Book 2, Chapter 11 Summary

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Last Updated January 12, 2023.

Mrs. Gradgrind has been buried with little ceremony, and Mr. Gradgrind returns to London. Mrs. Sparsit keeps her watch on Louisa. Mr. Harthouse is often unsure about Louisa, for she remains a mystery to him in many ways.

Then Mr. Bounderby leaves on a business trip for a few days. Mrs. Sparsit is to stay at the estate anyway as she has been doing on weekends. Before she goes out, she calls Tom to have supper with her and learns that Mr. Harthouse is expected back from his hunting trip the next day but does not intend to stop at the estate, although Tom thinks that he may do so on Sunday.

The next day, Tom waits for Mr. Harthouse’s train, but the man himself does not arrive. Mrs. Sparsit thinks that he must have gone straight to Louisa, and she hurries out to the estate. Louisa is on “the brink of the abyss” in Mrs. Sparsit’s imagination.

The lady sneaks onto the estate’s grounds and hears Louisa and Mr. Harthouse talking together. Mr. Harthouse is proclaiming his love for Louisa, and Mrs. Sparsit listens closely. Louisa keeps saying, “Not here,” and Mr. Harthouse presses her to meet him somewhere else. She will not allow him up at the house. He pleads and laments while Mrs. Sparsit hangs on every word with “gratified malice.” Then it begins to rain.

Louisa goes up to the house, but Mrs. Sparsit continues to stand in the rain, determined to see everything. Then Louisa comes out and hurries away. Mrs. Sparsit follows, soggy and disheveled. They both take the train into Coketown. By now Mrs. Sparsit is drenched and chilled, but she will remain on Louisa’s track. When the train arrives in Coketown, the lady expects to see Louisa get on another train, but she does not. When Mrs. Sparsit checks Louisa’s carriage, it is empty. She has lost her prey.

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