Study Guide

Hard Times Book 2, Chapter 11

By Charles Dickens

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Book 2, Chapter 11

Lower and Lower

  • Gradgrind buries Mrs. Gradgrind in a businesslike and unemotional manner, then returns to London to Parliament.
  • Meanwhile, Mrs. Sparsit keeps an eye on Louisa walking down the evil staircase of sin. She has to admit, though, that Louisa is sometimes so robotic that she's really hard to read – even for Harthouse.
  • Soon, Bounderby has to go out of town for a couple of days. Mrs. Sparsit scams an invitation to his house during that time. After he leaves, though, she asks Tom whether Harthouse will be coming down to the house when Bounderby is away. Tom tells her no, and that in fact, Tom is supposed to meet Harthouse at the train station and have dinner with him in Coketown. Mrs. Sparsit asks Tom to tell Louisa that she will not be coming down after all.
  • That evening Mrs. Sparsit goes to the train station, sees Tom hanging out waiting for Harthouse, and then sees that Harthouse is not on the train he was supposed to take. She then rushes off to the Bounderby house, thinking that this was a diversion to keep Tom out of the way.
  • At the house, Mrs. Sparsit hides in the shrubbery and finds Harthouse and Louisa alone together (which, back in the day, was almost as bad as actually committing adultery).
  • Harthouse begs Louisa to meet him, and finally she agrees. But because of the rainy weather and her excitement over finally catching Louisa in the act, Mrs. Sparsit doesn't hear where and when. Harthouse leaves, and Mrs. Sparsit decides to stay behind and follow Louisa.
  • They get to the train station and get on a train to go to Coketown.
  • Mrs. Sparsit goes into full spy mode and gets into a different car.
  • When the train gets to town, though, Louisa is nowhere to be found.

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