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THE STORY

BOOK THE SECOND

CHAPTER VIII

The next morning Harthouse sits at his window and ponders the success he's had in drawing Louisa to him. She is now in his confidence, and he in hers. Louisa's indifference to her husband and her feeling that Harthouse knows the deepest secrets of her soul have made him important to her. Harthouse doesn't know the results of his manipulations. What will be, will be, he tells himself.

NOTE: Dickens seems to feel that Harthouse is the greater villain for having no specific aim for his wickedness: "It is the drifting icebergs... that wreck the ships." His actions spring from boredom, not from the impulse to destroy. But destroy he does.

At Bounderby's later that day, Harthouse learns that the bank has been robbed of 150 pounds. Bounderby reports that Louisa fainted when she heard the news; he thinks it speaks well of her to be so concerned for his money.

You know that Louisa could care less about the money. Why does she react so strongly? Is it possible she suspects Tom? She knows he needs money and is often unprincipled. Her love for him makes her suspicions unbearable.

Bounderby thinks the chief suspect is Stephen Blackpool. Not only has Stephen characterized himself as a dissatisfied worker, but he was seen by Mrs. Sparsit to linger around the bank three nights in a row. He's also been seen talking to a strange old woman who seems to have disappeared.

It's certain now that Tom is responsible for the theft. It was he who asked Stephen to wait outside the bank on those evenings. The suspicion that falls on Mrs. Pegler is also worth noting. Her function in the book is still a mystery (although you may have guessed her identity), and Dickens is preparing us for a surprise.


Mrs. Sparsit is invited to stay with the Bounderbys in order to soothe her frazzled nerves. There she offers hints that the Bounderby marriage is a mistake. She takes care of Bounderby as she used to, plays backgammon with him, makes him his favorite drink- things Louisa doesn't do.

The suggestion is there that Mrs. Sparsit wants to marry Bounderby, but we never know this for certain. Maybe she wants life the way it used to be when she was his housekeeper. Which do you think is more likely?

That night Louisa pleads with Tom to tell her if he has anything to confess. Tom has nothing to say. When she reminds him of the private words he had with Stephen when they visited the latter's room, Tom lies and says he was only warning him to make good use of Louisa's money. Louisa leaves, and Tom throws himself on his pillow. He cries for lying to his sister, but he's not sorry, and he condemns all that's good in the world.

Tom's emotional reaction shows that he's aware of how badly he's treated Louisa. Yet he's not sorry for what he's done; he's had no change of heart, and he feels no remorse for casting suspicion on the innocent Stephen.

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