MR JAMES HARTHOUSE passed a whole night and a day in a state of so much hurry, that the World, with its best glass in his eye, would scarcely have recognized him during that insane interval, as the brother Jem of the honourable and jocular member. He was positively agitated. He several times spoke with an emphasis, similar to the vulgar manner. He went in and went out in an unaccountable way, like a man without an object. He rode like a highwayman. In a word, he was so horribly bored by existing circumstances, that he forgot to go in for boredom in the manner prescribed by the authorities.
After putting his horse at Coketown through the storm, as if it were a leap, he waited up all night: from time to time ringing his bell with the greatest fury, charging the porter who kept watch with delinquency in withholding letters or messages that could not fail to have been entrusted to him, and demanding restitution on the spot. The dawn coming, the morning coming, and the day coming, and neither message nor letter coming with either, he went down to the country-house. There, the report was, Mr Bounderby away, and Mrs Bounderby in town. Left for town suddenly last evening. Not even known to be gone until receipt of message, importing that her return was not to be expected for the present.
In these circumstances he had nothing for it but to follow her to town. He went to the house in town. Mrs Bounderby not there. He looked in at the Bank. Mr Bounderby away and Mrs Sparsit away. Mrs Sparsit away? Who could have been reduced to sudden extremity for the company of that griffin!
Well! I dont know, said Tom, who had his own reasons for being uneasy about it. She was off somewhere at daybreak this morning. Shes always full of mystery; I hate her. So I do that white chap; hes always got his blinking eyes upon a fellow.
Where were you last night, Tom?
Where was I last night! said Tom. Come! I like that. I was waiting for you, Mr Harthouse, till it came down as I never saw it come down before. Where was I too! Where were you, you mean.
I was prevented from coming detained.
Detained! murmured Tom. Two of us were detained. I was detained looking for you, till I lost every train but the mail. It would have been a pleasant job to go down by that on such a night, and have to walk home through a pond. I was obliged to sleep in town after all.
Where? Why, in my own bed at Bounderbys.
Did you see your sister?
How the deuce, returned Tom, staring, could I see my sister when she was fifteen miles off?
Cursing these quick retorts of the young gentleman to whom he was so true a friend, Mr Harthouse disembarrassed himself of that interview with the smallest conceivable amount of ceremony, and debated for the hundredth time what all this could mean? He made only one thing clear. It was, that whether she was in town or out of town, whether he had been premature with her who was so hard to comprehend, or she had lost courage, or they were discovered, or some mischance or mistake, at present incomprehensible, had occurred, he must remain to confront his fortune, whatever it was. The hotel where he was known to live when condemned to that region of blackness, was the stake to which he was tied. As to all the rest What will be, will be.
So, whether I am waiting for a hostile message, or an assignation, or a penitent remonstrance, or an impromptu wrestle with my friend Bounderby in the Lancashire manner which would seem as likely as anything else in the present state of affairs Ill dine, said Mr James Harthouse. Bounderby has
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