BOOK THE SECOND
With a bit of political coaching and a natural talent for hypocrisy, Harthouse does very well as a representative of the Gradgrind party. When he openly declares his cynical philosophy to Louisa, she is not shocked; she was raised with attitudes like these. The more she sees of humanity, the more she feels that nothing matters. Although she struggles to find a more hopeful side to life, Harthouse's cynicism overwhelms her.
Harthouse is spending a great deal of time at the Bounderby home, still diverted by the challenge of making Louisa care for him. He watches and observes everything about her, hoping for a clue to win her affections.
The Bounderbys now live in a large house in the country outside of town. Bounderby obtained the house as a result of a bank foreclosure, and he takes great delight in making fun of its expensive furnishings and art objects. He reminds everyone that he has no use for such finery, since he was once poor and unaccustomed to the trappings of wealth.
Have you ever known anyone who sneered at something and at the same time couldn't resist it? Bounderby is that kind of snob and hypocrite. He is attracted to what money can buy but is vocal in his disapproval of it.
On a summer afternoon, Harthouse runs into Louisa in one of her favorite private places, a clearing in the woods. During the conversation, he correctly guesses that Tom has been gambling and that Louisa has been paying his debts. She admits that Tom did borrow a great deal of money from her after she was first married. Since then she's given him occasional small sums, and recently he's asked for an amount she can't afford. His behavior worries her.
Harthouse offers to use his influence to help Tom if it will help Louisa feel less anxious about him.
We know that Harthouse is lying. He has no interest in Tom's well-being. He may even be encouraging Tom to spend beyond his means.
Tom is depressed over his finances. Alone with Harthouse, he confesses his debts. He's upset that Louisa's marriage hasn't been as profitable for him as he had hoped. Harthouse offers free advice whenever Tom should need it. In exchange, he asks that Tom be kinder to Louisa in the future.
That night, Tom apologizes to his sister for his recent sullen behavior. Louisa is grateful to Harthouse for his help, and now Harthouse observes that she finally has a smile for someone other than Tom.
By using Louisa's love for Tom, Harthouse comes closer to seducing her, not out of love for her, but out of boredom. Tom has gambled himself deeply into debt, and the results of his carelessness remain to be seen. The gunpowder of this chapter's title is about to be ignited.
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