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Sissy Jupe
by [?]

Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities, but passed on, as a practical man ought to pass on. But, at the back of the booth he saw a number of children congregated in a number of stealthy attitudes, striving to peep in at the hidden glories of the place. What did he then behold but his own Louisa peeping with all her might through a hole in a deal board, and his own Thomas abasing himself on the ground to catch but a hoof of the graceful Tyrolean Flower-act!

Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his family was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child, and said:

“Louisa!! Thomas!!”

Both rose, red and disconcerted.

“In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!” said Mr. Gradgrind, leading each away by a hand; “what do you do here?”

“Wanted to see what it was like,” returned Louisa shortly.

“You!” exclaimed Mr. Gradgrind. “Thomas and you, to whom the circle of the sciences is open; who may be said to be replete with Fact; who have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you, here! In this degraded position! I am amazed.”

“I was tired, father,” said Louisa.

“Tired? Of what?” asked the astonished father.

“I don’t know of what–of everything, I think.”

“Say not another word,” returned Mr. Gradgrind. “You are childish. I will hear no more.” With which remark he led the culprits to their home in silence, into the presence of their fretful invalid mother, who was much annoyed at the disturbance they had created. While she was peevishly expressing her mind on the subject, Mr. Gradgrind was gravely pondering upon the matter.

“Whether,” he said, “whether any instructor or servant can have suggested anything? Whether, in spite of all precautions, any idle story-book can have got into the house for Louisa or Thomas to read? Because in minds that have been practically formed by rule and line, from the cradle upwards, this is incomprehensible.”

“Stop a bit!” cried his friend Bounderby. “You have one of those Stroller’s children in the school, Cecilia Jupe by name! I tell you what, Gradgrind, turn this girl to the right-about, and there is an end of it.”

“I am much of your opinion.”

“Do it at once,” said Bounderby, “has always been my motto. Do you the same. Do this at once!”

“I have the father’s address,” said his friend. “Perhaps you would not mind walking to town with me?”

“Not the least in the world,” said Mr. Bounderby, “as long as you do it at once!”

So Mr. Gradgrind and his friend immediately set out to find Cecilia Jupe, and to order her from henceforth to remain away from school. On the way there they met her. “Now, girl,” said Mr. Gradgrind, “take this gentleman and me to your father’s; we are going there. What have you got in that bottle you are carrying?”

“It’s the nine oils.”

“The what?” cried Mr. Bounderby.

“The nine oils, sir, to rub father with. It is what our people always use, sir, when they get any hurts in the ring,” replied the girl, “they bruise themselves very bad sometimes.”

“Serves them right,” said Mr. Bounderby, “for being idle.” The girl glanced up at his face with mingled astonishment and dread as he said this, but she led them on down a narrow road, until they stopped at the door of a little public house.

“This is it, sir,” she said. “It’s only crossing the bar, sir, and up the stairs, if you wouldn’t mind; and waiting there for a moment till I get a candle. If you should hear a dog, sir, it’s only Merrylegs, and he only barks.”

They followed the girl up some steep stairs, and stopped while she went on for a candle. Reappearing, with a face of great surprise, she said, “Father is not in our room, sir. If you wouldn’t mind walking in, sir? I’ll find him directly.”

They walked in; and Sissy having set two chairs for them, sped away with a quick, light step. They heard the doors of rooms above opening and shutting, as Sissy went from one to another in quest of her father. She came bounding down again in a great hurry, opened an old hair trunk, found it empty, and looked around with her face full of terror.