now, I say, my friends, what appellation has that dastard craven taken to himself, when, with the mask torn from his features, he stands before us in all his native deformity, a What? A thief! A plunderer! A proscribed fugitive, with a price upon his head; a fester and a wound upon the noble character of the Coketown operative! Therefore, my band of brothers in a sacred bond, to which your children and your childrens children yet unborn have set their infant hands and seals, I propose to you on the part of the United Aggregate Tribunal, ever watchful for your welfare, ever zealous for your benefit, that this meeting does Resolve: That Stephen Blackpool, weaver, referred to in this placard, having been already solemnly disowned by the community of Coketown Hands, the same are free from the shame of his misdeeds, and cannot as a class be reproached with his dishonest actions!
Thus Slackbridge; gnashing and perspiring after a prodigious sort. A few stern voices called out No! and a score or two hailed, with assenting cries of Hear, hear! the caution from one man, Slackbridge, y or over hetter int; yor a goen too fast! But these were pigmies against an army; the general assemblage subscribed to the gospel according to Slackbridge, and gave three cheers for him, as he sat demonstratively panting at them.
These men and women were yet in the streets, passing quietly to their homes, when Sissy, who had been called away from Louisa some minutes before, returned.
Who is it? asked Louisa.
It is Mr Bounderby, said Sissy, timid of the name, and your brother Mr Tom, and a young woman who says her name is Rachael, and that you know her.
What do they want, Sissy dear?
They want to see you. Rachael has been crying, and seems angry.
Father, said Louisa, for he was present, I cannot refuse to see them, for a reason that will explain itself. Shall they come in here?
As he answered in the affirmative, Sissy went away to bring them. She reappeared with them directly. Tom was last; and remained standing in the obscurest part of the room, near the door.
Mrs Bounderby, said her husband, entering with a cool nod, I dont disturb you, I hope. This is an unseasonable hour, but here is a young woman who has been making statements which render my visit necessary. Tom Gradgrind, as your son, young Tom, refuses for some obstinate reason or other to say anything at all about those statements, good or bad, I am obliged to confront her with your daughter.
You have seen me once before, young lady, said Rachael, standing in front of Louisa.
You have seen me, young lady, repeated Rachael, as she did not answer, once before.
Tom coughed again.
Rachael cast her eyes proudly towards Mr Bounderby, and said, Will you make it known, young lady, where, and who was there?
I went to the house where Stephen Blackpool lodged, on the night of his discharge from his work, and I saw you there. He was there too; and an old woman who did not speak, and whom I could scarcely see, stood in a dark corner. My brother was with me.
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