Last Updated January 12, 2023.
When Stephen emerges from Mr. Bounderby’s house, he meets an old woman in the street. She asks him if he has seen Mr. Bounderby, and she wants to know how the latter looks and how he is doing. Stephen tells her, and the woman thanks him. She remarks that she has come by Parliamentary that morning and will go back that night. She comes to Coketown once a year, hoping to “see the gentlemen.” She has not seen Mr. Bounderby this year, but now she has, in a way, through Stephen’s eyes, and she will make do with that.
The woman walks with Stephen, asking him if he is happy. He answers vaguely that everyone has troubles. She presses, trying to find out what it is like to work at the factory, which she thinks is a fine one. Stephen does not know quite what to make of her.
That evening, Stephen walks home from work, taking his time, brooding as he goes, and thinking of the gentle, unselfish Rachael, whom he loves. He feels as though he is wasting his life, bound to a woman who is mostly dead.