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HARD TIMES.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.
CHAPTER  XXIV.

THE next morning was too bright a morning
for sleep, and James Harthouse rose
early, and sat in the pleasant bay window
of his dressing-room, smoking the rare tobacco
that had had so wholesome an influence
on his young friend. Reposing in the
sunlight, with the fragrance of his eastern
pipe about him, and the dreamy smoke
vanishing into the air, so rich and soft with
summer odors, he reckoned up his advantages
as an idle winner might count his gains.
He was not at all bored for the time,
and could give his mind to it.

He had established a confidence with her,
from which her husband was excluded.
He had established a confidence with her, that
absolutely turned upon her indifference
towards her husband, and the absence, now
and at all times, of any congeniality between
them. He had artfully, but plainly assured
her, that he knew her heart in its last most
delicate recesses; he had come so near to her
through its tenderest sentiment; he had
associated himself with that feeling; and the
barrier behind which she lived, had melted
away. All very odd, and very satisfactory!

And yet he had not, even now, any earnest
wickedness of purpose in him. Publicly
and privately, it were much better for the
age in which he lived, that he and the legion
of whom he was one were designedly bad,
than indifferent and purposeless. It is the
drifting icebergs setting with any current
anywhere, that wreck the ships.

When the Devil goeth about like a roaring
lion, he goeth about in a shape by which
few but savages and hunters are attracted.
But, when he is trimmed, varnished, and
polished, according to the mode; when he
is aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue,
used up as to brimstone, and used up as to
bliss; then, whether he take to the serving
out of red tape, or to the kindling of red
fire, he is the very Devil.

So, James Harthouse reclined in the window,
indolently smoking, and reckoning up the
steps he had taken on the road by which he
happened to be travelling. The end to which
it led was before him, pretty plainly; but
he troubled himself with no calculations
about it. What will be, will be.

As he had rather a long ride to take that
dayfor there was a public occasion "to do"
at some distance, which afforded a tolerable
opportunity of going in for the Gradgrind
menhe dressed early, and went down to
breakfast. He was anxious to see if she had
relapsed since the previous evening. No.
He resumed where he had left off. There
was a look of interest for him again.

He got through the day as much (or as
little) to his own satisfaction, as was to be
expected under the fatiguing circumstances;
and came riding back at six o'clock. There
was a sweep of some half mile between the
lodge and the house, and he was riding along
at a foot pace over the smooth gravel, once
Nickits's, when Mr. Bounderby burst out of
the shrubbery with such violence as to make
his horse shy across the road.

"Harthouse!" cried Mr. Bounderby.
"Have you heard?"

"Heard what?" said Harthouse, soothing
his horse, and inwardly favoring Mr.
Bounderby with no good wishes.

"Then you haven't heard!"

"I have heard you, and so has this brute.
I have heard nothing else."

Mr. Bounderby, red and hot, planted
himself in the centre of the path before
the horse's head, to explode his bombshell
with more effect.

"The Bank's robbed!"

"You don't mean it!"

"Robbed 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 mortified by being
obliged to reply, "Why, no; not of very
much. But it might have been."

"Of how much?"

"Oh! as a sumif you stick to a sumof
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,

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