BOOK THE SECOND
Weeks pass, and Mrs. Sparsit is still at the Bounderby house. She continues her two-faced attitude to Bounderby, praising him to his face but calling him a "noodle" behind his back. Resolved not to lose sight of the flattering Mrs. Sparsit- and partly to irritate Louisa- Bounderby invites her back for future weekend visits.
Mrs. Sparsit, ever observant, begins to see Louisa's progress into adultery in concrete terms- as a descent down a staircase that has a "dark pit of shame and ruin at the bottom."
The robbery is still very much on everyone's mind, but there has been no luck in finding Stephen or the old woman implicated in the crime.
As Mrs. Sparsit is packing to return home, she looks out her window to see Louisa and Harthouse talking in the garden. Mrs. Sparsit sees Louisa's hair almost touch his face as they lean in to talk quietly- close enough for Mrs. Sparsit to feel that Louisa is moving further down the "staircase."
She can't hear their conversation, but if she could, she would hear them discussing the robbery. Harthouse assures Louisa that Stephen is guilty, that Harthouse recognized the man as a hypocrite from the very first. The robbery was obviously committed out of anger for Bounderby's treatment of Stephen, Harthouse tells her.
Mrs. Sparsit gathers whatever news she can of Harthouse and Louisa, even after she moves back to her own home. She waits eagerly for the final descent, certain that it's just a matter of time.
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