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'Thou'rt awlus right. 'Tis bolder and better. I ha been thinkin
then, Rachael, that as 'tis but a day or two that remains, 'twere
better for thee, my dear, not t' be seen wi' me. 'T might bring
thee into trouble, fur no good.'
''Tis not for that, Stephen, that I mind. But thou know'st our old
agreement. 'Tis for that.'
'Well, well,' said he. "Tis better, onnyways.'
'Thou'lt write to me, and tell me all that happens, Stephen?'
'Yes. What can I say now, but Heaven be wi' thee, Heaven bless
thee, Heaven thank thee and reward thee!'
'May it bless thee, Stephen, too, in all thy wanderings, and send
thee peace and rest at last!'
'I towd thee, my dear,' said Stephen Blackpool - 'that night - that
I would never see or think o' onnything that angered me, but thou,
so much better than me, should'st be beside it. Thou'rt beside it
now. Thou mak'st me see it wi' a better eye. Bless thee. Good
It was but a hurried parting in a common street, yet it was a
sacred remembrance to these two common people. Utilitarian
economists, skeletons of schoolmasters, Commissioners of Fact,
genteel and used-up infidels, gabblers of many little dog's-eared
creeds, the poor you will have always with you. Cultivate in them,
while there is yet time, the utmost graces of the fancies and
affections, to adorn their lives so much in need of ornament; or,
in the day of your triumph, when romance is utterly driven out of
their souls, and they and a bare existence stand face to face,
Reality will take a wolfish turn, and make an end of you.
Stephen worked the next day, and the next, uncheered by a word from
any one, and shunned in all his comings and goings as before. At
the end of the second day, he saw land; at the end of the third,
his loom stood empty.
He had overstayed his hour in the street outside the Bank, on each
of the two first evenings; and nothing had happened there, good or
bad. That he might not be remiss in his part of the engagement, he
resolved to wait full two hours, on this third and last night.
There was the lady who had once kept Mr. Bounderby's house, sitting
at the first-floor window as he had seen her before; and there was
the light porter, sometimes talking with her there, and sometimes
looking over the blind below which had BANK upon it, and sometimes
coming to the door and standing on the steps for a breath of air.
When he first came out, Stephen thought he might be looking for
him, and passed near; but the light porter only cast his winking
eyes upon him slightly, and said nothing.
Two hours were a long stretch of lounging about, after a long day's
labour. Stephen sat upon the step of a door, leaned against a wall
under an archway, strolled up and down, listened for the church
clock, stopped and watched children playing in the street. Some
purpose or other is so natural to every one, that a mere loiterer
always looks and feels remarkable. When the first hour was out,
Stephen even began to have an uncomfortable sensation upon him of
being for the time a disreputable character.
Then came the lamplighter, and two lengthening lines of light all
down the long perspective of the street, until they were blended
and lost in the distance. Mrs. Sparsit closed the first-floor
window, drew down the blind, and went up-stairs. Presently, a
light went up-stairs after her, passing first the fanlight of the
door, and afterwards the two staircase windows, on its way up. By
and by, one corner of the second-floor blind was disturbed, as if
Mrs. Sparsit's eye were there; also the other corner, as if the
light porter's eye were on that side. Still, no communication was
made to Stephen. Much relieved when the two hours were at last
accomplished, he went away at a quick pace, as a recompense for so
He had only to take leave of his landlady, and lie down on his
temporary bed upon the floor; for his bundle was made up for to-
morrow, and all was arranged for his departure. He meant to be
clear of the town very early; before the Hands were in the streets.
It was barely daybreak, when, with a parting look round his room,
mournfully wondering whether he should ever see it again, he went
out. The town was as entirely deserted as if the inhabitants had
abandoned it, rather than hold communication with him. Everything
looked wan at that hour. Even the coming sun made but a pale waste
in the sky, like a sad sea.
By the place where Rachael lived, though it was not in his way; by
the red brick streets; by the great silent factories, not trembling
yet; by the railway, where the danger-lights were waning in the
strengthening day; by the railway's crazy neighbourhood, half
pulled down and half built up; by scattered red brick villas, where
the besmoked evergreens were sprinkled with a dirty powder, like
untidy snuff-takers; by coal-dust paths and many varieties of
ugliness; Stephen got to the top of the hill, and looked back.
Day was shining radiantly upon the town then, and the bells were
going for the morning work. Domestic fires were not yet lighted,
and the high chimneys had the sky to themselves. Puffing out their
poisonous volumes, they would not be long in hiding it; but, for
half an hour, some of the many windows were golden, which showed
the Coketown people a sun eternally in eclipse, through a medium of
So strange to turn from the chimneys to the birds. So strange, to
have the road-dust on his feet instead of the coal-grit. So
strange to have lived to his time of life, and yet to be beginning
like a boy this summer morning! With these musings in his mind,
and his bundle under his arm, Stephen took his attentive face along
the high road. And the trees arched over him, whispering that he
left a true and loving heart behind.
CHAPTER VII - GUNPOWDER
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE, 'going in' for his adopted party, soon began
to score. With the aid of a little more coaching for the political
sages, a little more genteel listlessness for the general society,
and a tolerable management of the assumed honesty in dishonesty,
most effective and most patronized of the polite deadly sins, he
speedily came to be considered of much promise. The not being
troubled with earnestness was a grand point in his favour, enabling
him to take to the hard Fact fellows with as good a grace as if he
had been born one of the tribe, and to throw all other tribes
overboard, as conscious hypocrites.
'Whom none of us believe, my dear Mrs. Bounderby, and who do not
believe themselves. The only difference between us and the
professors of virtue or benevolence, or philanthropy - never mind
the name - is, that we know it is all meaningless, and say so;
while they know it equally and will never say so.'
Why should she be shocked or warned by this reiteration? It was
not so unlike her father's principles, and her early training, that
it need startle her. Where was the great difference between the
two schools, when each chained her down to material realities, and
inspired her with no faith in anything else? What was there in her
soul for James Harthouse to destroy, which Thomas Gradgrind had
nurtured there in its state of innocence!
It was even the worse for her at this pass, that in her mind -
implanted there before her eminently practical father began to form
it - a struggling disposition to believe in a wider and nobler
humanity than she had ever heard of, constantly strove with doubts
and resentments. With doubts, because the aspiration had been so
laid waste in her youth. With resentments, because of the wrong
that had been done her, if it were indeed a whisper of the truth.
Upon a nature long accustomed to self-suppression, thus torn and
divided, the Harthouse philosophy came as a relief and
justification. Everything being hollow and worthless, she had
missed nothing and sacrificed nothing. What did it matter, she had
said to her father, when he proposed her husband. What did it
matter, she said still. With a scornful self-reliance, she asked
herself, What did anything matter - and went on.
Towards what? Step by step, onward and downward, towards some end,
yet so gradually, that she believed herself to remain motionless.
As to Mr. Harthouse, whither he tended, he neither considered nor
cared. He had no particular design or plan before him: no
energetic wickedness ruffled his lassitude. He was as much amused
and interested, at present, as it became so fine a gentleman to be;
perhaps even more than it would have been consistent with his
reputation to confess. Soon after his arrival he languidly wrote
to his brother, the honourable and jocular member, that the
Bounderbys were 'great fun;' and further, that the female
Bounderby, instead of being the Gorgon he had expected, was young,
and remarkably pretty. After that, he wrote no more about them,
and devoted his leisure chiefly to their house. He was very often
in their house, in his flittings and visitings about the Coketown
district; and was much encouraged by Mr. Bounderby. It was quite
in Mr. Bounderby's gusty way to boast to all his world that he
didn't care about your highly connected people, but that if his
wife Tom Gradgrind's daughter did, she was welcome to their
Mr. James Harthouse began to think it would be a new sensation, if
the face which changed so beautifully for the whelp, would change
He was quick enough to observe; he had a good memory, and did not
forget a word of the brother's revelations. He interwove them with
everything he saw of the sister, and he began to understand her.
To be sure, the better and profounder part of her character was not
within his scope of perception; for in natures, as in seas, depth
answers unto depth; but he soon began to read the rest with a
Mr. Bounderby had taken possession of a house and grounds, about
fifteen miles from the town, and accessible within a mile or two,
by a railway striding on many arches over a wild country,
undermined by deserted coal-shafts, and spotted at night by fires
and black shapes of stationary engines at pits' mouths. This
country, gradually softening towards the neighbourhood of Mr.
Bounderby's retreat, there mellowed into a rustic landscape, golden
with heath, and snowy with hawthorn in the spring of the year, and
tremulous with leaves and their shadows all the summer time. The
bank had foreclosed a mortgage effected on the property thus
pleasantly situated, by one of the Coketown magnates, who, in his
determination to make a shorter cut than usual to an enormous