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confusion; but indeed, she said, it seemed so natural to say Miss
Gradgrind: whereas, to persuade herself that the young lady whom
she had had the happiness of knowing from a child could be really
and truly Mrs. Bounderby, she found almost impossible. It was a
further singularity of this remarkable case, that the more she
thought about it, the more impossible it appeared; 'the
differences,' she observed, 'being such.'
In the drawing-room after dinner, Mr. Bounderby tried the case of
the robbery, examined the witnesses, made notes of the evidence,
found the suspected persons guilty, and sentenced them to the
extreme punishment of the law. That done, Bitzer was dismissed to
town with instructions to recommend Tom to come home by the mail-
When candles were brought, Mrs. Sparsit murmured, 'Don't be low,
sir. Pray let me see you cheerful, sir, as I used to do.' Mr.
Bounderby, upon whom these consolations had begun to produce the
effect of making him, in a bull-headed blundering way, sentimental,
sighed like some large sea-animal. 'I cannot bear to see you so,
sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Try a hand at backgammon, sir, as you
used to do when I had the honour of living under your roof.' 'I
haven't played backgammon, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby, 'since that
time.' 'No, sir,' said Mrs. Sparsit, soothingly, 'I am aware that
you have not. I remember that Miss Gradgrind takes no interest in
the game. But I shall be happy, sir, if you will condescend.'
They played near a window, opening on the garden. It was a fine
night: not moonlight, but sultry and fragrant. Louisa and Mr.
Harthouse strolled out into the garden, where their voices could be
heard in the stillness, though not what they said. Mrs. Sparsit,
from her place at the backgammon board, was constantly straining
her eyes to pierce the shadows without. 'What's the matter, ma'am?
' said Mr. Bounderby; 'you don't see a Fire, do you?' 'Oh dear no,
sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I was thinking of the dew.' 'What
have you got to do with the dew, ma'am?' said Mr. Bounderby. 'It's
not myself, sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit, 'I am fearful of Miss
Gradgrind's taking cold.' 'She never takes cold,' said Mr.
Bounderby. 'Really, sir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. And was affected
with a cough in her throat.
When the time drew near for retiring, Mr. Bounderby took a glass of
water. 'Oh, sir?' said Mrs. Sparsit. 'Not your sherry warm, with
lemon-peel and nutmeg?' 'Why, I have got out of the habit of
taking it now, ma'am,' said Mr. Bounderby. 'The more's the pity,
sir,' returned Mrs. Sparsit; 'you are losing all your good old
habits. Cheer up, sir! If Miss Gradgrind will permit me, I will
offer to make it for you, as I have often done.'
Miss Gradgrind readily permitting Mrs. Sparsit to do anything she
pleased, that considerate lady made the beverage, and handed it to
Mr. Bounderby. 'It will do you good, sir. It will warm your
heart. It is the sort of thing you want, and ought to take, sir.'
And when Mr. Bounderby said, 'Your health, ma'am!' she answered
with great feeling, 'Thank you, sir. The same to you, and
happiness also.' Finally, she wished him good night, with great
pathos; and Mr. Bounderby went to bed, with a maudlin persuasion
that he had been crossed in something tender, though he could not,
for his life, have mentioned what it was.
Long after Louisa had undressed and lain down, she watched and
waited for her brother's coming home. That could hardly be, she
knew, until an hour past midnight; but in the country silence,
which did anything but calm the trouble of her thoughts, time
lagged wearily. At last, when the darkness and stillness had
seemed for hours to thicken one another, she heard the bell at the
gate. She felt as though she would have been glad that it rang on
until daylight; but it ceased, and the circles of its last sound
spread out fainter and wider in the air, and all was dead again.
She waited yet some quarter of an hour, as she judged. Then she
arose, put on a loose robe, and went out of her room in the dark,
and up the staircase to her brother's room. His door being shut,
she softly opened it and spoke to him, approaching his bed with a
She kneeled down beside it, passed her arm over his neck, and drew
his face to hers. She knew that he only feigned to be asleep, but
she said nothing to him.
He started by and by as if he were just then awakened, and asked
who that was, and what was the matter?
'Tom, have you anything to tell me? If ever you loved me in your
life, and have anything concealed from every one besides, tell it
'I don't know what you mean, Loo. You have been dreaming.'
'My dear brother:' she laid her head down on his pillow, and her
hair flowed over him as if she would hide him from every one but
herself: 'is there nothing that you have to tell me? Is there
nothing you can tell me if you will? You can tell me nothing that
will change me. O Tom, tell me the truth!'
'I don't know what you mean, Loo!'
'As you lie here alone, my dear, in the melancholy night, so you
must lie somewhere one night, when even I, if I am living then,
shall have left you. As I am here beside you, barefoot, unclothed,
undistinguishable in darkness, so must I lie through all the night
of my decay, until I am dust. In the name of that time, Tom, tell
me the truth now!'
'What is it you want to know?'
'You may be certain;' in the energy of her love she took him to her
bosom as if he were a child; 'that I will not reproach you. You
may be certain that I will be compassionate and true to you. You
may be certain that I will save you at whatever cost. O Tom, have
you nothing to tell me? Whisper very softly. Say only "yes," and
I shall understand you!'
She turned her ear to his lips, but he remained doggedly silent.
'Not a word, Tom?'
'How can I say Yes, or how can I say No, when I don't know what you
mean? Loo, you are a brave, kind girl, worthy I begin to think of
a better brother than I am. But I have nothing more to say. Go to
bed, go to bed.'
'You are tired,' she whispered presently, more in her usual way.
'Yes, I am quite tired out.'
'You have been so hurried and disturbed to-day. Have any fresh
discoveries been made?'
'Only those you have heard of, from - him.'
'Tom, have you said to any one that we made a visit to those
people, and that we saw those three together?'
'No. Didn't you yourself particularly ask me to keep it quiet when
you asked me to go there with you?'
'Yes. But I did not know then what was going to happen.'
'Nor I neither. How could I?'
He was very quick upon her with this retort.
'Ought I to say, after what has happened,' said his sister,
standing by the bed - she had gradually withdrawn herself and
risen, 'that I made that visit? Should I say so? Must I say so?'
'Good Heavens, Loo,' returned her brother, 'you are not in the
habit of asking my advice. say what you like. If you keep it to
yourself, I shall keep it to myself. If you disclose it, there's
an end of it.'
It was too dark for either to see the other's face; but each seemed
very attentive, and to consider before speaking.
'Tom, do you believe the man I gave the money to, is really
implicated in this crime?'
'I don't know. I don't see why he shouldn't be.'
'He seemed to me an honest man.'
'Another person may seem to you dishonest, and yet not be so.'
There was a pause, for he had hesitated and stopped.
'In short,' resumed Tom, as if he had made up his mind, 'if you
come to that, perhaps I was so far from being altogether in his
favour, that I took him outside the door to tell him quietly, that
I thought he might consider himself very well off to get such a
windfall as he had got from my sister, and that I hoped he would
make good use of it. You remember whether I took him out or not.
I say nothing against the man; he may be a very good fellow, for
anything I know; I hope he is.'
'Was he offended by what you said?'
'No, he took it pretty well; he was civil enough. Where are you,
Loo?' He sat up in bed and kissed her. 'Good night, my dear, good
'You have nothing more to tell me?'
'No. What should I have? You wouldn't have me tell you a lie!'
'I wouldn't have you do that to-night, Tom, of all the nights in
your life; many and much happier as I hope they will be.'
'Thank you, my dear Loo. I am so tired, that I am sure I wonder I
don't say anything to get to sleep. Go to bed, go to bed.'
Kissing her again, he turned round, drew the coverlet over his
head, and lay as still as if that time had come by which she had
adjured him. She stood for some time at the bedside before she
slowly moved away. She stopped at the door, looked back when she
had opened it, and asked him if he had called her? But he lay
still, and she softly closed the door and returned to her room.
Then the wretched boy looked cautiously up and found her gone,
crept out of bed, fastened his door, and threw himself upon his
pillow again: tearing his hair, morosely crying, grudgingly loving