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HARD TIMES.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER XXIX.

LOUISA awoke from a torpor, and her eyes
languidly opened on her old bed at home,
and her old room. It seemed, at first, as if
all that had happened since the days when
these objects were familiar to her were the
shadows of a dream; but gradually, as the
objects became more real to her sight, the
events became more real to her mind.

She could scarcely move her head for pain
and heaviness, her eyes were strained and
sore, and she was very weak. A curious
passive inattention had such possession of
her, that the presence of her little sister in
the room did not attract her notice for some
time. Even when their eyes had met, and
her sister had approached the bed, Louisa lay
for minutes looking at her in silence, and
suffering her timidly to hold her passive hand,
before she asked:

"When was I brought to this room?"

"Last night, Louisa."

"Who brought me here?"

"Sissy, I believe."

"Why do you believe so?"

"Because I found her here this morning.
She didn't come to my bedside to wake me,
as she always does; and I went to look for her.
She was not in her own room either; and I
went looking for her all over the house, until I
found her here, taking care of you and
cooling your head. Will you see father?
Sissy said I was to tell him when you woke."

"What a beaming' face you have, Jane!"
said Louisa, as her young sistertimidly still
bent down to kiss her.

"Have I? I am very glad you think so.
I am sure it must be Sissy's doing."

The arm Louisa had begun to twine about
her neck, unbent itself. "You can tell father,
if you will." Then, staying her a moment,
she said, "It was you who made my room so
cheerful, and gave it this look of welcome?"

"Oh no, Louisa, it was done before I came.
It was"——

Louisa turned upon her pillow, and heard
no more. When her sister had withdrawn,
she turned her head back again, and lay with
her face towards the door, until it opened and
her father entered.

He had a jaded anxious look upon him,
and his hand, usually steady, trembled in hers.
He sat down at the side of the bed, tenderly
asking how she was, and dwelling on the
necessity of her keeping very quiet after her
agitation and exposure to the weather last
night. He spoke in a subdued and troubled
voice, very different from his usual dictatorial
manner; and was often at a loss for words.

"My dear Louisa. My poor daughter."
He was so much at a loss at that place,
that he stopped altogether. He tried again.

"My unfortunate child." The place was
so difficult to get over, that he tried again.

"It would be hopeless for me, Louisa, to
endeavour to tell you how overwhelmed I
have been, and still am, by what broke
upon me last night. The ground on which
I stand has ceased to be solid under my
feet. The only support on which I
leaned, and the strength of which it seemed,
and still does seem,  impossible to question,
has given way in an instant. I am stunned
by these discoveries. I have no selfish
meaning in what I say; but I find the shock
of what broke upon me last night, to be very
heavy indeed."

She could give him no comfort herein. She
had suffered the wreck of her whole life
upon the rock.

"I will not say, Louisa, that if you had by
any happy chance undeceived me some time
ago, it would have been better for us both;
better for your peace, and better for mine. For
I am sensible that it may not have been a part
of my system to invite any confidence of that
kind. I have proved mymy system to
myself, and I have rigidly administered it; and
I must bear the responsibility of its failures.
I only entreat you to believe, my favorite
child, that I have meant to do right."

He said it earnestly, and to do him justice
he had. In gauging fathomless deeps with
his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering
over the universe with his rusty stiff-legged
compasses, he had meant to do great things.
Within the limits of his short tether he
had tumbled about, annihilating the flowers
of existence with greater singleness of
purpose than many of the blatant personages
whose company he kept.

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