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Stephen leaves Bounderby's house and runs into a little old woman who is clearly visiting Coketown from the countryside.
She is thrilled to see him come out of Bounderby's and latches onto him with a million questions about Bounderby's health and general well-being.
After Stephen reassures her that Bounderby is just fine, the old woman tells him that she comes into the city once a year by a very complicated journey to see Bounderby. But not to see meaning to meet – to actually just get a glimpse of him from the street. This year, though, he hasn't come out of the house, and she has to catch her train back.
The old woman walks Stephen back to his work and continues to be kind of intense and weird, telling him that he must be thrilled to work for Bounderby in the amazing factory. Stephen goes along with it.
She leaves him, and he goes to his loom (the factory is a mill), and thinks about the old woman.
After work, he walks around, and thinks about Rachael and how he can never be with her. He feels himself sinking lower and lower into despair and sadness.