BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
15. Chapter Xv - Father and Daughter (continued)
'I hear you, father. I am attending, I assure you.'
'Well!' said Mr. Gradgrind, breaking into a smile, after being for
the moment at a loss, 'you are even more dispassionate than I
expected, Louisa. Or, perhaps, you are not unprepared for the
announcement I have it in charge to make?'
'I cannot say that, father, until I hear it. Prepared or
unprepared, I wish to hear it all from you. I wish to hear you
state it to me, father.'
Strange to relate, Mr. Gradgrind was not so collected at this
moment as his daughter was. He took a paper-knife in his hand,
turned it over, laid it down, took it up again, and even then had
to look along the blade of it, considering how to go on.
'What you say, my dear Louisa, is perfectly reasonable. I have
undertaken then to let you know that - in short, that Mr. Bounderby
has informed me that he has long watched your progress with
particular interest and pleasure, and has long hoped that the time
might ultimately arrive when he should offer you his hand in
marriage. That time, to which he has so long, and certainly with
great constancy, looked forward, is now come. Mr. Bounderby has
made his proposal of marriage to me, and has entreated me to make
it known to you, and to express his hope that you will take it into
your favourable consideration.'
Silence between them. The deadly statistical clock very hollow.
The distant smoke very black and heavy.
'Father,' said Louisa, 'do you think I love Mr. Bounderby?'
Mr. Gradgrind was extremely discomfited by this unexpected
question. 'Well, my child,' he returned, 'I - really - cannot take
upon myself to say.'
'Father,' pursued Louisa in exactly the same voice as before, 'do
you ask me to love Mr. Bounderby?'
'My dear Louisa, no. No. I ask nothing.'
'Father,' she still pursued, 'does Mr. Bounderby ask me to love