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" And he liked them? " said Louisa, with
her searching gaze on Sissy all this time.

"O very much! They kept him, many
times, from what did him real harm. And
often and often of a night, he used to forget
all his troubles in wondering whether the
Sultan would let the lady go on with the
story, or would have her head cut off before
it was finished."

"And your father was always kind? To
the last? " asked Louisa; contravening the
great principle, and wondering very much.

"Always, always! " returned Sissy, clasping
her hands. " Kinder and kinder than I
can tell. He was angry only one night, and
that was not to me, but Merrylegs. Merrylegs;"
she whispered the awful fact; " is
his performing dog."

"Why was he angry with the dog?"
Louisa demanded.

"Father, soon after they came home from
performing, told Merrylegs to jump up on the
backs of the two chairs and stand across them
which is one of his tricks. He looked at father,
and didn't do it at once. Everything of father's
had gone wrong that night, and he hadn't
pleased the public at all. He cried out that the
very dog knew he was failing, and had no
compassion on him. Then he beat the dog, and
I was frightened, and said, ' Father, father!
Pray don't hurt the creature who is so fond
of you! O Heaven forgive you, father, stop! '
And he stopped, and the dog was bloody, and
father lay down crying on the floor with the
dog in his arms, and the dog licked his face."

Louisa saw that she was sobbing; and
going to her, kissed her, took her hand, and
sat down beside her.

"Finish by telling me how your father left
you, Sissy. Now that I have asked you so
much, tell me the end. The blame, if there
is any blame, is mine: not yours."

"Dear Miss Louisa," said Sissy, covering
her eyes, and sobbing yet; " I came home
from the school that afternoon, and found
poor father just come home too, from the
booth. And he sat rocking himself over the
fire, as if he was in pain. And I said, ' Have
you hurt yourself, father ? ' (as he did
sometimes, like they all did), and he said, 'A
little, my darling.' And when I came to stoop
down and look up at his face, I saw that he
was crying. The more I spoke to him, the
more he hid his face; and at first he shook
all over, and said nothing but ' My darling! '
and ' My love! '"

Here Tom came lounging in, and stared at
the two with a coolness not particularly
savouring of interest in anything but himself,
and not much of that at present.

"I am asking Sissy a few questions, Tom,"
observed his sister. " You have no occasion
to go away; but don't interrupt us for a
moment, Tom dear."

"Oh! very well! " returned Tom. " Only
father has brought old Bounderby home, and
I want you to come into the drawing-room.
Because if you come, there's a good chance of
old Bounderby's asking me to dinner; and if
you don't, there's none."

"I'll come directly."

"I'll wait for you," said Tom, "to make
sure."

Sissy resumed in a lower voice. " At last
poor father said that he had given no satisfaction
again, and never did give any satisfaction
now, and that he was a shame and
disgrace, and I should have done better without
him all along. I said all the affectionate
things to him that came into my heart, and
presently he was quiet and I sat down by him,
and told him all about the school and everything
that had been said and done there.
When I had no more left to tell, he put his
arms round my neck, and kissed me a great
many times. Then he asked me to fetch some
of the stuff he used, for the little hurt he had
had, and to get it at the best place, which
was at the other end of town from there; and
then, after kissing me again, he let me go.
When I had gone down stairs, I turned back
that I might be a little bit more company to
him yet, and looked in at the door, and said,
' Father dear, shall I take Merrylegs? '
Father shook his head and said, ' No, Sissy,
no; take nothing that's known to be mine,
my darling;' and I left him sitting by the
fire. Then the thought must have come upon
him, poor poor father! of going away to try
something for my sake; for, when I came back,
he was gone."

"I say! Look sharp for old Bounderby,
Loo! " Tom remonstrated.

"There's no more to tell, Miss Louisa.
I keep the nine oils ready for him, and I
know he will come back. Every letter that I
see in Mr. Gradgrind's hand takes my breath
away and blinds my eyes, for I think it comes
from father, or from Mr. Sleary about father.
Mr. Sleary promised to write as soon as ever
father should be heard of, and I trust to him
to keep his word."

"Do look sharp for old Bounderby, Loo!"
said Tom, with an impatient whistle. " He'll
be off, if you don't look sharp!"

After this, whenever Sissy dropped a curtsey
to Mr. Gradgrind in the presence of his
family, and said in a faltering way, " I beg
your pardon, sir, for being troublesomebut
have you had any letter yet about me?"
Louisa would suspend the occupation of the
moment, whatever it was, and look for the
reply as earnestly as Sissy did. And when
Mr. Gradgrind regularly answered, " No,
Jupe, nothing of the sort," the trembling of
Sissy's lip would be repeated in Louisa's face,
and her eyes would follow Sissy with
compassion to the door. Mr. Gradgrind usually
improved these occasions by remarking, when
she was gone, that if Jupe had been properly
trained from an early age she would have
demonstrated to herself on sound principles
the baselessness of these fantastic hopes.
Yet it did seem (though not to him, for he

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