Book 3, Chapter 6 Summary

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Last Updated January 12, 2023.

On Sunday, Sissy and Rachael ride the train out into the country and begin their walk. They find footprints around a broken fence and then discover Stephen’s hat. They go on and nearly fall down an open mine shaft. They both know exactly where Stephen is now, and they run in opposite directions looking for help when they receive no response to their calls. Sissy alerts two men, one of whom is rather drunk. He dips his head in a puddle, comes up sober, and takes charge of the situation. Sissy sends a message to Louisa as the men rouse the village and gather the equipment they need.

The process is a long one. The men must build a machine that can lower one of them into the shaft. They must check the air quality and make sure everything is just right so that there are no further accidents. Louisa, Tom, Mr. Gradgrind, and Mr. Bounderby arrive on the scene with a surgeon. Finally, the team leader descends into the shaft and finds Stephen, who is alive but badly injured.

Slowly and carefully, the men lift Stephen out of the Old Hell Shaft, as it is called. He has been able to survive by eating some crumbs and finding a little water, and he has kept up his spirits by looking at a star. Rachael holds onto his hand. Stephen comments again about the muddle the world is in. So many people have died from “want and hunger” or have been killed at their jobs. Yet he still has hope. The star shines upon him yet, and he has prayed the world will be better someday and that the people will come together.

Stephen speaks to Mr. Gradgrind and asks him to clear his name. He tells Mr. Gradgrind to talk to his son. He will say no more than that, but Tom knows what has happened. As the men carry Stephen away, Rachael continues to hold his hand. Soon he passes away from his injuries, but he has found God.

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