BOOK THE FIRST - SOWING
4. Chapter Iv - Mr. Bounderby (continued)
Mrs. Gradgrind, a little, thin, white, pink-eyed bundle of shawls,
of surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily; who was always taking
physic without any effect, and who, whenever she showed a symptom
of coming to life, was invariably stunned by some weighty piece of
fact tumbling on her; Mrs. Gradgrind hoped it was a dry ditch?
'No! As wet as a sop. A foot of water in it,' said Mr. Bounderby.
'Enough to give a baby cold,' Mrs. Gradgrind considered.
'Cold? I was born with inflammation of the lungs, and of
everything else, I believe, that was capable of inflammation,'
returned Mr. Bounderby. 'For years, ma'am, I was one of the most
miserable little wretches ever seen. I was so sickly, that I was
always moaning and groaning. I was so ragged and dirty, that you
wouldn't have touched me with a pair of tongs.'
Mrs. Gradgrind faintly looked at the tongs, as the most appropriate
thing her imbecility could think of doing.
'How I fought through it, I don't know,' said Bounderby. 'I was
determined, I suppose. I have been a determined character in later
life, and I suppose I was then. Here I am, Mrs. Gradgrind, anyhow,
and nobody to thank for my being here, but myself.'
Mrs. Gradgrind meekly and weakly hoped that his mother -
'My mother? Bolted, ma'am!' said Bounderby.
Mrs. Gradgrind, stunned as usual, collapsed and gave it up.
'My mother left me to my grandmother,' said Bounderby; 'and,
according to the best of my remembrance, my grandmother was the
wickedest and the worst old woman that ever lived. If I got a
little pair of shoes by any chance, she would take 'em off and sell
'em for drink. Why, I have known that grandmother of mine lie in
her bed and drink her four-teen glasses of liquor before
Mrs. Gradgrind, weakly smiling, and giving no other sign of
vitality, looked (as she always did) like an indifferently executed
transparency of a small female figure, without enough light behind