Mrs. Sparsit, as housekeeper of the Bank, is having her evening tea there. She is waited on by Bitzer, who has become the light porter (pretty much what it sounds like – a guy who carries light things; it's a little more prestigious than being the guy who carries heavy things).
Bitzer and Mrs. Sparsit gossip and chat about life. He tells her that the factory workers want to unionize, which she says is disloyal to their masters.
She asks him about the bank clerks (hint, hint). He answers that they are all OK, except for one (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). They are clearly talking about Tom Gradgrind.
Bitzer accuses Tom of being a spendthrift loser, then wonders why Tom and the workers can't be like Bitzer, who as a good student of Gradgrind's system, has been saving his money, avoiding getting married, and generally only thinking about himself and his future prospects.
Suddenly, there is a knock at the door.
Mrs. Sparsit greets the stranger, who is new to Coketown, and is looking for Bounderby. He oozes charm, good breeding, and gentlemanliness. He asks about Louisa, and Mrs. Sparsit tells him that she is very young and not all that intimidating.
The stranger leaves, and Mrs. Sparsit sits and thinks for a long time – it is unclear about what.