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HARD TIMES.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER XX.

"Oh my friends, the downtrodden operatives
of Coketown! Oh my friends and fellow-
countrymen, the slaves of an iron-handed and
a grinding despotism! Oh my friends and
fellow sufferers, and fellow workmen, and fellow
men! I tell you that the hour is come when
we must rally round one another as One
united power, and crumble into dust the
oppressors that too long have battened upon
the plunder of our families, upon the sweat of
our brows, upon the labor of our hands, upon
the strength of our sinews, upon the God-
created glorious rights of Humanity, and
upon the holy and eternal privileges of
Brotherhood!"

"Good!" "Hear, hear hear!" "Hurrah!"
and other cries, arose in many voices from
various parts of the densely crowded and
suffocatingly close Hall in which the orator,
perched on a stage, delivered himself of this and
what other froth and fume he had in him. He
had declaimed himself into a violent heat, and
was as hoarse as he was hot. By dint of
roaring at the rop of his voice under a flaring
gas light, clenching his fists, knitting his
brows, setting his teeth, and pounding with
his arms, he had taken so much out of
himself by this time, that he was brought to a
stop and called for a glass of water.

As he stood there, trying to quench his
fiery face with his drink of water, the
comparison between the orator and the crowd
of attentive faces turned towards him, was
extremely to his disadvantage. Judging him,
by Nature's evidence, he was above the mass in
very little but the stage upon which he stood. In
many great respects, he was essentially below
them. He was not so honest, he was not so
manly, he was not so good-humoured; he
substituted cunning for their simplicity, and
passion for their safe solid sense. An ill-
made high-shouldered man, with lowering
brows, and his features crushed into an
habitually sour expression, he contrasted
most unfavourably, even in his mongrel
dress, with the great body of his hearers
in their plain working clothes. Strange as
it always is to consider any assembly in
the act of submissively resigning itself to
the dreariness of some complacent person,
lord or commoner, whom three-fourths of it
could, by no human means, raise out of
the slough of inanity to their own
intellectual level, it was particularly strange, and
it was even particularly affecting, to see this
crowd of earnest faces, whose honesty in the
main no competent observer free from bias
could doubt, so agitated by such a leader.

Good! Hear hear! Hurrah! The eagerness,
both of attention and intention,
exhibited in all the countenances, made them
a most impressive sight. There was no
carelessness, no languor, no idle curiosity; none
of the many shades of indifference to be seen
in all  other assemblies, visible for  one
moment there. That every man felt his condition
to be, somehow or other, worse than it
might be; that every man considered it
incumbent on him to join the rest, towards
the making of it better; that every man felt
his only hope to be in his allying himself to
the comrades by whom he was surrounded;
and that in this belief, right or wrong
(unhappily wrong then), the whole of that crowd
were gravely, deeply, faithfully in earnest;
must have been as plain to any one who
chose to see what was there, as the bare
beams of the roof, and the whitened brick
walls. Nor could any such spectator fail to
know in his own breast, that these men, through
their very delusions, showed great qualities,
susceptible to being turned to the happiest
and best account; and that to pretend (on
the strength of sweeping axioms, howsoever
cut and dried) that they went astray wholly
without cause, and of their own irrational
wills, was to pretend that there could be
smoke without fire, death without birth,
harvest without seed, anything or everything
produced from nothing.

The orator having refreshed himself, wiped
his corrugated forehead from left to right
several times with his handkerchief folded
into a pad, and concentrated all his revived
forces in a sneer of great disdain and bitterness.

"But, oh my friends and brothers! Oh
men and Englishmen, the down-trodden
operatives of Coketown! What shall we say
of that manthat working man, that I
should find it neccessary so to libel the

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