Part 6 out of 7
won't suffer it.'
'Bounderby,' returned Mr. Gradgrind, rising, 'the less we say to-
night the better, I think.'
'On the contrary, Tom Gradgrind, the more we say to-night, the
better, I think. That is,' the consideration checked him, 'till I
have said all I mean to say, and then I don't care how soon we
stop. I come to a question that may shorten the business. What do
you mean by the proposal you made just now?'
'What do I mean, Bounderby?'
'By your visiting proposition,' said Bounderby, with an inflexible
jerk of the hayfield.
'I mean that I hope you may be induced to arrange in a friendly
manner, for allowing Louisa a period of repose and reflection here,
which may tend to a gradual alteration for the better in many
'To a softening down of your ideas of the incompatibility?' said
'If you put it in those terms.'
'What made you think of this?' said Bounderby.
'I have already said, I fear Louisa has not been understood. Is it
asking too much, Bounderby, that you, so far her elder, should aid
in trying to set her right? You have accepted a great charge of
her; for better for worse, for - '
Mr. Bounderby may have been annoyed by the repetition of his own
words to Stephen Blackpool, but he cut the quotation short with an
'Come!' said he, 'I don't want to be told about that. I know what
I took her for, as well as you do. Never you mind what I took her
for; that's my look out.'
'I was merely going on to remark, Bounderby, that we may all be
more or less in the wrong, not even excepting you; and that some
yielding on your part, remembering the trust you have accepted, may
not only be an act of true kindness, but perhaps a debt incurred
'I think differently,' blustered Bounderby. 'I am going to finish
this business according to my own opinions. Now, I don't want to
make a quarrel of it with you, Tom Gradgrind. To tell you the
truth, I don't think it would be worthy of my reputation to quarrel
on such a subject. As to your gentleman-friend, he may take
himself off, wherever he likes best. If he falls in my way, I
shall tell him my mind; if he don't fall in my way, I shan't, for
it won't be worth my while to do it. As to your daughter, whom I
made Loo Bounderby, and might have done better by leaving Loo
Gradgrind, if she don't come home to-morrow, by twelve o'clock at
noon, I shall understand that she prefers to stay away, and I shall
send her wearing apparel and so forth over here, and you'll take
charge of her for the future. What I shall say to people in
general, of the incompatibility that led to my so laying down the
law, will be this. I am Josiah Bounderby, and I had my bringing-
up; she's the daughter of Tom Gradgrind, and she had her bringing-
up; and the two horses wouldn't pull together. I am pretty well
known to be rather an uncommon man, I believe; and most people will
understand fast enough that it must be a woman rather out of the
common, also, who, in the long run, would come up to my mark.'
'Let me seriously entreat you to reconsider this, Bounderby,' urged
Mr. Gradgrind, 'before you commit yourself to such a decision.'
'I always come to a decision,' said Bounderby, tossing his hat on:
'and whatever I do, I do at once. I should be surprised at Tom
Gradgrind's addressing such a remark to Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown, knowing what he knows of him, if I could be surprised by
anything Tom Gradgrind did, after his making himself a party to
sentimental humbug. I have given you my decision, and I have got
no more to say. Good night!'
So Mr. Bounderby went home to his town house to bed. At five
minutes past twelve o'clock next day, he directed Mrs. Bounderby's
property to be carefully packed up and sent to Tom Gradgrind's;
advertised his country retreat for sale by private contract; and
resumed a bachelor life.
CHAPTER IV - LOST
THE robbery at the Bank had not languished before, and did not
cease to occupy a front place in the attention of the principal of
that establishment now. In boastful proof of his promptitude and
activity, as a remarkable man, and a self-made man, and a
commercial wonder more admirable than Venus, who had risen out of
the mud instead of the sea, he liked to show how little his
domestic affairs abated his business ardour. Consequently, in the
first few weeks of his resumed bachelorhood, he even advanced upon
his usual display of bustle, and every day made such a rout in
renewing his investigations into the robbery, that the officers who
had it in hand almost wished it had never been committed.
They were at fault too, and off the scent. Although they had been
so quiet since the first outbreak of the matter, that most people
really did suppose it to have been abandoned as hopeless, nothing
new occurred. No implicated man or woman took untimely courage, or
made a self-betraying step. More remarkable yet, Stephen Blackpool
could not be heard of, and the mysterious old woman remained a
Things having come to this pass, and showing no latent signs of
stirring beyond it, the upshot of Mr. Bounderby's investigations
was, that he resolved to hazard a bold burst. He drew up a
placard, offering Twenty Pounds reward for the apprehension of
Stephen Blackpool, suspected of complicity in the robbery of
Coketown Bank on such a night; he described the said Stephen
Blackpool by dress, complexion, estimated height, and manner, as
minutely as he could; he recited how he had left the town, and in
what direction he had been last seen going; he had the whole
printed in great black letters on a staring broadsheet; and he
caused the walls to be posted with it in the dead of night, so that
it should strike upon the sight of the whole population at one
The factory-bells had need to ring their loudest that morning to
disperse the groups of workers who stood in the tardy daybreak,
collected round the placards, devouring them with eager eyes. Not
the least eager of the eyes assembled, were the eyes of those who
could not read. These people, as they listened to the friendly
voice that read aloud - there was always some such ready to help
them - stared at the characters which meant so much with a vague
awe and respect that would have been half ludicrous, if any aspect
of public ignorance could ever be otherwise than threatening and
full of evil. Many ears and eyes were busy with a vision of the
matter of these placards, among turning spindles, rattling looms,
and whirling wheels, for hours afterwards; and when the Hands
cleared out again into the streets, there were still as many
readers as before.
Slackbridge, the delegate, had to address his audience too that
night; and Slackbridge had obtained a clean bill from the printer,
and had brought it in his pocket. Oh, my friends and fellow-
countrymen, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown, oh, my fellow-
brothers and fellow-workmen and fellow-citizens and fellowmen, what
a to-do was there, when Slackbridge unfolded what he called 'that
damning document,' and held it up to the gaze, and for the
execration of the working-man community! 'Oh, my fellow-men,
behold of what a traitor in the camp of those great spirits who are
enrolled upon the holy scroll of Justice and of Union, is
appropriately capable! Oh, my prostrate friends, with the galling
yoke of tyrants on your necks and the iron foot of despotism
treading down your fallen forms into the dust of the earth, upon
which right glad would your oppressors be to see you creeping on
your bellies all the days of your lives, like the serpent in the
garden - oh, my brothers, and shall I as a man not add, my sisters
too, what do you say, now, of Stephen Blackpool, with a slight
stoop in his shoulders and about five foot seven in height, as set
forth in this degrading and disgusting document, this blighting
bill, this pernicious placard, this abominable advertisement; and
with what majesty of denouncement will you crush the viper, who
would bring this stain and shame upon the God-like race that
happily has cast him out for ever! Yes, my compatriots, happily
cast him out and sent him forth! For you remember how he stood
here before you on this platform; you remember how, face to face
and foot to foot, I pursued him through all his intricate windings;
you remember how he sneaked and slunk, and sidled, and splitted of
straws, until, with not an inch of ground to which to cling, I
hurled him out from amongst us: an object for the undying finger
of scorn to point at, and for the avenging fire of every free and
thinking mind to scorch and scar! And now, my friends - my
labouring friends, for I rejoice and triumph in that stigma - my
friends whose hard but honest beds are made in toil, and whose
scanty but independent pots are boiled in hardship; and now, I say,
my friends, what appellation has that dastard craven taken to
himself, when, with the mask torn from his features, he stands
before us in all his native deformity, a What? A thief! A
plunderer! A proscribed fugitive, with a price upon his head; a
fester and a wound upon the noble character of the Coketown
operative! Therefore, my band of brothers in a sacred bond, to
which your children and your children's children yet unborn have
set their infant hands and seals, I propose to you on the part of
the United Aggregate Tribunal, ever watchful for your welfare, ever
zealous for your benefit, that this meeting does Resolve: That
Stephen Blackpool, weaver, referred to in this placard, having been
already solemnly disowned by the community of Coketown Hands, the
same are free from the shame of his misdeeds, and cannot as a class
be reproached with his dishonest actions!'
Thus Slackbridge; gnashing and perspiring after a prodigious sort.
A few stern voices called out 'No!' and a score or two hailed, with
assenting cries of 'Hear, hear!' the caution from one man,
'Slackbridge, y'or over hetter in't; y'or a goen too fast!' But
these were pigmies against an army; the general assemblage
subscribed to the gospel according to Slackbridge, and gave three
cheers for him, as he sat demonstratively panting at them.
These men and women were yet in the streets, passing quietly to
their homes, when Sissy, who had been called away from Louisa some
minutes before, returned.
'Who is it?' asked Louisa.
'It is Mr. Bounderby,' said Sissy, timid of the name, 'and your
brother Mr. Tom, and a young woman who says her name is Rachael,
and that you know her.'
'What do they want, Sissy dear?'
'They want to see you. Rachael has been crying, and seems angry.'
'Father,' said Louisa, for he was present, 'I cannot refuse to see
them, for a reason that will explain itself. Shall they come in
As he answered in the affirmative, Sissy went away to bring them.
She reappeared with them directly. Tom was last; and remained
standing in the obscurest part of the room, near the door.
'Mrs. Bounderby,' said her husband, entering with a cool nod, 'I
don't disturb you, I hope. This is an unseasonable hour, but here
is a young woman who has been making statements which render my
visit necessary. Tom Gradgrind, as your son, young Tom, refuses
for some obstinate reason or other to say anything at all about
those statements, good or bad, I am obliged to confront her with
'You have seen me once before, young lady,' said Rachael, standing
in front of Louisa.
'You have seen me, young lady,' repeated Rachael, as she did not
answer, 'once before.'
Tom coughed again.
Rachael cast her eyes proudly towards Mr. Bounderby, and said,
'Will you make it known, young lady, where, and who was there?'
'I went to the house where Stephen Blackpool lodged, on the night
of his discharge from his work, and I saw you there. He was there
too; and an old woman who did not speak, and whom I could scarcely
see, stood in a dark corner. My brother was with me.'
'Why couldn't you say so, young Tom?' demanded Bounderby.
'I promised my sister I wouldn't.' Which Louisa hastily confirmed.
'And besides,' said the whelp bitterly, 'she tells her own story so
precious well - and so full - that what business had I to take it
out of her mouth!'
'Say, young lady, if you please,' pursued Rachael, 'why, in an evil
hour, you ever came to Stephen's that night.'
'I felt compassion for him,' said Louisa, her colour deepening,
'and I wished to know what he was going to do, and wished to offer
'Thank you, ma'am,' said Bounderby. 'Much flattered and obliged.'
'Did you offer him,' asked Rachael, 'a bank-note?'
'Yes; but he refused it, and would only take two pounds in gold.'
Rachael cast her eyes towards Mr. Bounderby again.
'Oh, certainly!' said Bounderby. 'If you put the question whether
your ridiculous and improbable account was true or not, I am bound
to say it's confirmed.'
'Young lady,' said Rachael, 'Stephen Blackpool is now named as a
thief in public print all over this town, and where else! There
have been a meeting to-night where he have been spoken of in the
same shameful way. Stephen! The honestest lad, the truest lad,
the best!' Her indignation failed her, and she broke off sobbing.
'I am very, very sorry,' said Louisa.
'Oh, young lady, young lady,' returned Rachael, 'I hope you may be,
but I don't know! I can't say what you may ha' done! The like of
you don't know us, don't care for us, don't belong to us. I am not
sure why you may ha' come that night. I can't tell but what you
may ha' come wi' some aim of your own, not mindin to what trouble
you brought such as the poor lad. I said then, Bless you for
coming; and I said it of my heart, you seemed to take so pitifully
to him; but I don't know now, I don't know!'
Louisa could not reproach her for her unjust suspicions; she was so
faithful to her idea of the man, and so afflicted.
'And when I think,' said Rachael through her sobs, 'that the poor
lad was so grateful, thinkin you so good to him - when I mind that
he put his hand over his hard-worken face to hide the tears that
you brought up there - Oh, I hope you may be sorry, and ha' no bad
cause to be it; but I don't know, I don't know!'
'You're a pretty article,' growled the whelp, moving uneasily in
his dark corner, 'to come here with these precious imputations!
You ought to be bundled out for not knowing how to behave yourself,
and you would be by rights.'
She said nothing in reply; and her low weeping was the only sound
that was heard, until Mr. Bounderby spoke.
'Come!' said he, 'you know what you have engaged to do. You had
better give your mind to that; not this.'
''Deed, I am loath,' returned Rachael, drying her eyes, 'that any
here should see me like this; but I won't be seen so again. Young
lady, when I had read what's put in print of Stephen - and what has
just as much truth in it as if it had been put in print of you - I
went straight to the Bank to say I knew where Stephen was, and to
give a sure and certain promise that he should be here in two days.
I couldn't meet wi' Mr. Bounderby then, and your brother sent me
away, and I tried to find you, but you was not to be found, and I
went back to work. Soon as I come out of the Mill to-night, I
hastened to hear what was said of Stephen - for I know wi' pride he
will come back to shame it! - and then I went again to seek Mr.
Bounderby, and I found him, and I told him every word I knew; and
he believed no word I said, and brought me here.'
'So far, that's true enough,' assented Mr. Bounderby, with his
hands in his pockets and his hat on. 'But I have known you people
before to-day, you'll observe, and I know you never die for want of
talking. Now, I recommend you not so much to mind talking just
now, as doing. You have undertaken to do something; all I remark
upon that at present is, do it!'
'I have written to Stephen by the post that went out this
afternoon, as I have written to him once before sin' he went away,'
said Rachael; 'and he will be here, at furthest, in two days.'
'Then, I'll tell you something. You are not aware perhaps,'
retorted Mr. Bounderby, 'that you yourself have been looked after
now and then, not being considered quite free from suspicion in
this business, on account of most people being judged according to
the company they keep. The post-office hasn't been forgotten
either. What I'll tell you is, that no letter to Stephen Blackpool
has ever got into it. Therefore, what has become of yours, I leave
you to guess. Perhaps you're mistaken, and never wrote any.'
'He hadn't been gone from here, young lady,' said Rachael, turning
appealingly to Louisa, 'as much as a week, when he sent me the only
letter I have had from him, saying that he was forced to seek work
in another name.'
'Oh, by George!' cried Bounderby, shaking his head, with a whistle,
'he changes his name, does he! That's rather unlucky, too, for
such an immaculate chap. It's considered a little suspicious in
Courts of Justice, I believe, when an Innocent happens to have many
'What,' said Rachael, with the tears in her eyes again, 'what,
young lady, in the name of Mercy, was left the poor lad to do! The
masters against him on one hand, the men against him on the other,
he only wantin to work hard in peace, and do what he felt right.
Can a man have no soul of his own, no mind of his own? Must he go
wrong all through wi' this side, or must he go wrong all through
wi' that, or else be hunted like a hare?'
'Indeed, indeed, I pity him from my heart,' returned Louisa; 'and I
hope that he will clear himself.'
'You need have no fear of that, young lady. He is sure!'
'All the surer, I suppose,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'for your refusing
to tell where he is? Eh?'
'He shall not, through any act of mine, come back wi' the unmerited
reproach of being brought back. He shall come back of his own
accord to clear himself, and put all those that have injured his
good character, and he not here for its defence, to shame. I have
told him what has been done against him,' said Rachael, throwing
off all distrust as a rock throws of the sea, 'and he will be here,
at furthest, in two days.'
'Notwithstanding which,' added Mr. Bounderby, 'if he can be laid
hold of any sooner, he shall have an earlier opportunity of
clearing himself. As to you, I have nothing against you; what you
came and told me turns out to be true, and I have given you the
means of proving it to be true, and there's an end of it. I wish
you good night all! I must be off to look a little further into
Tom came out of his corner when Mr. Bounderby moved, moved with
him, kept close to him, and went away with him. The only parting
salutation of which he delivered himself was a sulky 'Good night,
father!' With a brief speech, and a scowl at his sister, he left
Since his sheet-anchor had come home, Mr. Gradgrind had been
sparing of speech. He still sat silent, when Louisa mildly said:
'Rachael, you will not distrust me one day, when you know me
'It goes against me,' Rachael answered, in a gentler manner, 'to
mistrust any one; but when I am so mistrusted - when we all are - I
cannot keep such things quite out of my mind. I ask your pardon
for having done you an injury. I don't think what I said now. Yet
I might come to think it again, wi' the poor lad so wronged.'
'Did you tell him in your letter,' inquired Sissy, 'that suspicion
seemed to have fallen upon him, because he had been seen about the
Bank at night? He would then know what he would have to explain on
coming back, and would be ready.'
'Yes, dear,' she returned; 'but I can't guess what can have ever
taken him there. He never used to go there. It was never in his
way. His way was the same as mine, and not near it.'
Sissy had already been at her side asking her where she lived, and
whether she might come to-morrow night, to inquire if there were
news of him.
'I doubt,' said Rachael, 'if he can be here till next day.'
'Then I will come next night too,' said Sissy.
When Rachael, assenting to this, was gone, Mr. Gradgrind lifted up
his head, and said to his daughter:
'Louisa, my dear, I have never, that I know of, seen this man. Do
you believe him to be implicated?'
'I think I have believed it, father, though with great difficulty.
I do not believe it now.'
'That is to say, you once persuaded yourself to believe it, from
knowing him to be suspected. His appearance and manner; are they
'And her confidence not to be shaken! I ask myself,' said Mr.
Gradgrind, musing, 'does the real culprit know of these
accusations? Where is he? Who is he?'
His hair had latterly began to change its colour. As he leaned
upon his hand again, looking gray and old, Louisa, with a face of
fear and pity, hurriedly went over to him, and sat close at his
side. Her eyes by accident met Sissy's at the moment. Sissy
flushed and started, and Louisa put her finger on her lip.
Next night, when Sissy returned home and told Louisa that Stephen
was not come, she told it in a whisper. Next night again, when she
came home with the same account, and added that he had not been
heard of, she spoke in the same low frightened tone. From the
moment of that interchange of looks, they never uttered his name,
or any reference to him, aloud; nor ever pursued the subject of the
robbery, when Mr. Gradgrind spoke of it.
The two appointed days ran out, three days and nights ran out, and
Stephen Blackpool was not come, and remained unheard of. On the
fourth day, Rachael, with unabated confidence, but considering her
despatch to have miscarried, went up to the Bank, and showed her
letter from him with his address, at a working colony, one of many,
not upon the main road, sixty miles away. Messengers were sent to
that place, and the whole town looked for Stephen to be brought in
During this whole time the whelp moved about with Mr. Bounderby
like his shadow, assisting in all the proceedings. He was greatly
excited, horribly fevered, bit his nails down to the quick, spoke
in a hard rattling voice, and with lips that were black and burnt
up. At the hour when the suspected man was looked for, the whelp
was at the station; offering to wager that he had made off before
the arrival of those who were sent in quest of him, and that he
would not appear.
The whelp was right. The messengers returned alone. Rachael's
letter had gone, Rachael's letter had been delivered. Stephen
Blackpool had decamped in that same hour; and no soul knew more of
him. The only doubt in Coketown was, whether Rachael had written
in good faith, believing that he really would come back, or warning
him to fly. On this point opinion was divided.
Six days, seven days, far on into another week. The wretched whelp
plucked up a ghastly courage, and began to grow defiant. 'Was the
suspected fellow the thief? A pretty question! If not, where was
the man, and why did he not come back?'
Where was the man, and why did he not come back? In the dead of
night the echoes of his own words, which had rolled Heaven knows
how far away in the daytime, came back instead, and abided by him
CHAPTER V - FOUND
DAY and night again, day and night again. No Stephen Blackpool.
Where was the man, and why did he not come back?
Every night, Sissy went to Rachael's lodging, and sat with her in
her small neat room. All day, Rachael toiled as such people must
toil, whatever their anxieties. The smoke-serpents were
indifferent who was lost or found, who turned out bad or good; the
melancholy mad elephants, like the Hard Fact men, abated nothing of
their set routine, whatever happened. Day and night again, day and
night again. The monotony was unbroken. Even Stephen Blackpool's
disappearance was falling into the general way, and becoming as
monotonous a wonder as any piece of machinery in Coketown.
'I misdoubt,' said Rachael, 'if there is as many as twenty left in
all this place, who have any trust in the poor dear lad now.'
She said it to Sissy, as they sat in her lodging, lighted only by
the lamp at the street corner. Sissy had come there when it was
already dark, to await her return from work; and they had since sat
at the window where Rachael had found her, wanting no brighter
light to shine on their sorrowful talk.
'If it hadn't been mercifully brought about, that I was to have you
to speak to,' pursued Rachael, 'times are, when I think my mind
would not have kept right. But I get hope and strength through
you; and you believe that though appearances may rise against him,
he will be proved clear?'
'I do believe so,' returned Sissy, 'with my whole heart. I feel so
certain, Rachael, that the confidence you hold in yours against all
discouragement, is not like to be wrong, that I have no more doubt
of him than if I had known him through as many years of trial as
'And I, my dear,' said Rachel, with a tremble in her voice, 'have
known him through them all, to be, according to his quiet ways, so
faithful to everything honest and good, that if he was never to be
heard of more, and I was to live to be a hundred years old, I could
say with my last breath, God knows my heart. I have never once
left trusting Stephen Blackpool!'
'We all believe, up at the Lodge, Rachael, that he will be freed
from suspicion, sooner or later.'
'The better I know it to be so believed there, my dear,' said
Rachael, 'and the kinder I feel it that you come away from there,
purposely to comfort me, and keep me company, and be seen wi' me
when I am not yet free from all suspicion myself, the more grieved
I am that I should ever have spoken those mistrusting words to the
young lady. And yet I - '
'You don't mistrust her now, Rachael?'
'Now that you have brought us more together, no. But I can't at
all times keep out of my mind - '
Her voice so sunk into a low and slow communing with herself, that
Sissy, sitting by her side, was obliged to listen with attention.
'I can't at all times keep out of my mind, mistrustings of some
one. I can't think who 'tis, I can't think how or why it may be
done, but I mistrust that some one has put Stephen out of the way.
I mistrust that by his coming back of his own accord, and showing
himself innocent before them all, some one would be confounded, who
- to prevent that - has stopped him, and put him out of the way.'
'That is a dreadful thought,' said Sissy, turning pale.
'It is a dreadful thought to think he may be murdered.'
Sissy shuddered, and turned paler yet.
'When it makes its way into my mind, dear,' said Rachael, 'and it
will come sometimes, though I do all I can to keep it out, wi'
counting on to high numbers as I work, and saying over and over
again pieces that I knew when I were a child - I fall into such a
wild, hot hurry, that, however tired I am, I want to walk fast,
miles and miles. I must get the better of this before bed-time.
I'll walk home wi' you.'
'He might fall ill upon the journey back,' said Sissy, faintly
offering a worn-out scrap of hope; 'and in such a case, there are
many places on the road where he might stop.'
'But he is in none of them. He has been sought for in all, and
he's not there.'
'True,' was Sissy's reluctant admission.
'He'd walk the journey in two days. If he was footsore and
couldn't walk, I sent him, in the letter he got, the money to ride,
lest he should have none of his own to spare.'
'Let us hope that to-morrow will bring something better, Rachael.
Come into the air!'
Her gentle hand adjusted Rachael's shawl upon her shining black
hair in the usual manner of her wearing it, and they went out. The
night being fine, little knots of Hands were here and there
lingering at street corners; but it was supper-time with the
greater part of them, and there were but few people in the streets.
'You're not so hurried now, Rachael, and your hand is cooler.'
'I get better, dear, if I can only walk, and breathe a little
fresh. 'Times when I can't, I turn weak and confused.'
'But you must not begin to fail, Rachael, for you may be wanted at
any time to stand by Stephen. To-morrow is Saturday. If no news
comes to-morrow, let us walk in the country on Sunday morning, and
strengthen you for another week. Will you go?'
They were by this time in the street where Mr. Bounderby's house
stood. The way to Sissy's destination led them past the door, and
they were going straight towards it. Some train had newly arrived
in Coketown, which had put a number of vehicles in motion, and
scattered a considerable bustle about the town. Several coaches
were rattling before them and behind them as they approached Mr.
Bounderby's, and one of the latter drew up with such briskness as
they were in the act of passing the house, that they looked round
involuntarily. The bright gaslight over Mr. Bounderby's steps
showed them Mrs. Sparsit in the coach, in an ecstasy of excitement,
struggling to open the door; Mrs. Sparsit seeing them at the same
moment, called to them to stop.
'It's a coincidence,' exclaimed Mrs. Sparsit, as she was released
by the coachman. 'It's a Providence! Come out, ma'am!' then said
Mrs. Sparsit, to some one inside, 'come out, or we'll have you
Hereupon, no other than the mysterious old woman descended. Whom
Mrs. Sparsit incontinently collared.
'Leave her alone, everybody!' cried Mrs. Sparsit, with great
energy. 'Let nobody touch her. She belongs to me. Come in,
ma'am!' then said Mrs. Sparsit, reversing her former word of
command. 'Come in, ma'am, or we'll have you dragged in!'
The spectacle of a matron of classical deportment, seizing an
ancient woman by the throat, and hauling her into a dwelling-house,
would have been under any circumstances, sufficient temptation to
all true English stragglers so blest as to witness it, to force a
way into that dwelling-house and see the matter out. But when the
phenomenon was enhanced by the notoriety and mystery by this time
associated all over the town with the Bank robbery, it would have
lured the stragglers in, with an irresistible attraction, though
the roof had been expected to fall upon their heads. Accordingly,
the chance witnesses on the ground, consisting of the busiest of
the neighbours to the number of some five-and-twenty, closed in
after Sissy and Rachael, as they closed in after Mrs. Sparsit and
her prize; and the whole body made a disorderly irruption into Mr.
Bounderby's dining-room, where the people behind lost not a
moment's time in mounting on the chairs, to get the better of the
people in front.
'Fetch Mr. Bounderby down!' cried Mrs. Sparsit. 'Rachael, young
woman; you know who this is?'
'It's Mrs. Pegler,' said Rachael.
'I should think it is!' cried Mrs. Sparsit, exulting. 'Fetch Mr.
Bounderby. Stand away, everybody!' Here old Mrs. Pegler, muffling
herself up, and shrinking from observation, whispered a word of
entreaty. 'Don't tell me,' said Mrs. Sparsit, aloud. 'I have told
you twenty times, coming along, that I will not leave you till I
have handed you over to him myself.'
Mr. Bounderby now appeared, accompanied by Mr. Gradgrind and the
whelp, with whom he had been holding conference up-stairs. Mr.
Bounderby looked more astonished than hospitable, at sight of this
uninvited party in his dining-room.
'Why, what's the matter now!' said he. 'Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am?'
'Sir,' explained that worthy woman, 'I trust it is my good fortune
to produce a person you have much desired to find. Stimulated by
my wish to relieve your mind, sir, and connecting together such
imperfect clues to the part of the country in which that person
might be supposed to reside, as have been afforded by the young
woman, Rachael, fortunately now present to identify, I have had the
happiness to succeed, and to bring that person with me - I need not
say most unwillingly on her part. It has not been, sir, without
some trouble that I have effected this; but trouble in your service
is to me a pleasure, and hunger, thirst, and cold a real
Here Mrs. Sparsit ceased; for Mr. Bounderby's visage exhibited an
extraordinary combination of all possible colours and expressions
of discomfiture, as old Mrs. Pegler was disclosed to his view.
'Why, what do you mean by this?' was his highly unexpected demand,
in great warmth. 'I ask you, what do you mean by this, Mrs.
'Sir!' exclaimed Mrs. Sparsit, faintly.
'Why don't you mind your own business, ma'am?' roared Bounderby.
'How dare you go and poke your officious nose into my family
This allusion to her favourite feature overpowered Mrs. Sparsit.
She sat down stiffly in a chair, as if she were frozen; and with a
fixed stare at Mr. Bounderby, slowly grated her mittens against one
another, as if they were frozen too.
'My dear Josiah!' cried Mrs. Pegler, trembling. 'My darling boy!
I am not to blame. It's not my fault, Josiah. I told this lady
over and over again, that I knew she was doing what would not be
agreeable to you, but she would do it.'
'What did you let her bring you for? Couldn't you knock her cap
off, or her tooth out, or scratch her, or do something or other to
her?' asked Bounderby.
'My own boy! She threatened me that if I resisted her, I should be
brought by constables, and it was better to come quietly than make
that stir in such a' - Mrs. Pegler glanced timidly but proudly
round the walls - 'such a fine house as this. Indeed, indeed, it
is not my fault! My dear, noble, stately boy! I have always lived
quiet, and secret, Josiah, my dear. I have never broken the
condition once. I have never said I was your mother. I have
admired you at a distance; and if I have come to town sometimes,
with long times between, to take a proud peep at you, I have done
it unbeknown, my love, and gone away again.'
Mr. Bounderby, with his hands in his pockets, walked in impatient
mortification up and down at the side of the long dining-table,
while the spectators greedily took in every syllable of Mrs.
Pegler's appeal, and at each succeeding syllable became more and
more round-eyed. Mr. Bounderby still walking up and down when Mrs.
Pegler had done, Mr. Gradgrind addressed that maligned old lady:
'I am surprised, madam,' he observed with severity, 'that in your
old age you have the face to claim Mr. Bounderby for your son,
after your unnatural and inhuman treatment of him.'
'Me unnatural!' cried poor old Mrs. Pegler. 'Me inhuman! To my
'Dear!' repeated Mr. Gradgrind. 'Yes; dear in his self-made
prosperity, madam, I dare say. Not very dear, however, when you
deserted him in his infancy, and left him to the brutality of a
'I deserted my Josiah!' cried Mrs. Pegler, clasping her hands.
'Now, Lord forgive you, sir, for your wicked imaginations, and for
your scandal against the memory of my poor mother, who died in my
arms before Josiah was born. May you repent of it, sir, and live
to know better!'
She was so very earnest and injured, that Mr. Gradgrind, shocked by
the possibility which dawned upon him, said in a gentler tone:
'Do you deny, then, madam, that you left your son to - to be
brought up in the gutter?'
'Josiah in the gutter!' exclaimed Mrs. Pegler. 'No such a thing,
sir. Never! For shame on you! My dear boy knows, and will give
you to know, that though he come of humble parents, he come of
parents that loved him as dear as the best could, and never thought
it hardship on themselves to pinch a bit that he might write and
cipher beautiful, and I've his books at home to show it! Aye, have
I!' said Mrs. Pegler, with indignant pride. 'And my dear boy
knows, and will give you to know, sir, that after his beloved
father died, when he was eight years old, his mother, too, could
pinch a bit, as it was her duty and her pleasure and her pride to
do it, to help him out in life, and put him 'prentice. And a
steady lad he was, and a kind master he had to lend him a hand, and
well he worked his own way forward to be rich and thriving. And
I'll give you to know, sir - for this my dear boy won't - that
though his mother kept but a little village shop, he never forgot
her, but pensioned me on thirty pound a year - more than I want,
for I put by out of it - only making the condition that I was to
keep down in my own part, and make no boasts about him, and not
trouble him. And I never have, except with looking at him once a
year, when he has never knowed it. And it's right,' said poor old
Mrs. Pegler, in affectionate championship, 'that I should keep down
in my own part, and I have no doubts that if I was here I should do
a many unbefitting things, and I am well contented, and I can keep
my pride in my Josiah to myself, and I can love for love's own
sake! And I am ashamed of you, sir,' said Mrs. Pegler, lastly,
'for your slanders and suspicions. And I never stood here before,
nor never wanted to stand here when my dear son said no. And I
shouldn't be here now, if it hadn't been for being brought here.
And for shame upon you, Oh, for shame, to accuse me of being a bad
mother to my son, with my son standing here to tell you so
The bystanders, on and off the dining-room chairs, raised a murmur
of sympathy with Mrs. Pegler, and Mr. Gradgrind felt himself
innocently placed in a very distressing predicament, when Mr.
Bounderby, who had never ceased walking up and down, and had every
moment swelled larger and larger, and grown redder and redder,
'I don't exactly know,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'how I come to be
favoured with the attendance of the present company, but I don't
inquire. When they're quite satisfied, perhaps they'll be so good
as to disperse; whether they're satisfied or not, perhaps they'll
be so good as to disperse. I'm not bound to deliver a lecture on
my family affairs, I have not undertaken to do it, and I'm not a
going to do it. Therefore those who expect any explanation
whatever upon that branch of the subject, will be disappointed -
particularly Tom Gradgrind, and he can't know it too soon. In
reference to the Bank robbery, there has been a mistake made,
concerning my mother. If there hadn't been over-officiousness it
wouldn't have been made, and I hate over-officiousness at all
times, whether or no. Good evening!'
Although Mr. Bounderby carried it off in these terms, holding the
door open for the company to depart, there was a blustering
sheepishness upon him, at once extremely crestfallen and
superlatively absurd. Detected as the Bully of humility, who had
built his windy reputation upon lies, and in his boastfulness had
put the honest truth as far away from him as if he had advanced the
mean claim (there is no meaner) to tack himself on to a pedigree,
he cut a most ridiculous figure. With the people filing off at the
door he held, who he knew would carry what had passed to the whole
town, to be given to the four winds, he could not have looked a
Bully more shorn and forlorn, if he had had his ears cropped. Even
that unlucky female, Mrs. Sparsit, fallen from her pinnacle of
exultation into the Slough of Despond, was not in so bad a plight
as that remarkable man and self-made Humbug, Josiah Bounderby of
Rachael and Sissy, leaving Mrs. Pegler to occupy a bed at her son's
for that night, walked together to the gate of Stone Lodge and
there parted. Mr. Gradgrind joined them before they had gone very
far, and spoke with much interest of Stephen Blackpool; for whom he
thought this signal failure of the suspicions against Mrs. Pegler
was likely to work well.
As to the whelp; throughout this scene as on all other late
occasions, he had stuck close to Bounderby. He seemed to feel that
as long as Bounderby could make no discovery without his knowledge,
he was so far safe. He never visited his sister, and had only seen
her once since she went home: that is to say on the night when he
still stuck close to Bounderby, as already related.
There was one dim unformed fear lingering about his sister's mind,
to which she never gave utterance, which surrounded the graceless
and ungrateful boy with a dreadful mystery. The same dark
possibility had presented itself in the same shapeless guise, this
very day, to Sissy, when Rachael spoke of some one who would be
confounded by Stephen's return, having put him out of the way.
Louisa had never spoken of harbouring any suspicion of her brother
in connexion with the robbery, she and Sissy had held no confidence
on the subject, save in that one interchange of looks when the
unconscious father rested his gray head on his hand; but it was
understood between them, and they both knew it. This other fear
was so awful, that it hovered about each of them like a ghostly
shadow; neither daring to think of its being near herself, far less
of its being near the other.
And still the forced spirit which the whelp had plucked up, throve
with him. If Stephen Blackpool was not the thief, let him show
himself. Why didn't he?
Another night. Another day and night. No Stephen Blackpool.
Where was the man, and why did he not come back?
CHAPTER VI - THE STARLIGHT
THE Sunday was a bright Sunday in autumn, clear and cool, when
early in the morning Sissy and Rachael met, to walk in the country.
As Coketown cast ashes not only on its own head but on the
neighbourhood's too - after the manner of those pious persons who
do penance for their own sins by putting other people into
sackcloth - it was customary for those who now and then thirsted
for a draught of pure air, which is not absolutely the most wicked
among the vanities of life, to get a few miles away by the
railroad, and then begin their walk, or their lounge in the fields.
Sissy and Rachael helped themselves out of the smoke by the usual
means, and were put down at a station about midway between the town
and Mr. Bounderby's retreat.
Though the green landscape was blotted here and there with heaps of
coal, it was green elsewhere, and there were trees to see, and
there were larks singing (though it was Sunday), and there were
pleasant scents in the air, and all was over-arched by a bright
blue sky. In the distance one way, Coketown showed as a black
mist; in another distance hills began to rise; in a third, there
was a faint change in the light of the horizon where it shone upon
the far-off sea. Under their feet, the grass was fresh; beautiful
shadows of branches flickered upon it, and speckled it; hedgerows
were luxuriant; everything was at peace. Engines at pits' mouths,
and lean old horses that had worn the circle of their daily labour
into the ground, were alike quiet; wheels had ceased for a short
space to turn; and the great wheel of earth seemed to revolve
without the shocks and noises of another time.
They walked on across the fields and down the shady lanes,
sometimes getting over a fragment of a fence so rotten that it
dropped at a touch of the foot, sometimes passing near a wreck of
bricks and beams overgrown with grass, marking the site of deserted
works. They followed paths and tracks, however slight. Mounds
where the grass was rank and high, and where brambles, dock-weed,
and such-like vegetation, were confusedly heaped together, they
always avoided; for dismal stories were told in that country of the
old pits hidden beneath such indications.
The sun was high when they sat down to rest. They had seen no one,
near or distant, for a long time; and the solitude remained
unbroken. 'It is so still here, Rachael, and the way is so
untrodden, that I think we must be the first who have been here all
As Sissy said it, her eyes were attracted by another of those
rotten fragments of fence upon the ground. She got up to look at
it. 'And yet I don't know. This has not been broken very long.
The wood is quite fresh where it gave way. Here are footsteps too.
- O Rachael!'
She ran back, and caught her round the neck. Rachael had already
'What is the matter?'
'I don't know. There is a hat lying in the grass.' They went
forward together. Rachael took it up, shaking from head to foot.
She broke into a passion of tears and lamentations: Stephen
Blackpool was written in his own hand on the inside.
'O the poor lad, the poor lad! He has been made away with. He is
lying murdered here!'
'Is there - has the hat any blood upon it?' Sissy faltered.
They were afraid to look; but they did examine it, and found no
mark of violence, inside or out. It had been lying there some
days, for rain and dew had stained it, and the mark of its shape
was on the grass where it had fallen. They looked fearfully about
them, without moving, but could see nothing more. 'Rachael,' Sissy
whispered, 'I will go on a little by myself.'
She had unclasped her hand, and was in the act of stepping forward,
when Rachael caught her in both arms with a scream that resounded
over the wide landscape. Before them, at their very feet, was the
brink of a black ragged chasm hidden by the thick grass. They
sprang back, and fell upon their knees, each hiding her face upon
the other's neck.
'O, my good Lord! He's down there! Down there!' At first this,
and her terrific screams, were all that could be got from Rachael,
by any tears, by any prayers, by any representations, by any means.
It was impossible to hush her; and it was deadly necessary to hold
her, or she would have flung herself down the shaft.
'Rachael, dear Rachael, good Rachael, for the love of Heaven, not
these dreadful cries! Think of Stephen, think of Stephen, think of
By an earnest repetition of this entreaty, poured out in all the
agony of such a moment, Sissy at last brought her to be silent, and
to look at her with a tearless face of stone.
'Rachael, Stephen may be living. You wouldn't leave him lying
maimed at the bottom of this dreadful place, a moment, if you could
bring help to him?'
'No, no, no!'
'Don't stir from here, for his sake! Let me go and listen.'
She shuddered to approach the pit; but she crept towards it on her
hands and knees, and called to him as loud as she could call. She
listened, but no sound replied. She called again and listened;
still no answering sound. She did this, twenty, thirty times. She
took a little clod of earth from the broken ground where he had
stumbled, and threw it in. She could not hear it fall.
The wide prospect, so beautiful in its stillness but a few minutes
ago, almost carried despair to her brave heart, as she rose and
looked all round her, seeing no help. 'Rachael, we must lose not a
moment. We must go in different directions, seeking aid. You
shall go by the way we have come, and I will go forward by the
path. Tell any one you see, and every one what has happened.
Think of Stephen, think of Stephen!'
She knew by Rachael's face that she might trust her now. And after
standing for a moment to see her running, wringing her hands as she
ran, she turned and went upon her own search; she stopped at the
hedge to tie her shawl there as a guide to the place, then threw
her bonnet aside, and ran as she had never run before.
Run, Sissy, run, in Heaven's name! Don't stop for breath. Run,
run! Quickening herself by carrying such entreaties in her
thoughts, she ran from field to field, and lane to lane, and place
to place, as she had never run before; until she came to a shed by
an engine-house, where two men lay in the shade, asleep on straw.
First to wake them, and next to tell them, all so wild and
breathless as she was, what had brought her there, were
difficulties; but they no sooner understood her than their spirits
were on fire like hers. One of the men was in a drunken slumber,
but on his comrade's shouting to him that a man had fallen down the
Old Hell Shaft, he started out to a pool of dirty water, put his
head in it, and came back sober.
With these two men she ran to another half-a-mile further, and with
that one to another, while they ran elsewhere. Then a horse was
found; and she got another man to ride for life or death to the
railroad, and send a message to Louisa, which she wrote and gave
him. By this time a whole village was up: and windlasses, ropes,
poles, candles, lanterns, all things necessary, were fast
collecting and being brought into one place, to be carried to the
Old Hell Shaft.
It seemed now hours and hours since she had left the lost man lying
in the grave where he had been buried alive. She could not bear to
remain away from it any longer - it was like deserting him - and
she hurried swiftly back, accompanied by half-a-dozen labourers,
including the drunken man whom the news had sobered, and who was
the best man of all. When they came to the Old Hell Shaft, they
found it as lonely as she had left it. The men called and listened
as she had done, and examined the edge of the chasm, and settled
how it had happened, and then sat down to wait until the implements
they wanted should come up.
Every sound of insects in the air, every stirring of the leaves,
every whisper among these men, made Sissy tremble, for she thought
it was a cry at the bottom of the pit. But the wind blew idly over
it, and no sound arose to the surface, and they sat upon the grass,
waiting and waiting. After they had waited some time, straggling
people who had heard of the accident began to come up; then the
real help of implements began to arrive. In the midst of this,
Rachael returned; and with her party there was a surgeon, who
brought some wine and medicines. But, the expectation among the
people that the man would be found alive was very slight indeed.
There being now people enough present to impede the work, the
sobered man put himself at the head of the rest, or was put there
by the general consent, and made a large ring round the Old Hell
Shaft, and appointed men to keep it. Besides such volunteers as
were accepted to work, only Sissy and Rachael were at first
permitted within this ring; but, later in the day, when the message
brought an express from Coketown, Mr. Gradgrind and Louisa, and Mr.
Bounderby, and the whelp, were also there.
The sun was four hours lower than when Sissy and Rachael had first
sat down upon the grass, before a means of enabling two men to
descend securely was rigged with poles and ropes. Difficulties had
arisen in the construction of this machine, simple as it was;
requisites had been found wanting, and messages had had to go and
return. It was five o'clock in the afternoon of the bright
autumnal Sunday, before a candle was sent down to try the air,
while three or four rough faces stood crowded close together,
attentively watching it: the man at the windlass lowering as they
were told. The candle was brought up again, feebly burning, and
then some water was cast in. Then the bucket was hooked on; and
the sobered man and another got in with lights, giving the word
As the rope went out, tight and strained, and the windlass creaked,
there was not a breath among the one or two hundred men and women
looking on, that came as it was wont to come. The signal was given
and the windlass stopped, with abundant rope to spare. Apparently
so long an interval ensued with the men at the windlass standing
idle, that some women shrieked that another accident had happened!
But the surgeon who held the watch, declared five minutes not to
have elapsed yet, and sternly admonished them to keep silence. He
had not well done speaking, when the windlass was reversed and
worked again. Practised eyes knew that it did not go as heavily as
it would if both workmen had been coming up, and that only one was
The rope came in tight and strained; and ring after ring was coiled
upon the barrel of the windlass, and all eyes were fastened on the
pit. The sobered man was brought up and leaped out briskly on the
grass. There was an universal cry of 'Alive or dead?' and then a
deep, profound hush.
When he said 'Alive!' a great shout arose and many eyes had tears
'But he's hurt very bad,' he added, as soon as he could make
himself heard again. 'Where's doctor? He's hurt so very bad, sir,
that we donno how to get him up.'
They all consulted together, and looked anxiously at the surgeon,
as he asked some questions, and shook his head on receiving the
replies. The sun was setting now; and the red light in the evening
sky touched every face there, and caused it to be distinctly seen
in all its rapt suspense.
The consultation ended in the men returning to the windlass, and
the pitman going down again, carrying the wine and some other small
matters with him. Then the other man came up. In the meantime,
under the surgeon's directions, some men brought a hurdle, on which
others made a thick bed of spare clothes covered with loose straw,
while he himself contrived some bandages and slings from shawls and
handkerchiefs. As these were made, they were hung upon an arm of
the pitman who had last come up, with instructions how to use them:
and as he stood, shown by the light he carried, leaning his
powerful loose hand upon one of the poles, and sometimes glancing
down the pit, and sometimes glancing round upon the people, he was
not the least conspicuous figure in the scene. It was dark now,
and torches were kindled.
It appeared from the little this man said to those about him, which
was quickly repeated all over the circle, that the lost man had
fallen upon a mass of crumbled rubbish with which the pit was half
choked up, and that his fall had been further broken by some jagged
earth at the side. He lay upon his back with one arm doubled under
him, and according to his own belief had hardly stirred since he
fell, except that he had moved his free hand to a side pocket, in
which he remembered to have some bread and meat (of which he had
swallowed crumbs), and had likewise scooped up a little water in it
now and then. He had come straight away from his work, on being
written to, and had walked the whole journey; and was on his way to
Mr. Bounderby's country house after dark, when he fell. He was
crossing that dangerous country at such a dangerous time, because
he was innocent of what was laid to his charge, and couldn't rest
from coming the nearest way to deliver himself up. The Old Hell
Shaft, the pitman said, with a curse upon it, was worthy of its bad
name to the last; for though Stephen could speak now, he believed
it would soon be found to have mangled the life out of him.
When all was ready, this man, still taking his last hurried charges
from his comrades and the surgeon after the windlass had begun to
lower him, disappeared into the pit. The rope went out as before,
the signal was made as before, and the windlass stopped. No man
removed his hand from it now. Every one waited with his grasp set,
and his body bent down to the work, ready to reverse and wind in.
At length the signal was given, and all the ring leaned forward.
For, now, the rope came in, tightened and strained to its utmost as
it appeared, and the men turned heavily, and the windlass
complained. It was scarcely endurable to look at the rope, and
think of its giving way. But, ring after ring was coiled upon the
barrel of the windlass safely, and the connecting chains appeared,
and finally the bucket with the two men holding on at the sides - a
sight to make the head swim, and oppress the heart - and tenderly
supporting between them, slung and tied within, the figure of a
poor, crushed, human creature.
A low murmur of pity went round the throng, and the women wept
aloud, as this form, almost without form, was moved very slowly
from its iron deliverance, and laid upon the bed of straw. At
first, none but the surgeon went close to it. He did what he could
in its adjustment on the couch, but the best that he could do was
to cover it. That gently done, he called to him Rachael and Sissy.
And at that time the pale, worn, patient face was seen looking up
at the sky, with the broken right hand lying bare on the outside of
the covering garments, as if waiting to be taken by another hand.
They gave him drink, moistened his face with water, and
administered some drops of cordial and wine. Though he lay quite
motionless looking up at the sky, he smiled and said, 'Rachael.'
She stooped down on the grass at his side, and bent over him until
her eyes were between his and the sky, for he could not so much as
turn them to look at her.
'Rachael, my dear.'
She took his hand. He smiled again and said, 'Don't let 't go.'
'Thou'rt in great pain, my own dear Stephen?'
'I ha' been, but not now. I ha' been - dreadful, and dree, and
long, my dear - but 'tis ower now. Ah, Rachael, aw a muddle! Fro'
first to last, a muddle!'
The spectre of his old look seemed to pass as he said the word.
'I ha' fell into th' pit, my dear, as have cost wi'in the knowledge
o' old fok now livin, hundreds and hundreds o' men's lives -
fathers, sons, brothers, dear to thousands an' thousands, an'
keeping 'em fro' want and hunger. I ha' fell into a pit that ha'
been wi' th' Firedamp crueller than battle. I ha' read on 't in
the public petition, as onny one may read, fro' the men that works
in pits, in which they ha' pray'n and pray'n the lawmakers for
Christ's sake not to let their work be murder to 'em, but to spare
'em for th' wives and children that they loves as well as gentlefok
loves theirs. When it were in work, it killed wi'out need; when
'tis let alone, it kills wi'out need. See how we die an' no need,
one way an' another - in a muddle - every day!'
He faintly said it, without any anger against any one. Merely as
'Thy little sister, Rachael, thou hast not forgot her. Thou'rt not
like to forget her now, and me so nigh her. Thou know'st - poor,
patient, suff'rin, dear - how thou didst work for her, seet'n all
day long in her little chair at thy winder, and how she died, young
and misshapen, awlung o' sickly air as had'n no need to be, an'
awlung o' working people's miserable homes. A muddle! Aw a
Louisa approached him; but he could not see her, lying with his
face turned up to the night sky.
'If aw th' things that tooches us, my dear, was not so muddled, I
should'n ha' had'n need to coom heer. If we was not in a muddle
among ourseln, I should'n ha' been, by my own fellow weavers and
workin' brothers, so mistook. If Mr. Bounderby had ever know'd me
right - if he'd ever know'd me at aw - he would'n ha' took'n
offence wi' me. He would'n ha' suspect'n me. But look up yonder,
Rachael! Look aboove!'
Following his eyes, she saw that he was gazing at a star.
'It ha' shined upon me,' he said reverently, 'in my pain and
trouble down below. It ha' shined into my mind. I ha' look'n at
't and thowt o' thee, Rachael, till the muddle in my mind have
cleared awa, above a bit, I hope. If soom ha' been wantin' in
unnerstan'in me better, I, too, ha' been wantin' in unnerstan'in
them better. When I got thy letter, I easily believen that what
the yoong ledy sen and done to me, and what her brother sen and
done to me, was one, and that there were a wicked plot betwixt 'em.
When I fell, I were in anger wi' her, an' hurryin on t' be as
onjust t' her as oothers was t' me. But in our judgments, like as
in our doins, we mun bear and forbear. In my pain an' trouble,
lookin up yonder, - wi' it shinin on me - I ha' seen more clear,
and ha' made it my dyin prayer that aw th' world may on'y coom
toogether more, an' get a better unnerstan'in o' one another, than
when I were in 't my own weak seln.'
Louisa hearing what he said, bent over him on the opposite side to
Rachael, so that he could see her.
'You ha' heard?' he said, after a few moments' silence. 'I ha' not
forgot you, ledy.'
'Yes, Stephen, I have heard you. And your prayer is mine.'
'You ha' a father. Will yo tak' a message to him?'
'He is here,' said Louisa, with dread. 'Shall I bring him to you?'
'If yo please.'
Louisa returned with her father. Standing hand-in-hand, they both
looked down upon the solemn countenance.
'Sir, yo will clear me an' mak my name good wi' aw men. This I
leave to yo.'
Mr. Gradgrind was troubled and asked how?
'Sir,' was the reply: 'yor son will tell yo how. Ask him. I mak
no charges: I leave none ahint me: not a single word. I ha' seen
an' spok'n wi' yor son, one night. I ask no more o' yo than that
yo clear me - an' I trust to yo to do 't.'
The bearers being now ready to carry him away, and the surgeon
being anxious for his removal, those who had torches or lanterns,
prepared to go in front of the litter. Before it was raised, and
while they were arranging how to go, he said to Rachael, looking
upward at the star:
'Often as I coom to myseln, and found it shinin' on me down there
in my trouble, I thowt it were the star as guided to Our Saviour's
home. I awmust think it be the very star!'
They lifted him up, and he was overjoyed to find that they were
about to take him in the direction whither the star seemed to him
'Rachael, beloved lass! Don't let go my hand. We may walk
toogether t'night, my dear!'
'I will hold thy hand, and keep beside thee, Stephen, all the way.'
'Bless thee! Will soombody be pleased to coover my face!'
They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes,
and over the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in
hers. Very few whispers broke the mournful silence. It was soon a
funeral procession. The star had shown him where to find the God
of the poor; and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he
had gone to his Redeemer's rest.
CHAPTER VII - WHELP-HUNTING
BEFORE the ring formed round the Old Hell Shaft was broken, one
figure had disappeared from within it. Mr. Bounderby and his
shadow had not stood near Louisa, who held her father's arm, but in
a retired place by themselves. When Mr. Gradgrind was summoned to
the couch, Sissy, attentive to all that happened, slipped behind
that wicked shadow - a sight in the horror of his face, if there
had been eyes there for any sight but one - and whispered in his
ear. Without turning his head, he conferred with her a few
moments, and vanished. Thus the whelp had gone out of the circle
before the people moved.
When the father reached home, he sent a message to Mr. Bounderby's,
desiring his son to come to him directly. The reply was, that Mr.
Bounderby having missed him in the crowd, and seeing nothing of him
since, had supposed him to be at Stone Lodge.
'I believe, father,' said Louisa, 'he will not come back to town
to-night.' Mr. Gradgrind turned away, and said no more.
In the morning, he went down to the Bank himself as soon as it was
opened, and seeing his son's place empty (he had not the courage to
look in at first) went back along the street to meet Mr. Bounderby
on his way there. To whom he said that, for reasons he would soon
explain, but entreated not then to be asked for, he had found it
necessary to employ his son at a distance for a little while.
Also, that he was charged with the duty of vindicating Stephen
Blackpool's memory, and declaring the thief. Mr. Bounderby quite
confounded, stood stock-still in the street after his father-in-law
had left him, swelling like an immense soap-bubble, without its
Mr. Gradgrind went home, locked himself in his room, and kept it
all that day. When Sissy and Louisa tapped at his door, he said,
without opening it, 'Not now, my dears; in the evening.' On their
return in the evening, he said, 'I am not able yet - to-morrow.'
He ate nothing all day, and had no candle after dark; and they
heard him walking to and fro late at night.
But, in the morning he appeared at breakfast at the usual hour, and
took his usual place at the table. Aged and bent he looked, and
quite bowed down; and yet he looked a wiser man, and a better man,
than in the days when in this life he wanted nothing - but Facts.
Before he left the room, he appointed a time for them to come to
him; and so, with his gray head drooping, went away.
'Dear father,' said Louisa, when they kept their appointment, 'you
have three young children left. They will be different, I will be
different yet, with Heaven's help.'
She gave her hand to Sissy, as if she meant with her help too.
'Your wretched brother,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Do you think he had
planned this robbery, when he went with you to the lodging?'
'I fear so, father. I know he had wanted money very much, and had
spent a great deal.'
'The poor man being about to leave the town, it came into his evil
brain to cast suspicion on him?'
'I think it must have flashed upon him while he sat there, father.
For I asked him to go there with me. The visit did not originate
'He had some conversation with the poor man. Did he take him
'He took him out of the room. I asked him afterwards, why he had
done so, and he made a plausible excuse; but since last night,
father, and when I remember the circumstances by its light, I am
afraid I can imagine too truly what passed between them.'
'Let me know,' said her father, 'if your thoughts present your
guilty brother in the same dark view as mine.'
'I fear, father,' hesitated Louisa, 'that he must have made some
representation to Stephen Blackpool - perhaps in my name, perhaps
in his own - which induced him to do in good faith and honesty,
what he had never done before, and to wait about the Bank those two
or three nights before he left the town.'
'Too plain!' returned the father. 'Too plain!'
He shaded his face, and remained silent for some moments.
Recovering himself, he said:
'And now, how is he to be found? How is he to be saved from
justice? In the few hours that I can possibly allow to elapse
before I publish the truth, how is he to be found by us, and only
by us? Ten thousand pounds could not effect it.'
'Sissy has effected it, father.'
He raised his eyes to where she stood, like a good fairy in his
house, and said in a tone of softened gratitude and grateful
kindness, 'It is always you, my child!'
'We had our fears,' Sissy explained, glancing at Louisa, 'before
yesterday; and when I saw you brought to the side of the litter
last night, and heard what passed (being close to Rachael all the
time), I went to him when no one saw, and said to him, "Don't look
at me. See where your father is. Escape at once, for his sake and
your own!" He was in a tremble before I whispered to him, and he
started and trembled more then, and said, "Where can I go? I have
very little money, and I don't know who will hide me!" I thought
of father's old circus. I have not forgotten where Mr. Sleary goes
at this time of year, and I read of him in a paper only the other
day. I told him to hurry there, and tell his name, and ask Mr.
Sleary to hide him till I came. "I'll get to him before the
morning," he said. And I saw him shrink away among the people.'
'Thank Heaven!' exclaimed his father. 'He may be got abroad yet.'
It was the more hopeful as the town to which Sissy had directed him
was within three hours' journey of Liverpool, whence he could be
swiftly dispatched to any part of the world. But, caution being
necessary in communicating with him - for there was a greater
danger every moment of his being suspected now, and nobody could be
sure at heart but that Mr. Bounderby himself, in a bullying vein of
public zeal, might play a Roman part - it was consented that Sissy
and Louisa should repair to the place in question, by a circuitous
course, alone; and that the unhappy father, setting forth in an
opposite direction, should get round to the same bourne by another
and wider route. It was further agreed that he should not present
himself to Mr. Sleary, lest his intentions should be mistrusted, or
the intelligence of his arrival should cause his son to take flight
anew; but, that the communication should be left to Sissy and
Louisa to open; and that they should inform the cause of so much
misery and disgrace, of his father's being at hand and of the
purpose for which they had come. When these arrangements had been
well considered and were fully understood by all three, it was time
to begin to carry them into execution. Early in the afternoon, Mr.
Gradgrind walked direct from his own house into the country, to be
taken up on the line by which he was to travel; and at night the
remaining two set forth upon their different course, encouraged by
not seeing any face they knew.
The two travelled all night, except when they were left, for odd
numbers of minutes, at branch-places, up illimitable flights of
steps, or down wells - which was the only variety of those branches
- and, early in the morning, were turned out on a swamp, a mile or
two from the town they sought. From this dismal spot they were
rescued by a savage old postilion, who happened to be up early,
kicking a horse in a fly: and so were smuggled into the town by
all the back lanes where the pigs lived: which, although not a
magnificent or even savoury approach, was, as is usual in such
cases, the legitimate highway.
The first thing they saw on entering the town was the skeleton of
Sleary's Circus. The company had departed for another town more
than twenty miles off, and had opened there last night. The
connection between the two places was by a hilly turnpike-road, and
the travelling on that road was very slow. Though they took but a
hasty breakfast, and no rest (which it would have been in vain to
seek under such anxious circumstances), it was noon before they
began to find the bills of Sleary's Horse-riding on barns and
walls, and one o'clock when they stopped in the market-place.
A Grand Morning Performance by the Riders, commencing at that very
hour, was in course of announcement by the bellman as they set
their feet upon the stones of the street. Sissy recommended that,
to avoid making inquiries and attracting attention in the town,
they should present themselves to pay at the door. If Mr. Sleary
were taking the money, he would be sure to know her, and would
proceed with discretion. If he were not, he would be sure to see
them inside; and, knowing what he had done with the fugitive, would
proceed with discretion still.
Therefore, they repaired, with fluttering hearts, to the well-
remembered booth. The flag with the inscription SLEARY'S HORSE-
RIDING was there; and the Gothic niche was there; but Mr. Sleary
was not there. Master Kidderminster, grown too maturely turfy to
be received by the wildest credulity as Cupid any more, had yielded
to the invincible force of circumstances (and his beard), and, in
the capacity of a man who made himself generally useful, presided
on this occasion over the exchequer - having also a drum in
reserve, on which to expend his leisure moments and superfluous
forces. In the extreme sharpness of his look out for base coin,
Mr. Kidderminster, as at present situated, never saw anything but
money; so Sissy passed him unrecognised, and they went in.
The Emperor of Japan, on a steady old white horse stencilled with
black spots, was twirling five wash-hand basins at once, as it is
the favourite recreation of that monarch to do. Sissy, though well
acquainted with his Royal line, had no personal knowledge of the
present Emperor, and his reign was peaceful. Miss Josephine
Sleary, in her celebrated graceful Equestrian Tyrolean Flower Act,
was then announced by a new clown (who humorously said Cauliflower
Act), and Mr. Sleary appeared, leading her in.
Mr. Sleary had only made one cut at the Clown with his long whip-
lash, and the Clown had only said, 'If you do it again, I'll throw
the horse at you!' when Sissy was recognised both by father and
daughter. But they got through the Act with great self-possession;
and Mr. Sleary, saving for the first instant, conveyed no more
expression into his locomotive eye than into his fixed one. The
performance seemed a little long to Sissy and Louisa, particularly
when it stopped to afford the Clown an opportunity of telling Mr.
Sleary (who said 'Indeed, sir!' to all his observations in the
calmest way, and with his eye on the house) about two legs sitting
on three legs looking at one leg, when in came four legs, and laid
hold of one leg, and up got two legs, caught hold of three legs,
and threw 'em at four legs, who ran away with one leg. For,
although an ingenious Allegory relating to a butcher, a three-
legged stool, a dog, and a leg of mutton, this narrative consumed
time; and they were in great suspense. At last, however, little
fair-haired Josephine made her curtsey amid great applause; and the
Clown, left alone in the ring, had just warmed himself, and said,
'Now I'll have a turn!' when Sissy was touched on the shoulder, and
She took Louisa with her; and they were received by Mr. Sleary in a
very little private apartment, with canvas sides, a grass floor,
and a wooden ceiling all aslant, on which the box company stamped
their approbation, as if they were coming through. 'Thethilia,'
said Mr. Sleary, who had brandy and water at hand, 'it doth me good
to thee you. You wath alwayth a favourite with uth, and you've
done uth credith thinth the old timeth I'm thure. You mutht thee
our people, my dear, afore we thpeak of bithnith, or they'll break
their hearth - ethpethially the women. Here'th Jothphine hath been
and got married to E. W. B. Childerth, and thee hath got a boy, and
though he'th only three yearth old, he thtickth on to any pony you
can bring againtht him. He'th named The Little Wonder of
Thcolathtic Equitation; and if you don't hear of that boy at
Athley'th, you'll hear of him at Parith. And you recollect
Kidderminthter, that wath thought to be rather thweet upon
yourthelf? Well. He'th married too. Married a widder. Old
enough to be hith mother. Thee wath Tightrope, thee wath, and now
thee'th nothing - on accounth of fat. They've got two children,
tho we're thtrong in the Fairy bithnith and the Nurthery dodge. If
you wath to thee our Children in the Wood, with their father and
mother both a dyin' on a horthe - their uncle a retheiving of 'em
ath hith wardth, upon a horthe - themthelvth both a goin' a black-
berryin' on a horthe - and the Robinth a coming in to cover 'em
with leavth, upon a horthe - you'd thay it wath the completetht
thing ath ever you thet your eyeth on! And you remember Emma
Gordon, my dear, ath wath a'motht a mother to you? Of courthe you
do; I needn't athk. Well! Emma, thee lotht her huthband. He wath
throw'd a heavy back-fall off a Elephant in a thort of a Pagoda
thing ath the Thultan of the Indieth, and he never got the better
of it; and thee married a thecond time - married a Cheethemonger
ath fell in love with her from the front - and he'th a Overtheer
and makin' a fortun.'
These various changes, Mr. Sleary, very short of breath now,
related with great heartiness, and with a wonderful kind of
innocence, considering what a bleary and brandy-and-watery old
veteran he was. Afterwards he brought in Josephine, and E. W. B.
Childers (rather deeply lined in the jaws by daylight), and the
Little Wonder of Scholastic Equitation, and in a word, all the
company. Amazing creatures they were in Louisa's eyes, so white
and pink of complexion, so scant of dress, and so demonstrative of
leg; but it was very agreeable to see them crowding about Sissy,
and very natural in Sissy to be unable to refrain from tears.
'There! Now Thethilia hath kithd all the children, and hugged all
the women, and thaken handth all round with all the men, clear,
every one of you, and ring in the band for the thecond part!'
As soon as they were gone, he continued in a low tone. 'Now,
Thethilia, I don't athk to know any thecreth, but I thuppothe I may
conthider thith to be Mith Thquire.'
'This is his sister. Yes.'
'And t'other on'th daughter. That'h what I mean. Hope I thee you
well, mith. And I hope the Thquire'th well?'
'My father will be here soon,' said Louisa, anxious to bring him to
the point. 'Is my brother safe?'
'Thafe and thound!' he replied. 'I want you jutht to take a peep
at the Ring, mith, through here. Thethilia, you know the dodgeth;
find a thpy-hole for yourthelf.'
They each looked through a chink in the boards.
'That'h Jack the Giant Killer - piethe of comic infant bithnith,'
said Sleary. 'There'th a property-houthe, you thee, for Jack to
hide in; there'th my Clown with a thauthepan-lid and a thpit, for
Jack'th thervant; there'th little Jack himthelf in a thplendid
thoot of armour; there'th two comic black thervanth twithe ath big
ath the houthe, to thtand by it and to bring it in and clear it;
and the Giant (a very ecthpenthive bathket one), he an't on yet.
Now, do you thee 'em all?'
'Yes,' they both said.
'Look at 'em again,' said Sleary, 'look at 'em well. You thee em
all? Very good. Now, mith;' he put a form for them to sit on; 'I
have my opinionth, and the Thquire your father hath hith. I don't
want to know what your brother'th been up to; ith better for me not
to know. All I thay ith, the Thquire hath thtood by Thethilia, and
I'll thtand by the Thquire. Your brother ith one them black
Louisa uttered an exclamation, partly of distress, partly of
'Ith a fact,' said Sleary, 'and even knowin' it, you couldn't put
your finger on him. Let the Thquire come. I thall keep your
brother here after the performanth. I thant undreth him, nor yet
wath hith paint off. Let the Thquire come here after the
performanth, or come here yourthelf after the performanth, and you
thall find your brother, and have the whole plathe to talk to him
in. Never mind the lookth of him, ath long ath he'th well hid.'
Louisa, with many thanks and with a lightened load, detained Mr.
Sleary no longer then. She left her love for her brother, with her
eyes full of tears; and she and Sissy went away until later in the
Mr. Gradgrind arrived within an hour afterwards. He too had
encountered no one whom he knew; and was now sanguine with Sleary's
assistance, of getting his disgraced son to Liverpool in the night.
As neither of the three could be his companion without almost
identifying him under any disguise, he prepared a letter to a
correspondent whom he could trust, beseeching him to ship the
bearer off at any cost, to North or South America, or any distant
part of the world to which he could be the most speedily and
This done, they walked about, waiting for the Circus to be quite
vacated; not only by the audience, but by the company and by the
horses. After watching it a long time, they saw Mr. Sleary bring
out a chair and sit down by the side-door, smoking; as if that were
his signal that they might approach.
'Your thervant, Thquire,' was his cautious salutation as they
passed in. 'If you want me you'll find me here. You muthn't mind
your thon having a comic livery on.'
They all three went in; and Mr. Gradgrind sat down forlorn, on the
Clown's performing chair in the middle of the ring. On one of the
back benches, remote in the subdued light and the strangeness of
the place, sat the villainous whelp, sulky to the last, whom he had
the misery to call his son.
In a preposterous coat, like a beadle's, with cuffs and flaps
exaggerated to an unspeakable extent; in an immense waistcoat,
knee-breeches, buckled shoes, and a mad cocked hat; with nothing
fitting him, and everything of coarse material, moth-eaten and full
of holes; with seams in his black face, where fear and heat had
started through the greasy composition daubed all over it; anything
so grimly, detestably, ridiculously shameful as the whelp in his
comic livery, Mr. Gradgrind never could by any other means have
believed in, weighable and measurable fact though it was. And one
of his model children had come to this!
At first the whelp would not draw any nearer, but persisted in
remaining up there by himself. Yielding at length, if any
concession so sullenly made can be called yielding, to the
entreaties of Sissy - for Louisa he disowned altogether - he came
down, bench by bench, until he stood in the sawdust, on the verge
of the circle, as far as possible, within its limits from where his
'How was this done?' asked the father.
'How was what done?' moodily answered the son.
'This robbery,' said the father, raising his voice upon the word.
'I forced the safe myself over night, and shut it up ajar before I
went away. I had had the key that was found, made long before. I
dropped it that morning, that it might be supposed to have been
used. I didn't take the money all at once. I pretended to put my
balance away every night, but I didn't. Now you know all about
'If a thunderbolt had fallen on me,' said the father, 'it would
have shocked me less than this!'
'I don't see why,' grumbled the son. 'So many people are employed
in situations of trust; so many people, out of so many, will be
dishonest. I have heard you talk, a hundred times, of its being a
law. How can I help laws? You have comforted others with such
things, father. Comfort yourself!'
The father buried his face in his hands, and the son stood in his
disgraceful grotesqueness, biting straw: his hands, with the black
partly worn away inside, looking like the hands of a monkey. The
evening was fast closing in; and from time to time, he turned the
whites of his eyes restlessly and impatiently towards his father.
They were the only parts of his face that showed any life or
expression, the pigment upon it was so thick.
'You must be got to Liverpool, and sent abroad.'
'I suppose I must. I can't be more miserable anywhere,' whimpered
the whelp, 'than I have been here, ever since I can remember.
That's one thing.'
Mr. Gradgrind went to the door, and returned with Sleary, to whom
he submitted the question, How to get this deplorable object away?
'Why, I've been thinking of it, Thquire. There'th not muth time to
lothe, tho you muth thay yeth or no. Ith over twenty mileth to the
rail. There'th a coath in half an hour, that goeth to the rail,
'purpothe to cath the mail train. That train will take him right
'But look at him,' groaned Mr. Gradgrind. 'Will any coach - '
'I don't mean that he thould go in the comic livery,' said Sleary.
'Thay the word, and I'll make a Jothkin of him, out of the
wardrobe, in five minutes.'
'I don't understand,' said Mr. Gradgrind.
'A Jothkin - a Carter. Make up your mind quick, Thquire. There'll
be beer to feth. I've never met with nothing but beer ath'll ever
clean a comic blackamoor.'
Mr. Gradgrind rapidly assented; Mr. Sleary rapidly turned out from
a box, a smock frock, a felt hat, and other essentials; the whelp
rapidly changed clothes behind a screen of baize; Mr. Sleary
rapidly brought beer, and washed him white again.
'Now,' said Sleary, 'come along to the coath, and jump up behind;
I'll go with you there, and they'll thuppothe you one of my people.
Thay farewell to your family, and tharp'th the word.' With which
he delicately retired.
'Here is your letter,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'All necessary means
will be provided for you. Atone, by repentance and better conduct,
for the shocking action you have committed, and the dreadful
consequences to which it has led. Give me your hand, my poor boy,
and may God forgive you as I do!'
The culprit was moved to a few abject tears by these words and
their pathetic tone. But, when Louisa opened her arms, he repulsed
'Not you. I don't want to have anything to say to you!'
'O Tom, Tom, do we end so, after all my love!'
'After all your love!' he returned, obdurately. 'Pretty love!
Leaving old Bounderby to himself, and packing my best friend Mr.
Harthouse off, and going home just when I was in the greatest
danger. Pretty love that! Coming out with every word about our
having gone to that place, when you saw the net was gathering round
me. Pretty love that! You have regularly given me up. You never
cared for me.'
'Tharp'th the word!' said Sleary, at the door.
They all confusedly went out: Louisa crying to him that she
forgave him, and loved him still, and that he would one day be
sorry to have left her so, and glad to think of these her last
words, far away: when some one ran against them. Mr. Gradgrind
and Sissy, who were both before him while his sister yet clung to
his shoulder, stopped and recoiled.
For, there was Bitzer, out of breath, his thin lips parted, his
thin nostrils distended, his white eyelashes quivering, his
colourless face more colourless than ever, as if he ran himself
into a white heat, when other people ran themselves into a glow.
There he stood, panting and heaving, as if he had never stopped
since the night, now long ago, when he had run them down before.
'I'm sorry to interfere with your plans,' said Bitzer, shaking his
head, 'but I can't allow myself to be done by horse-riders. I must
have young Mr. Tom; he mustn't be got away by horse-riders; here he
is in a smock frock, and I must have him!'
By the collar, too, it seemed. For, so he took possession of him.
CHAPTER VIII - PHILOSOPHICAL
THEY went back into the booth, Sleary shutting the door to keep
intruders out. Bitzer, still holding the paralysed culprit by the
collar, stood in the Ring, blinking at his old patron through the
darkness of the twilight.
'Bitzer,' said Mr. Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive
to him, 'have you a heart?'
'The circulation, sir,' returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of
the question, 'couldn't be carried on without one. No man, sir,
acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the
circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.'
'Is it accessible,' cried Mr. Gradgrind, 'to any compassionate
'It is accessible to Reason, sir,' returned the excellent young
man. 'And to nothing else.'
They stood looking at each other; Mr. Gradgrind's face as white as
'What motive - even what motive in reason - can you have for
preventing the escape of this wretched youth,' said Mr. Gradgrind,
'and crushing his miserable father? See his sister here. Pity
'Sir,' returned Bitzer, in a very business-like and logical manner,
'since you ask me what motive I have in reason, for taking young
Mr. Tom back to Coketown, it is only reasonable to let you know. I
have suspected young Mr. Tom of this bank-robbery from the first.
I had had my eye upon him before that time, for I knew his ways. I
have kept my observations to myself, but I have made them; and I
have got ample proofs against him now, besides his running away,
and besides his own confession, which I was just in time to
overhear. I had the pleasure of watching your house yesterday
morning, and following you here. I am going to take young Mr. Tom
back to Coketown, in order to deliver him over to Mr. Bounderby.
Sir, I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Bounderby will then promote
me to young Mr. Tom's situation. And I wish to have his situation,
sir, for it will be a rise to me, and will do me good.'
'If this is solely a question of self-interest with you - ' Mr.
'I beg your pardon for interrupting you, sir,' returned Bitzer;
'but I am sure you know that the whole social system is a question
of self-interest. What you must always appeal to, is a person's
self-interest. It's your only hold. We are so constituted. I was
brought up in that catechism when I was very young, sir, as you are
'What sum of money,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'will you set against your
'Thank you, sir,' returned Bitzer, 'for hinting at the proposal;
but I will not set any sum against it. Knowing that your clear
head would propose that alternative, I have gone over the
calculations in my mind; and I find that to compound a felony, even
on very high terms indeed, would not be as safe and good for me as
my improved prospects in the Bank.'
'Bitzer,' said Mr. Gradgrind, stretching out his hands as though he
would have said, See how miserable I am! 'Bitzer, I have but one
chance left to soften you. You were many years at my school. If,
in remembrance of the pains bestowed upon you there, you can
persuade yourself in any degree to disregard your present interest
and release my son, I entreat and pray you to give him the benefit
of that remembrance.'
'I really wonder, sir,' rejoined the old pupil in an argumentative
manner, 'to find you taking a position so untenable. My schooling
was paid for; it was a bargain; and when I came away, the bargain
It was a fundamental principle of the Gradgrind philosophy that
everything was to be paid for. Nobody was ever on any account to
give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase.
Gratitude was to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it
were not to be. Every inch of the existence of mankind, from birth
to death, was to be a bargain across a counter. And if we didn't
get to Heaven that way, it was not a politico-economical place, and
we had no business there.
'I don't deny,' added Bitzer, 'that my schooling was cheap. But
that comes right, sir. I was made in the cheapest market, and have
to dispose of myself in the dearest.'
He was a little troubled here, by Louisa and Sissy crying.
'Pray don't do that,' said he, 'it's of no use doing that: it only
worries. You seem to think that I have some animosity against
young Mr. Tom; whereas I have none at all. I am only going, on the
reasonable grounds I have mentioned, to take him back to Coketown.
If he was to resist, I should set up the cry of Stop thief! But,
he won't resist, you may depend upon it.'
Mr. Sleary, who with his mouth open and his rolling eye as
immovably jammed in his head as his fixed one, had listened to
these doctrines with profound attention, here stepped forward.
'Thquire, you know perfectly well, and your daughter knowth
perfectly well (better than you, becauthe I thed it to her), that I
didn't know what your thon had done, and that I didn't want to know
- I thed it wath better not, though I only thought, then, it wath
thome thkylarking. However, thith young man having made it known
to be a robbery of a bank, why, that'h a theriouth thing; muth too
theriouth a thing for me to compound, ath thith young man hath very
properly called it. Conthequently, Thquire, you muthn't quarrel
with me if I take thith young man'th thide, and thay he'th right
and there'th no help for it. But I tell you what I'll do, Thquire;
I'll drive your thon and thith young man over to the rail, and
prevent expothure here. I can't conthent to do more, but I'll do
Fresh lamentations from Louisa, and deeper affliction on Mr.
Gradgrind's part, followed this desertion of them by their last
friend. But, Sissy glanced at him with great attention; nor did
she in her own breast misunderstand him. As they were all going
out again, he favoured her with one slight roll of his movable eye,
desiring her to linger behind. As he locked the door, he said
'The Thquire thtood by you, Thethilia, and I'll thtand by the
Thquire. More than that: thith ith a prethiouth rathcal, and
belongth to that bluthtering Cove that my people nearly pitht out
o' winder. It'll be a dark night; I've got a horthe that'll do
anything but thpeak; I've got a pony that'll go fifteen mile an
hour with Childerth driving of him; I've got a dog that'll keep a
man to one plathe four-and-twenty hourth. Get a word with the
young Thquire. Tell him, when he theeth our horthe begin to
danthe, not to be afraid of being thpilt, but to look out for a
pony-gig coming up. Tell him, when he theeth that gig clothe by,
to jump down, and it'll take him off at a rattling pathe. If my
dog leth thith young man thtir a peg on foot, I give him leave to
go. And if my horthe ever thtirth from that thpot where he beginth
a danthing, till the morning - I don't know him? - Tharp'th the
The word was so sharp, that in ten minutes Mr. Childers, sauntering
about the market-place in a pair of slippers, had his cue, and Mr.
Sleary's equipage was ready. It was a fine sight, to behold the
learned dog barking round it, and Mr. Sleary instructing him, with
his one practicable eye, that Bitzer was the object of his
particular attentions. Soon after dark they all three got in and
started; the learned dog (a formidable creature) already pinning
Bitzer with his eye, and sticking close to the wheel on his side,
that he might be ready for him in the event of his showing the
slightest disposition to alight.
The other three sat up at the inn all night in great suspense. At
eight o'clock in the morning Mr. Sleary and the dog reappeared:
both in high spirits.
'All right, Thquire!' said Mr. Sleary, 'your thon may be aboard-a-
thip by thith time. Childerth took him off, an hour and a half
after we left there latht night. The horthe danthed the polka till
he wath dead beat (he would have walthed if he hadn't been in
harneth), and then I gave him the word and he went to thleep
comfortable. When that prethiouth young Rathcal thed he'd go
for'ard afoot, the dog hung on to hith neck-hankercher with all
four legth in the air and pulled him down and rolled him over. Tho
he come back into the drag, and there he that, 'till I turned the
horthe'th head, at half-patht thixth thith morning.'
Mr. Gradgrind overwhelmed him with thanks, of course; and hinted as
delicately as he could, at a handsome remuneration in money.
'I don't want money mythelf, Thquire; but Childerth ith a family
man, and if you wath to like to offer him a five-pound note, it
mightn't be unactheptable. Likewithe if you wath to thtand a
collar for the dog, or a thet of bellth for the horthe, I thould be
very glad to take 'em. Brandy and water I alwayth take.' He had
already called for a glass, and now called for another. 'If you
wouldn't think it going too far, Thquire, to make a little thpread
for the company at about three and thixth ahead, not reckoning
Luth, it would make 'em happy.'
All these little tokens of his gratitude, Mr. Gradgrind very
willingly undertook to render. Though he thought them far too
slight, he said, for such a service.
'Very well, Thquire; then, if you'll only give a Horthe-riding, a
bethpeak, whenever you can, you'll more than balanthe the account.
Now, Thquire, if your daughter will ethcuthe me, I thould like one
parting word with you.'
Louisa and Sissy withdrew into an adjoining room; Mr. Sleary,
stirring and drinking his brandy and water as he stood, went on:
'Thquire, - you don't need to be told that dogth ith wonderful
'Their instinct,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'is surprising.'
'Whatever you call it - and I'm bletht if I know what to call it' -
said Sleary, 'it ith athtonithing. The way in whith a dog'll find
you - the dithtanthe he'll come!'
'His scent,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'being so fine.'
'I'm bletht if I know what to call it,' repeated Sleary, shaking
his head, 'but I have had dogth find me, Thquire, in a way that
made me think whether that dog hadn't gone to another dog, and
thed, "You don't happen to know a perthon of the name of Thleary,
do you? Perthon of the name of Thleary, in the Horthe-Riding way -
thtout man - game eye?" And whether that dog mightn't have thed,
"Well, I can't thay I know him mythelf, but I know a dog that I
think would be likely to be acquainted with him." And whether that
dog mightn't have thought it over, and thed, "Thleary, Thleary! O
yeth, to be thure! A friend of mine menthioned him to me at one
time. I can get you hith addreth directly." In conthequenth of my
being afore the public, and going about tho muth, you thee, there
mutht be a number of dogth acquainted with me, Thquire, that I
Mr. Gradgrind seemed to be quite confounded by this speculation.
'Any way,' said Sleary, after putting his lips to his brandy and
water, 'ith fourteen month ago, Thquire, thinthe we wath at
Chethter. We wath getting up our Children in the Wood one morning,
when there cometh into our Ring, by the thtage door, a dog. He had
travelled a long way, he wath in a very bad condithon, he wath
lame, and pretty well blind. He went round to our children, one
after another, as if he wath a theeking for a child he know'd; and
then he come to me, and throwd hithelf up behind, and thtood on
hith two forelegth, weak ath he wath, and then he wagged hith tail
and died. Thquire, that dog wath Merrylegth.'
'Sissy's father's dog!'
'Thethilia'th father'th old dog. Now, Thquire, I can take my oath,
from my knowledge of that dog, that that man wath dead - and buried
- afore that dog come back to me. Joth'phine and Childerth and me
talked it over a long time, whether I thould write or not. But we
agreed, "No. There'th nothing comfortable to tell; why unthettle
her mind, and make her unhappy?" Tho, whether her father bathely
detherted her; or whether he broke hith own heart alone, rather
than pull her down along with him; never will be known, now,
Thquire, till - no, not till we know how the dogth findth uth out!'
'She keeps the bottle that he sent her for, to this hour; and she
will believe in his affection to the last moment of her life,' said