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|Book The Second - Reaping||Charles Dickens|
Chapter XII - Down
|Page 1 of 3||
THE national dustmen, after entertaining one another with a great many noisy little fights among themselves, had dispersed for the present, and Mr. Gradgrind was at home for the vacation.
He sat writing in the room with the deadly statistical clock, proving something no doubt - probably, in the main, that the Good Samaritan was a Bad Economist. The noise of the rain did not disturb him much; but it attracted his attention sufficiently to make him raise his head sometimes, as if he were rather remonstrating with the elements. When it thundered very loudly, he glanced towards Coketown, having it in his mind that some of the tall chimneys might be struck by lightning.
The thunder was rolling into distance, and the rain was pouring down like a deluge, when the door of his room opened. He looked round the lamp upon his table, and saw, with amazement, his eldest daughter.
'Father, I want to speak to you.'
'What is the matter? How strange you look! And good Heaven,' said Mr. Gradgrind, wondering more and more, 'have you come here exposed to this storm?'
She put her hands to her dress, as if she hardly knew. 'Yes.' Then she uncovered her head, and letting her cloak and hood fall where they might, stood looking at him: so colourless, so dishevelled, so defiant and despairing, that he was afraid of her.
'What is it? I conjure you, Louisa, tell me what is the matter.'
She dropped into a chair before him, and put her cold hand on his arm.
'Father, you have trained me from my cradle?'
'I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny.'
He looked at her in doubt and dread, vacantly repeating: 'Curse the hour? Curse the hour?'
'How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, O father, what have you done, with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!'
She struck herself with both her hands upon her bosom.
'If it had ever been here, its ashes alone would save me from the void in which my whole life sinks. I did not mean to say this; but, father, you remember the last time we conversed in this room?'
He had been so wholly unprepared for what he heard now, that it was with difficulty he answered, 'Yes, Louisa.'
'What has risen to my lips now, would have risen to my lips then, if you had given me a moment's help. I don't reproach you, father. What you have never nurtured in me, you have never nurtured in yourself; but O! if you had only done so long ago, or if you had only neglected me, what a much better and much happier creature I should have been this day!'
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