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"No, sir, sure I ha' not coom for nowt o'
th' kind."

Mr. Bounderby seemed agreeably
surprised, notwithstanding his previous strong
conviction. "Very well," he returned.
"You're a steady Hand, and I was not
mistaken. Now, let me hear what it's all about.
As it's not that, let me hear what it is.
"What have you got to say? Out with it, lad!"

Stephen happened to glance towards Mrs.
Sparsit. "I can go, Mr. Bounderby, if you
wish it," said that self-sacrificing lady, making
a feint of taking her foot out of the stirrup.

Mr. Bounderby stayed her, by holding a
mouthful of chop in suspension before
swallowing it, and putting out his left hand.
Then, withdrawing his hand and swallowing
his mouthful of chop, he said to Stephen:

"Now, you know, this good lady is a born
lady, a high lady. You are not to suppose
because she keeps my house for me, that she
hasn't been very high up the treeah, up
at the top of the tree! Now, if you have
got anything to say that can't be said before
a born lady, this lady will leave the room.
If what you have got to say, can be said
before a born lady, this lady will stay where
she is."

"Sir, I hope I never had nowt to say,
not fitten for a born lady to hear, sin' I were
born mysen'," was the reply, accompanied
with a slight flush.

"Very well," said Mr. Bounderby, pushing
away his plate, and leaning back. "Fire

"I ha' coom," Stephen began, raising his
eyes from the floor, after a moment's
consideration, "to ask yo yor advice. I need 't
overmuch. I were married on a Eas'r Monday
nineteen year sin, long and dree. She were a
young lasspretty enowwi' good accounts of
hersen'. Well! She went badsoon. Not
along of me. Gonnows I were not a unkind
husband to her."

"I have heard all this before," said Mr.
Bounderby. "She found other companions,
took to drinking, left off working, sold the
furniture, pawned the clothes, and played old

"I were patient wi' her."

("The more fool you, I think," said Mr.
Bounderby, in confidence to his wine-glass.)

"I were very patient wi' her. I tried to
wean her fra't, ower and ower agen. I tried
this, I tried that, I tried t'oother. I ha' gone
home, many's the time, and found all vanished
as I had in the world, and her without a
sense left to bless hersen' lying on bare ground.
I ha' dun't not once, not twicetwenty

Every line in his face deepened as he said
it, and put in its affecting evidence of the
suffering he had undergone.

"From bad to worse, from worse to worse.
She left me. She disgraced hersen' every-
ways, bitter and bad. She coom back, she
coom back, she coom back. What could
I do t' hinder her? I ha' walked the
streets nights long, ere ever I'd go home.
I ha' gone t' th' brigg, minded to fling
mysen' ower, and ha' no more on 't. I ha'
bore that much, that I were owd when I were

Mrs. Sparsit, easily ambling along with her
netting-needles, raised the Coriolanian
eyebrows and shook her head, as much as to say,
"The great know trouble as well as the small.
Please to turn your humble eye in My direction."

"I ha' paid her to keep awa' fra' me. These
five year I ha' paid her. I ha' gotten decent
fewtrils about me agen. I ha' lived hard and
sad, but not ashamed and fearfo' a' the
minnits o' my life. Last night, I went home.
There she lay upon my harston! There she

In the strength of his misfortune, and the
energy of his distress, he fired for the moment
like a proud man. In another moment, he
stood as he had stood all the timehis usual
stoop upon him; his pondering face addressed
to Mr. Bounderby, with a curious expression
on it, half-shrewd, half-perplexed, as if his
mind were set upon unravelling something
very difficult; his hat held tight in his
left hand, which rested on his hip; his
right arm, with a rugged propriety and force
of action, very earnestly emphasising what he
said: not least so when it always paused,
a little bent, but not withdrawn, as he

"I was acquainted with all this, you know,"
said Mr. Bounderby, "except the last clause,
long ago. It's a bad job; that's what it is.
You had better have been satisfied as you
were, and not have got married. However,
it's too late to say that."

"Was it an unequal marriage, sir, in point
of years?" asked Mrs. Sparsit.

"You hear what this lady asks. Was it
an unequal marriage in point of years, this
unlucky job of yours?" said Mr. Bounderby.

"Not e'en so. I were one-and-twenty
mysen'; she were twenty nighbout."

"Indeed, sir?" said Mrs. Sparsit to her
Chief, with great placidity. "I inferred, from
its being so miserable a marriage, that it
was probably an unequal one in point of

Mr. Bounderby looked very hard at the
good lady in a sidelong way that had an odd
sheepishness about it. He fortified himself
with a little more sherry.

''Well? Why don't you go on?" he then
asked, turning rather irritably on Stephen

"I ha' coom to ask yo, sir, how I am to
be ridden o' this woman." Stephen infused
a yet deeper gravity into the mixed expression
of his attentive face. Mrs. Sparsit
uttered a gentle ejaculation, as having
received a moral shock.

"What do you mean?" said Bounderby,
getting up to lean his back against the chimney-

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