James Harthouse doesn't know what to think of Louisa's failure to appear at their rendezvous in Coketown. He waits in Coketown for a while, then goes to see if she is Bounderby's house, then finally goes to the bank, where he encounters Tom who criticizes him for not showing up at the train. Harthouse waits at the bank, hoping for a message from Louisa, but maintaining an air of composure on the outside.
Harthouse is an odd character in the novel, falling neither within the "Hard Facts Fellows" nor into those who had an education or childhood based on "Fancy." He isn't totally evil—he really does seem to be interested in Louisa. But he is completely selfish—he doesn't care that if she responds to his interest it would ruin her forever.
When a messenger arrives to say a woman has arrived to see him, he thinks it must be Louisa. He is surprised and confused when it turns out to be Sissy, who tells him, respectfully but firmly, that she has come on Louisa's behalf but without Louisa's knowledge. She then tells Harthouse that she has come to tell him that he has no further chance with Louisa. To his astonishment, Harthouse finds that he cannot resist Sissy's good and earnest heart; she is so pure and firm that he is filled with guilt and is unable to overcome her. Furthermore, Sissy asks Harthouse to leave Coketown forever and never return. Again, he finds himself unable to resist her wishes. Rather bewildered by the force of Sissy's influence with him, he agrees to leave Coketown forever, and does.
In contrast to Louisa, Mrs. Sparsit, and even Mrs. Gradgrind, Sissy embodies the Victorian ideal of femininity. She is earnest and good and sweet and humble, yet totally firm and unmoving and unafraid when it comes to protecting those she loves from those who would do them harm. Just like that, she gets rid of the terrible threat to Louisa's happiness (or unhappiness) that was James Harthouse. And she can do and be all this, even though she grew up in the circus, because she grew up with imagination and fancy and love.