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Sissy Jupe
by [?]

“Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir. I’ll bring him in a minute!” She was gone directly, without her bonnet; with her long, dark, childish hair streaming behind her.

“What does she mean!” said Mr. Gradgrind. “Back in a minute? It’s more than a mile off.”

Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young man mentioned in the bills of the day as Mr. E.W.B. Childers,–justly celebrated for his daring vaulting act as the wild huntsman of the North American prairies, appeared. Upon entering into conversation with Mr. Gradgrind he informed that gentleman of his opinion that Jupe was off.

“Do you mean that he has deserted his daughter?” asked Mr. Gradgrind.

“I mean,” said Mr. Childers with a nod, “that he has cut. He has been short in his leaps and bad in his tumbling lately, missed his tip several times, too. He was goosed last night, he was goosed the night before last, he was goosed to-day. He has lately got in the way of being always goosed, and he can’t stand it.”

“Why has he been–so very much–goosed?” asked Mr. Gradgrind, forcing the word out of himself, with great solemnity and reluctance.

“His joints are turning stiff, and he is getting used up,” said Childers. “He has his points as a Cackler still, a speaker, if the gentleman likes it better–but he can’t get a living out of that. Now it’s a remarkable fact, sir, that it cut that man deeper to know that his daughter knew of his being goosed than to go through with it. Jupe sent her out on an errand not an hour ago, and then was seen to slip out himself, with his dog behind him and a bundle under his arm. She will never believe it of her father, but he has cut away and left her.

“Poor Sissy! he had better have apprenticed her,” added Mr. Childers, “Now, he leaves her without anything to take to. Her father always had it in his head, that she was to be taught the deuce-and-all of education. He has been picking up a bit of reading for her, here–and a bit of writing for her, there–and a bit of ciphering for her, somewhere else–these seven years. When Sissy got into the school here,” he pursued, “he was as pleased as Punch. I suppose he had this move in his mind–he was always half cracked–and then considered her provided for. If you should have happened to have looked in to-night to tell him that you were going to do her any little service,” added Mr. Childers, “it would be very fortunate and well-timed.”

“On the contrary,” returned Mr. Gradgrind, “I came to tell her that she could not attend our school any more. Still, if her father really has left her without any connivance on her part!–Bounderby, let me have a word with you.”

Upon this, Mr. Childers politely betook himself outside the door, and there stood while the two gentlemen were engaged in conversation.

Meanwhile the various members of Sleary’s company gathered together in the room. Last of all appeared Mr. Sleary himself, who was stout, and troubled with asthma, and whose breath came far too thick and heavy for the letter s. Bowing to Mr. Gradgrind, he asked:

“Ith it your intention to do anything for the poor girl, Thquire?”

“I shall have something to propose to her when she comes back,” said Mr. Gradgrind.

“Glad to hear it, Thquire. Not that I want to get rid of the child, any more than I want to thtand in her way. I’m willing to take her prenthith, though at her age ith late.”

Here his daughter Josephine–a pretty, fair-haired girl of eighteen, who had been tied on a horse at two years old, and had made a will at twelve, which she always carried about with her, expressive of her dying desire to be drawn to the grave by two piebald ponies–cried “Father, hush! she has come back!” Then came Sissy Jupe, running into the room as she had run out of it. And when she saw them all assembled, and saw their looks, and saw no father there, she broke into a most deplorable cry, and took refuge on the bosom of the most accomplished tight-rope lady, who knelt down on the floor to nurse her, and to weep over her.