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HARD TIMES.
BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER XI.

THE Fairy palaces, burst out into illumination,
before pale morning, showed the
monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves
over Coketown. A clattering of clogs upon
the pavement; a rapid ringing of bells; and all
the melancholy-mad elephants, polished and
oiled up for the day's monotony, were at their
heavy exercise again.

Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful,
and steady. A special contrast, as every man
was in the forest of looms where Stephen
worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing
piece of mechanism at which he laboured.
Never fear, good people of an anxious turn of
mind, that Art will consign Nature to oblivion.
Set anywhere, side by side, the work of GOD
and the work of man; and the former, even
though it be a troop of Hands of very small
account, will gain in solemn dignity from the
comparison.

Four hundred and more Hands in this
Mill; Two hundred and fifty horse Steam
Power. It is known, to the force of a single
pound weight, what the engine will do; but,
not all the calculators of the National Debt
can tell me the capacity for good or evil, for
love or hatred, for patriotism or discontent,
for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or
the reverse, at any single moment in the soul of
one of these its quiet servants, with the
composed faces and the regulated actions.
There is no mystery in it; there is an
unfathomable mystery in the meanest of them,
for ever.—Supposing we were to reserve our
arithmetic for material objects, and to
govern these awful unknown quantities by
other means!

The day grew strong, and showed itself
outside, even against the flaming lights within.
The lights were turned out, and the work went
on. The rain fell, and the Smoke-serpents,
submissive to the curse of all that tribe,
trailed themselves upon the earth. In the
waste-yard outside, the steam from the escape-
pipe, the litter of barrels and old iron, the
shining heaps of coals, the ashes everywhere,
were shrouded in a veil of mist and rain.

The work went on, until the noon-bell
rang. More clattering upon the pavements.
The looms, and wheels, and Hands, all out of
gear for an hour.

Stephen came out of the hot mill into the
damp wind and the cold wet streets, haggard
and worn. He turned from his own class and
his own quarter, taking nothing but a little
bread as he walked along, towards the hill on
which his principal employer lived, in a red
house with black outside shutters, green
inside blinds, a black street door, up two white
steps, BOUNDERBY (in letters very like
himself) upon a brazen plate, and a round brazen
door-handle underneath it like a brazen
full-stop.

Mr. Bounderby was at his lunch. So
Stephen had expected. Would his servant
say that one of the Hands begged leave to
speak to him? Message in return, requiring
name of such Hand. Stephen Blackpool.
There was nothing troublesome against
Stephen Blackpool; yes, he might come in.

Stephen Blackpool in the parlour. Mr.
Bounderby (whom he just knew by sight),
at lunch on chop and sherry. Mrs.
Sparsit netting at the fireside, in a side-
saddle attitude, with one foot in a cotton
stirrup. It was a part, at once of Mrs.
Sparsit's dignity and service, not to lunch.
She supervised the meal officially, but implied
that in her own stately person she considered
lunch a weakness.

"Now, Stephen," said Mr. Bounderby,
"what's the matter with you?"

Stephen made a bow. Not a servile one
these Hands will never do that! Lord bless
you, sir, you'll never catch them at that, if
they have been with you twenty years!—and,
as a complimentary toilet for Mrs. Sparsit,
tucked his neckerchief ends into his waistcoat.

"Now, you know," said Mr. Bounderby,
taking some sherry, "we have never had any
difficulty with you, and you have never been
one of the unreasonable ones. You don't
expect to be set up in a coach and six, and to
be fed on turtle-soup and venison, with  a gold
spoon, as a good many of 'em do;" Mr.
Bounderby always represented this to be the
sole, immediate, and direct object of any
Hand who was not entirely satisfied; "and
therefore I know already that you have not
come here to make a complaint. Now, you
know, I am certain of that, beforehand."

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