BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
7. Chapter Vii - Mrs. Sparsit (continued)
If Bounderby had been a Conqueror, and Mrs. Sparsit a captive
Princess whom he took about as a feature in his state-processions,
he could not have made a greater flourish with her than he
habitually did. Just as it belonged to his boastfulness to
depreciate his own extraction, so it belonged to it to exalt Mrs.
Sparsit's. In the measure that he would not allow his own youth to
have been attended by a single favourable circumstance, he
brightened Mrs. Sparsit's juvenile career with every possible
advantage, and showered waggon-loads of early roses all over that
lady's path. 'And yet, sir,' he would say, 'how does it turn out
after all? Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a
hundred, which she is pleased to term handsome), keeping the house
of Josiah Bounderby of Coketown!'
Nay, he made this foil of his so very widely known, that third
parties took it up, and handled it on some occasions with
considerable briskness. It was one of the most exasperating
attributes of Bounderby, that he not only sang his own praises but
stimulated other men to sing them. There was a moral infection of
clap-trap in him. Strangers, modest enough elsewhere, started up
at dinners in Coketown, and boasted, in quite a rampant way, of
Bounderby. They made him out to be the Royal arms, the Union-Jack,
Magna Charta, John Bull, Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights, An
Englishman's house is his castle, Church and State, and God save
the Queen, all put together. And as often (and it was very often)
as an orator of this kind brought into his peroration,
'Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
A breath can make them, as a breath has made,'
- it was, for certain, more or less understood among the company
that he had heard of Mrs. Sparsit.
'Mr. Bounderby,' said Mrs. Sparsit, 'you are unusually slow, sir,
with your breakfast this morning.'
'Why, ma'am,' he returned, 'I am thinking about Tom Gradgrind's
whim;' Tom Gradgrind, for a bluff independent manner of speaking -
as if somebody were always endeavouring to bribe him with immense
sums to say Thomas, and he wouldn't; 'Tom Gradgrind's whim, ma'am,
of bringing up the tumbling-girl.'