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BOOK II: 1. Effects In The Bank
A SUNNY midsummer day. There was such a thing sometimes, even in Coketown.
Seen from a distance in such weather, Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of its own,
which appeared impervious to the sun's rays. You only knew the town was there,
because you knew there could have been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect
without a town. A blur of soot and smoke, now confusedly tending this way, now that
way, now aspiring to the vault of Heaven, now murkily creeping along the earth, as the
wind rose and fell, or changed its quarter: a dense formless jumble, with sheets of cross
light in it, that showed nothing but masses of darkness:- Coketown in the distance was
suggestive of itself, though not a brick of it could be seen.
The wonder was, it was there at all. It had been ruined so often, that it was amazing
how it had borne so many shocks. Surely there never was such fragile china-ware as
that of which the millers of Coketown were made. Handle them never so lightly, and
they fell to pieces with such ease that you might suspect them of having been flawed
before. They were ruined, when they were required to send labouring children to school;
they were ruined when inspectors were appointed to look into their works; they were
ruined, when such inspectors considered it doubtful whether they were quite justified in
chopping people up with their machinery; they were utterly undone, when it was hinted
that perhaps they need not always make quite so much smoke. Besides Mr.
Bounderby's gold spoon which was generally received in Coketown, another prevalent
fiction was very popular there. It took the form of a threat. Whenever a Coketowner felt
he was ill-used - that is to say, whenever he was not left entirely alone, and it was
proposed to hold him accountable for the consequences of any of his acts - he was sure
to come out with the awful menace, that he would 'sooner pitch his property into the
Atlantic.' This had terrified the Home Secretary within an inch of his life, on several
However, the Coketowners were so patriotic after all, that they never had pitched their
property into the Atlantic yet, but, on the contrary, had been kind enough to take mighty
good care of it. So there it was, in the haze yonder; and it increased and multiplied.
The streets were hot and dusty on the summer day, and the sun was so bright that it
even shone through the heavy vapour drooping over Coketown, and could not be
looked at steadily. Stokers emerged from low underground doorways into factory yards,
and sat on steps, and posts, and palings, wiping their swarthy visages, and
contemplating coals. The whole town seemed to be frying in oil. There was a stifling
smell of hot oil everywhere. The steam- engines shone with it, the dresses of the Hands
were soiled with it, the mills throughout their many stories oozed and trickled it. The
atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the breath of the simoom: and their
inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled languidly in the desert. But no temperature made
the melancholy mad elephants more mad or more sane. Their wearisome heads went