Harthouse is introduced as the brother of a Member of Parliament who is in the same political party as Gradgrind. He is being groomed as yet another politician, and has been sent to Coketown to get to know how politics works.
Harthouse finds Bounderby and gives him a letter of introduction from Gradgrind. Together, the two men walk to Bounderby's house while Bounderby gives him the usual rundown about being born in the gutter, and so on and so forth. Harthouse is slick, super-polite, and immediately impressive because of his upper-class manners. He's basically James Bond Lite – all style and no substance (and certainly no cool spy stuff, either).
Bounderby introduces Harthouse to Louisa. Harthouse immediately tells her basically that he has no actual political motivations or any other kind of ambition. He's just doing this gig because he is bored and can't think of anything else to do. He claims to have no opinions or convictions about anything, and that there is nothing much in the world to care about anyway.
We're thinking, boo! But Louisa is psyched that finally someone is saying it like it is.
They sit down to dinner, and Harthouse is sort of disappointed that Louisa is so quiet and distant. Then Tom comes in, and she lights up, even though he is as grumpy and jerky as always. Harthouse notices that Louisa seems to love only Tom, and immediately decides to make friends with her brother, inviting him to hang out after dinner.