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THE STORY

BOOK THE THIRD

CHAPTER III

Mrs. Sparsit, stricken by a terrible cold as a result of her spying on Louisa, searches for Bounderby. When she finds him she spills her news about Louisa- and dramatically faints! Bounderby revives her as best he can, then takes her, "more dead than alive," on a train into Coketown. Ushering her into Gradgrind's house, Bounderby confronts Gradgrind and tells him that Mrs. Sparsit has something shocking to tell him about Harthouse and Louisa. Gradgrind says that he knows what went on between the pair and that the girl is now under his own roof, where she has come for protection.

Bounderby is outraged at Mrs. Sparsit for putting him in such an embarrassing position. He demands an apology, but when she claims to be too weak to offer one, he orders her back to her home.

Alone with Gradgrind, Bounderby insists he has not received due respect or proper treatment from Louisa. Gradgrind suggests that they both might have misunderstood her, that perhaps certain areas of her education have been badly handled. Perhaps it would be best, he tells Bounderby, that Louisa stay at the Gradgrind home for a time.


Bounderby assumes that Louisa is merely spoiled. If there's any incompatibility between them, he fumes, it comes from Louisa's lack of appreciation for her husband!

Gradgrind moves to end the conversation before either of them says something regrettable. But Bounderby insists that Louisa return to his house by noon tomorrow. If she doesn't, he'll assume she wishes to return to being Louisa Gradgrind, and he'll turn over responsibility for her to her father. Gradgrind advises caution, but Bounderby is firm.

By five minutes past noon the next day, Bounderby sends Louisa's possessions to the Gradgrind house and he resumes his bachelor life.

NOTE: Dickens never brings up the specific question of divorce between Louisa and Bounderby. It is implied that a divorce never takes place. Is there a legal complication or a moral objection on the part of husband or wife? The answer is never given.  

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