BOOK THE SECOND - REAPING
7. Chapter Vii - Gunpowder
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE, 'going in' for his adopted party, soon began
to score. With the aid of a little more coaching for the political
sages, a little more genteel listlessness for the general society,
and a tolerable management of the assumed honesty in dishonesty,
most effective and most patronized of the polite deadly sins, he
speedily came to be considered of much promise. The not being
troubled with earnestness was a grand point in his favour, enabling
him to take to the hard Fact fellows with as good a grace as if he
had been born one of the tribe, and to throw all other tribes
overboard, as conscious hypocrites.
'Whom none of us believe, my dear Mrs. Bounderby, and who do not
believe themselves. The only difference between us and the
professors of virtue or benevolence, or philanthropy - never mind
the name - is, that we know it is all meaningless, and say so;
while they know it equally and will never say so.'
Why should she be shocked or warned by this reiteration? It was
not so unlike her father's principles, and her early training, that
it need startle her. Where was the great difference between the
two schools, when each chained her down to material realities, and
inspired her with no faith in anything else? What was there in her
soul for James Harthouse to destroy, which Thomas Gradgrind had
nurtured there in its state of innocence!
It was even the worse for her at this pass, that in her mind -
implanted there before her eminently practical father began to form
it - a struggling disposition to believe in a wider and nobler
humanity than she had ever heard of, constantly strove with doubts
and resentments. With doubts, because the aspiration had been so
laid waste in her youth. With resentments, because of the wrong
that had been done her, if it were indeed a whisper of the truth.
Upon a nature long accustomed to self-suppression, thus torn and
divided, the Harthouse philosophy came as a relief and
justification. Everything being hollow and worthless, she had
missed nothing and sacrificed nothing. What did it matter, she had
said to her father, when he proposed her husband. What did it
matter, she said still. With a scornful self-reliance, she asked
herself, What did anything matter - and went on.