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Hard Times

BOOK I: 9. Sissy's Progress
SISSY JUPE had not an easy time of it, between Mr. M'Choakumchild and Mrs.
Gradgrind, and was not without strong impulses, in the first months of her probation, to
run away. It hailed facts all day long so very hard, and life in general was opened to her
as such a closely ruled ciphering-book, that assuredly she would have run away, but for
only one restraint.
It is lamentable to think of; but this restraint was the result of no arithmetical process,
was self-imposed in defiance of all calculation, and went dead against any table of
probabilities that any Actuary would have drawn up from the premises. The girl believed
that her father had not deserted her; she lived in the hope that he would come back,
and in the faith that he would be made the happier by her remaining where she was.
The wretched ignorance with which Jupe clung to this consolation, rejecting the superior
comfort of knowing, on a sound arithmetical basis, that her father was an unnatural
vagabond, filled Mr. Gradgrind with pity. Yet, what was to be done? M'Choakumchild
reported that she had a very dense head for figures; that, once possessed with a
general idea of the globe, she took the smallest conceivable interest in its exact
measurements; that she was extremely slow in the acquisition of dates, unless some
pitiful incident happened to be connected therewith; that she would burst into tears on
being required (by the mental process) immediately to name the cost of two hundred
and forty-seven muslin caps at fourteen-pence halfpenny; that she was as low down, in
the school, as low could be; that after eight weeks of induction into the elements of
Political Economy, she had only yesterday been set right by a prattler three feet high,
for returning to the question, 'What is the first principle of this science?' the absurd
answer, 'To do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.'
Mr. Gradgrind observed, shaking his head, that all this was very bad; that it showed the
necessity of infinite grinding at the mill of knowledge, as per system, schedule, blue
book, report, and tabular statements A to Z; and that Jupe 'must be kept to it.' So Jupe
was kept to it, and became low-spirited, but no wiser.
'It would be a fine thing to be you, Miss Louisa!' she said, one night, when Louisa had
endeavoured to make her perplexities for next day something clearer to her.
'Do you think so?'
'I should know so much, Miss Louisa. All that is difficult to me now, would be so easy
'You might not be the better for it, Sissy.'