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CHAPTER I - ANOTHER THING NEEDFUL
LOUISA awoke from a torpor, and her eyes languidly opened on her
old bed at home, and her old room. It seemed, at first, as if all
that had happened since the days when these objects were familiar
to her were the shadows of a dream, but gradually, as the objects
became more real to her sight, the events became more real to her
She could scarcely move her head for pain and heaviness, her eyes
were strained and sore, and she was very weak. A curious passive
inattention had such possession of her, that the presence of her
little sister in the room did not attract her notice for some time.
Even when their eyes had met, and her sister had approached the
bed, Louisa lay for minutes looking at her in silence, and
suffering her timidly to hold her passive hand, before she asked:
'When was I brought to this room?'
'Last night, Louisa.'
'Who brought me here?'
'Sissy, I believe.'
'Why do you believe so?'
'Because I found her here this morning. She didn't come to my
bedside to wake me, as she always does; and I went to look for her.
She was not in her own room either; and I went looking for her all
over the house, until I found her here taking care of you and
cooling your head. Will you see father? Sissy said I was to tell
him when you woke.'
'What a beaming face you have, Jane!' said Louisa, as her young
sister - timidly still - bent down to kiss her.
'Have I? I am very glad you think so. I am sure it must be
The arm Louisa had begun to twine around her neck, unbent itself.
'You can tell father if you will.' Then, staying her for a moment,
she said, 'It was you who made my room so cheerful, and gave it
this look of welcome?'
'Oh no, Louisa, it was done before I came. It was - '
Louisa turned upon her pillow, and heard no more. When her sister
had withdrawn, she turned her head back again, and lay with her
face towards the door, until it opened and her father entered.
He had a jaded anxious look upon him, and his hand, usually steady,
trembled in hers. He sat down at the side of the bed, tenderly
asking how she was, and dwelling on the necessity of her keeping
very quiet after her agitation and exposure to the weather last
night. He spoke in a subdued and troubled voice, very different
from his usual dictatorial manner; and was often at a loss for
'My dear Louisa. My poor daughter.' He was so much at a loss at
that place, that he stopped altogether. He tried again.
'My unfortunate child.' The place was so difficult to get over,
that he tried again.
'It would be hopeless for me, Louisa, to endeavour to tell you how
overwhelmed I have been, and still am, by what broke upon me last
night. The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my
feet. The only support on which I leaned, and the strength of
which it seemed, and still does seem, impossible to question, has
given way in an instant. I am stunned by these discoveries. I
have no selfish meaning in what I say; but I find the shock of what
broke upon me last night, to be very heavy indeed.'
She could give him no comfort herein. She had suffered the wreck
of her whole life upon the rock.
'I will not say, Louisa, that if you had by any happy chance
undeceived me some time ago, it would have been better for us both;
better for your peace, and better for mine. For I am sensible that
it may not have been a part of my system to invite any confidence
of that kind. I had proved my - my system to myself, and I have
rigidly administered it; and I must bear the responsibility of its
failures. I only entreat you to believe, my favourite child, that
I have meant to do right.'
He said it earnestly, and to do him justice he had. In gauging
fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering
over the universe with his rusty stiff-legged compasses, he had
meant to do great things. Within the limits of his short tether he
had tumbled about, annihilating the flowers of existence with
greater singleness of purpose than many of the blatant personages
whose company he kept.
'I am well assured of what you say, father. I know I have been
your favourite child. I know you have intended to make me happy.
I have never blamed you, and I never shall.'
He took her outstretched hand, and retained it in his.
'My dear, I have remained all night at my table, pondering again
and again on what has so painfully passed between us. When I
consider your character; when I consider that what has been known
to me for hours, has been concealed by you for years; when I
consider under what immediate pressure it has been forced from you
at last; I come to the conclusion that I cannot but mistrust
He might have added more than all, when he saw the face now looking
at him. He did add it in effect, perhaps, as he softly moved her
scattered hair from her forehead with his hand. Such little
actions, slight in another man, were very noticeable in him; and
his daughter received them as if they had been words of contrition.
'But,' said Mr. Gradgrind, slowly, and with hesitation, as well as
with a wretched sense of happiness, 'if I see reason to mistrust
myself for the past, Louisa, I should also mistrust myself for the
present and the future. To speak unreservedly to you, I do. I am
far from feeling convinced now, however differently I might have
felt only this time yesterday, that I am fit for the trust you
repose in me; that I know how to respond to the appeal you have
come home to make to me; that I have the right instinct - supposing
it for the moment to be some quality of that nature - how to help
you, and to set you right, my child.'
She had turned upon her pillow, and lay with her face upon her arm,
so that he could not see it. All her wildness and passion had
subsided; but, though softened, she was not in tears. Her father
was changed in nothing so much as in the respect that he would have
been glad to see her in tears.
'Some persons hold,' he pursued, still hesitating, 'that there is a
wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart. I
have not supposed so; but, as I have said, I mistrust myself now.
I have supposed the head to be all-sufficient. It may not be all-
sufficient; how can I venture this morning to say it is! If that
other kind of wisdom should be what I have neglected, and should be
the instinct that is wanted, Louisa - '
He suggested it very doubtfully, as if he were half unwilling to
admit it even now. She made him no answer, lying before him on her
bed, still half-dressed, much as he had seen her lying on the floor
of his room last night.
'Louisa,' and his hand rested on her hair again, 'I have been
absent from here, my dear, a good deal of late; and though your
sister's training has been pursued according to - the system,' he
appeared to come to that word with great reluctance always, 'it has
necessarily been modified by daily associations begun, in her case,
at an early age. I ask you - ignorantly and humbly, my daughter -
for the better, do you think?'
'Father,' she replied, without stirring, 'if any harmony has been
awakened in her young breast that was mute in mine until it turned
to discord, let her thank Heaven for it, and go upon her happier
way, taking it as her greatest blessing that she has avoided my
'O my child, my child!' he said, in a forlorn manner, 'I am an
unhappy man to see you thus! What avails it to me that you do not
reproach me, if I so bitterly reproach myself!' He bent his head,
and spoke low to her. 'Louisa, I have a misgiving that some change
may have been slowly working about me in this house, by mere love
and gratitude: that what the Head had left undone and could not
do, the Heart may have been doing silently. Can it be so?'
She made him no reply.
'I am not too proud to believe it, Louisa. How could I be
arrogant, and you before me! Can it be so? Is it so, my dear?'
He looked upon her once more, lying cast away there; and without
another word went out of the room. He had not been long gone, when
she heard a light tread near the door, and knew that some one stood
She did not raise her head. A dull anger that she should be seen
in her distress, and that the involuntary look she had so resented
should come to this fulfilment, smouldered within her like an
unwholesome fire. All closely imprisoned forces rend and destroy.
The air that would be healthful to the earth, the water that would
enrich it, the heat that would ripen it, tear it when caged up. So
in her bosom even now; the strongest qualities she possessed, long
turned upon themselves, became a heap of obduracy, that rose
against a friend.
It was well that soft touch came upon her neck, and that she
understood herself to be supposed to have fallen asleep. The
sympathetic hand did not claim her resentment. Let it lie there,
let it lie.
It lay there, warming into life a crowd of gentler thoughts; and
she rested. As she softened with the quiet, and the consciousness
of being so watched, some tears made their way into her eyes. The
face touched hers, and she knew that there were tears upon it too,
and she the cause of them.
As Louisa feigned to rouse herself, and sat up, Sissy retired, so
that she stood placidly near the bedside.
'I hope I have not disturbed you. I have come to ask if you would
let me stay with you?'
'Why should you stay with me? My sister will miss you. You are
everything to her.'
'Am I?' returned Sissy, shaking her head. 'I would be something to
you, if I might.'
'What?' said Louisa, almost sternly.
'Whatever you want most, if I could be that. At all events, I
would like to try to be as near it as I can. And however far off
that may be, I will never tire of trying. Will you let me?'
'My father sent you to ask me.'
'No indeed,' replied Sissy. 'He told me that I might come in now,
but he sent me away from the room this morning - or at least - '
She hesitated and stopped.
'At least, what?' said Louisa, with her searching eyes upon her.
'I thought it best myself that I should be sent away, for I felt
very uncertain whether you would like to find me here.'
'Have I always hated you so much?'
'I hope not, for I have always loved you, and have always wished
that you should know it. But you changed to me a little, shortly
before you left home. Not that I wondered at it. You knew so
much, and I knew so little, and it was so natural in many ways,
going as you were among other friends, that I had nothing to
complain of, and was not at all hurt.'
Her colour rose as she said it modestly and hurriedly. Louisa
understood the loving pretence, and her heart smote her.
'May I try?' said Sissy, emboldened to raise her hand to the neck
that was insensibly drooping towards her.
Louisa, taking down the hand that would have embraced her in
another moment, held it in one of hers, and answered:
'First, Sissy, do you know what I am? I am so proud and so
hardened, so confused and troubled, so resentful and unjust to
every one and to myself, that everything is stormy, dark, and
wicked to me. Does not that repel you?'
'I am so unhappy, and all that should have made me otherwise is so
laid waste, that if I had been bereft of sense to this hour, and
instead of being as learned as you think me, had to begin to
acquire the simplest truths, I could not want a guide to peace,
contentment, honour, all the good of which I am quite devoid, more
abjectly than I do. Does not that repel you?'
In the innocence of her brave affection, and the brimming up of her
old devoted spirit, the once deserted girl shone like a beautiful
light upon the darkness of the other.
Louisa raised the hand that it might clasp her neck and join its
fellow there. She fell upon her knees, and clinging to this
stroller's child looked up at her almost with veneration.
'Forgive me, pity me, help me! Have compassion on my great need,
and let me lay this head of mine upon a loving heart!'
'O lay it here!' cried Sissy. 'Lay it here, my dear.'