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|Book The First - Sowing||Charles Dickens|
Chapter IX - Sissy's Progress
|Page 2 of 6||
'You are more useful to my mother, and more pleasant with her than I can ever be,' Louisa resumed. 'You are pleasanter to yourself, than I am to myself.'
'But, if you please, Miss Louisa,' Sissy pleaded, 'I am - O so stupid!'
Louisa, with a brighter laugh than usual, told her she would be wiser by-and-by.
'You don't know,' said Sissy, half crying, 'what a stupid girl I am. All through school hours I make mistakes. Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild call me up, over and over again, regularly to make mistakes. I can't help them. They seem to come natural to me.'
'Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild never make any mistakes themselves, I suppose, Sissy?'
'O no!' she eagerly returned. 'They know everything.'
'Tell me some of your mistakes.'
'I am almost ashamed,' said Sissy, with reluctance. 'But to-day, for instance, Mr. M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural Prosperity.'
'National, I think it must have been,' observed Louisa.
'Yes, it was. - But isn't it the same?' she timidly asked.
'You had better say, National, as he said so,' returned Louisa, with her dry reserve.
'National Prosperity. And he said, Now, this schoolroom is a Nation. And in this nation, there are fifty millions of money. Isn't this a prosperous nation? Girl number twenty, isn't this a prosperous nation, and a'n't you in a thriving state?'
'What did you say?' asked Louisa.
'Miss Louisa, I said I didn't know. I thought I couldn't know whether it was a prosperous nation or not, and whether I was in a thriving state or not, unless I knew who had got the money, and whether any of it was mine. But that had nothing to do with it. It was not in the figures at all,' said Sissy, wiping her eyes.
'That was a great mistake of yours,' observed Louisa.
'Yes, Miss Louisa, I know it was, now. Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me again. And he said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your remark on that proportion? And my remark was - for I couldn't think of a better one - that I thought it must be just as hard upon those who were starved, whether the others were a million, or a million million. And that was wrong, too.'
'Of course it was.'
'Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said, Here are the stutterings - '
'Statistics,' said Louisa.
'Yes, Miss Louisa - they always remind me of stutterings, and that's another of my mistakes - of accidents upon the sea. And I find (Mr. M'Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage? And I said, Miss;' here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest error; 'I said it was nothing.'
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