showed
nothing but masses of darkness:- Coketown in the distance was
suggestive of itself, though not a brick of it could be seen.
The wonder was, it was there at all. It had been ruined so often,
that it was amazing how it had borne so many shocks. Surely there
never was such fragile china-ware as that of which the millers of
Coketown were made. Handle them never so lightly, and they fell to
pieces with such ease that you might suspect them of having been
flawed before. They were ruined, when they were required to send
labouring children to school; they were ruined when inspectors were
appointed to look into their works; they were ruined, when such
inspectors considered it doubtful whether they were quite justified
in chopping people up with their machinery; they were utterly
undone, when it was hinted that perhaps they need not always make
quite so much smoke. Besides Mr. Bounderby's gold spoon which was
generally received in Coketown, another prevalent fiction was very
popular there. It took the form of a threat. Whenever a
Coketowner felt he was ill-used - that is to say, whenever he was
not left entirely alone, and it was proposed to hold him
accountable for the consequences of any of his acts - he was sure
to come out with the awful menace, that he would 'sooner pitch his
property into the Atlantic.' This had terrified the Home Secretary
within an inch of his life, on several occasions.
However, the Coketowners were so patriotic after all, that they
never had pitched their property into the Atlantic yet, but, on the
contrary, had been kind enough to take mighty good care of it. So
there it was, in the haze yonder; and it increased and multiplied.
The streets were hot and dusty on the summer day, and the sun was
so bright that it even shone through the heavy vapour drooping over
Coketown, and could not be looked at steadily. Stokers emerged
from low underground doorways into factory yards, and sat on steps,
and posts, and palings, wiping their swarthy visages, and
contemplating coals. The whole town seemed to be frying in oil.
There was a stifling smell of hot oil everywhere. The steam-
engines shone with it, the dresses of the Hands were soiled with
it, the mills throughout their many stories oozed and trickled it.
The atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the breath of the
simoom: and their inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled languidly
in the desert. But no temperature made the melancholy mad
elephants more mad or more sane. Their wearisome heads went up and
down at the same rate, in hot weather and cold, wet weather and
dry, fair weather and foul. The measured motion of their shadows
on the walls, was the substitute Coketown had to show for the
shadows of rustling woods; while, for the summer hum of insects, it
could offer, all the year round, from the dawn of Monday to the
night of Saturday, the whirr of shafts and wheels.
Drowsily they whirred all through this sunny day, making the
passenger more sleepy and more hot as he passed the humming walls
of the mills. Sun-blinds, and sprinklings of water, a little
cooled the main streets and the shops; but the mills, and the
courts and alleys, baked at a fierce heat. Down upon the river
that was black and thick with dye, some Coketown boys who were at
large - a rare sight there - rowed a crazy boat, which made a
spumous track upon the water as it jogged along, while every dip of
an oar stirred up vile smells. But the sun itself, however
beneficent, generally, was less kind to Coketown than hard frost,
and rarely looked intently into any of its closer regions without
engendering more death than life. So does the eye of Heaven itself
become an evil eye, when incapable or sordid hands are interposed
between it and the things it looks upon to bless.
Mrs. Sparsit sat in her afternoon apartment at the Bank, on the
shadier side of the frying street. Office-hours were over: and at
that period of the day, in warm weather, she usually embellished
with her genteel presence, a managerial board-room over the public
office. Her own private sitting-room was a story higher, at the
window of which post of observation she was ready, every morning,
to greet Mr. Bounderby, as he came across the road, with the
sympathizing recognition appropriate to a Victim. He had been
married now a year; and Mrs. Sparsit had never released him from
her determined pity a moment.
The Bank offered no violence to the wholesome monotony of the town.
It was another red brick house, with black outside shutters, green
inside blinds, a black street-door up two white steps, a brazen
door-plate, and a brazen door-handle full stop. It was a size
larger than Mr. Bounderby's house, as other houses were from a size
to half-a-dozen sizes smaller; in all other particulars, it was
strictly according to pattern.
Mrs. Sparsit was conscious that by coming in the evening-tide among
the desks and writing implements, she shed a feminine, not to say
also aristocratic, grace upon the office. Seated, with her
needlework or netting apparatus, at the window, she had a self-
laudatory sense of correcting, by her ladylike deportment, the rude
business aspect of the place. With this impression of her
interesting character upon her, Mrs. Sparsit considered herself, in
some sort, the Bank Fairy. The townspeople who, in their passing
and repassing, saw her there, regarded her as the Bank Dragon
keeping watch over the treasures of the mine.
What those treasures were, Mrs. Sparsit knew as little as they did.
Gold and silver coin, precious paper, secrets that if divulged
would bring vague destruction upon vague persons (generally,
however, people whom she disliked), were the chief items in her
ideal catalogue thereof. For the rest, she knew that after office-
hours, she reigned supreme over all the office furniture, and over
a locked-up iron room with three locks, against the door of which
strong chamber the light porter laid his head every night, on a
truckle bed, that disappeared at cockcrow. Further, she was lady
paramount over certain vaults in the basement, sharply spiked off
from communication with the predatory world; and over the relics of
the current day's work, consisting of blots of ink, worn-out pens,
fragments of wafers, and scraps of paper torn so small, that
nothing interesting could ever be deciphered on them when Mrs.
Sparsit tried. Lastly, she was guardian over a little armoury of
cutlasses and carbines, arrayed in vengeful order above one of the
official chimney-pieces; and over that respectable tradition never
to be separated from a place of business claiming to be wealthy - a
row of fire-buckets - vessels calculated to be of no physical
utility on any occasion, but observed to exercise a fine moral
influence, almost equal to bullion, on most beholders.
A deaf serving-woman and the light porter completed Mrs. Sparsit's
empire. The deaf serving-woman was rumoured to be wealthy; and a
saying had for years gone about among the lower orders of Coketown,
that she would be murdered some night when the Bank was shut, for
the sake of her money. It was generally considered, indeed, that
she had been due some time, and ought to have fallen long ago; but
she had kept her life, and her situation, with an ill-conditioned
tenacity that occasioned much offence and disappointment.
Mrs. Sparsit's tea was just set for her on a pert little table,
with its tripod of legs in an attitude, which she insinuated after
office-hours, into the company of the stern, leathern-topped, long
board-table that bestrode the middle of the room. The light porter
placed the tea-tray on it, knuckling his forehead as a form of
'Thank you, Bitzer,' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'Thank you, ma'am,' returned the light porter. He was a very light
porter indeed; as light as in the days when he blinkingly defined a
horse, for girl number twenty.
'All is shut up, Bitzer?' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'All is shut up, ma'am.'
'And what,' said Mrs. Sparsit, pouring out her tea, 'is the news of
the day? Anything?'
'Well, ma'am, I can't say that I have heard anything particular.
Our people are a bad lot, ma'am; but that is no news,
'What are the restless wretches doing now?' asked Mrs. Sparsit.
'Merely going on in the old way, ma'am. Uniting, and leaguing, and
engaging to stand by one another.'
'It is much to be regretted,' said Mrs. Sparsit, making her nose
more Roman and her eyebrows more Coriolanian in the strength of her
severity, 'that the united masters allow of any such class-
'Yes, ma'am,' said Bitzer.
'Being united themselves, they ought one and all to set their faces
against employing any man who is united with any other man,' said
'They have done that, ma'am,' returned Bitzer; 'but it rather fell
'I do not pretend to understand these things,' said Mrs. Sparsit,
with dignity, 'my lot having been signally cast in a widely
different sphere; and Mr. Sparsit, as a Powler, being also quite
out of the pale of any such dissensions. I only know that these
people must be conquered, and that it's high time it was done, once
'Yes, ma'am,' returned Bitzer, with a demonstration of great
respect for Mrs. Sparsit's oracular authority. 'You couldn't put
it clearer, I am sure, ma'am.'
As this was his usual hour for having a little confidential chat
with Mrs. Sparsit, and as he had already caught her eye and seen
that she was going to ask him something, he made a pretence of
arranging the rulers, inkstands, and so forth, while that lady went
on with her tea, glancing through the open window, down into the
'Has it been a busy day, Bitzer?' asked Mrs. Sparsit.
'Not a very busy day, my lady. About an average day.' He now and
then slided into my lady, instead of ma'am, as an involuntary
acknowledgment of Mrs. Sparsit's personal dignity and claims to
'The clerks,' said Mrs. Sparsit, carefully brushing an
imperceptible crumb of bread and butter from her left-hand mitten,
'are trustworthy, punctual, and industrious, of course?'
'Yes, ma'am, pretty fair, ma'am. With the usual exception.'
He held the respectable office of general spy and informer in the
establishment, for which volunteer service he received a present at
Christmas, over and above his weekly wage. He had grown into an
extremely clear-headed, cautious, prudent young man, who was safe
to rise in the world. His mind was so exactly regulated, that he
had no affections or passions. All his proceedings were the result
of the nicest and coldest calculation; and it was not without cause
that Mrs. Sparsit habitually observed of him, that he was a young
man of the steadiest principle she had ever known. Having
satisfied himself, on his father's death, that his mother had a
right of settlement in Coketown, this excellent young economist had
asserted that right for her with such a steadfast adherence to the
principle of the case, that she had been shut up in the workhouse
ever since. It must be admitted that he allowed her half a pound
of tea a year, which was weak in him: first, because all gifts
have an inevitable tendency to pauperise the recipient, and
secondly, because his only reasonable transaction in that commodity
would have been to buy it for as little as he could possibly give,
and sell it for as much as he could possibly get; it having been
clearly ascertained by philosophers that in this is comprised the
whole duty of man - not a part of man's duty, but the whole.
'Pretty fair, ma'am. With the usual exception, ma'am,' repeated
'Ah - h!' said Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her head over her tea-cup, and
taking a long gulp.
'Mr. Thomas, ma'am, I doubt Mr. Thomas very much, ma'am, I don't
like his ways at all.'
'Bitzer,' said Mrs. Sparsit, in a very impressive manner, 'do you
recollect my having said anything to you respecting names?'
'I beg your pardon, ma'am. It's quite true that you did object to
names being used, and they're always best avoided.'
'Please to remember that I have a charge here,' said Mrs. Sparsit,
with her air of state. 'I hold a trust here, Bitzer, under Mr.
Bounderby. However improbable both Mr. Bounderby and myself might
have deemed it years ago, that he would ever become my patron,
making me an annual compliment, I cannot but regard him in that
light. From Mr. Bounderby I have received every acknowledgment of
my social station, and every recognition of my family descent, that
I could possibly expect. More, far more. Therefore, to my patron
I will be scrupulously true. And I do not consider, I will not
consider, I cannot consider,' said Mrs. Sparsit, with a most
extensive stock on hand of honour and morality, 'that I should be
scrupulously true, if I allowed names to be mentioned under this
roof, that are unfortunately - most unfortunately - no doubt of
that - connected with his.'
Bitzer knuckled his forehead again, and again begged pardon.
'No, Bitzer,' continued Mrs. Sparsit, 'say an individual, and I
will hear you; say Mr. Thomas, and you must excuse me.'
'With the usual exception, ma'am,' said Bitzer, trying back, 'of an
'Ah - h!' Mrs. Sparsit repeated the ejaculation, the shake of the
head over her tea-cup, and the long gulp, as taking up the
conversation again at the point where it had been interrupted.
'An individual, ma'am,' said Bitzer, 'has never been what he ought
to have been, since he first came into the place. He is a
dissipated, extravagant idler. He is not worth his salt, ma'am.
He wouldn't get it either, if he hadn't a friend and relation at
'Ah - h!' said Mrs. Sparsit, with another melancholy shake of her
'I only hope, ma'am,' pursued Bitzer, 'that his friend and relation
may not supply him with the means of carrying on. Otherwise,
ma'am, we know out of whose pocket that money comes.'
'Ah - h!' sighed Mrs. Sparsit again, with another melancholy shake
of her head.
'He is to be pitied, ma'am. The last party I have alluded to, is
to be pitied, ma'am,' said Bitzer.
'Yes, Bitzer,' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'I have always pitied the
'As to an individual, ma'am,' said Bitzer, dropping his voice and
drawing nearer, 'he is as improvident as any of the people in this
town. And you know what their improvidence is, ma'am. No one
could wish to know it better than a lady of your eminence does.'
'They would do well,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'to take example by
'Thank you, ma'am. But, since you do refer to me, now look at me,
ma'am. I have put by a little, ma'am, already. That gratuity
which I receive at Christmas, ma'am: I never touch it. I don't
even go the length of my wages, though they're not high, ma'am.
Why can't they do as I have done, ma'am? What one person can do,
another can do.'
This, again, was among the fictions of Coketown. Any capitalist
there, who had made sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, always
professed to wonder why the sixty thousand nearest Hands didn't
each make sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, and more or less
reproached them every one for not accomplishing the little feat.
What I did you can do. Why don't you go and do it?
'As to their wanting recreations, ma'am,' said Bitzer, 'it's stuff
and nonsense. I don't want recreations. I never did, and I never
shall; I don't like 'em. As to their combining together; there are
many of them, I have no doubt, that by watching and informing upon
one another could earn a trifle now and then, whether in money or
good will, and improve their livelihood. Then, why don't they
improve it, ma'am! It's the first consideration of a rational
creature, and it's what they pretend to want.'
'Pretend indeed!' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'I am sure we are constantly hearing, ma'am, till it becomes quite
nauseous, concerning their wives and families,' said Bitzer. 'Why
look at me, ma'am! I don't want a wife and family. Why should
'Because they are improvident,' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'Yes, ma'am,' returned Bitzer, 'that's where it is. If they were
more provident and less perverse, ma'am, what would they do? They
would say, "While my hat covers my family," or "while my bonnet
covers my family," - as the case might be, ma'am - "I have only one
to feed, and that's the person I most like to feed."'
'To be sure,' assented Mrs. Sparsit, eating muffin.
'Thank you, ma'am,' said Bitzer, knuckling his forehead again, in
return for the favour of Mrs. Sparsit's improving conversation.
'Would you wish a little more hot water, ma'am, or is there
anything else that I could fetch you?'
'Nothing just now, Bitzer.'
'Thank you, ma'am. I shouldn't wish to disturb you at your meals,
ma'am, particularly tea, knowing your partiality for it,' said
Bitzer, craning a little to look over into the street from where he
stood; 'but there's a gentleman been looking up here for a minute
or so, ma'am, and he has come across as if he was going to knock.
That is his knock, ma'am, no doubt.'
He stepped to the window; and looking out, and drawing in his head
again, confirmed himself with, 'Yes, ma'am. Would you wish the
gentleman to be shown in, ma'am?'
'I don't know who it can be,' said Mrs. Sparsit, wiping her mouth
and arranging her mittens.
'A stranger, ma'am, evidently.'
'What a stranger can want at the Bank at this time of the evening,
unless he comes upon some business for which he is too late, I
don't know,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'but I hold a charge in this
establishment from Mr. Bounderby, and I will never shrink from it.
If to see him is any part of the duty I have accepted, I will see
him. Use your own discretion, Bitzer.'
Here the visitor, all unconscious of Mrs. Sparsit's magnanimous
words, repeated his knock so loudly that the light porter hastened
down to open the door; while Mrs. Sparsit took the precaution of
concealing her little table, with all its appliances upon it, in a
cupboard, and then decamped up-stairs, that she might appear, if
needful, with the greater dignity.
'If you please, ma'am, the gentleman would wish to see you,' said
Bitzer, with his light eye at Mrs. Sparsit's keyhole. So, Mrs.
Sparsit, who had improved the interval by touching up her cap, took
her classical features down-stairs again, and entered the board-
room in the manner of a Roman matron going outside the city walls
to treat with an invading general.
The visitor having strolled to the window, and being then engaged
in looking carelessly out, was as unmoved by this impressive entry
as man could possibly be. He stood whistling to himself with all
imaginable coolness, with his hat still on, and a certain air of
exhaustion upon him, in part arising from excessive summer, and in
part from excessive gentility. For it was to be seen with half an
eye that he was a thorough gentleman, made to the model of the
time; weary of everything, and putting no more faith in anything
'I believe, sir,' quoth Mrs. Sparsit, 'you wished to see me.'
'I beg your pardon,' he said, turning and removing his hat; 'pray
'Humph!' thought Mrs. Sparsit, as she made a stately bend. 'Five
and thirty, good-looking, good figure, good teeth, good voice, good
breeding, well-dressed, dark hair, bold eyes.' All which Mrs.
Sparsit observed in her womanly way - like the Sultan who put his
head in the pail of water - merely in dipping down and coming up
'Please to be seated, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'Thank you. Allow me.' He placed a chair for her, but remained
himself carelessly lounging against the table. 'I left my servant
at the railway looking after the luggage - very heavy train and
vast quantity of it in the van - and strolled on, looking about me.
Exceedingly odd place. Will you allow me to ask you if it's always
as black as this?'
'In general much blacker,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, in her
'Is it possible! Excuse me: you are not a native, I think?'
'No, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit. 'It was once my good or ill
fortune, as it may be - before I became a widow - to move in a very
different sphere. My husband was a Powler.'
'Beg your pardon, really!' said the stranger. 'Was - ?'
Mrs. Sparsit repeated, 'A Powler.'
'Powler Family,' said the stranger, after reflecting a few moments.
Mrs. Sparsit signified assent. The stranger seemed a little more
fatigued than before.
'You must be very much bored here?' was the inference he drew from
'I am the servant of circumstances, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'and I
have long adapted myself to the governing power of my life.'
'Very philosophical,' returned the stranger, 'and very exemplary
and laudable, and - ' It seemed to be scarcely worth his while to
finish the sentence, so he played with his watch-chain wearily.
'May I be permitted to ask, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'to what I am
indebted for the favour of - '
'Assuredly,' said the stranger. 'Much obliged to you for reminding
me. I am the bearer of a letter of introduction to Mr. Bounderby,
the banker. Walking through this extraordinarily black town, while
they were getting dinner ready at the hotel, I asked a fellow whom
I met; one of the working people; who appeared to have been taking
a shower-bath of something fluffy, which I assume to be the raw
material - '
Mrs. Sparsit inclined her head.
' - Raw material - where Mr. Bounderby, the banker, might reside.
Upon which, misled no doubt by the word Banker, he directed me to
the Bank. Fact being, I presume, that Mr. Bounderby the Banker
does not reside in the edifice in which I have the honour of
offering this explanation?'
'No, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'he does not.'
'Thank you. I had no intention of delivering my letter at the
present moment, nor have I. But strolling on to the Bank to kill
time, and having the good fortune to observe at the window,'
towards which he languidly waved his hand, then slightly bowed, 'a
lady of a very superior and agreeable appearance, I considered that
I could not do better than take the liberty of asking that lady
where Mr. Bounderby the Banker does live. Which I accordingly
venture, with all suitable apologies, to do.'
The inattention and indolence of his manner were sufficiently
relieved, to Mrs. Sparsit's thinking, by a certain gallantry at
ease, which offered her homage too. Here he was, for instance, at
this moment, all but sitting on the table, and yet lazily bending
over her, as if he acknowledged an attraction in her that made her
charming - in her way.
'Banks, I know, are always suspicious, and officially must be,'
said the stranger, whose lightness and smoothness of speech were
pleasant likewise; suggesting matter far more sensible and humorous
than it ever contained - which was perhaps a shrewd device of the
founder of this numerous sect, whosoever may have been that great
man: 'therefore I may observe that my letter - here it is - is
from the member for this place - Gradgrind - whom I have had the
pleasure of knowing in London.'
Mrs. Sparsit recognized the hand, intimated that such confirmation
was quite unnecessary, and gave Mr. Bounderby's address, with all
needful clues and directions in aid.
'Thousand thanks,' said the stranger. 'Of course you know the
'Yes, sir,' rejoined Mrs. Sparsit. 'In my dependent relation
towards him, I have known him ten years.'
'Quite an eternity! I think he married Gradgrind's daughter?'
'Yes,' said Mrs. Sparsit, suddenly compressing her mouth, 'he had
that - honour.'
'The lady is quite a philosopher, I am told?'
'Indeed, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Is she?'
'Excuse my impertinent curiosity,' pursued the stranger, fluttering
over Mrs. Sparsit's eyebrows, with a propitiatory air, 'but you
know the family, and know the world. I am about to know the
family, and may have much to do with them. Is the lady so very
alarming? Her father gives her such a portentously hard-headed
reputation, that I have a burning desire to know. Is she
absolutely unapproachable? Repellently and stunningly clever? I
see, by your meaning smile, you think not. You have poured balm
into my anxious soul. As to age, now. Forty? Five and thirty?'
Mrs. Sparsit laughed outright. 'A chit,' said she. 'Not twenty
when she was married.'
'I give you my honour, Mrs. Powler,' returned the stranger,
detaching himself from the table, 'that I never was so astonished
in my life!'
It really did seem to impress him, to the utmost extent of his
capacity of being impressed. He looked at his informant for full a
quarter of a minute, and appeared to have the surprise in his mind
all the time. 'I assure you, Mrs. Powler,' he then said, much
exhausted, 'that the father's manner prepared me for a grim and
stony maturity. I am obliged to you, of all things, for correcting
so absurd a mistake. Pray excuse my intrusion. Many thanks. Good
He bowed himself out; and Mrs. Sparsit, hiding in the window
curtain, saw him languishing down the street on the shady side of
the way, observed of all the town.
'What do you think of the gentleman, Bitzer?' she asked the light
porter, when he came to take away.
'Spends a deal of money on his dress, ma'am.'
'It must be admitted,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'that it's very
'Yes, ma'am,' returned Bitzer, 'if that's worth the money.'
'Besides which, ma'am,' resumed Bitzer, while he was polishing the
table, 'he looks to me as if he gamed.'
'It's immoral to game,' said Mrs. Sparsit.
'It's ridiculous, ma'am,' said Bitzer, 'because the chances are
against the players.'
Whether it was that the heat prevented Mrs. Sparsit from working,
or whether it was that her hand was out, she did no work that
night. She sat at the window, when the sun began to sink behind
the smoke; she sat there, when the smoke was burning red, when the
colour faded from it, when darkness seemed to rise slowly out of
the ground, and creep upward, upward, up to the house-tops, up the
church steeple, up to the summits of the factory chimneys, up to
the sky. Without a candle in the room, Mrs. Sparsit sat at the
window, with her hands before her, not thinking much of the sounds
of evening; the whooping of boys, the barking of dogs, the rumbling
of wheels, the steps and voices of passengers, the shrill street
cries, the clogs upon the pavement when it was their hour for going
by, the shutting-up of shop-shutters. Not until the light porter
announced that her nocturnal sweetbread was ready, did Mrs. Sparsit
arouse herself from her reverie, and convey her dense black
eyebrows - by that time creased with meditation, as if they needed
'O, you Fool!' said Mrs. Sparsit, when she was alone at her supper.
Whom she meant, she did not say; but she could scarcely have meant
CHAPTER II - MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE
THE Gradgrind party wanted assistance in cutting the throats of the
Graces. They went about recruiting; and where could they enlist
recruits more hopefully, than among the fine gentlemen who, having
found out everything to be worth nothing, were equally ready for
Moreover, the healthy spirits who had mounted to this sublime
height were attractive to many of the Gradgrind school. They liked
fine gentlemen; they pretended that they did not, but they did.
They became exhausted in imitation of them; and they yaw-yawed in
their speech like them; and they served out, with an enervated air,
the little mouldy rations of political economy, on which they
regaled their disciples. There never before was seen on earth such
a wonderful hybrid race as was thus produced.
Among the fine gentlemen not regularly belonging to the Gradgrind
school, there was one of a good family and a better appearance,
with a happy turn of humour which had told immensely with the House
of Commons on the occasion of his entertaining it with his (and the
Board of Directors) view of a railway accident, in which the most
careful officers ever known, employed by the most liberal managers
ever heard of, assisted by the finest mechanical contrivances ever
devised, the whole in action on the best line ever constructed, had
killed five people and wounded thirty-two, by a casualty without
which the excellence of the whole system would have been positively
incomplete. Among the slain was a cow, and among the scattered
articles unowned, a widow's cap. And the honourable member had so
tickled the House (which has a delicate sense of humour) by putting
the cap on the cow, that it became impatient of any serious
reference to the Coroner's Inquest, and brought the railway off
with Cheers and Laughter.
Now, this gentleman had a younger brother of still better
appearance than himself, who had tried life as a Cornet of
Dragoons, and found it a bore; and had afterwards tried it in the
train of an English minister abroad, and found it a bore; and had
then strolled to Jerusalem, and got bored there; and had then gone
yachting about the world, and got bored everywhere. To whom this
honourable and jocular, member fraternally said one day, 'Jem,
there's a good opening among the hard Fact fellows, and they want
men. I wonder you don't go in for statistics.' Jem, rather taken
by the novelty of the idea, and very hard up for a change, was as
ready to 'go in' for statistics as for anything else. So, he went
in. He coached himself up with a blue-book or two; and his brother
put it about among the hard Fact fellows, and said, 'If you want to
bring in, for any place, a handsome dog who can make you a devilish
good speech, look after my brother Jem, for he's your man.' After
a few dashes in the public meeting way, Mr. Gradgrind and a council
of political sages approved of Jem, and it was resolved to send him
down to Coketown, to become known there and in the neighbourhood.
Hence the letter Jem had last night shown to Mrs. Sparsit, which
Mr. Bounderby now held in his hand; superscribed, 'Josiah
Bounderby, Esquire, Banker, Coketown. Specially to introduce James
Harthouse, Esquire. Thomas Gradgrind.'
Within an hour of the receipt of this dispatch and Mr. James
Harthouse's card, Mr. Bounderby put on his hat and went down to the
Hotel. There he found Mr. James Harthouse looking out of window,
in a state of mind so disconsolate, that he was already half-
disposed to 'go in' for something else.
'My name, sir,' said his visitor, 'is Josiah Bounderby, of
Mr. James Harthouse was very happy indeed (though he scarcely
looked so) to have a pleasure he had long expected.
'Coketown, sir,' said Bounderby, obstinately taking a chair, 'is
not the kind of place you have been accustomed to. Therefore, if
you will allow me - or whether you will or not, for I am a plain
man - I'll tell you something about it before we go any further.'
Mr. Harthouse would be charmed.
'Don't be too sure of that,' said Bounderby. 'I don't promise it.
First of all, you see our smoke. That's meat and drink to us.
It's the healthiest thing in the world in all respects, and
particularly for the lungs. If you are one of those who want us to
consume it, I differ from you. We are not going to wear the
bottoms of our boilers out any faster than we wear 'em out now, for
all the humbugging sentiment in Great Britain and Ireland.'
By way of 'going in' to the fullest extent, Mr. Harthouse rejoined,
'Mr. Bounderby, I assure you I am entirely and completely of your
way of thinking. On conviction.'
'I am glad to hear it,' said Bounderby. 'Now, you have heard a lot
of talk about the work in our mills, no doubt. You have? Very
good. I'll state the fact of it to you. It's the pleasantest work
there is, and it's the lightest work there is, and it's the best-
paid work there is. More than that, we couldn't improve the mills
themselves, unless we laid down Turkey carpets on the floors.
Which we're not a-going to do.'
'Mr. Bounderby, perfectly right.'
'Lastly,' said Bounderby, 'as to our Hands. There's not a Hand in
this town, sir, man, woman, or child, but has one ultimate object
in life. That object is, to be fed on turtle soup and venison with
a gold spoon. Now, they're not a-going - none of 'em - ever to be
fed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon. And now you know
Mr. Harthouse professed himself in the highest degree instructed
and refreshed, by this condensed epitome of the whole Coketown
'Why, you see,' replied Mr. Bounderby, 'it suits my disposition to
have a full understanding with a man, particularly with a public
man, when I make his acquaintance. I have only one thing more to
say to you, Mr. Harthouse, before assuring you of the pleasure with
which I shall respond, to the utmost of my poor ability, to my
friend Tom Gradgrind's letter of introduction. You are a man of
family. Don't you deceive yourself by supposing for a moment that
I am a man of family. I am a bit of dirty riff-raff, and a genuine
scrap of tag, rag, and bobtail.'
If anything could have exalted Jem's interest in Mr. Bounderby, it
would have been this very circumstance. Or, so he told him.
'So now,' said Bounderby, 'we may shake hands on equal terms. I
say, equal terms, because although I know what I am, and the exact
depth of the gutter I have lifted myself out of, better than any
man does, I am as proud as you are. I am just as proud as you are.
Having now asserted my independence in a proper manner, I may come
to how do you find yourself, and I hope you're pretty well.'
The better, Mr. Harthouse gave him to understand as they shook
hands, for the salubrious air of Coketown. Mr. Bounderby received
the answer with favour.
'Perhaps you know,' said he, 'or perhaps you don't know, I married
Tom Gradgrind's daughter. If you have nothing better to do than to
walk up town with me, I shall be glad to introduce you to Tom
'Mr. Bounderby,' said Jem, 'you anticipate my dearest wishes.'
They went out without further discourse; and Mr. Bounderby piloted
the new acquaintance who so strongly contrasted with him, to the
private red brick dwelling, with the black outside shutters, the
green inside blinds, and the black street door up the two white
steps. In the drawing-room of which mansion, there presently
entered to them the most remarkable girl Mr. James Harthouse had
ever seen. She was so constrained, and yet so careless; so
reserved, and yet so watchful; so cold and proud, and yet so
sensitively ashamed of her husband's braggart humility - from which
she shrunk as if every example of it were a cut or a blow; that it
was quite a new sensation to observe her. In face she was no less
remarkable than in manner. Her features were handsome; but their
natural play was so locked up, that it seemed impossible to guess
at their genuine expression. Utterly indifferent, perfectly self-
reliant, never at a loss, and yet never at her ease, with her
figure in company with them there, and her mind apparently quite
alone - it was of no use 'going in' yet awhile to comprehend this
girl, for she baffled all penetration.
From the mistress of the house, the visitor glanced to the house
itself. There was no mute sign of a woman in the room. No
graceful little adornment, no fanciful little device, however
trivial, anywhere expressed her influence. Cheerless and
comfortless, boastfully and doggedly rich, there the room stared at
its present occupants, unsoftened and unrelieved by the least trace
of any womanly occupation. As Mr. Bounderby stood in the midst of
his household gods, so those unrelenting divinities occupied their
places around Mr. Bounderby, and they were worthy of one another,
and well matched.
'This, sir,' said Bounderby, 'is my wife, Mrs. Bounderby: Tom
Gradgrind's eldest daughter. Loo, Mr. James Harthouse. Mr.
Harthouse has joined your father's muster-roll. If he is not Torn
Gradgrind's colleague before long, I believe we shall at least hear
of him in connexion with one of our neighbouring towns. You
observe, Mr. Harthouse, that my wife is my junior. I don't know
what she saw in me to marry me, but she saw something in me, I
suppose, or she wouldn't have married me. She has lots of
expensive knowledge, sir, political and otherwise. If you want to
cram for anything, I should be troubled to recommend you to a
better adviser than Loo Bounderby.'
To a more agreeable adviser, or one from whom he would be more
likely to learn, Mr. Harthouse could never be recommended.
'Come!' said his host. 'If you're in the complimentary line,
you'll get on here, for you'll meet with no competition. I have
never been in the way of learning compliments myself, and I don't
profess to understand the art of paying 'em. In fact, despise 'em.
But, your bringing-up was different from mine; mine was a real
thing, by George! You're a gentleman, and I don't pretend to be
one. I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, and that's enough for me.
However, though I am not influenced by manners and station, Loo
Bounderby may be. She hadn't my advantages - disadvantages you
would call 'em, but I call 'em advantages - so you'll not waste
your power, I dare say.'
'Mr. Bounderby,' said Jem, turning with a smile to Louisa, 'is a
noble animal in a comparatively natural state, quite free from the
harness in which a conventional hack like myself works.'
'You respect Mr. Bounderby very much,' she quietly returned. 'It
is natural that you should.'
He was disgracefully thrown out, for a gentleman who had seen so
much of the world, and thought, 'Now, how am I to take this?'
'You are going to devote yourself, as I gather from what Mr.
Bounderby has said, to the service of your country. You have made
up your mind,' said Louisa, still standing before him where she had
first stopped - in all the singular contrariety of her self-
possession, and her being obviously very ill at ease - 'to show the
nation the way out of all its difficulties.'
'Mrs. Bounderby,' he returned, laughing, 'upon my honour, no. I
will make no such pretence to you. I have seen a little, here and
there, up and down; I have found it all to be very worthless, as
everybody has, and as some confess they have, and some do not; and
I am going in for your respected father's opinions - really because
I have no choice of opinions, and may as well back them as anything
'Have you none of your own?' asked Louisa.
'I have not so much as the slightest predilection left. I assure
you I attach not the least importance to any opinions. The result
of the varieties of boredom I have undergone, is a conviction
(unless conviction is too industrious a word for the lazy sentiment
I entertain on the subject), that any set of ideas will do just as
much good as any other set, and just as much harm as any other set.
There's an English family with a charming Italian motto. What will
be, will be. It's the only truth going!'
This vicious assumption of honesty in dishonesty - a vice so
dangerous, so deadly, and so common - seemed, he observed, a little
to impress her in his favour. He followed up the advantage, by
saying in his pleasantest manner: a manner to which she might
attach as much or as little meaning as she pleased: 'The side that
can prove anything in a line of units, tens, hundreds, and
thousands, Mrs. Bounderby, seems to me to afford the most fun, and
to give a man the best chance. I am quite as much attached to it
as if I believed it. I am quite ready to go in for it, to the same
extent as if I believed it. And what more could I possibly do, if
I did believe it!'
'You are a singular politician,' said Louisa.
'Pardon me; I have not even that merit. We are the largest party
in the state, I assure you, Mrs. Bounderby, if we all fell out of
our adopted ranks and were reviewed together.'
Mr. Bounderby, who had been in danger of bursting in silence,
interposed here with a project for postponing the family dinner
till half-past six, and taking Mr. James Harthouse in the meantime
on a round of visits to the voting and interesting notabilities of
Coketown and its vicinity. The round of visits was made; and Mr.
James Harthouse, with a discreet use of his blue coaching, came off
triumphantly, though with a considerable accession of boredom.
In the evening, he found the dinner-table laid for four, but they
sat down only three. It was an appropriate occasion for Mr.
Bounderby to discuss the flavour of the hap'orth of stewed eels he
had purchased in the streets at eight years old; and also of the
inferior water, specially used for laying the dust, with which he
had washed down that repast. He likewise entertained his guest
over the soup and fish, with the calculation that he (Bounderby)
had eaten in his youth at least three horses under the guise of
polonies and saveloys. These recitals, Jem, in a languid manner,
received with 'charming!' every now and then; and they probably
would have decided him to 'go in' for Jerusalem again to-morrow
morning, had he been less curious respecting Louisa.
'Is there nothing,' he thought, glancing at her as she sat at the
head of the table, where her youthful figure, small and slight, but
very graceful, looked as pretty as it looked misplaced; 'is there
nothing that will move that face?'
Yes! By Jupiter, there was something, and here it was, in an
unexpected shape. Tom appeared. She changed as the door opened,
and broke into a beaming smile.
A beautiful smile. Mr. James Harthouse might not have thought so
much of it, but that he had wondered so long at her impassive face.
She put out her hand - a pretty little soft hand; and her fingers
closed upon her brother's, as if she would have carried them to her
'Ay, ay?' thought the visitor. 'This whelp is the only creature
she cares for. So, so!'
The whelp was presented, and took his chair. The appellation was
not flattering, but not unmerited.
'When I was your age, young Tom,' said Bounderby, 'I was punctual,
or I got no dinner!'
'When you were my age,' resumed Tom, 'you hadn't a wrong balance to
get right, and hadn't to dress afterwards.'
'Never mind that now,' said Bounderby.
'Well, then,' grumbled Tom. 'Don't begin with me.'
'Mrs. Bounderby,' said Harthouse, perfectly hearing this under-
strain as it went on; 'your brother's face is quite familiar to me.
Can I have seen him abroad? Or at some public school, perhaps?'
'No,' she resumed, quite interested, 'he has never been abroad yet,
and was educated here, at home. Tom, love, I am telling Mr.
Harthouse that he never saw you abroad.'
'No such luck, sir,' said Tom.
There was little enough in him to brighten her face, for he was a
sullen young fellow, and ungracious in his manner even to her. So
much the greater must have been the solitude of her heart, and her
need of some one on whom to bestow it. 'So much the more is this
whelp the only creature she has ever cared for,' thought Mr. James
Harthouse, turning it over and over. 'So much the more. So much
Both in his sister's presence, and after she had left the room, the
whelp took no pains to hide his contempt for Mr. Bounderby,
whenever he could indulge it without the observation of that
independent man, by making wry faces, or shutting one eye. Without
responding to these telegraphic communications, Mr. Harthouse
encouraged him much in the course of the evening, and showed an
unusual liking for him. At last, when he rose to return to his
hotel, and was a little doubtful whether he knew the way by night,
the whelp immediately proffered his services as guide, and turned
out with him to escort him thither.
CHAPTER III - THE WHELP
IT was very remarkable that a young gentleman who had been brought
up under one continuous system of unnatural restraint, should be a
hypocrite; but it was certainly the case with Tom. It was very
strange that a young gentleman who had never been left to his own
guidance for five consecutive minutes, should be incapable at last
of governing himself; but so it was with Tom. It was altogether
unaccountable that a young gentleman whose imagination had been
strangled in his cradle, should be still inconvenienced by its
ghost in the form of grovelling sensualities; but such a monster,
beyond all doubt, was Tom.
'Do you smoke?' asked Mr. James Harthouse, when they came to the
'I believe you!' said Tom.
He could do no less than ask Tom up; and Tom could do no less than
go up. What with a cooling drink adapted to the weather, but not
so weak as cool; and what with a rarer tobacco than was to be
bought in those parts; Tom was soon in a highly free and easy state
at his end of the sofa, and more than ever disposed to admire his
new friend at the other end.
Tom blew his smoke aside, after he had been smoking a little while,
and took an observation of his friend. 'He don't seem to care
about his dress,' thought Tom, 'and yet how capitally he does it.
What an easy swell he is!'
Mr. James Harthouse, happening to catch Tom's eye, remarked that he
drank nothing, and filled his glass with his own negligent hand.
'Thank'ee,' said Tom. 'Thank'ee. Well, Mr. Harthouse, I hope you
have had about a dose of old Bounderby to-night.' Tom said this
with one eye shut up again, and looking over his glass knowingly,
at his entertainer.
'A very good fellow indeed!' returned Mr. James Harthouse.
'You think so, don't you?' said Tom. And shut up his eye again.
Mr. James Harthouse smiled; and rising from his end of the sofa,
and lounging with his back against the chimney-piece, so that he
stood before the empty fire-grate as he smoked, in front of Tom and
looking down at him, observed:
'What a comical brother-in-law you are!'
'What a comical brother-in-law old Bounderby is, I think you mean,'
'You are a piece of caustic, Tom,' retorted Mr. James Harthouse.
There was something so very agreeable in being so intimate with
such a waistcoat; in being called Tom, in such an intimate way, by
such a voice; in being on such off-hand terms so soon, with such a
pair of whiskers; that Tom was uncommonly pleased with himself.
'Oh! I don't care for old Bounderby,' said he, 'if you mean that.
I have always called old Bounderby by the same name when I have
talked about him, and I have always thought of him in the same way.
I am not going to begin to be polite now, about old Bounderby. It
would be rather late in the day.'
'Don't mind me,' returned James; 'but take care when his wife is
by, you know.'
'His wife?' said Tom. 'My sister Loo? O yes!' And he laughed,
and took a little more of the cooling drink.
James Harthouse continued to lounge in the same place and attitude,
smoking his cigar in his own easy way, and looking pleasantly at
the whelp, as if he knew himself to be a kind of agreeable demon
who had only to hover over him, and he must give up his whole soul
if required. It certainly did seem that the whelp yielded to this
influence. He looked at his companion sneakingly, he looked at him
admiringly, he looked at him boldly, and put up one leg on the
'My sister Loo?' said Tom. 'She never cared for old Bounderby.'
'That's the past tense, Tom,' returned Mr. James Harthouse,
striking the ash from his cigar with his little finger. 'We are in
the present tense, now.'
'Verb neuter, not to care. Indicative mood, present tense. First
person singular, I do not care; second person singular, thou dost
not care; third person singular, she does not care,' returned Tom.
'Good! Very quaint!' said his friend. 'Though you don't mean it.'
'But I do mean it,' cried Tom. 'Upon my honour! Why, you won't
tell me, Mr. Harthouse, that you really suppose my sister Loo does
care for old Bounderby.'
'My dear fellow,' returned the other, 'what am I bound to suppose,
when I find two married people living in harmony and happiness?'
Tom had by this time got both his legs on the sofa. If his second
leg had not been already there when he was called a dear fellow, he
would have put it up at that great stage of the conversation.
Feeling it necessary to do something then, he stretched himself out
at greater length, and, reclining with the back of his head on the
end of the sofa, and smoking with an infinite assumption of
negligence, turned his common face, and not too sober eyes, towards
the face looking down upon him so carelessly yet so potently.
'You know our governor, Mr. Harthouse,' said Tom, 'and therefore,
you needn't be surprised that Loo married old Bounderby. She never
had a lover, and the governor proposed old Bounderby, and she took
'Very dutiful in your interesting sister,' said Mr. James
'Yes, but she wouldn't have been as dutiful, and it would not have
come off as easily,' returned the whelp, 'if it hadn't been for
The tempter merely lifted his eyebrows; but the whelp was obliged
to go on.
'I persuaded her,' he said, with an edifying air of superiority.
'I was stuck into old Bounderby's bank (where I never wanted to
be), and I knew I should get into scrapes there, if she put old
Bounderby's pipe out; so I told her my wishes, and she came into
them. She would do anything for me. It was very game of her,
'It was charming, Tom!'
'Not that it was altogether so important to her as it was to me,'
continued Tom coolly, 'because my liberty and comfort, and perhaps
my getting on, depended on it; and she had no other lover, and
staying at home was like staying in jail - especially when I was
gone. It wasn't as if she gave up another lover for old Bounderby;
but still it was a good thing in her.'
'Perfectly delightful. And she gets on so placidly.'
'Oh,' returned Tom, with contemptuous patronage, 'she's a regular
girl. A girl can get on anywhere. She has settled down to the
life, and she don't mind. It does just as well as another.
Besides, though Loo is a girl, she's not a common sort of girl.
She can shut herself up within herself, and think - as I have often
known her sit and watch the fire - for an hour at a stretch.'
'Ay, ay? Has resources of her own,' said Harthouse, smoking
'Not so much of that as you may suppose,' returned Tom; 'for our
governor had her crammed with all sorts of dry bones and sawdust.
It's his system.'
'Formed his daughter on his own model?' suggested Harthouse.
'His daughter? Ah! and everybody else. Why, he formed Me that
way!' said Tom.
'He did, though,' said Tom, shaking his head. 'I mean to say, Mr.
Harthouse, that when I first left home and went to old Bounderby's,
I was as flat as a warming-pan, and knew no more about life, than
any oyster does.'
'Come, Tom! I can hardly believe that. A joke's a joke.'
'Upon my soul!' said the whelp. 'I am serious; I am indeed!' He
smoked with great gravity and dignity for a little while, and then
added, in a highly complacent tone, 'Oh! I have picked up a little
since. I don't deny that. But I have done it myself; no thanks to
'And your intelligent sister?'
'My intelligent sister is about where she was. She used to
complain to me that she had nothing to fall back upon, that girls
usually fall back upon; and I don't see how she is to have got over
that since. But she don't mind,' he sagaciously added, puffing at
his cigar again. 'Girls can always get on, somehow.'
'Calling at the Bank yesterday evening, for Mr. Bounderby's
address, I found an ancient lady there, who seems to entertain
great admiration for your sister,' observed Mr. James Harthouse,
throwing away the last small remnant of the cigar he had now smoked
'Mother Sparsit!' said Tom. 'What! you have seen her already, have
His friend nodded. Tom took his cigar out of his mouth, to shut up
his eye (which had grown rather unmanageable) with the greater
expression, and to tap his nose several times with his finger.
'Mother Sparsit's feeling for Loo is more than admiration, I should
think,' said Tom. 'Say affection and devotion. Mother Sparsit
never set her cap at Bounderby when he was a bachelor. Oh no!'
These were the last words spoken by the whelp, before a giddy
drowsiness came upon him, followed by complete oblivion. He was
roused from the latter state by an uneasy dream of being stirred up
with a boot, and also of a voice saying: 'Come, it's late. Be
'Well!' he said, scrambling from the sofa. 'I must take my leave
of you though. I say. Yours is very good tobacco. But it's too
'Yes, it's too mild,' returned his entertainer.
'It's - it's ridiculously mild,' said Tom. 'Where's the door!
'He had another odd dream of being taken by a waiter through a
mist, which, after giving him some trouble and difficulty, resolved
itself into the main street, in which he stood alone. He then
walked home pretty easily, though not yet free from an impression
of the presence and influence of his new friend - as if he were
lounging somewhere in the air, in the same negligent attitude,
regarding him with the same look.
The whelp went home, and went to bed. If he had had any sense of
what he had done that night, and had been less of a whelp and more
of a brother, he might have turned short on the road, might have
gone down to the ill-smelling river that was dyed black, might have
gone to bed in it for good and all, and have curtained his head for
ever with its filthy waters.
CHAPTER IV - MEN AND BROTHERS
'OH, my friends, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown! Oh, my
friends and fellow-countrymen, the slaves of an iron-handed and a
grinding despotism! Oh, my friends and fellow-sufferers, and
fellow-workmen, and fellow-men! I tell you that the hour is come,
when we must rally round one another as One united power, and
crumble into dust the oppressors that too long have battened upon
the plunder of our families, upon the sweat of our brows, upon the
labour of our hands, upon the strength of our sinews, upon the God-
created glorious rights of Humanity, and upon the holy and eternal
privileges of Brotherhood!'
'Good!' 'Hear, hear, hear!' 'Hurrah!' and other cries, arose in
many voices from various parts of the densely crowded and
suffocatingly close Hall, in which the orator, perched on a stage,
delivered himself of this and what other froth and fume he had in
him. He had declaimed himself into a violent heat, and was as
hoarse as he was hot. By dint of roaring at the top of his voice
under a flaring gaslight, clenching his fists, knitting his brows,
setting his teeth, and pounding with his arms, he had taken so much
out of himself by this time, that he was brought to a stop, and
called for a glass of water.
As he stood there, trying to quench his fiery face with his drink
of water, the comparison between the orator and the crowd of
attentive faces turned towards him, was extremely to his
disadvantage. Judging him by Nature's evidence, he was above the
mass in very little but the stage on which he stood. In many great
respects he was essentially below them. He was not so honest, he
was not so manly, he was not so good-humoured; he substituted
cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid
sense. An ill-made, high-shouldered man, with lowering brows, and
his features crushed into an habitually sour expression, he
contrasted most unfavourably, even in his mongrel dress, with the
great body of his hearers in their plain working clothes. Strange
as it always is to consider any assembly in the act of submissively
resigning itself to the dreariness of some complacent person, lord
or commoner, whom three-fourths of it could, by no human means,
raise out of the slough of inanity to their own intellectual level,
it was particularly strange, and it was even particularly
affecting, to see this crowd of earnest faces, whose honesty in the
main no competent observer free from bias could doubt, so agitated
by such a leader.
Good! Hear, hear! Hurrah! The eagerness both of attention and
intention, exhibited in all the countenances, made them a most
impressive sight. There was no carelessness, no languor, no idle
curiosity; none of the many shades of indifference to be seen in
all other assemblies, visible for one moment there. That every man
felt his condition to be, somehow or other, worse than it might be;
that every man considered it incumbent on him to join the rest,
towards the making of it better; that every man felt his only hope
to be in his allying himself to the comrades by whom he was
surrounded; and that in this belief, right or wrong (unhappily
wrong then), the whole of that crowd were gravely, deeply,
faithfully in earnest; must have been as plain to any one who chose
to see what was there, as the bare beams of the roof and the
whitened brick walls. Nor could any such spectator fail to know in
his own breast, that these men, through their very delusions,
showed great qualities, susceptible of being turned to the happiest
and best account; and that to pretend (on the strength of sweeping
axioms, howsoever cut and dried) that they went astray wholly
without cause, and of their own irrational wills, was to pretend
that there could be smoke without fire, death without birth,
harvest without seed, anything or everything produced from nothing.
The orator having refreshed himself, wiped his corrugated forehead
from left to right several times with his handkerchief folded into
a pad, and concentrated all his revived forces, in a sneer of great
disdain and bitterness.
'But oh, my friends and brothers! Oh, men and Englishmen, the
down-trodden operatives of Coketown! What shall we say of that man
- that working-man, that I should find it necessary so to libel the
glorious name - who, being practically and well acquainted with the
grievances and wrongs of you, the injured pith and marrow of this
land, and having heard you, with a noble and majestic unanimity
that will make Tyrants tremble, resolve for to subscribe to the
funds of the United Aggregate Tribunal, and to abide by the
injunctions issued by that body for your benefit, whatever they may
be - what, I ask you, will you say of that working-man, since such
I must acknowledge him to be, who, at such a time, deserts his
post, and sells his flag; who, at such a time, turns a traitor and
a craven and a recreant, who, at such a time, is not ashamed to
make to you the dastardly and humiliating avowal that he will hold
himself aloof, and will not be one of those associated in the
gallant stand for Freedom and for Right?'
The assembly was divided at this point. There were some groans and
hisses, but the general sense of honour was much too strong for the
condemnation of a man unheard. 'Be sure you're right,
Slackbridge!' 'Put him up!' 'Let's hear him!' Such things were
said on many sides. Finally, one strong voice called out, 'Is the
man heer? If the man's heer, Slackbridge, let's hear the man
himseln, 'stead o' yo.' Which was received with a round of
Slackbridge, the orator, looked about him with a withering smile;
and, holding out his right hand at arm's length (as the manner of
all Slackbridges is), to still the thundering sea, waited until
there was a profound silence.
'Oh, my friends and fellow-men!' said Slackbridge then, shaking his
head with violent scorn, 'I do not wonder that you, the prostrate
sons of labour, are incredulous of the existence of such a man.
But he who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage existed, and
Judas Iscariot existed, and Castlereagh existed, and this man
Here, a brief press and confusion near the stage, ended in the man
himself standing at the orator's side before the concourse. He was
pale and a little moved in the face - his lips especially showed
it; but he stood quiet, with his left hand at his chin, waiting to
be heard. There was a chairman to regulate the proceedings, and
this functionary now took the case into his own hands.
'My friends,' said he, 'by virtue o' my office as your president, I
askes o' our friend Slackbridge, who may be a little over hetter in
this business, to take his seat, whiles this man Stephen Blackpool
is heern. You all know this man Stephen Blackpool. You know him
awlung o' his misfort'ns, and his good name.'
With that, the chairman shook him frankly by the hand, and sat down
again. Slackbridge likewise sat down, wiping his hot forehead -
always from left to right, and never the reverse way.
'My friends,' Stephen began, in the midst of a dead calm; 'I ha'
hed what's been spok'n o' me, and 'tis lickly that I shan't mend
it. But I'd liefer you'd hearn the truth concernin myseln, fro my
lips than fro onny other man's, though I never cud'n speak afore so
monny, wi'out bein moydert and muddled.'
Slackbridge shook his head as if he would shake it off, in his
'I'm th' one single Hand in Bounderby's mill, o' a' the men theer,
as don't coom in wi' th' proposed reg'lations. I canna coom in wi'
'em. My friends, I doubt their doin' yo onny good. Licker they'll
do yo hurt.'
Slackbridge laughed, folded his arms, and frowned sarcastically.
'But 't an't sommuch for that as I stands out. If that were aw,
I'd coom in wi' th' rest. But I ha' my reasons - mine, yo see -
for being hindered; not on'y now, but awlus - awlus - life long!'
Slackbridge jumped up and stood beside him, gnashing and tearing.
'Oh, my friends, what but this did I tell you? Oh, my fellow-
countrymen, what warning but this did I give you? And how shows
this recreant conduct in a man on whom unequal laws are known to
have fallen heavy? Oh, you Englishmen, I ask you how does this
subornation show in one of yourselves, who is thus consenting to
his own undoing and to yours, and to your children's and your
There was some applause, and some crying of Shame upon the man; but
the greater part of the audience were quiet. They looked at
Stephen's worn face, rendered more pathetic by the homely emotions
it evinced; and, in the kindness of their nature, they were more
sorry than indignant.
''Tis this Delegate's trade for t' speak,' said Stephen, 'an' he's
paid for 't, an' he knows his work. Let him keep to 't. Let him
give no heed to what I ha had'n to bear. That's not for him.
That's not for nobbody but me.'
There was a propriety, not to say a dignity in these words, that
made the hearers yet more quiet and attentive. The same strong
voice called out, 'Slackbridge, let the man be heern, and howd thee
tongue!' Then the place was wonderfully still.
'My brothers,' said Stephen, whose low voice was distinctly heard,
'and my fellow-workmen - for that yo are to me, though not, as I
knows on, to this delegate here - I ha but a word to sen, and I
could sen nommore if I was to speak till Strike o' day. I know
weel, aw what's afore me. I know weel that yo aw resolve to ha
nommore ado wi' a man who is not wi' yo in this matther. I know
weel that if I was a lyin parisht i' th' road, yo'd feel it right
to pass me by, as a forrenner and stranger. What I ha getn, I mun
mak th' best on.'
'Stephen Blackpool,' said the chairman, rising, 'think on 't agen.
Think on 't once agen, lad, afore thou'rt shunned by aw owd
There was an universal murmur to the same effect, though no man
articulated a word. Every eye was fixed on Stephen's face. To
repent of his determination, would be to take a load from all their
minds. He looked around him, and knew that it was so. Not a grain
of anger with them was in his heart; he knew them, far below their
surface weaknesses and misconceptions, as no one but their fellow-
'I ha thowt on 't, above a bit, sir. I simply canna coom in. I
mun go th' way as lays afore me. I mun tak my leave o' aw heer.'
He made a sort of reverence to them by holding up his arms, and
stood for the moment in that attitude; not speaking until they
slowly dropped at his sides.
'Monny's the pleasant word as soom heer has spok'n wi' me; monny's
the face I see heer, as I first seen when I were yoong and lighter
heart'n than now. I ha' never had no fratch afore, sin ever I were
born, wi' any o' my like; Gonnows I ha' none now that's o' my
makin'. Yo'll ca' me traitor and that - yo I mean t' say,'
addressing Slackbridge, 'but 'tis easier to ca' than mak' out. So
He had moved away a pace or two to come down from the platform,
when he remembered something he had not said, and returned again.
'Haply,' he said, turning his furrowed face slowly about, that he
might as it were individually address the whole audience, those
both near and distant; 'haply, when this question has been tak'n up
and discoosed, there'll be a threat to turn out if I'm let to work
among yo. I hope I shall die ere ever such a time cooms, and I
shall work solitary among yo unless it cooms - truly, I mun do 't,
my friends; not to brave yo, but to live. I ha nobbut work to live
by; and wheerever can I go, I who ha worked sin I were no heighth
at aw, in Coketown heer? I mak' no complaints o' bein turned to
the wa', o' bein outcasten and overlooken fro this time forrard,
but hope I shall be let to work. If there is any right for me at
aw, my friends, I think 'tis that.'
Not a word was spoken. Not a sound was audible in the building,
but the slight rustle of men moving a little apart, all along the
centre of the room, to open a means of passing out, to the man with
whom they had all bound themselves to renounce companionship.
Looking at no one, and going his way with a lowly steadiness upon
him that asserted nothing and sought nothing, Old Stephen, with all
his troubles on his head, left the scene.
Then Slackbridge, who had kept his oratorical arm extended during
the going out, as if he were repressing with infinite solicitude
and by a wonderful moral power the vehement passions of the
multitude, applied himself to raising their spirits. Had not the
Roman Brutus, oh, my British countrymen, condemned his son to
death; and had not the Spartan mothers, oh my soon to be victorious
friends, driven their flying children on the points of their
enemies' swords? Then was it not the sacred duty of the men of
Coketown, with forefathers before them, an admiring world in
company with them, and a posterity to come after them, to hurl out
traitors from the tents they had pitched in a sacred and a God-like
cause? The winds of heaven answered Yes; and bore Yes, east, west,
north, and south. And consequently three cheers for the United
Slackbridge acted as fugleman, and gave the time. The multitude of
doubtful faces (a little conscience-stricken) brightened at the
sound, and took it up. Private feeling must yield to the common
cause. Hurrah! The roof yet vibrated with the cheering, when the
Thus easily did Stephen Blackpool fall into the loneliest of lives,
the life of solitude among a familiar crowd. The stranger in the
land who looks into ten thousand faces for some answering look and
never finds it, is in cheering society as compared with him who
passes ten averted faces daily, that were once the countenances of
friends. Such experience was to be Stephen's now, in every waking
moment of his life; at his work, on his way to it and from it, at
his door, at his window, everywhere. By general consent, they even
avoided that side of the street on which he habitually walked; and
left it, of all the working men, to him only.
He had been for many years, a quiet silent man, associating but
little with other men, and used to companionship with his own
thoughts. He had never known before the strength of the want in
his heart for the frequent recognition of a nod, a look, a word; or
the immense amount of relief that had been poured into it by drops
through such small means. It was even harder than he could have
believed possible, to separate in his own conscience his
abandonment by all his fellows from a baseless sense of shame and
The first four days of his endurance were days so long and heavy,
that he began to be appalled by the prospect before him. Not only
did he see no Rachael all the time, but he avoided every chance of
seeing her; for, although he knew that the prohibition did not yet
formally extend to the women working in the factories, he found
that some of them with whom he was acquainted were changed to him,
and he feared to try others, and dreaded that Rachael might be even
singled out from the rest if she were seen in his company. So, he
had been quite alone during the four days, and had spoken to no
one, when, as he was leaving his work at night, a young man of a
very light complexion accosted him in the street.
'Your name's Blackpool, ain't it?' said the young man.
Stephen coloured to find himself with his hat in his hand, in his
gratitude for being spoken to, or in the suddenness of it, or both.
He made a feint of adjusting the lining, and said, 'Yes.'
'You are the Hand they have sent to Coventry, I mean?' said Bitzer,
the very light young man in question.
Stephen answered 'Yes,' again.
'I supposed so, from their all appearing to keep away from you.
Mr. Bounderby wants to speak to you. You know his house, don't
Stephen said 'Yes,' again.
'Then go straight up there, will you?' said Bitzer. 'You're
expected, and have only to tell the servant it's you. I belong to
the Bank; so, if you go straight up without me (I was sent to fetch
you), you'll save me a walk.'
Stephen, whose way had been in the contrary direction, turned
about, and betook himself as in duty bound, to the red brick castle
of the giant Bounderby.
CHAPTER V - MEN AND MASTERS
'WELL, Stephen,' said Bounderby, in his windy manner, 'what's this
I hear? What have these pests of the earth been doing to you?
Come in, and speak up.'
It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden. A tea-table
was set out; and Mr. Bounderby's young wife, and her brother, and a
great gentleman from London, were present. To whom Stephen made
his obeisance, closing the door and standing near it, with his hat
in his hand.
'This is the man I was telling you about, Harthouse,' said Mr.
Bounderby. The gentleman he addressed, who was talking to Mrs.
Bounderby on the sofa, got up, saying in an indolent way, 'Oh
really?' and dawdled to the hearthrug where Mr. Bounderby stood.
'Now,' said Bounderby, 'speak up!'
After the four days he had passed, this address fell rudely and
discordantly on Stephen's ear. Besides being a rough handling of
his wounded mind, it seemed to assume that he really was the self-
interested deserter he had been called.
'What were it, sir,' said Stephen, 'as yo were pleased to want wi'
'Why, I have told you,' returned Bounderby. 'Speak up like a man,
since you are a man, and tell us about yourself and this
'Wi' yor pardon, sir,' said Stephen Blackpool, 'I ha' nowt to sen
Mr. Bounderby, who was always more or less like a Wind, finding
something in his way here, began to blow at it directly.
'Now, look here, Harthouse,' said he, 'here's a specimen of 'em.
When this man was here once before, I warned this man against the
mischievous strangers who are always about - and who ought to be
hanged wherever they are found - and I told this man that he was
going in the wrong direction. Now, would you believe it, that
although they have put this mark upon him, he is such a slave to
them still, that he's afraid to open his lips about them?'
'I sed as I had nowt to sen, sir; not as I was fearfo' o' openin'
'You said! Ah! I know what you said; more than that, I know what
you mean, you see. Not always the same thing, by the Lord Harry!