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Hard Times

BOOK I: 15. Father And Daughter
ALTHOUGH Mr. Gradgrind did not take after Blue Beard, his room was quite a blue
chamber in its abundance of blue books. Whatever they could prove (which is usually
anything you like), they proved there, in an army constantly strengthening by the arrival
of new recruits. In that charmed apartment, the most complicated social questions were
cast up, got into exact totals, and finally settled - if those concerned could only have
been brought to know it. As if an astronomical observatory should be made without any
windows, and the astronomer within should arrange the starry universe solely by pen,
ink, and paper, so Mr. Gradgrind, in his Observatory (and there are many like it), had no
need to cast an eye upon the teeming myriads of human beings around him, but could
settle all their destinies on a slate, and wipe out all their tears with one dirty little bit of
sponge.
To this Observatory, then: a stern room, with a deadly statistical clock in it, which
measured every second with a beat like a rap upon a coffin-lid; Louisa repaired on the
appointed morning. A window looked towards Coketown; and when she sat down near
her father's table, she saw the high chimneys and the long tracts of smoke looming in
the heavy distance gloomily.
'My dear Louisa,' said her father, 'I prepared you last night to give me your serious
attention in the conversation we are now going to have together. You have been so well
trained, and you do, I am happy to say, so much justice to the education you have
received, that I have perfect confidence in your good sense. You are not impulsive, you
are not romantic, you are accustomed to view everything from the strong dispassionate
ground of reason and calculation. From that ground alone, I know you will view and
consider what I am going to communicate.'
He waited, as if he would have been glad that she said something. But she said never a
word.
'Louisa, my dear, you are the subject of a proposal of marriage that has been made to
me.'
Again he waited, and again she answered not one word. This so far surprised him, as to
induce him gently to repeat, 'a proposal of marriage, my dear.' To which she returned,
without any visible emotion whatever:
'I hear you, father. I am attending, I assure you.'
'Well!' said Mr. Gradgrind, breaking into a smile, after being for the moment at a loss,
'you are even more dispassionate than I expected, Louisa. Or, perhaps, you are not
unprepared for the announcement I have it in charge to make?'
 
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