Stephen cast out. 455
discoosed, there'll be a threat to turn out if I'm let to work among
yo. I hope I shall die ere ever such a time cooms, and I shall work
solitary among yo unless it cooms truly, I mun do 't, my friends ;
not to brave yo, but to live. I ha nobbut work to live by; and
wheerever can I go, I who ha worked sin I were no heighth at aw, in
Coketown heer ? I mak' no complaints o' being turned to the wa',
o' being outcasten and overlooken fro this time forrard, but I hope I
shall be let to work. If there is any right for me at aw, my friends,
I think 'tis that."
Not a word was spoken. Not a sound was audible in the building,
but the slight rustle of men moving a little apart, all along the
centre of the room, to open a means of passing out, to the man with
whom they had all bound themselves to renounce companionship.
Looking at no one, and going his way with a lowly steadiness upon
him that asserted nothing and sotight nothing, Old Stephen, with all
his troubles on his head, left the scene.
Then Slackbridge, who had kept his oratorical arm extended
during the going out, as if he were repressing with infinite solicitude
and by a wonderful moral power the vehement passions of the multi-
tude, applied himself to raising their spirits. Had not the Roman
Brutus, oh my British countrymen, condemned his son to death ; and
had not the Spartan mothers, oh my soon to be victorious friends,
driven their flying children on the points of their enemies' swords ?
Then was it not the sacred duty of the men of Coketown, with fore-
fathers before them, an admiring world in company with them, and a
posterity to come after them, to hurl out traitors from the tents they
had pitched in a sacred and a Godlike cause ? The winds of heaven
answered Yes ; and bore Yes, east, west, north, and south. And
consequently three cheers for the United Aggregate Tribunal !
Slackbridge acted as fugleman, and gave the time. The multitude
of doubtful faces (a little conscience stricken) brightened at the
sound, and took it up. Private feeling must yield to the common
cause. Hurrah ! The roof yet vibrated with the cheering, when the
Thus easily did Stephen Blackpool fall into the loneliest of lives,
the life of solitude among a familiar crowd. The stranger in the
land who looks into ten thousand faces for some answering look and
never finds it, is in cheering society as compared with him who passes
ten averted faces daily, that were once the countenances of friends.
Such experience was to be Stephen's now, in every waking moment of
his life ; at his work, on his way to it and from it, at his door, at his
window, everywhere. By general consent, they even avoided that
side of the street on which he habitually walked ; and left it, of all
the working men, to him only.
He had been for many years, a quiet silent man, associating but
little with other men, and used to companionship with his own
thoughts. He had never known before the strength of the want in
456 Hard Times.
his heart for the frequent recognition of a nod, a look, a word ; or the
immense amount of relief that had been poured into it by drops
through such small means. It was even harder than he could have
believed possible, to separate in his own conscience his abandonment
by all his fellows from a baseless sense of shame and disgrace.
The first four days of his endurance were days so long and heavy,
that he began to be appalled by the pi-ospect before him. Not only
did he see no Eachael all the time, but he avoided every chance of
seeing her ; for, although he knew that the prohibition did not yet
formally extend to the women working in the factories, he found that
some of them with whom he was acquainted were changed to him,
and he feared to try others, and dreaded that Eachael might be even
singled out from the rest if she were seen in his company. So, he
had been quite alone during the four days, and had spoken to no one,
when, as he was leaving his work at night, a young man of a very
light complexion accosted him in the street.
" Your name's Blackpool, ain't it ? " said the young man.
Stephen coloured to find himself with his hat in his hand, in his
gratitude for being spoken to, or in the suddenness of it, or both.
He made a feint of adjusting the lining, and said, " Yes."
" You are the Hand they have sent to Coventry, I mean ? " said
Bitzer, the very light young man in question.
Stephen answered " Yes," again.
" I supposed so, from their all appearing to keep away from you.
Mr. Bounderby wants to speak to you. You know his house, don't
Stephen said " Yes," again.
"Then go straight up there, will you?" said Bitzer. "You're
expected, and have only to tell the servant it's you. I belong to the
Bank ; so, if you go straight up without me (I was sent to fetch you),
you'll save me a walk."
Stephen, whose way had been in the contrary direction, turned
about, and betook himself as in duty bound, to the red-brick castle
of the giant Bounderby.
MEN" AND MASTERS.
* WELL Stephen," said Bounderby, in his windy manner, " what's this
I hear? What have these pests of the earth been doing to you?
Come in, and speak up."
It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden. A tea-table
vas set out ; and Mr. Bounderby's young wife, and her brother, and
Tht Wind rises. 457
a great gentleman from London, were present. To whom Stephen
made his obeisance, closing the door and standing near it, with hie
hat in his hand.
" This is the man I was telling you about, Harthonse," said Mr.
Bounderby. The gentleman he addressed, who was talking to Mrs.
Bounderby on the sofa, got up, saying in an indolent way, " Oh
really ? " and dawdled to the hearthrug where Mr. Bounderby stood.
" Now," said Bounderby, " speak up ! "
After the four days he had passed, this address fell rudely and dis-
cordantly on Stephen's ear. Besides being a rough handling of his
wounded mind, it seemed to assume that he really was the self-
interested deserter he had been called;
" What were it, sir," said Stephen, " as yo were pleased to want
" Why, I have told you," returned Bounderby. " Speak up like a
man, since you are a man, and tell us about yourself and this Com-
" Wi' yor pardon, sir," said Stephen Blackpool, " I ha' nowt to sen
Mr. Bounderby, who was always more or less like a Wind, finding
something in his way here, began to blow at it directly.
" Now, look here, Harthouse," said he, " here's a specimen of 'em.
When this man was here once before, I warned this man against the
mischievous strangers who are always about and who ought to be
hanged wherever they are found -and I told this man that he was going
in the wrong direction. Now, would you believe it, that although
they have put this mark upon him, he is such a slave to them still,
that he's afraid to open his lips about them ? "
" I sed as I had nowt to sen, sir ; not as I was fearfo' o' openin'
" You said. Ah ! I know what you said ; more than that, I know
what you mean, you see. Not always the same thing, by the Lord
Harry ! Quite different things. You had better tell us at once, that
that fellow Slackbridge is not in the town, stirring up the people to
mutiny ; and that he is not a regular qualified leader of the people :
that is, a most confounded scoundrel. You had better tell us so at
once ; you can't deceive me. You want to tell us so. Why don't
" I'm as sooary as yo, sir, when the people's leaders is bad," said
Stephen, shaking his head. " They taks such as offers. Haply 'tis
na' the sma'est o' their misfortuns when they can get no better."
The wind began to get boisterous.
" Now, you'll think this pretty well, Harthouse," said Mr. Bouuderby.
" You'll think this tolerably strong. You'll say, upon my soul this
is a tidy specimen of what my friends have to deal with ; but this is
nothing, sir! You shall hear me ask this man a question. Pray,
Mr. Blackpool " wind springing up very fast " may I take the
458 Hard Times.
liberty of asking you how it happens that you refused to be in this
Combination ? "
" How 't happens ? "
" Ah ! " said Mr. Bounderby, with his thumbs in the arms of his
coat, and jerking his head and shutting his eyes in confidence with
the opposite wall : " how it happens."
" I'd leefer not coom to 't, sir ; but sin you put th' question an'
not want'n t' be ill-manner'n I'll answer. I ha' passed a promess."
"Not to me, you know," said Bounderby. (Gusty weather with
deceitful calms. One now prevailing).
" O no, sir. Not to yo."
" As for me, any consideration for me has had just nothing at all to
do with it," said Bounderby, still in confidence with the wall. " If
only Josiah Bounderby of Coketown had been iu question, you would
have joined and made no bones about it ? "
" Why yes, sir. 'Tis true."
" Though he knows," said Mr. Bounderby, now blowing a gale,
" that there are a set of rascals and rebels whom transportation is too
good for ! Now, Mr. Harthouse, you have been knocking about in the
world some time. Did you ever meet with anything like that man
out of this blessed country ? " And Mr. Bounderby pointed him out
for inspection, with an angry finger.
" Nay, ma'am," said Stephen Blackpool, staunchly protesting against
the words that had been used, and instinctively addressing himself to
Louisa, after glancing at her face. " Not rebels, nor yet rascals.
Nowt o' th' kind, ma'am, nowt o' th' kind. They've not doon me a
kindness, ma'am, as I know and feel. But there's not a dozen men
arnoong 'em, ma'am a dozen ? Not six but what believes as he has
doon his duty by the rest and by himseln. God forbid as I, that ha'
known, and had'n experience o' these men aw my life I, that ha' ett'n
an' droonken wi' 'em, an' seet'n wi' 'em, and toil'n wi' 'em, and lov'n
'em, should fail fur to stan by 'em wi' the truth, let 'em ha' doon to
me what they may ! "
He spoke with the rugged earnestness of his place and character
deepened perhaps by a proud consciousness that he was faithful to his
class under all their mistrust ; but he fully remembered where he was,
and did not even raise his voice.
" No, ma'am, no. They're true to one another, faithfo' to one
another, 'fectionate to one another, e'en to death. Be poor amoong
'em, be sick amoong 'em, grieve amoong 'em for onny o' th' monny
causes that carries grief to the poor man's door, an' they'll be tender
wi' y5 gentle wi' yo, comfortable wi' yo, Chrisen wi' yo. Be sure
o' that, ma'am. They'd be riven to bits, ere ever they'd be different."
" In short," said Mr. Bounderby, " it's because they are so full of
virtues that they have turned you adrift. Go through with it while
you are about it. Out with it."
" How 'tis, ma'am," resumed Stephen, appearing still to find his
All a Muddle. 459
natural refuge in Louisa's face, " that what is best in us fok, seems to
turn us most to trouble an' misfort'n an' mistake, I dunno. But 'tis so.
I know 'tis, as I know the heavens is over me ahint the smoke. We're
patient too, an' wants in general to do right. An' I canna think the
fawt is aw wi' us."
" Now, my friend," said Mr. Bounderby, whom he could not have
exasperated more, quite unconscious of it though he was, than by
seeming to appeal to any one else, " if yon will favour me with your
attention for half a minute, I should like to have a word or two with
you. You said just now, that you had nothing to tell us about this
business. You are quite sure of that before we go any further."
" Sir, I am sure on 't."
" Here's a gentleman from London present," Mr. Bounderby made
a backhanded point at Mr. James Harthouse with his thumb, " a
Parliament gentleman. I should like him to hear a short bit of
dialogue between you and me, instead of taking the substance of it
for I know precious well, beforehand, what it will be ; nobody knows
better than I do, take notice ! instead of receiving it on trust from
Stephen bent his head to the gentleman from London, and showed
a rather more troubled mind than usual. He turned his eyes
involuntarily to his former refuge, but at a look from that quarter
(expressive though instantaneous) he settled them on Mr. Bounderby's
" Now, what do you complain of ? " asked Mr. Bounderby.
" I ha' not coom here, sir," Stephen reminded him, " to complain.
I coom for that I were sent for."
" What," repeated Mr. Bounderby, folding his arms, " do you people,
in a general way, complain of ? "
Stephen looked at him with some little irresolution for a moment,
and then seemed to make up his mind.
" Sir, I were never good at showing o 't, though I ha' had'n my share
in feeling o 't. 'Deed we are in a muddle, sir. Look round town so
rich as 'tis and see the numbers o' people as has been broughten
into bein' heer, fur to weave, an' to card, an' to piece out a livin', aw the
same one way, somehows, 'twixt their cradles and their graves. Look
how we live, an' wheer we live, an' in what numbers, an' by what
chances, and wi' what sameness ; anil look how the mills is awlus a
goin', and how they never works us no nigher to ony dis'ant object
ceptin' awlus, Death. Look how you considers of us, and writes of us,
and talks of us, and goes up wi' yor deputations to Secretaries o'
State 'bout us, and how yo are awlus right, and how we are awlus
wrong, and never had'n no reason in us sin ever we were born. Look
how this ha' growen an' growen, sir, bigger an' bigger, broader an'
broader, harder an' harder, fro year to year, fro generation unto
generation. Who can look on 't, sir, and fairly tell a man 'tis not a
460 Hard Times.
" Of course," said Mr. Bounderby. " Now perhaps you'll let the
gentleman know, how you would set this muddle (as you're so fond of
calling it) to rights."
" I donno, sir. I canna be expecten to 't. Tis not me as should
be looken to for that, sir. 'Tis them as is put ower me, and ower aw
the rest of us. What do they tak upon themseln, sir, if not to
do 't ? "
"I'll tell you something towards it, at any rate," returned Mr.
Bounderby. " We will make an example of half a dozen Slackbridges.
We'll indict the blackguards for felony, and get 'em shipped off to
Stephen gravely shook his head.
"Don't tell me we won't, man;" said Mr. Bounderby, by this time
blowing a hurricane, " because we will, I tell you ! "
" Sir," returned Stephen, with the quiet confidence of absolute
certainty, " if yo was t' tak a hundred Slackbridges aw as there is,
and aw the number ten times towd an' was t' sew 'em up in separate
sacks, an' sink 'em in the deepest ocean as were made ere ever dry
land coom to be, yo'd leave the muddle just wheer 'tis. Mischeevous
strangers i " said Stephen, with an ; anxious smile ; " when ha' we not
heern, I am suite, sin ever we can call to mind, o' th' mischeevous
strangers ! 'Tis not by them the trouble's made, sir. 'Tis not wi'
them 't commences. I ha' no favour for 'em 1 I ha' no reason to favour
'em but 'tis hopeless and useless to dream o' takin' them fro their
trade, 'stead o' takiri r their trade fro them! Aw that's now about me
in this room were he6r afore I coom, an' will bo heer when I am gone.
Put that clock aboard a ship an' pack it off to Norfolk Island, an' the
time will go on just the same. So 'tis wi' Slackbridge every bit."
Eeverting for a moment to his former refuge, he observed a
cautionary movement of her eyes towards the door. Stepping back,
he put his hand upon the lock. But he had not spoken out of his
own will and desire ; and he felt it in his heart a noble return for his
late injurious treatment to be faithful to the last to those who had
repudiated him. He stayed to finish what was in his mind.
" Sir, I canna, wi' my little learning an' my common way, tell the
genelman what will better aw this though some working men o' this
town could, above my powers but I can tell him what I know will'
never d>o 't. The strong hand will never do 't. Vict'ry and triumph
will never do 't. Agreeing fur to mak one side unnat' rally awlus and
for ever right, and toother side unnat'rally awlus and for ever wrong,
will never, never do 't. Nor yet lettin' alone will never do 't. Let
thousands upon thousands alone, aw leading the like lives and aw
faw'en into the like muddle, and they will be as one, and yo will be
as anoother, wi' a black unpassable world betwixt yo, just as long or
short a time as sitch-like misery can last. Not drawin' nigh to fok,
wi' kindness and patience an' cheery ways, that so draws nigh to one
another in their monny troubles, and so cherishes one another in their
Stephen discharged. 461
distresses wi' what they need themseln like, I humbly believe, as no
people the genelman ha' seen in aw his travels can beat will never
do 't till th' Sun turns t' ice. Most o' aw, rating 'em as so much
Power, and reg'latin' 'em as if they was figures in a soom, or machines :
wi'out loves and likens, wi'ont memories and inclinations, wi'out souls
to weary and souls to hope when aw goes quiet, draggin' on wi' 'em
as if they'd nowt d j th' kind, and when aw goes onquiet, reproachin'
'em for their want o' sitch humanly feelins in their dealins wi' yo
this will never do 't, sir, till Grod's work is onmade."
Stephen stood with the open door in his hand, waiting to know if
anything more were expected of him.
" Just stop a moment," said Mr. Bounderby, excessively red in the
face. " I told you, the last time you were here with a grievance, that
you had better turn about and come out of that. And I also told
you, if you remember, that I was up to the gold spoon look-out."
" 1 were not up to 't myseln, sir ; I do assure yo."
" Now it's clear to me," said Mr. Bounderby, " that you are one of
those chaps who have always got a grievance. And you go about,
sowing it and raising crops. That's the business of your life, my
Stephen shook his head, mutely protesting that indeed he had other
business to do for his life.
" You are such a waspish, raspish, ill-conditioned chap, you see,"
said Mr. Bounderby, " that even your own Union, the men who know
you best, will have nothing to do with you. I never thought those
fellows could be right in anything ; but I tell you what ! I so far go
along with them for a novelty, that I'll have nothing to do with you
Stephen raised his eyes quickly to his face.
" You can finish off what you're at," said Mr. Bounderby, with a
meaning nod, " and then go elsewhere."
" Sir, yo know weel," said Stephen expressively, " that if I canna
get work wi' you, I canna get it elsewheer."
The reply was, " What I know, I know ; and what you know, you
know. I have no more to say about it."
Stephen glanced at Louisa again, but her eyes were raised to his no
more ; therefore, with a sigh, and saying, barely above his breath,
" Heaven help us aw in this world ! " he departed.
IT was falling dark when Stephen came out of Mr. Bounderby's house
The shadows of night had gathered so fast, that he did not look abou
him when he closed the door, but plodded straight along the street
Nothing was further from his thoughts than the curious old woman
he had encountered on his previous visit to the same house, when he
heard a step behind him that he knew, and turning, saw her in
He saw Eachael first, as he had heard her only.
" Ah, Rachael, my dear ! Missus, thou wi' her ! "
"Well, and now you are surprised to be sure, and with reason
I must say," the old woman returned. " Here I am again, you
"But how wi' Eachael?" said Stephen, falling into their step,
walking between them, and looking from the one to the other.
" Why, I come to be with this good lass pretty much as I came to
be with you," said the old woman, cheerfully, taking the reply upon
herself. " My visiting time is later this year than usual, for I have
been rather troubled with shortness of breath, and so put it off till
the weather was fine and warm. For the same reason I don't make
all my journey in one day, but divide it into two days, and get a bed
to-night at the Travellers' Coffee House down by the railroad (a nice
clean house), and go back Parliamentary, at six in the morning.
Well, but what has this to do with this good lass, says you ? I'm
going to tell you. I have heard of Mr. Bounderby being married. I
read it in the paper, where it looked grand oh, it looked fine ! " the
old woman dwelt on it with strange enthusiasm : " and I want to see
his wife. I have never seen her yet. Now, if you'll believe me, she
hasn't come out of that house since noon to-day. So not to give her
up too easily, I was waiting about, a little last bit more, when I
passed close to this good lass two or three times ; and her face being
so friendly I spoke to her, and she spoke to me. There ! " said the
old woman to Stephen, " you can make all the rest out for yourself
now, a deal shorter than I can, I dare say ! "
Once again, Stephen had to conquer an instinctive propensity to
dislike this old woman, though her manner was as honest and simple
as a manner possibly could be. With a gentleness that was as natural
to him as he knew it to be to Eachael, he pursued the subject that
interested her in her old age.
" Well missus," said he, " I ha' seen the lady, and she were young
and hansom. Wi' fine dark thinkin' eyes, and a still way, Eachael, as ;
I ha' never seen the like on."
The Old Woman again. 463
" Young and handsome. Yes ! " cried the old woman, quite
delighted. " As bonny as a rose ! And what a happy wife ! "
" Aye, missus, I suppose she be," said Stephen. But with a doubtful
glance at Rachael.
" Suppose she be ? She must be. She's your master's wife,"
returned the old woman.
Stephen nodded assent. " Though as to master," said he, glancing
again at Rachael, " not master onny more. That's aw enden 'twixt
him and me."
" Have you left his work, Stephen ? " asked Rachael, anxiously and
" Why Rachael," he replied, " whether I ha' lef'n his work, or
whether his work ha' lef'n me, cooms t' th' same. His work and me
are parted. 'Tis as weel so better, I were thinkin' when yo coom
up wi' me. It would ha' brought'n trouble upon trouble if I had
stayed theer. Haply 'tis a kindness to monny that I go ; haply 'tis
a kindness 4o myseln ; anyways it mun be done. I mun turn my
face fro Coketown fur th' time, and seek a fort'n, dear, by beginuiu'
" Where will you go, Stephen ? "
" I donuo t'night," said he, lifting off his hat, and smoothing his
thin hair with the flat of his hand. " But I'm not goin' t'night,
Rachael, nor yet t'morrow. 'Tan't easy overmuch, t' know wheer
t' turn, but a good heart will coom to me."
Herein, too, the sense of even thinking unselfishly aided him.
Before he had so much as closed Mr. Bounderby's door, he had
reflected that at least his being obliged to go away was good for her,
as it would save her from the chance of being brought into question
for not withdrawing from him. Though it would cost him a hard
pang to leave her, and though he could think of no similar place in
which his condemnation would not pursue him, perhaps it was almost
a relief to be forced away from the endurance of the last four days,
even to unknown difficulties and distresses.
So he said, with truth, " I'm more leetsome, Rachael, under 't, than
I couldn ha' believed." It was not her part to make his burden
heavier. She answered with her comforting smile, and the three
walked on together.
Age, especially when it strives to be self-reliant and cheerful, finds
much consideration among the poor. The old woman was so decent
and contented, and made so light of her infirmities, though they had
increased upon her since her former interview with Stephen, that they
both took an interest in her. She was too sprightly to allow of their
walking at a slow pace on her account, but she was very grateful to
be talked to, and very willing to talk to any extent : so, when they
came to their part of the town, she was more brisk and vivacious than
" Coom to my poor place, missus," said Stephen, " and tak a coop
464 Hard Times.
o' tea. Kachael will coom then ; and arterwards I'll see thee safe t'
thy Travellers' lodgin'. 'T may be long, Kachael, ere ever I ha' th'
chance o' thy coompany agen."
They complied, and the three went on to the house where ho
lodged. When they turned into a narrow street, Stephen glanced at
his window with a dread that always haunted his desolate home ; but
it was open, as he had left it, and no one was there. The ovil spirit