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HARD TIMES.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER IX.

SISSY JUPE had not an easy time of it,
between Mr. M'Choakumchild and Mrs.
Gradgrind, and was not without strong impulses,
in the first months of her probation, to run
away. It hailed facts all day long so very
hard, and life in general was opened to her
as such a closely-ruled cyphering-book, that
assuredly she would have run away, but for
only one restraint.

It is lamentable to think of; but this
restraint was the result of no arithmetical
process, was self-imposed in defiance of all
calculation, and went dead against any table
of probabilities that any Actuary would
have drawn up from the premises. The girl
believed that her father had not deserted her;
she lived in the hope that he would come
back, and in the faith that he would be made
the happier by her remaining where she was.

The wretched ignorance with which
Jupe clung to this consolation, rejecting the
superior comfort of knowing, on a sound
arithmetical basis, that her father was an
unnatural vagabond, filled Mr. Gradgrind with
pity. Yet, what was to be done?
M'Choakumchild reported that she had a very
dense head for figures; that, once possessed
with a general idea of the globe, she took the
smallest conceivable interest in its exact
measurements; that she was extremely slow
in the acquisition of dates, unless some pitiful
incident happened to be connected therewith;
that she would burst into tears on being
required (by the mental process) immediately
to name the cost of two hundred and forty-
seven muslin caps at fourteenpence halfpenny;
that she was as low down, in the school, as
low could be; that after eight weeks of
induction into the elements of Political
Economy, she had only yesterday been set right by
a prattler three feet high, for returning to
the question, " What is the first principle of
this science?" the absurd answer, "To do
unto others as I would that they should do
unto me."

Mr. Gradgrind  observed, shaking his head,
that all this was very bad; that it showed
the necessity of infinite grinding at the mill
of knowledge, as per system, schedule, blue
book, report, and tabular statements A to Z;
and that Jupe "must be kept to it." So Jupe
was kept to it, and became very low-spirited,
but no wiser.

"It would be a fine thing to be you, Miss
Louisa! " she said, one night, when Louisa
had endeavoured to make her perplexities for
next day something clearer to her.

"Do you think so?"

"I should know so much, Miss Louisa. All
that is difficult to me now, would be so easy
then."

"You might not be the better for it, Sissy."

Sissy submitted, after a little hesitation,
"I should not be the worse, Miss Louisa."
To which Miss Louisa answered, " I don't
know that."

There had been so little communication
between these twoboth because life at Stone
Lodge went monotonously round like a piece
of machinery which discouraged human
interference, and because of the prohibition
relative to Sissy's past careerthat they were
still almost strangers. Sissy, with her dark
eyes wonderingly directed to Louisa's face,
was uncertain whether to say more or to
remain silent.

"You are more useful to my mother, and
more pleasant with her than I can ever be,"
Louisa resumed. "You are pleasanter to
yourself, than I am to myself."

"But, if you please Miss Louisa," Sissy
pleaded, " I amO so stupid!"

Louisa, with a brighter laugh than usual,
told her she would be wiser by and by.

"You don't know," said Sissy, half crying,
"what a stupid girl I am. All through school
hours I make mistakes. Mr. and Mrs.
M'Choakumchild call me up, over and over
again, regularly to make mistakes. I can't
help them. They seem to come natural to
me."

"Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild never
make any mistakes themselves, I suppose,
Sissy?"

"O no!" she eagerly returned. " They
know everything."

"Tell me some of your mistakes."

"I am almost ashamed," said Sissy, with
reluctance. " But to-day, for instance, Mr.
M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about
Natural Prosperity."

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