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talking and thinking of no one else. "How
do you find yourself this morning, sir?  Pray
let us see you cheerful, sir."

Now, these persistent assuagements of his
misery, and lightenings of his load, had by
this time begun to have the effect of making
Mr. Bounderby softer than usual towards Mrs.
Sparsit, and harder than usual to most
other people from his wife downward. So,
when Mrs. Sparsit said with forced lightness
of heart, "You want your breakfast, sir, but
I dare say Miss Gradgrind will soon be here
to preside at the table," Mr. Bounderby
replied, "If I waited to be taken care of by
my wife, ma'am, I believe you know pretty
well I should wait till Doomsday, so I'll
trouble you to take charge of the teapot."
Mrs. Sparsit complied, and assumed her old
position at table.

This again made the excellent woman vastly
sentimental. She was so humble withal, that
when Louisa appeared, she rose, protesting
she never could think of sitting in that place
under existing circumstances, often as she
had had the honor of making Mr. Bounderby's
breakfast, before Mrs. Gradgrindshe begged
pardon, she meant to say, Miss Bounderby
she hoped to be excused, but she really
could not get it right yet, though she trusted
to become familiar with it by and byhad
assumed her present position. It was only
(she observed) because Miss Gradgrind
happened to be a little late, and Mr. Bounderby's
time was so very precious, and she knew it of
old to be so essential that he should breakfast
to the moment, that she had taken the
liberty of complying with his request: long
as his will had been a law to her.

"There! Stop where you are, ma'am," said
Mr. Bounderby, "stop where you are! Mrs.
Bounderby will be very glad to be relieved
of the trouble, I believe."

"Don't say that, sir," returned Mrs.
Sparsit, almost with severity, "because that
is very unkind to Mrs. Bounderby. And to
be unkind is not to be you, sir."

"You may set your mind at rest ma'am.—
You can take it very quietly, can't you
Loo?" said Mr. Bounderby, in a blustering
way, to his wife.

"Of course. It is of no moment. Why should
it be of any importance to me?"

"Why should it be of any importance to
any one, Mrs. Sparsit, ma'am?" said Mr.
Bounderby, swelling with a sense of slight.
"You attach too much importance to these
things, ma'am. By George, you'll be
corrected in some of your notions here. You are
old fashioned, ma'am. You are behind Tom
Gradgrind's children's time."

"What is the matter with you?" asked
Louisa, coldly surprised. "What has given
you offence?"

"Offence!" repeated Bounderby. "Do you
suppose if there was any offence given me, I
shouldn't name it, and request to have it
corrected? I am a straightforward man,
I believe. I don't go beating about for side-
winds."

"I suppose no one ever had occasion to
think you too diffident, or too delicate,"
Louisa answered him composedly: "I have
never made that objection to you, either as a
child or as a woman. I don't understand
what you would have."

"Have?" returned Mr. Bounderby.
"Nothing. Otherwise, don't you, Loo Bounderby,
know thoroughly well that I, Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown, would have it?"

She looked at him, as he struck the table
and made the teacups ring, with a proud
color in her face that was a new change, Mr.
Harthouse thought. "You are
incomprehensible this morning," said Louisa. "Pray
take no further trouble to explain yourself. I
am not curious to know your meaning. What
does it matter!"

Nothing more was said on this theme, and
Mr. Harthouse was soon idly gay on indifferent
subjects. But, from this day, the Sparsit
action upon Mr. Bounderby threw Louisa
and James Harthouse more together, and
strengthened the dangerous alienation from
her husband and confidence against him
with another, into which she had fallen by
degrees so fine that she could not retrace
them if she tried. But, whether she ever tried
or no, lay hidden in her own closed heart.

Mrs. Sparsit was so much affected on this
particular occasion, that, assisting Mr.
Bounderby to his hat after breakfast, and being
then alone with him in the hall, she
imprinted a chaste kiss upon his hand,
murmured "my benefactor!" and retired,
overwhelmed with grief. Yet it is an indubitable
fact, within the cognizance of this history,
that five minutes after he had left the house
in the self-same hat, the same descendant of
the Scadgerses and connexion by matrimony
of the Powlers, shook her right-hand mitten
at his portrait, made a contemptuous grimace
at that work of art, and said "Serve you
right, you Noodle, and I am glad of it!"

Mr. Bounderby had not been long gone,
when Bitzer appeared. Bitzer had come down
by train, shrieking and rattling over the long
line of arches that bestrode the wild country
of past and present coal pits, with an express
from Stone Lodge. It was a hasty note to
inform Louisa, that Mrs. Gradgrind lay
very ill. She had never been well, within her
daughter's knowledge; but, she had declined
within the last few days, had continued sinking
all through the night, and was now as
nearly dead, as her limited capacity of being
in any state that implied the ghost of an
intention to get out of it, allowed.

Accompanied by the lightest of porters,
fit colorless servitor at Death's door when
Mrs. Gradgrind knocked, Louisa rumbled to
Coketown, over the coalpits past and present,
and was whirled into its smoky jaws. She
dismissed the messenger to his own devices
and rode away to her old home.

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