ment, he glanced through a window which was in his corner, and saw
her still looking up at the pile of building, lost in admiration. Heed-
less of the smoke and mud and wet, and of her two long journeys,
she was gazing at it, as if the heavy thrum that issued from its many
stories were proud music to her.
She was gone by-and-by, and the day went after her, and the lights
sprung up again, and the Express whirled in full sight of the Fairy
Palace over the arches near : little felt amid the jarring of the
machinery, and scarcely heard above its crash and rattle. Long
before then his thoughts had gone back to the dreary room above the
little shop, and to the shameful figure heavy on the bed, but heavier
on his heart.
Machinery slackened ; throbbing feebly like a fainting pulse ;
stopped. The bell again ; the glare of light and heat dispelled ; the
factories, looming heavy in the black wet night their tall chimneys
rising up into the air like competing Towers of Babel.
He had spoken to Rachael only last night, it was true, and had
walked with her a little way ; but he had his new misfortune on him,
in which no one else could give him a moment's relief, and, for the
sake of it, and because he knew himself to want that softening of his
anger which no voice but hers could effect, he felt he might so far
4io Hard Times.
disregard what she had said as to wait for her again. He waited, but
she had eluded him. She was gone. On no other night in the year
could he so ill have spared her patient face.
! Better to have no home in which to lay his head, than to have
a home and dread to go to it, through such a cause. He ate and drank,
for he was exhausted but he little knew or cared what ; and he
wandered about in the chill rain, thinking and thinking, and brooding
No word of a new marriage had ever passed between them ; but
Rachael had taken great pity on him years ago, and to her alone he
had opened his closed heart all this time, on the subject of his
miseries ; and he knew very well that if he were free to ask her, she
would take him. He thought of the home he might at that moment
have been seeking with pleasure and pride : of the different man he
might have been that night ; of the lightness then in his now heavy-
laden breast; of the then restored honour, self-respect, and tran-
quillity all torn to pieces. He thought of the waste of the best part
of his life, of the change it made in his character for the worse every
day, of the dreadful nature of his existence, bound hand and foot, to
a dead woman, and tormented by a demon in her shape. He thought
of Rachael, how young when they were first brought together in these
circumstances, how mature now, how soon to grow old. He thought
of the number of girls and women she had seen marry, how many
homes with children in them she had seen grown up around her, how
she had contentedly pursued her own lone quiet path for him and
how he had sometimes seen a shade of melancholy on her blessed face,
that smote him with remorse and despair. He set the picture of her
up, beside the infamous image of last night ; and thought, Could it
be, that the whole earthly course of one so gentle, good, and self-
denying, was subjugate to such a wretch as that !
Filled with these thoughts so filled that he had an unwholesome
sense of growing larger, of being placed in some new and diseased
relation towards the objects among which he passed, of seeing the
iris round every misty light turn red he went home for shelter.
A CANDLE faintly burned in the window, to which the black ladder
had often been raised for the sliding away of all that was most
precious in this world to a striving wife and a brood of hungry
babies ; and Stephen added to his other thoughts the stern reflection,
that of all the casualties of this existence upon earth, not one was
Wounded and Bruised. 411
dealt out with so unequal a hand as Death. The inequality of Birth
was nothing to it. For, say that the child of a King and the child of
a Weaver were born to-night in the same moment, what was that
disparity, to the death of any human creature who was serviceable
to, or beloved by, another, while this abandoned woman lived on !
From the outside of his home he gloomily passed to the inside,
with suspended breath and with a slow footstep. He went up to his
door, opened it, and so into the room.
Quiet and peace were there. Rachael was there, sitting by the bed.
She turned her head, and the light of her face shone in upon the
midnight of his mind. She sat by the bed, watching and tending his
wife. That is to say, he saw that some one lay there, and he knew
too well it must be she ; but Rachael's hands had put a curtain up, so
that she was screened from his eyes. Her disgraceful garments were
removed, and some of Rachael's were in the room. Everything was in
its place and order as he had always kept it, the little fire was newly
trimmed, and the hearth was freshly swept. It appeared to him that
he saw all this in Rachael's face, and looked at nothing besides.
While looking at it, it was shut out from his view by the softened
tears that filled his eyes ; but not before he had seen how earnestly
she looked at him, and how her own eyes were filled too.
She turned again towards the bed, and satisfying herself that all
was quiet there, spoke in a low, calm, cheerful voice.
" I am glad you have come at last, Stephen. You are very late."
" I ha' been walking up an' down."
" I thought so., But 'tis too bad a night for that. The rain falls
very heavy, and the wind has risen."
The wind ? True. It was blowing hard. Hark to the thunder-
ing in the chimney, and the surging noise ! To have been out in
such a wind, and not to have known it was blowing !
" I have been here once before, to-day, Stephen. Landlady came
round for me at dinner-time. There was some one here that needed
looking to, she said. Aud 'deed she was right. All wandering and
lost, Stephen. Wounded too, and bruised."
He slowly moved to a chair and sat down, drooping his head
" I came to do what little I could, Stephen ; first, for that she
worked with me when we were girls both, and for that you courted
her and married her when I was her friend "
He laid his furrowed forehead on his hand, with a low groan.
" And next, for that I know your heart, and am right sure and
certain that 'tis far too merciful to let her die, or even so much as
suffer, for want of aid. Thou knowest who said, ' Let him who is
without sin among you cast the first stone at her ! ' There have been
plenty to do that. Thou art not the man to cast the last stone,
Stephen, when she is brought so low."
" O Rachael, Rachael ! "
412 Hard Times,
" Thou hast been a cruel sufferer, Heaven reward thee ! " she said,
in compassionate accents. " I am thy poor friend, with all my heart
The wounds of which she had spoken, seemed to be about the neck
of the self-made outcast. She dressed them now, still without show-
ing her. She steeped a piece of linen in a basin, into which she
poured some liquid from a bottle, and laid it with a gentle hand upon
the sore. The three-legged table had been drawn close to the bed-
side, and on it there were two bottles. This was one.
It was not so far off, but that Stephen, following her hands with
his eyes, could read what was printed on it in large letters. He
turned of a deadly hue, and a sudden horror seemed to fall upon him.
" I will stay here, Stephen," said Kachael, quietly resuming her
seat, " till the bells go Three. 'Tis to be done again at three, and
then she may be left till morning."
" But thy rest agen to-morrow's work, ray dear."
" I slept sound last night. I can wake many nights, when I am
put to it. 'Tis thou who art in need of rest so white and tired.
Try to sleep in the chair there, while I watch. Thou hadst no sleep
last night, I can well believe. To-morrow's work is far harder foi
thee than for me."
He heard the thundering and surging out of doors, and it seemed
to him as if his late angry mood were going about trying to get at
him. She had cast it out ; she would keep it out ; he trusted to her
to defend him from himself.
"She don't know me, Stephen; she just drowsily mutters and
stares. I have spoken to her times and again, but she don't notice !
'Tis as well so. When she comes to her right mind once more, I
shall have done what I can, and she never the wiser."
" How long, Eachael, is 't looked for, that she'll be so? "
" Doctor said she would haply come to her mind to-morrow."
His eyes fell again on the bottle, and a ..I'emble passed over him,
causing him to shiver in every limb. She thought he was chilled
with the wet. " No," he said, " it was not that. He had had a
" Ay, ay ! coming in. When I were walking. When I were think-
ing. When I " It seized him again ; and he stood up, holding
by the mantel-shelf, as he pressed his dank cold hair down with a
hand that shook as if it were palsied.
" Stephen ! "
She was coming to him, but he stretched out his arm to stop her.
" No ! Don't please ; don't. Let me see thee setten by the bed.
Let me see thee, a' so good, and so forgiving. Let me see thee as I
see thee when I cooni in. I can never see thee better than so.
Never, never, never ! "
He had a violent fit of trembling, and then sunk into his chair.
Stephens Dream. 413
After a time he controlled himself, and, resting with an elbow on
one knee, and his head upon that hand, could look towards Rachael.
Seen across the dim candle with his moistened eyes, she looked as if
she had a glory shining round her head. He cotild have believed she
had. He .did believe it, as the noise without shook the window,
rattled at the door below, and went about the house clamouring and
" When she gets better, Stephen, 'tis to be hoped she'll leave thee
to thyself again, and do thee no more hurt. Anyways we will hope so
now. And now I shall keep silence, for I want thee to sleep."
He closed his eyes, more to please her than to rest his weary head ;
but, by slow degrees as he listened to the great noise of the wind, he
ceased to hear it, or it changed into the working of his loom, or even
into the voices of the day (his own included) saying what had been
really said. Even this imperfect consciousness faded away at last, and
he dreamed a long, troubled dream.
He thought that he, and some one on whom his heart had long been
set but she was not Rachael, and that surprised him, even in the
midst of his imaginary happiness stood in the church being married.
While the ceremony was performing, and while he recognized among
the witnesses some whom he knew to be living, and many whom he knew
to be dead, darkness came on, succeeded by the shining of a tremen-
dous light. It broke from one line in the table of commandments at
the altar, and illuminated the building with the words. They were
sounded through the church, too, as if there were voices in the fiery
letters. Upon this, the whole appearance before him and around him
changed, and nothing was left as it had been, but himself and the
clergyman. They stood in the daylight before a crowd so vast, that
if all the people in the world could have been brought together into
one space, they could not have looked, he thought, more numerous ;
and they all abhorred him, and there was not one pitying or friendly
eye among the millions that were fastened on his face. He stood on
a raised stage, under his own loom ; and, looking up at the shape the
loom took, and hearing the burial service distinctly read, he knew that
he was there to suffer death. In an instant what he stood on fell
below him, and he was gone.
Out of what mystery he came back to his usual life, and to places
that he knew, he was unable to consider ; but he was back in those
places by some means, and with this condemnation upon him, that he
was never, in this world or the next, through all the unimaginable
ages of eternity, to look on Rachael's face or hear her voice. Wander-
ing to and fro, unceasingly, without hope, and in search of he knew not
what (he only knew that he was doomed to seek it), he was the subject
of a nameless, horrible dread, a mortal fear of one particular shape
which everything took. Whatsoever he looked at, grew into that
form sooner or later. The object of his miserable existence was
to prevent its recognition by any one among the various people
4 14 Hard Times.
he encountered. Hopeless labour ! If he led them out of rooms where
it was, if he shut up drawers and closets where it stood, if he drew the
curious from places where he knew it to be secreted, and got them
out into the streets, the very chimneys of the mills assumed that
shape, and round them was the printed word.
The wind was blowing again, the rain was beating on the housetops,
and the larger spaces through which he had strayed contracted to the
four walls of his room. Saving that the fire had died out, it was
as his eyes had closed upon it. Rachael seemed to have fallen into a
dose, in the chair by the bed. She sat wrapped in her shawl, perfectly
still. Tho table stood in the same place, close by the bedside, and on
it, in its real proportions and appearance, was the shape so often
He thought he saw the curtain move. He looked again, and he was
sure it moved. He saw a hand come forth and grope about a little.
Then the curtain moved more perceptibly, and the woman in the bed
put it back, and sat up.
With her woful eyes, so haggard and wild, so heavy and large, she
looked all round the room, and passed the corner where he slept in
his chair. Her eyes returned to that corner, and she put her hand
over them as a shade, while she looked into it. Again they went
all round the room, scarcely heeding Rachael if at all, and returned
to that corner. He thought, as she once more shaded them not so
much looking at him, as looking for him with a brutish instinct that
he was there that no single trace was left in those debauched
features, or in the mind that went along with them, of the woman he
had married eighteen years before. But that he had seen her come to
this by inches, he never could have believed her to be the same.
All this time, as if a spell were on him, he was motionless and
powerless, except to watch her.
Stupidly dozing, or communing with her incapable self about
nothing, she sa-t for a little while with her hands at her ears, and her
head resting on them. Presently, she resumed her staring round the
room. And now, for the first time, her eyes stopped at the table with
the bottles on it.
Straightway she turned her eyes back to his corner, with the
defiance of last night, and moving very cautiously and softly, stretched
out her greedy hand. She drew a mug into the bed, and sat for a
while considering which of the two bottles she should choose.
Finally, she laid her insensate grasp upon the bottle that had swift
and certain death in it, and, before his eyes, pulled out the cork with
Dream or reality, he had no voice, nor had he power to stir. If
this be real, and her allotted time be not yet come, wake, Rachael,
She thought of that, too. She looked at Rachael, and very slowly,
very cautiously, poured out the contents. The draught was at her
STEPHEN AND RACHEL IN THE SICK-ROOM.
A Timely Awakening. 415
lips. A moment and she would be past all help, let the whole world
wake and come about her with its utmost power. But in that moment
Rachael started up with a suppressed cry. The creature struggled,
struck her, seized her by the hair ; but Rachael had the cup.
Stephen broke out of his chair. " Rachael, am I wakin' or dreamin'
this dreadfo' night ? "
" "Pis all well, Stephen. I have been asleep myself. 'Tis near
three. Hush ! I hear the bells."
The wind brought the sounds of the church clock to the window.
They listened, and it struck three. Stephen looked at her, saw how
pale she was, noted the disorder of her hair, and the red marks of
fingers on her forehead, and felt assured that his senses of sight and
hearing had been awake. She held the cup in her hand even now.
" I thought it must be near three," she said, calmly pouring from
the cup into the basin, and steeping the linen as before. " I am
thankful I stayed ! 'Tis done now, when I have put this on. There !
And now she's quiet again. The few drops in the basin I'll pour away,
for 'tis bad stuff to leave about, though ever so little of it." As she
spoke, sEe drained the basin into the ashes of the fire, and broke the
bottle on the hearth.
She had nothing to do, then, but to cover herself with her shawl
before going out into the wind and rain.
" Thou'lt let me walk wi' thee at this hour, Rachael ? "
" No, Stephen. 'Tis but a minute, and I'm home."
" Thou'rt not fearfo' ; " he said it in a low voice, as they went out
of the door ; " to leave me alone wi' her ? "
As she looked at him, saying, " Stephen ? " he went down on his
knee before her, on the poor mean stairs, and put an end of her shawl
to his lips.
" Thou art an Angel. Bless -thee, bless thee ! "
" I am, as I have told thee, Stephen, thy poor friend. Angels
are not like me. Between them, and a working woman fu' of faults,
there is a deep gulf set. My little sister is among them, but she is
She raised her eyes for a moment as she said the words ; and then
they fell again, in all their gentleness and mildness, on his face.
" Thou changest me from bad to good. Thou mak'st me humbly
wishfo' to be more like thee, and fearfo' to lose thee when this life is
ower, and a' the muddle cleared awa'. Thou'rt an Angel ; it may
be, thou hast saved my soul alive ' "
She looked at him, on his knee at her feet, with her shawl still in
his hand, and the reproof on her lips died away when she saw tho
working of his face.
" I coom home desp'rate. I coom home wi'out a hope, and mad wi'
thinking that when I said a word o' complaint I was reckoned a
oureasonable Hand. I told thee I had had a fright. It were the
Poison-bottle on table. I never hurt a livin' creetur ; but happenin'
416 Hard Times.
so suddenly upon 't, I tbowt, ' How can J say what I might ha' done
to myseln, or her, or both ! ' '
She put her two hands on his mouth, with a face of terror, to stop
him from saying more. He caught them in his unoccupied hand,
and holding them, and still clasping the border of her shawl, said
" But I see thee, Rachael, setten by the bed. I ha' seen thee, aw
this night. In my troublous sleep I ha' known thee still to be there.
Evermore I will see thee there. I nevermore will see her or think o'
her, but thou shalt be beside her. I nevermore will see or think o'
anything that angers me, but thou, so much better than me, shalt be
by th' side on't. And so I will try t' look t' th' time, and so I will
try t' trust t' th' time, when thou and me at last shall walk together
far awa', beyond the deep gulf, in th' country where thy little
He kissed the border of her shawl again, and let her go. She
bade him good-night in a broken voice, and went out into the street.
The wind blew from the quarter where the day would soon appear,
and still blew strongly. It had cleared the sky before it, and the
rain had spent itself or travelled elsewhere, and the stars were bright.
He stood bare-headed in the road, watching her quick disappearance.
As the shining stars were to the heavy candle in the window, so was
Rachael, in the rugged fancy of this man, to the common experiences
of his life.
THE GBEAT MANUFACTURER.
TIME went on in Coketown like its own machinery ; so much material
wrought up, so much fuel consumed, so many powers worn out, so
much money made. But, less inexorable than iron, steel, and brass,
it brought its varying seasons even into that wilderness of smoke and
brick, and made the only stand that ever was made in the plcee
against its direful uniformity.
" Louisa is becoming," said Mr. Gradgrind, " almost a young
Time, with his innumerable horse-power, worked away, not mind-
ing what anybody said, and presently turned out young Thomas
a foot taller than when his father had last taken particular notice
"Thomas is becoming," said Mr. Gradgrind, "almost a young
Time passed Thomas on in the mill, while his father was thinking
Below the Mark. 417
about it, and there he stood in a long-tailed coat and a stiff shirt-
" Really," said Mr. Gradgrind, " the period has arrived when
Thomas ought to go to Bounderby."
Time, sticking to him, passed him a into Bounderby's Bank, made
him an inmate of Bounderby's house, necessitated the purchase of his
first razor, and exercised him diligently in his calculations relative to
The same great manufacturer, always with an immense variety of
work on hand, in every stage of development, passed Sissy onward in
his mill, and worked her up into a very pretty article indeed.
" I fear, Jupe," said Mr. Gradgrind, " that your continuance at the
school any longer would be useless."
" I am afraid it would, sir," Sissy answered with a curtsey.
" I cannot disguise from you, Jupe," said Mr. Gradgrind, knitting
his brow, " that the result of your probation there has disappointed
me ; has greatly disappointed ine. You have not acquired, under Mr.
and Mrs. M'Choakumchild, anything like that amount of exact know-
ledge which I looked for. You are extremely deficient in your facts.
Your acquaintance with figures is very limited. You are altogether
backward, and below the mark."
" I am sorry, sir," she returned ; " but I know it is quite true. Yet
I have tried hard, sir."
" Yes," said Mr. Gradgrind, " yes, I believe you have tried hard ;
I have observed you, and I can find no fault in that respect."
" Thank you, sir. I have thought sometimes ; " Sissy very timid
here ; " that perhaps I tried to learn too much, and that if I had
asked to bo allowed to try a little less, I might have
" No, Jupe, no," said Mr. Gradgrind, shaking his head in his pro-
foundest and most eminently practical way. " No. The course you
pursued, you pursued according to the system the system and there
is no more to be said about it. I can only suppose that the circum-
stances of your early life were too unfavourable to the development
of your reasoning powers, and that we began too late. Still, as I have
said already, I am disappointed."
" I wish I could have made a better acknowledgment, sir, of your
kindness to a poor forlorn girl who had no claim upon you, and of
your protection of her."
" Don't shed tears," said Mr. Gradgrind. " Don't shed tears. I
don't complain of you. You are an affectionate, earnest, good young
woman and and we must make that do."
" Thank you, sir, very much," said Sissy, with a grateful curtsey.
" You are useful to Mrs. Gradgrind, and (in a generally pervading
way) you are serviceable in the family also ; so I understand from
Miss Louisa, and, indeed, so I have observed myself. I therefore
hope," said Mr. Gradgrind, " that you can make yourself happy in
41 8 Hard Times.
" I should have nothing to wish, sir, if "
" I understand you," said Mr. Gradgrind ; " you still refer to your
father. I have heard from Miss Louisa that you still preserve that
bottle ! Well ! If your training in the science of arriving at exact
results had been more successful, you would have been wiser on these
points. I will say no more."
He really liked Sissy too well to have a contempt for her ; other-
wise he held her calculating powers in such very slight estimation
that he must have fallen upon that conclusion. Somehow or other, he
had become possessed by an idea that there was something in this
girl which could hardly be set forth in a tabular form. Her capacity
of definition might be easily stated at a very low figure, her mathe-
matical knowledge at nothing ; yet he was not sure that if he had
been required, for example, to tick her off into columns in a parlia-
mentary return, he would have quite known how to divide her.
In some stages of his manufacture of the human fabric, the pro-
cesses of Time are very rapid. Young Thomas and Sissy being both
at such a stage of their working up, these changes were effected in a
year or two ; while Mr. Gradgrind himself seemed stationary in his
course, and underwent no alteration.
Except one, which was apart from his necessary progress through
the mill. Time hustled him into a little noisy and rather dirty
machinery, in a by-corner, and made him Member of Parliament for