"Eobbed last night, sir. Robbed in an extraordinary manner.
Robbed with a false key."
" Of much ? "
Mr. Bounderby, in his desire to make the most of it, really seemed
482 Hard Times.
mortified by being obliged to reply, " Why, no ; not of very much.
But it might have been."
"Of how much?"
" Oh ! as a sum if you stick to a sum of not more than a hundred
and fifty pound," said Bounderby, with impatience. " But it's not
the sum ; it's the fact. It's the fact of the Bank being robbed, that's
the important circumstance. I am surprised you don't see it."
" My dear Bounderby," said James, dismounting, and giving his
bridle to his servant, " I do see it ; and am as overcome as you can
possibly desire me to be, by the spectacle afforded to my mental view.
Nevertheless, I may be allowed, I hope, to congratulate you which
I do with all my soul, I assure you on your not having sustained
a greater loss."
" Thauk'ee," replied Bounderby, in a short, ungracious manner.
" But I tell you what. It might have been twenty thousand pound."
" I suppose it might."
" Suppose it might ! By the Lord, you may suppose so. By
George ! " said Mr. Bounderby t with sundry menacing nods and shakes
of his head. " It might have been twic:e twenty. There's no knowing
what it would have been, or wouldn't have been, as it was, but for the
fellows' being disturbed."
Louisa had come up now, and Mrs. Sparsit, and Bitzer.
" Here's Tom Gradgrind's daughter knows pretty well what it
might have been, if you don't," blustered Bounderby. " Dropped,
sir, as if she was shot when I told her ! Never knew her do such
a thing before. Does her credit, under the circumstances, in my
opinion ! "
She still looked faint and pale. James Harthouse begged her to
take his arm ; and as they moved on very slowly, asked her how the
robbery had been committed.
" Why, I am going to tell you," said Bounderby, irritably giving
his arm to Mrs. Sparsit. " If you hadn't been so mighty particular
about the sum, I should have begun to tell you before. You know
this lady (for she is a lady), Mrs. Sparsit ? "
" I have already had the honour
" Very well. And this young man, Bitzer, you saw him too on the
same occasion?" Mr. Harthouse inclined his head in assent, and
Bitzer knuckled his forehead.
" Very well. They live at the Bank. You know they live at the
Bank, perhaps ? Very well. Yesterday afternoon, at the close of
business hours, everything was put away as usual. In the iron room
that this young fellow sleeps outside of, there was never mind how
much. In the little safe in young Tom's closet, the safe used for
petty purposes, there was a hundred and fifty odd pound."
" A hundred and fifty-four, seven, one," said Bitzer.
" Come ! " retorted Bounderby, stopping to wheel round upon him,
" let's have none of your interruptions. It's enough to be robbd
Who did it? 483
while you're snoring because you're too comfortable, without being
put right with your four seven ones. I didn't snore, myself, when
I was your age, let me tell you. I hadn't victuals enough to snore.
And I didn't four seven one. Not if I knew it."
Bitzer knuckled his forehead again, in a sneaking manner, and
seemed at once particularly impressed and depressed by the instance
last given of Mr. Bounderby's moral abstinence.
" A hundred and fifty odd pound," resumed Mr. Bounderby. " That
sum of money, young Tom locked in his safe, not a very strong safe,
but that's no matter now. Everything was left, all right. Some
time in the night, while this young fellow snored Mrs. Sparsit,
ma'am, you say you have heard him snore ? "
" Sir," returned Mrs. Sparsit, " I cannot say that I have heard him
precisely snore, and therefore must not make that statement. But
on winter evenings, when he has fallen asleep at his table, I have
heard him, what I should prefer to describe as partially choke. I
have heard him on such occasions produce sounds of a nature similar
to what may be sometimes heard in Dutch clocks. Not," said Mrs.
Sparsit, with a lofty sense of giving strict evidence, " that I would
convey any imputation on his moral character. Far from it. I have
always considered Bitzer a young man of the most upright principle ;
and to that I beg to bear my testimony."
" Well ! " said the exasperated Bounderby, " while he was snoring,
or choking, or Dutch-clocking, or something or other being asleep
some fellows, somehow, whether previously concealed in the house or
not remains to be seen, got to young Tom's safe, forced it, and
abstracted the contents. Being then disturbed, they made off; letting
themselves out at the main door, and double-locking it again (it was
double-locked, and the key under Mrs. Sparsit's pillow) with a false
key, which was picked up in the street near the Bank, about twelve
o'clock to-day. No alarm takes place, till this chap, Bitzer, turns
out this morning, and begins to open and prepare the offices for
business. Then, looking at Tom's safe, he sees the door ajar, and
finds the lock forced, and the money gone."
" Where is Tom, by the bye ? " asked Harthouse, glancing round.
" He has been helping the police," said Bounderby, " and stays
behind at the Bank. I wish these fellows had tried to rob me when
I was at his time of life. They would have been out of pocket if they
had invested eighteenpence in the job ; I can tell 'em that."
" Is anybody suspected ? "
" Suspected ? I should think there was somebody suspected.
Egod ! " said Bounderby, relinquishing Mrs. Sparsit's arm to wipe
his heated head. " Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is not to be
plundered and nobody suspected. No, thank you ! "
Might Mr. Harthouse inquire Who was suspected ?
"Well," said Bounderby, stopping and facing about to confront
them all, " I'll tell you. It's not to be mentioned everywhere ; it's
484 Hard Times,
not to be mentioned anywhere : in order that the scoundrels con-
cerned (there's a gang of 'em) may be thrown off their guard. So
take this in confidence. Now wait a bit." Mr. Bounderby wiped his
head again. " What should you say to ; " here he violently exploded :
" to a Hand being in it ? "
" I hope," said Harthouse, lazily, " not our friend Blackpot ? "
" Say Pool instead of Pot, sir," returned Bounderby, " and that's
Louisa faintly uttered some word of incredulity and surprise.
" Oh yes ! I know ! " said Bounderby, immediately catching at the
sound. " I know ! I am used to that. I 'know all about it. They
are the finest people in the world, these fellows are. They have got
the gift of the gab, they have. They only want to have their rights
explained to them, they do. But I tell you what. Show me a dis-
satisfied Hand, and I'll show you a man that's fit for anything bad,
I don't care what it is."
Another of the popular fictions of Coketown, which some pains had
been taken to disseminate and which some people really believed.
" But I am acquainted with these chaps," said Bounderby. " I can
read 'em off, like books. Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am, I appeal to you. What
warning did I give that fellow, the first time he set foot in the house,
when the express object of his visit was to know how he could knock
Eeligion over, and floor the Established Church ? Mrs. Sparsit, in
point of high connexions, you are on a level with the aristocracy, did
I say, or did I not say, to that fellow, ' you can't hide the truth from
me : you are not the kind of fellow I like ; you'll come to no
" Assuredly, sir," returned Mrs, Sparsit, " you did, in a highly im-
pressive manner, give him such an admonition."
" When he shocked you, ma'am," said Bounderby ; " when he
shocked your feelings ? "
" Yes, sir," returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a meek shake of her head,
" he certainly did so. Though I do not mean to say but that my feelings
may be weaker on such points more foolish if the term is preferred
than they might have been, if I had always occupied my present
Mr. Bounderby stared with a bursting pride at Mr. Harthouse, as
much as to say, " I am the proprietor of this female, and she's worth
your attention, I think." Then, resumed his discourse.
" You can recall for yourself, Harthouse, what I said to him when
you saw him. I didn't mince the matter with him. I am never
mealy with 'em. I KNOW 'em. Very well, sir. Three days after
that, he bolted. Went off, nobody knows where : as my mother did
in my infancy only with this difference, that he is a worse subject
than my mother, if possible. What did he do before he went ? What do
you say ; " Mr. Bounderby, with his hat in his hand, gave a beat upon
the crown at every little division of his sentences, as if it were a
We shall have 'em. 485
tambourine ; " to his being seen night after night watching the
Bank ? to his lurking about there after dark ? To its striking
Mrs. Sparsit that he could be lurking for no good To her calling
Bitzer's attention to him, and their both taking notice of him And
to its appearing on inquiry to-day that he was also noticed by the
neighbours ? " Having come to the climax, Mr. Bounderby, like an
oriental dancer, put his tambourine on his head.
" Suspicious," said James Harthouse, " certainly."
" I think so, sir," said Bounderby, with a defiant nod. " I think so.
But there are more of 'em in it. There's an old woman. One never
hears of these things till the mischief's done ; all sorts of defects are
found out in the stable door after the horse is stolen ; there's an old
woman turns up now. An old woman who seems to have been flying
into town on a broomstick, every now and then. She watches the
place a whole day before this fellow begins, and on the night when
you saw him, she steals away with him, and holds a council with him
I suppose, to make her report on going off duty, and be damned
There was such a person in the room that night, and she shrunk
from observation, thought Louisa.
"This is not all of 'em, even as we already know 'em," said
Bounderby, with many nods of hidden meaning. " But I have said
enough for the present. You'll have the goodness to keep it quiet,
and mention it to no one. It may take time, but we shall have 'em.
It's policy to give 'em line enough, and there's no objection to that."
" Of course, they will be punished with the utmost rigour of the
law, as notice-boards observe," replied John Harthouse, " and serve
them right. Fellows who go in for Banks must take the consequences.
If there were no consequences, we' should all go in for Banks." He
had gently taken Louisa's parasol from her hand, and had put it up
for her ; and she walked under its shade, though the sun did not shine
" For the present, Loo Bounderby," said her husband, " here's Mrs.
Sparsit to look after. Mrs. Sparsit's nerves have been acted upon by
this business, and she'll stay here a day or two. So, make her com-
" Thank you very much, sir," that discreet lady observed, " but
pray do not let My comfort be a consideration. Anything will do
It soon appeared that if Mrs. Sparsit had a failing in her associa-
tion with that domestic establishment, it was that she was so exces-
sively regardless of herself and regardful of others, as to be a nuisance.
On being shown her chamber, she was so dreadfully sensible of its
comforts as to suggest the inference that she would have preferred
to pass the night on the mangle in the laundry. True, the Fowlers
and the Scadgerses were accustomed to splendour, " but it is my duty
to remember," Mrs. Sparsit was fond of observing with a lofty graee :
486 Hard Times.
particularly when any of the domestics were present, " that what I
was, I am no longer. Indeed," said she, " if I could altogether cancel
the remembrance that Mr. Sparsit was a Powler, or that I myself am
related to the Scadgers family ; or if I could even revoke the fact, and
make myself a person of common descent and ordinary connexions ;
I would gladly do so. I should think it, nnder existing circum-
stances, right to do so." The same Hermitical state of mind led to
her renunciation of made dishes and wines at dinner, until fairly com-
manded by Mr. Bounderby to take them ; when she said, " Indeed you
are very good, sir ; " and departed from a resolution of which she had
made rather formal and public announcement, to " wait for the simple
mutton." She was likewise deeply apologetic for wanting the salt ;
and, feeling amiably bound to bear out Mr. Bounderby to the fullest
extent in the testimony he had borne to her nerves, occasionally sat
back in her chair and silently wept ; at which periods a tear of large
dimensions, like a crystal ear-ring, might be observed (or rather,
must be, for it insisted on public notice) sliding down her Boman nose.
But Mrs. Sparsit's greatest point, first and last, was her determina-
tion to pity Mr. Bounderby. There were occasions when in looking
at him she was involuntarily moved to shake her head, as who would
say, " Alas poor Yorick ! " After allowing herself to be betrayed
into these evidences of emotion, she would force a lambent brightness,
and would be fitfully cheerful, and would say, " You have still good
spirits, sir, I am thankful to find ; " and would appear to hail it as a
blessed dispensation that Mr. Bounderby bore up as he did. One
idiosyncrasy for which she often apologized, she found it excessively
difiicult to conquer. She had a curious propensity to call Mrs.
Bounderby " Miss Gradgrind," and yielded to it some three or four
score times in the course of the evening. Her repetition of this mis-
take covered Mrs. Sparsit with modest 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 remark-
able 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 ex-
treme punishment of the law. That done, Bitzer was dismissed to
town with instructions to recommend Tom to come home by the
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,
Mrs. Sparsifs Considerateness. 487
sir," said Mrs. Sparsit. " Try a hand at backgammon, sir, as you
used to do whon I had the honour of living under your roof." " I
haven't played backgammon, ma'am," said Mr. Bouuderby, " 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. Bouuderby ; " 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. Bouuderby.
" 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 happi-
ness 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
488 Hard Times.
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 noise-
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 has pillow, and her
hair flowed over him as if she would hide him from every one but
herself : " is there nothing that you hare 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 1 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,"
Tom has Nothing to tell. 489
" 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, stand-
ing 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-night ! "
" 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 her,
hatefully but impenitently spurning himself, and no less hatefully
and unprofitably spurning all the good in the world.
HEARING THE LAST OF IT.
MRS. SPARSIT, lying by to recover the tone of her nerves in Mr.
Bounderby's retreat, kept such a sharp look-out, night and day,
under her Coriolanian eyebrows, that her eyes, like a couple of light-
houses on an iron-bound coast, might have warned all prudent
mariners from that bold rock her Roman nose and the dark and
eraggy region in its neighbourhood, but for the placidity of her
manner. Although it was hard to believe that her retiring for the
night could be anything but a form, so severely wide awake were
those classical eyes of hers, and so impossible did it seem that her
rigid nose could yield to any relaxing influence, yet her manner of
sitting, smoothing her uncomfortable, not to say, gritty mittens (they
were constructed of a cool fabric like a meat-safe), or of ambling to
unknown places of destination with her foot in her cotton stirrup,
was so perfectly serene, that most observers would have been con-
strained to suppose her a dove, embodied by some freak of nature, in
the earthly tabernacle of a bird of the hook-beaked order.
She was a most wonderful woman for prowling about the house.
How she got from story to story was a mystery beyond solution. A
lady so decorous in herself, and so highly connected, was not to be
suspected of dropping over the banisters or sliding down them, yet
her extraordinary facility of locomotion suggested the wild idea.
Another noticeable circumstance in Mrs. Sparsit was, that she was
never hurried. She would shoot with consummate velocity from the
roof to the hall, yet would be in full possession of her breath and
dignity on the moment of her arrival there. Neither was she ever