BOOK THE SECOND - REAPING
10. Chapter X - Mrs. Sparsit's Staircase
MRS. SPARSIT'S nerves being slow to recover their tone, the worthy
woman made a stay of some weeks in duration at Mr. Bounderby's
retreat, where, notwithstanding her anchorite turn of mind based
upon her becoming consciousness of her altered station, she
resigned herself with noble fortitude to lodging, as one may say,
in clover, and feeding on the fat of the land. During the whole
term of this recess from the guardianship of the Bank, Mrs. Sparsit
was a pattern of consistency; continuing to take such pity on Mr.
Bounderby to his face, as is rarely taken on man, and to call his
portrait a Noodle to its face, with the greatest acrimony and
Mr. Bounderby, having got it into his explosive composition that
Mrs. Sparsit was a highly superior woman to perceive that he had
that general cross upon him in his deserts (for he had not yet
settled what it was), and further that Louisa would have objected
to her as a frequent visitor if it had comported with his greatness
that she should object to anything he chose to do, resolved not to
lose sight of Mrs. Sparsit easily. So when her nerves were strung
up to the pitch of again consuming sweetbreads in solitude, he said
to her at the dinner-table, on the day before her departure, 'I
tell you what, ma'am; you shall come down here of a Saturday, while
the fine weather lasts, and stay till Monday.' To which Mrs.
Sparsit returned, in effect, though not of the Mahomedan
persuasion: 'To hear is to obey.'
Now, Mrs. Sparsit was not a poetical woman; but she took an idea in
the nature of an allegorical fancy, into her head. Much watching
of Louisa, and much consequent observation of her impenetrable
demeanour, which keenly whetted and sharpened Mrs. Sparsit's edge,
must have given her as it were a lift, in the way of inspiration.
She erected in her mind a mighty Staircase, with a dark pit of
shame and ruin at the bottom; and down those stairs, from day to
day and hour to hour, she saw Louisa coming.
It became the business of Mrs. Sparsit's life, to look up at her
staircase, and to watch Louisa coming down. Sometimes slowly,
sometimes quickly, sometimes several steps at one bout, sometimes
stopping, never turning back. If she had once turned back, it
might have been the death of Mrs. Sparsit in spleen and grief.