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While Stephen is doing his death scene, Sissy sneaks over to Tom, says something, and Tom disappears. When Gradgrind wants to know where he is, Louisa tells him that Tom will not be coming back to town.
Gradgrind spends the day locked in his room, not eating or sleeping. When he comes out the next day, he looks a lot older. Louisa tries to cheer him up by saying that he still has four other kids left that will hopefully not be all screwed up.
Gradgrind, however, has finally figured out that Tom is the bank robber and is pretty destroyed about it.
Sissy tells Gradgrind that she is trying to save Tom from prison. She's hiding him with Mr. Sleary at the circus until he can be shipped off overseas to another country.
The three split up and each take a different route to circus, which is right now near Liverpool, a huge port city.
The circus is performing when they get there. They see Sleary and his daughter Josephine in their horse act, and see that Master Kidderminster is now in charge of the box office.
Finally, Sleary shows Sissy and Louisa into his office. He tells Sissy brief updates about the lives of the circus performers, and then all of them come in and hug her.
Sleary then shows them how he has hidden Tom – dressed up in rags and blackface, Tom is a minor character in one of the clown sketches in the circus show.
Gradgrind writes a letter to help get Tom onto a boat to South or North America, whichever leaves faster. Then he confronts Tom, who is still dressed in his clown outfit. Tom confesses to stealing, and then busts out with some defensive nonsense about the statistics of crime: "So many people are employed in situations of trust; so many people, out of many, will be dishonest."
Tom passive aggressively accuses pretty much everyone except himself for what he has done – his father for his crazy educational system, and his sister for not cozying up to Bounderby enough.
Just as Tom is about to jump onto the coach with the letter, he is grabbed and held by Bitzer, who announces his plan to bring him back to Coketown.