Mrs. Sparsit is stirring up trouble. All of her running back and forth in the nighttime rain has caused her to get a violent cold but this does not stop her from completing her mission. She went as far as London to find Mr. Bounderby and confront him with the news of Louisa's conversation in the garden, and her flight from the country housepresumably, to continue her romantic affair. After giving the news, Mrs. Sparsit collapses in an incredibly theatrical display. Bounderby brings her back to Coketown and he carries her along with him to Stone Lodge, where he intends to confront Mr. Gradgrind (unaware that Louisa is also at Stone Lodge).
Mrs. Sparsit's story is presented and Mr. Gradgrind confesses that he is already aware of these details and that Louisa has preserved her honor by returning to her father's house when she did not know how to defend herself from temptation on her own. Mrs. Sparsit is now considered in the worst light for she has cast aspersions and criticized Louisa without due cause. She can do little more than utter an apology and begin crying profusely as she is sent back to town.
In this chapter, the heavily foreshadowed collapse of the Bounderby marriage has finally come about. With the dissolution of the marriage comes the imagery of loss and ruin and Mrs. Sparsit, who is at the root of this unraveling, is characterized as a "classical ruin." Just as her unraveling physical appearance reflects ruin, anguish and haste, she has brought all of these negative conditions to lifebut in the lives of the people around her.
We can fully expect that Mrs. Sparsit will continue her nosiness and her surveillance, and the theme of surveillance suggests that just as Mr. Gradgrind was a faulty instructor, haughty individuals like Mrs. Sparsit are bound to fail in their attempts to be God-like judges. In fact, the climax of Mrs. Sparsit's rise and fall will come as a result of her own undoing. The use of the word "refuge" is a sarcastic pun, referring to Bounderby's speedy dismissal of Mrs. Sparsit by coach. When her snooping eventually creates a greater embarrassment for Mr. Bounderby, he will be even harsher in his offering of "refuge."