You are useful to Mrs Gradgrind, and (in a generally pervading way) you are serviceable in the family also; so I understand from Miss Louisa, and, indeed, so I have observed myself. I therefore hope, said Mr Gradgrind, that you can make yourself happy in those relations.
I should have nothing to wish, sir, if
I understand you, said Mr Gradgrind; you still refer to your father. I have heard from Miss Louisa that you still preserve that bottle. Well! If your training in the science of arriving at exact results had been more successful, you would have been wiser on these points. I will say no more.
He really liked Sissy too well to have a contempt for her; otherwise he held her calculating powers in such very slight estimation that he must have fallen upon that conclusion. Somehow or other, he had become possessed by an idea that there was something in this girl which could hardly be set forth in a tabular form. Her capacity of definition might be easily stated at a very low figure, her mathematical knowledge at nothing; yet he was not sure that if he had been required, for example, to tick her off into columns in a parliamentary return, he would have quite known how to divide her.
In some stages of his manufacture of the human fabric, the processes of Time are very rapid. Young Thomas and Sissy being both at such a stage of their working up, these changes were effected in a year or two; while Mr Gradgrind himself seemed stationary in his course, and underwent no alteration.
Except one, which was apart from his necessary progress through the mill. Time hustled him into a little noisy and rather dirty machinery, in a by-corner, and made him Member of Parliament for Coketown: one of the respected members for ounce weights and measures, one of the representatives of the multiplication table, one of the deaf honourable gentlemen, dumb honourable gentlemen, blind honourable gentlemen, lame honourable gentlemen, dead honourable gentlemen, to every other consideration. Else wherefore live we in a Christian land, eighteen hundred and odd years after our Master?
All this while, Louisa had been passing on, so quiet and reserved, and so much given to watching the bright ashes at twilight as they fell into the grate, and became extinct, that from the period when her father had said she was almost a young woman which seemed but yesterday she had scarcely attracted his notice again, when he found her quite a young woman.
Quite a young woman, said Mr Gradgrind, musing. Dear me!
Soon after this discovery, he became more thoughtful than usual for several days, and seemed much engrossed by one subject. On a certain night, when he was going out, and Louisa came to bid him good bye before his departure as he was not to be home until late and she would not see him again until the morning he held her in his arms, looking at her in his kindest manner, and said:
My dear Louisa, you are a woman!
She answered with the old, quick, searching look of the night when she was found at the Circus; then cast down her eyes. Yes, father.
My dear, said Mr Gradgrind, I must speak with you alone and seriously. Come to me in my room after breakfast tomorrow, will you?
Your hands are rather cold, Louisa. Are you not well?
Quite well, father.
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