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HARD TIMES

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER IV.

NOT being Mrs. Grundy, who was Mr.
Bounderby?

Why, Mr. Bounderby was as near being
Mr. Gradgrind's bosom friend, as a man
perfectly devoid of sentiment can approach that
spiritual relationship towards another man
perfectly devoid of sentiment. So near was
Mr. Bounderbyor, if the reader should
prefer it, so far off.

He was a rich man: banker, merchant,
manufacturer, and what not. A big, loud
man, with a stare and a metallic laugh. A
man made out of a coarse material, which
seemed to have been stretched to make so
much of him. A man with a great puffed
head and forehead, swelled veins in his
temples, and such a strained skin to his face
that it seemed to hold his eyes open and lift
his eyebrows up. A man with a pervading
appearance on him of being inflated like a
balloon, and ready to start. A man who
could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-
made man. A man who was always
proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet
of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his
old poverty. A man who was the Bully of
humility.

A year or two younger than his eminently
practical friend, Mr. Bounderby looked older;
his seven or eight and forty might have had
the seven or eight added to it again, without
surprising anybody. He had not much hair.
One might have fancied he had talked it off;
and that what was left, all standing up in
disorder, was in that condition from being
constantly blown about by his windy boastfulness.

In the formal drawing-room of Stone
Lodge, standing on the hearth-rug, warming
himself before the fire, Mr. Bounderby
delivered some observations to Mrs. Gradgrind
on the circumstance of its being his birthday.
He stood before the fire, partly because it
was a cool spring afternoon, though the sun
shone; partly because the shade of Stone
Lodge was always haunted by the ghost of
damp mortar; partly because he thus took
up a commanding position, from which to
subdue Mrs. Gradgrind.

"I hadn't a shoe to my foot. As to a
stocking, I didn't know such a thing by
name. I passed the day in a ditch, and the
night in a pigsty. That's the way I spent
my tenth birthday. Not that a ditch was
new to me, for I was born in a ditch."

Mrs. Gradgrind, a little, thin, white, pink-
eyed bundle of shawls, of surpassing feebleness,
mental and bodily; who was always
taking physic without any effect, and who,
whenever she showed a symptom of coming
to life, was invariably stunned by some
weighty piece of fact tumbling on her; Mrs.
Gradgrind hoped it was a dry ditch?

"No! As wet as a sop. A foot of water
in it," said Mr. Bounderby.

"Enough to give a baby cold," Mrs.
Gradgrind considered.

"Cold? I was born with inflammation of
the lungs, and of everything else, I believe,
that was capable of inflammation," returned
Mr. Bounderby. "For years, ma'am, I was
one of the most miserable little wretches ever
seen. I was so sickly, that I was always
moaning and groaning. I was so ragged and
dirty, that you wouldn't have touched me
with a pair of tongs."

Mrs. Gradgrind faintly looked at the tongs,
as the most appropriate thing her imbecility
could think of doing.

"How I fought through it, / don't know,"
said Bounderby." I was determined, I
suppose. I have been a determined character
in later life, and I suppose I was then. Here
I am, Mrs. Gradgrind, anyhow, and nobody
to thank for my being here but myself."

Mrs. Gradgrind meekly and weakly hoped
that his mother

"My mother? Bolted, ma'am!" said
Bounderby.

Mrs. Gradgrind, stunned as usual, collapsed
and gave it up.

"My mother left me to my grandmother,"
said Bounderby;" and, according to the best
of my remembrance, my grandmother was
the wickedest and the worst old woman that
ever lived. If I got a little pair of shoes by
any chance, she would take 'em off and sell
'em for drink. Why, I have known that
grandmother of mine lie in her bed and drink
her four-teen glasses of liquor before breakfast!"

Mrs. Gradgrind, weakly smiling, and giving

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