THERE is a climax to everything, to every state of feeling as well as to every
position in life. I turned this truism over in my mind as, in the frosty dawn of a
January morning, I hurried down the steep and now icy street which descended
from Mrs. King's to the Close. The factory workpeople had preceded me by
nearly an hour, and the mill was all lighted up and in full operation when I
reached it. I repaired to my post in the counting-house as usual; the fire there,
but just lit, as yet only smoked; Steighton had not yet arrived. I shut the door and
sat down at the desk; my hands, recently washed in half-frozen water, were still
numb; I could not write till they had regained vitality, so I went on thinking, and
still the theme of my thoughts was the "climax." Self-dissatisfaction troubled
exceedingly the current of my meditations.
"Come, William Crimsworth," said my conscience, or whatever it is that within
ourselves takes ourselves to task--"come, get a clear notion of what you would
have, or what you would not have. You talk of a climax; pray has your endurance
reached its climax? It is not four months old. What a fine resolute fellow you
imagined yourself to be when you told Tynedale you would tread in your father's
steps, and a pretty treading you are likely to make of it! How well you like X----!
Just at this moment how redolent of pleasant associations are its streets, its
shops, its warehouses, its factories! How the prospect of this day cheers you!
Letter-copying till noon, solitary dinner at your lodgings, letter-copying till
evening, solitude; for you neither find pleasure in Brown's, nor Smith's, nor
Nicholl's, nor Eccle's company; and as to Hunsden, you fancied there was
pleasure to be derived from his society--he! he! how did you like the taste you
had of him last night? was it sweet? Yet he is a talented, an original-minded man,
and even he does not like you; your self-respect defies you to like him; he has
always seen you to disadvantage; he always will see you to disadvantage; your
positions are unequal, and were they on the same level your minds could not;
assimilate; never hope, then, to gather the honey of friendship out of that thorn-
guarded plant. Hello, Crimsworth! where are your thoughts tending? You leave
the recollection of Hunsden as a bee would a rock, as a bird a desert; and your
aspirations spread eager wings towards a land of visions where, now in
advancing daylight--in X---- daylight--you dare to dream of congeniality, repose,
union. Those three you will never meet in this world; they are angels. The souls
of just men made perfect may encounter them in heaven, but your soul will never
be made perfect. Eight o'clock strikes! your hands are thawed, get to work!"
"Work? why should I work?" said I sullenly: "I cannot please though I toil like a
slave." "Work, work!" reiterated the inward voice. "I may work, it will do no good,"
I growled; but nevertheless I drew out a packet of letters and commenced my
task--task thankless and bitter as that of the Israelite crawling over the sun-baked