THE national dustmen, after entertaining one another with a great many noisy little fights among themselves, had dispersed for the present, and Mr. Gradgrind was at home for the vacation.
He sat writing in the room with the deadly statistical clock, proving something no doubt probably, in the main, that the Good Samaritan was a Bad Economist. The noise of the rain did not disturb him much; but it attracted his attention sufficiently to make him raise his head sometimes, as if he were rather remonstrating with the elements. When it thundered very loudly, he glanced towards Coketown, having it in his mind that some of the tall chimneys might be struck by lightning.
The thunder was rolling into distance, and the rain was pouring down like a deluge, when the door of his room opened. He looked round the lamp upon his table, and saw, with amazement, his eldest daughter.
'Father, I want to speak to you.'
'What is the matter? How strange you look! And good Heaven,' said Mr. Gradgrind, wondering more and more, 'have you come here exposed to this storm?'
She put her hands to her dress, as if she hardly knew. 'Yes.' Then she uncovered her head, and letting her cloak and hood fall where they might, stood looking at him: so colourless, so dishevelled, so defiant and despairing, that he was afraid of her.
'What is it? I conjure you, Louisa, tell me what is the matter.'
She dropped into a chair before him, and put her cold hand on his arm.
'Father, you have trained me from my cradle?'
'I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny.'
He looked at her in doubt and dread, vacantly repeating: 'Curse the hour? Curse the hour?'
'How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death?