Hard Times HTML version
BOOK II: 5. Men And Masters
'WELL, Stephen,' said Bounderby, in his windy manner, 'what's this I hear? What have
these pests of the earth been doing to you? Come in, and speak up.'
It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden. A tea-table was set out; and Mr.
Bounderby's young wife, and her brother, and a great gentleman from London, were
present. To whom Stephen made his obeisance, closing the door and standing near it,
with his hat in his hand.
'This is the man I was telling you about, Harthouse,' said Mr. Bounderby. The gentleman
he addressed, who was talking to Mrs. Bounderby on the sofa, got up, saying in an
indolent way, 'Oh really?' and dawdled to the hearthrug where Mr. Bounderby stood.
'Now,' said Bounderby, 'speak up!'
After the four days he had passed, this address fell rudely and discordantly on
Stephen's ear. Besides being a rough handling of his wounded mind, it seemed to
assume that he really was the self- interested deserter he had been called.
'What were it, sir,' said Stephen, 'as yo were pleased to want wi' me?'
'Why, I have told you,' returned Bounderby. 'Speak up like a man, since you are a man,
and tell us about yourself and this Combination.'
'Wi' yor pardon, sir,' said Stephen Blackpool, 'I ha' nowt to sen about it.'
Mr. Bounderby, who was always more or less like a Wind, finding something in his way
here, began to blow at it directly.
'Now, look here, Harthouse,' said he, 'here's a specimen of 'em. When this man was
here once before, I warned this man against the mischievous strangers who are always
about - and who ought to be hanged wherever they are found - and I told this man that
he was going in the wrong direction. Now, would you believe it, that although they have
put this mark upon him, he is such a slave to them still, that he's afraid to open his lips
'I sed as I had nowt to sen, sir; not as I was fearfo' o' openin' my lips.'
'You said! Ah! I know what you said; more than that, I know what you mean, you see.
Not always the same thing, by the Lord Harry! Quite different things. You had better tell
us at once, that that fellow Slackbridge is not in the town, stirring up the people to
mutiny; and that he is not a regular qualified leader of the people: that is, a most