BOOK THE THIRD - GARNERING
7. Chapter Vii - Whelp-hunting
BEFORE the ring formed round the Old Hell Shaft was broken, one
figure had disappeared from within it. Mr. Bounderby and his
shadow had not stood near Louisa, who held her father's arm, but in
a retired place by themselves. When Mr. Gradgrind was summoned to
the couch, Sissy, attentive to all that happened, slipped behind
that wicked shadow - a sight in the horror of his face, if there
had been eyes there for any sight but one - and whispered in his
ear. Without turning his head, he conferred with her a few
moments, and vanished. Thus the whelp had gone out of the circle
before the people moved.
When the father reached home, he sent a message to Mr. Bounderby's,
desiring his son to come to him directly. The reply was, that Mr.
Bounderby having missed him in the crowd, and seeing nothing of him
since, had supposed him to be at Stone Lodge.
'I believe, father,' said Louisa, 'he will not come back to town
to-night.' Mr. Gradgrind turned away, and said no more.
In the morning, he went down to the Bank himself as soon as it was
opened, and seeing his son's place empty (he had not the courage to
look in at first) went back along the street to meet Mr. Bounderby
on his way there. To whom he said that, for reasons he would soon
explain, but entreated not then to be asked for, he had found it
necessary to employ his son at a distance for a little while.
Also, that he was charged with the duty of vindicating Stephen
Blackpool's memory, and declaring the thief. Mr. Bounderby quite
confounded, stood stock-still in the street after his father-in-law
had left him, swelling like an immense soap-bubble, without its
Mr. Gradgrind went home, locked himself in his room, and kept it
all that day. When Sissy and Louisa tapped at his door, he said,
without opening it, 'Not now, my dears; in the evening.' On their
return in the evening, he said, 'I am not able yet - to-morrow.'
He ate nothing all day, and had no candle after dark; and they
heard him walking to and fro late at night.