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Charles Dickens > Hard Times > Chapter XXXVI

Hard Times

Chapter XXXVI


THEY went back into the booth, Sleary shutting the door to keep
intruders out. Bitzer, still holding the paralysed culprit by the
collar, stood in the Ring, blinking at his old patron through the
darkness of the twilight.

'Bitzer,' said Mr. Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive
to him, 'have you a heart?'

'The circulation, sir,' returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of
the question, 'couldn't be carried on without one. No man, sir,
acquainted with the facts established by Harvey relating to the
circulation of the blood, can doubt that I have a heart.'

'Is it accessible,' cried Mr. Gradgrind, 'to any compassionate

'It is accessible to Reason, sir,' returned the excellent young
man. 'And to nothing else.'

They stood looking at each other; Mr. Gradgrind's face as white as
the pursuer's.

'What motive - even what motive in reason - can you have for
preventing the escape of this wretched youth,' said Mr. Gradgrind,
'and crushing his miserable father? See his sister here. Pity

'Sir,' returned Bitzer, in a very business-like and logical manner,
'since you ask me what motive I have in reason, for taking young
Mr. Tom back to Coketown, it is only reasonable to let you know. I
have suspected young Mr. Tom of this bank-robbery from the first.
I had had my eye upon him before that time, for I knew his ways. I
have kept my observations to myself, but I have made them; and I
have got ample proofs against him now, besides his running away,
and besides his own confession, which I was just in time to
overhear. I had the pleasure of watching your house yesterday
morning, and following you here. I am going to take young Mr. Tom
back to Coketown, in order to deliver him over to Mr. Bounderby.
Sir, I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Bounderby will then promote
me to young Mr. Tom's situation. And I wish to have his situation,
sir, for it will be a rise to me, and will do me good.'

'If this is solely a question of self-interest with you - ' Mr.
Gradgrind began.

'I beg your pardon for interrupting you, sir,' returned Bitzer;
'but I am sure you know that the whole social system is a question
of self-interest. What you must always appeal to, is a person's
self-interest. It's your only hold. We are so constituted. I was
brought up in that catechism when I was very young, sir, as you are

'What sum of money,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'will you set against your
expected promotion?'

'Thank you, sir,' returned Bitzer, 'for hinting at the proposal;
but I will not set any sum against it. Knowing that your clear
head would propose that alternative, I have gone over the
calculations in my mind; and I find that to compound a felony, even
on very high terms indeed, would not be as safe and good for me as
my improved prospects in the Bank.'

'Bitzer,' said Mr. Gradgrind, stretching out his hands as though he
would have said, See how miserable I am! 'Bitzer, I have but one
chance left to soften you. You were many years at my school. If,
in remembrance of the pains bestowed upon you there, you can
persuade yourself in any degree to disregard your present interest
and release my son, I entreat and pray you to give him the benefit
of that remembrance.'

'I really wonder, sir,' rejoined the old pupil in an argumentative
manner, 'to find you taking a position so untenable. My schooling
was paid for; it was a bargain; and when I came away, the bargain

It was a fundamental principle of the Gradgrind philosophy that
everything was to be paid for. Nobody was ever on any account to
give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase.
Gratitude was to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it
were not to be. Every inch of the existence of mankind, from birth
to death, was to be a bargain across a counter. And if we didn't
get to Heaven that way, it was not a politico-economical place, and
we had no business there.

'I don't deny,' added Bitzer, 'that my schooling was cheap. But
that comes right, sir. I was made in the cheapest market, and have
to dispose of myself in the dearest.'

He was a little troubled here, by Louisa and Sissy crying.

'Pray don't do that,' said he, 'it's of no use doing that: it only
worries. You seem to think that I have some animosity against
young Mr. Tom; whereas I have none at all. I am only going, on the
reasonable grounds I have mentioned, to take him back to Coketown.
If he was to resist, I should set up the cry of Stop thief! But,
he won't resist, you may depend upon it.'

Mr. Sleary, who with his mouth open and his rolling eye as
immovably jammed in his head as his fixed one, had listened to
these doctrines with profound attention, here stepped forward.

'Thquire, you know perfectly well, and your daughter knowth
perfectly well (better than you, becauthe I thed it to her), that I
didn't know what your thon had done, and that I didn't want to know
- I thed it wath better not, though I only thought, then, it wath
thome thkylarking. However, thith young man having made it known
to be a robbery of a bank, why, that'h a theriouth thing; muth too
theriouth a thing for me to compound, ath thith young man hath very
properly called it. Conthequently, Thquire, you muthn't quarrel
with me if I take thith young man'th thide, and thay he'th right
and there'th no help for it. But I tell you what I'll do, Thquire;
I'll drive your thon and thith young man over to the rail, and
prevent expothure here. I can't conthent to do more, but I'll do

Fresh lamentations from Louisa, and deeper affliction on Mr.
Gradgrind's part, followed this desertion of them by their last
friend. But, Sissy glanced at him with great attention; nor did
she in her own breast misunderstand him. As they were all going
out again, he favoured her with one slight roll of his movable eye,
desiring her to linger behind. As he locked the door, he said

'The Thquire thtood by you, Thethilia, and I'll thtand by the
Thquire. More than that: thith ith a prethiouth rathcal, and
belongth to that bluthtering Cove that my people nearly pitht out
o' winder. It'll be a dark night; I've got a horthe that'll do
anything but thpeak; I've got a pony that'll go fifteen mile an
hour with Childerth driving of him; I've got a dog that'll keep a
man to one plathe four-and-twenty hourth. Get a word with the
young Thquire. Tell him, when he theeth our horthe begin to
danthe, not to be afraid of being thpilt, but to look out for a
pony-gig coming up. Tell him, when he theeth that gig clothe by,
to jump down, and it'll take him off at a rattling pathe. If my
dog leth thith young man thtir a peg on foot, I give him leave to
go. And if my horthe ever thtirth from that thpot where he beginth
a danthing, till the morning - I don't know him? - Tharp'th the

The word was so sharp, that in ten minutes Mr. Childers, sauntering
about the market-place in a pair of slippers, had his cue, and Mr.
Sleary's equipage was ready. It was a fine sight, to behold the
learned dog barking round it, and Mr. Sleary instructing him, with
his one practicable eye, that Bitzer was the object of his
particular attentions. Soon after dark they all three got in and
started; the learned dog (a formidable creature) already pinning
Bitzer with his eye, and sticking close to the wheel on his side,
that he might be ready for him in the event of his showing the
slightest disposition to alight.

The other three sat up at the inn all night in great suspense. At
eight o'clock in the morning Mr. Sleary and the dog reappeared:
both in high spirits.

'All right, Thquire!' said Mr. Sleary, 'your thon may be aboard-a-
thip by thith time. Childerth took him off, an hour and a half
after we left there latht night. The horthe danthed the polka till
he wath dead beat (he would have walthed if he hadn't been in
harneth), and then I gave him the word and he went to thleep
comfortable. When that prethiouth young Rathcal thed he'd go
for'ard afoot, the dog hung on to hith neck-hankercher with all
four legth in the air and pulled him down and rolled him over. Tho
he come back into the drag, and there he that, 'till I turned the
horthe'th head, at half-patht thixth thith morning.'

Mr. Gradgrind overwhelmed him with thanks, of course; and hinted as
delicately as he could, at a handsome remuneration in money.

'I don't want money mythelf, Thquire; but Childerth ith a family
man, and if you wath to like to offer him a five-pound note, it
mightn't be unactheptable. Likewithe if you wath to thtand a
collar for the dog, or a thet of bellth for the horthe, I thould be
very glad to take 'em. Brandy and water I alwayth take.' He had
already called for a glass, and now called for another. 'If you
wouldn't think it going too far, Thquire, to make a little thpread
for the company at about three and thixth ahead, not reckoning
Luth, it would make 'em happy.'

All these little tokens of his gratitude, Mr. Gradgrind very
willingly undertook to render. Though he thought them far too
slight, he said, for such a service.

'Very well, Thquire; then, if you'll only give a Horthe-riding, a
bethpeak, whenever you can, you'll more than balanthe the account.
Now, Thquire, if your daughter will ethcuthe me, I thould like one
parting word with you.'

Louisa and Sissy withdrew into an adjoining room; Mr. Sleary,
stirring and drinking his brandy and water as he stood, went on:

'Thquire, - you don't need to be told that dogth ith wonderful

'Their instinct,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'is surprising.'

'Whatever you call it - and I'm bletht if I know what to call it' -
said Sleary, 'it ith athtonithing. The way in whith a dog'll find
you - the dithtanthe he'll come!'

'His scent,' said Mr. Gradgrind, 'being so fine.'

'I'm bletht if I know what to call it,' repeated Sleary, shaking
his head, 'but I have had dogth find me, Thquire, in a way that
made me think whether that dog hadn't gone to another dog, and
thed, "You don't happen to know a perthon of the name of Thleary,
do you? Perthon of the name of Thleary, in the Horthe-Riding way -
thtout man - game eye?" And whether that dog mightn't have thed,
"Well, I can't thay I know him mythelf, but I know a dog that I
think would be likely to be acquainted with him." And whether that
dog mightn't have thought it over, and thed, "Thleary, Thleary! O
yeth, to be thure! A friend of mine menthioned him to me at one
time. I can get you hith addreth directly." In conthequenth of my
being afore the public, and going about tho muth, you thee, there
mutht be a number of dogth acquainted with me, Thquire, that I
don't know!'

Mr. Gradgrind seemed to be quite confounded by this speculation.

'Any way,' said Sleary, after putting his lips to his brandy and
water, 'ith fourteen month ago, Thquire, thinthe we wath at
Chethter. We wath getting up our Children in the Wood one morning,
when there cometh into our Ring, by the thtage door, a dog. He had
travelled a long way, he wath in a very bad condithon, he wath
lame, and pretty well blind. He went round to our children, one
after another, as if he wath a theeking for a child he know'd; and
then he come to me, and throwd hithelf up behind, and thtood on
hith two forelegth, weak ath he wath, and then he wagged hith tail
and died. Thquire, that dog wath Merrylegth.'

'Sissy's father's dog!'

'Thethilia'th father'th old dog. Now, Thquire, I can take my oath,
from my knowledge of that dog, that that man wath dead - and buried
- afore that dog come back to me. Joth'phine and Childerth and me
talked it over a long time, whether I thould write or not. But we
agreed, "No. There'th nothing comfortable to tell; why unthettle
her mind, and make her unhappy?" Tho, whether her father bathely
detherted her; or whether he broke hith own heart alone, rather
than pull her down along with him; never will be known, now,
Thquire, till - no, not till we know how the dogth findth uth out!'

'She keeps the bottle that he sent her for, to this hour; and she
will believe in his affection to the last moment of her life,' said
Mr. Gradgrind.

'It theemth to prethent two thingth to a perthon, don't it,
Thquire?' said Mr. Sleary, musing as he looked down into the depths
of his brandy and water: 'one, that there ith a love in the world,
not all Thelf-interetht after all, but thomething very different;
t'other, that it bath a way of ith own of calculating or not
calculating, whith thomehow or another ith at leatht ath hard to
give a name to, ath the wayth of the dogth ith!'

Mr. Gradgrind looked out of window, and made no reply. Mr. Sleary
emptied his glass and recalled the ladies.

'Thethilia my dear, kith me and good-bye! Mith Thquire, to thee
you treating of her like a thithter, and a thithter that you trutht
and honour with all your heart and more, ith a very pretty thight
to me. I hope your brother may live to be better detherving of
you, and a greater comfort to you. Thquire, thake handth, firtht
and latht! Don't be croth with uth poor vagabondth. People mutht
be amuthed. They can't be alwayth a learning, nor yet they can't
be alwayth a working, they an't made for it. You mutht have uth,
Thquire. Do the withe thing and the kind thing too, and make the
betht of uth; not the wurtht!'

'And I never thought before,' said Mr. Sleary, putting his head in
at the door again to say it, 'that I wath tho muth of a Cackler!'

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