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Bleak House

Bleak House Summary


Here you will find a Bleak House summary (Charles Dickens's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

Bleak House Summary Overview

Esther Summerson recounts her early years and announces her departure to the residence of her new guardian, Mr. Jarndyce. Accompanying her are Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, and together they journey to their new home, making an overnight stop at the disorderly abode of the Jellybys. Upon arrival, they meet their new guardian and Mr. Skimpole, a man with a childlike demeanor. Meanwhile, a spectral figure haunts Chesney Wold, the estate of Sir and Lady Leicester Dedlock. In her new life, Esther encounters various characters like the domineering philanthropist Mrs. Pardiggle and an impoverished brickmaker's wife called Jenny. Over time she observes a growing romantic bond between Ada and Richard and declines a marriage proposal from Mr. Guppy. At Chesney Wold, Lady Dedlock recognizes a familiar handwriting on some documents. Mr. Tulkinghorn, the family's lawyer, resolves to find the scribe and discovers a man named Nemo, who has since passed away. Their interaction is observed by a street urchin named Jo. Richard's professional ambitions vacillate before he finally chooses to enter the medical field. However, he is more enamored by the potentially lucrative Jarndyce lawsuit, the original reason for which is not fully disclosed by anyone. In London, Esther meets a young girl named Charlotte, who is caring for her siblings with the assistance of their neighbor, Mr. Gridley. Esther learns of her own history from Mr. Jarndyce, who reveals that the woman who raised her was actually her aunt. Richard begins to work in law, while Esther and Ada visit Mr. Boythorn near Chesney Wold. There, Esther meets Lady Dedlock and feels an inexplicable connection to her. A sinister figure named Mr. Jobling takes up residence in Nemo's former room, and Mr. Tulkinghorn uncovers a woman's secret visit to Nemo's grave under the disguise of Lady Dedlock's maid's attire. Esther's health deteriorates and during her recovery, she discovers her face is disfigured from smallpox. Lady Dedlock admits to being Esther's mother during a surprise visit. Richard becomes increasingly consumed by the lawsuit, severing communication with Mr. Jarndyce. The climax ensues when Mr. Tulkinghorn is murdered and George, a local shooting gallery owner, is wrongfully arrested for the crime. Ada confesses to Esther about her secret marriage to Richard. In the ensuing investigation, it is discovered that Lady Dedlock had been framed for the murder by her maid Mademoiselle Hortense. However, Lady Dedlock is overwhelmed by her circumstances and dies. The Jarndyce lawsuit is eventually dismissed when the inheritance is entirely depleted on legal fees, resulting in Richard's death. Esther and Woodcourt marry and lead a blissful life with their two daughters, while Ada gives birth to a son.

chapter 1

In the heart of London, the Lord High Chancellor resides in the High Court of Chancery at Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Amidst the dense November fog, numerous lawyers sift through paperwork related to the seemingly never-ending case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. An apparently deranged elderly woman lurks in the room, perhaps involved in the dispute. The details of the case have been lost to time, but it has undoubtedly ruined many lives. Mr. Tangle, a man familiar with the case, is present. The chancellor decides to send two youngsters, a boy and a girl, to stay with their uncle.

chapter 2

The storyteller notes the pettiness and wickedness in the fashionable world, but acknowledges its virtuous inhabitants too. Lady Dedlock returns home with Sir Leicester Dedlock, her husband whom she treats with cold indifference despite his affection for her. Their legal consultant, Mr. Tulkinghorn, pays a visit to brief them about the progress of the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. Intrigued by the penmanship, Lady Dedlock inquires about the scribe of the documents. Mr. Tulkinghorn promises to look into it. Feeling unwell, Lady Dedlock retreats.

chapter 3

Esther Summerson is the story's first-person narrator. She considers herself to be of low intelligence, reflecting on her childhood spent conversing with a doll. Esther was raised by her godmother, Miss Barbary, whom she describes as virtuous yet severe and distant. Her birthday was always a day of sorrow for her, and upon inquiring about her mother on one such day, she learns that she is her mother's "disgrace." Consequently, her relationship with her godmother grows cold. A stranger visits their home, scrutinizes Esther, and then departs. Miss Barbary passes away when Esther turns fourteen. The aforementioned stranger reemerges, introducing himself as Kenge. Kenge discloses that Miss Barbary was Esther's aunt and that Esther will now reside with Mr. Jarndyce due to a lawsuit named Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Esther is advised that she will be well taken care of and educated, but she must inform Mr. Jarndyce before leaving the property. After bidding a cold farewell to the housekeeper, Mrs. Rachael, Esther buries her cherished doll in the garden. Esther is escorted to a carriage by a maid named Miss Donny, who takes her to an estate called Greenleaf, arranged by Mr. Jarndyce. After a six-year stay at Greenleaf, Esther receives a note from Kenge informing her of a pending change of residence. With a heavy heart, Esther departs from Greenleaf and suppresses her tears. She arrives at Kenge's office and meets a young girl, Ada Clare, and Ada’s cousin, Richard Carstone. The trio is bound for Bleak House, Mr. Jarndyce's residence. Esther's role is to accompany Ada, while Ada and Richard are related to the Jarndyce lawsuit, unlike Esther. An insane elderly woman approaches them outside, predicting an imminent judgment for the Jarndyce case.

chapter 4

Esther, Ada, and Richard are informed by Kenge that they will be staying the night at the Jellybys’ residence, turning them over to their driver, Mr. Guppy. Arriving at the Jellybys’, Esther aids a child who has managed to get his head stuck in the railings. The house is full of dirty children running amok. Mrs. Jellyby makes her appearance, totally disregarding her children while she passionately discusses her humanitarian work in Africa. Esther spots Caddy, a quiet, pale child, busy at a writing desk, penning a letter as dictated by Mrs. Jellyby. Chaos reigns supreme in the Jellybys’ household. The house lacks basic amenities such as hot water and heat. The evening meal is nothing short of disorderly, with the cook, Priscilla, inebriated. A man named Mr. Quayle converses about Africa with Mrs. Jellyby, while her husband remains silent. In the darkness of the night, Caddy unexpectedly shows up at Esther's door, expressing her discontent with her home environment. She profoundly wishes for the demise of her entire family.

chapter 5

Esther and Miss Jellyby, having cleaned up young Peepy, take a stroll. Miss Jellyby voices her grievances about Mr. Quayle while Richard and Ada catch up with them. An elderly woman they had previously seen approaches and guides them to her home. The storefront below, marked "Krook, Rag and Bottle Warehouse" and “Krook, Dealer in Marine Stores," appears to be a place where things are only bought, not sold, its windows filled with grubby bottles. Esther sees familiar handwriting on a few law books strewn about, similar to Kenge's documents. The door is opened by an elderly gentleman who invites them inside, introduced by the elderly lady as her landlord, Krook. Krook comes off as mentally unstable, yet he is surprisingly knowledgeable about the Jarndyce case. He relates the tragic suicide of Tom Jarndyce. In her quarters, the elderly lady shows off her birds and mentions another tenant who is a legal scribe. The visit wraps up shortly and Esther, Ada, Richard, and Miss Jellyby make their exit. Before long, Esther, Ada, and Richard bid farewell to the Jellybys and set out for Bleak House.

chapter 6

Esther, Richard, and Ada journey into the countryside. Their wagon driver hands them each a note from their cousin, John Jarndyce, expressing a warm welcome to his home, Bleak House. The trio anticipate meeting their cousin, known for his aversion to gratitude. As Bleak House appears on a hilltop, Mr. Jarndyce enthusiastically ushers them inside. Esther finds him familiar, remembering him from a past encounter. Mr. Jarndyce prompts them to share their thoughts about Mrs. Jellyby, showing unease about the wind's direction. He appreciates Esther's helpful actions, as conveyed by Ada, and is relieved to learn the wind blows from the north, not the east. Esther paints a picture of Bleak House as a labyrinth of rooms that they all seem to like. Mr. Jarndyce discloses a dinner guest, described as a childlike man with children he doesn't care for. He hands over housekeeping keys to Esther, displaying his trust in her. Their guest, Harold Skimpole, is a whimsical man who admits to his ignorance of time and money. His carefree demeanor captivates everyone. Richard and Ada perform a duet by the piano to his admiration. Esther senses Mr. Jarndyce's hopes for Richard and Ada's blossoming relationship. When Richard and Mr. Skimpole depart together, Richard later requests Esther's presence. He reveals Mr. Skimpole's arrest for debt, requiring their financial assistance. They collect and handover the needed amount, saving him from imprisonment or the poorhouse. Mr. Jarndyce later disapproves of their actions, asserting Mr. Skimpole's dependence on others to keep him debt-free. Despite his initial upset, he dismisses Mr. Skimpole's negligence as a trait of his childish personality. The day concludes with everyone retiring to bed.

chapter 7

The storyteller resumes as Esther slumbers, intimating the rain's fall on Ghost Walk adjacent to a residence named Chesney Wold in Lincolnshire. Neither Sir Leicester nor the lady are present; they've journeyed to Paris. The house is under the care of Mrs. Rouncewell, a housekeeper who has served the family for over half a century. Mrs. Rouncewell, a mother of two, lost one son to the military and the other pursued engineering. She is disappointed in her engineer son but is comforted by the presence of her grandson, Watt, who often visits her at Chesney Wold. Watt inquires about Rosa, a young girl he has noticed at the home. Mrs. Rouncewell explains that Rosa is a widow's child who works and lives with her as a maid. Rosa interrupts their conversation with news of two men's arrival, one of whom has left a card for Mrs. Rouncewell. The card identifies him as Mr. Guppy, a visitor from London who claims association with Mr. Tulkinghorn, albeit indirectly. The housekeeper welcomes them and gives them a tour of Chesney Wold, during which Mr. Guppy recognizes a portrait of Lady Dedlock and is visibly taken aback. The housekeeper shares with the visitors the legend of the Ghost's Walk. According to an ancient tale, it is haunted by the ghost of Sir Morbury Dedlock's wife who, after betraying her family and being caught by her husband, cursed the walkway with her dying breath. This haunting legend, Mrs. Rouncewell ensures, has yet to bring disgrace onto the house, despite the spectral footsteps heard echoing on the walkway.

chapter 8

Esther takes over the narration again. After her morning routine, she engages in conversation with Skimpole who philosophizes about bees and their supposed virtue. Later, she meets with Mr. Jarndyce in the Growlery, his sanctuary for bad days. She expresses deep gratitude to him, but he quiets her and explains the Jarndyce case to her. It’s about a disputed will and seemingly endless costs eating up the estate. He reveals that Tom Jarndyce, the former owner of Bleak House, was his uncle who sadly took his own life. Mr. Jarndyce confides in Esther, demonstrating his trust in her judgement. He playfully nicknames her "Old Woman" based on a rhyme. He asks for her advice on Richard’s future, suggesting she should discuss it with him. Esther thanks him once more. She paints a picture of life at Bleak House, where she acts as Mr. Jarndyce’s secretary, fielding letters often requesting financial aid. One such letter writer is Mrs. Pardiggle, a charity worker who visits with her five unhappy sons. She boasts about their charitable contributions and her tireless work ethic. She drags Esther and Ada off on her rounds, despite Esther's protest. On the way, Mrs. Pardiggle's sons confess their discontent and forced generosity. They arrive at a brickmaker’s house where the reception is hostile, but undeterred Mrs. Pardiggle reads from the Bible. Esther and Ada are left uncomfortable in the tense situation. When they’re finally left alone, they find a distressed woman nursing a baby. Another woman comes in, looking beaten up. Esther and Ada decide to leave, but return later that night with Richard to bring supplies. They encounter Jenny's fearful friend who is worried about her aggressive husband finding her absent. Ada is moved to tears by the baby's condition, they drop off the supplies and then take their leave.

chapter 9

Esther mentions her surprise at having to narrate more about herself. She discloses that Richard has feelings for Ada and they're developing romantic interest in each other, a fact she keeps concealed. Richard contemplates joining the navy. Mr. Jarndyce reaches out to his kin, Sir Leicester Dedlock, asking if he could help boost Richard's career. However, Sir Dedlock confesses his inability to assist, which doesn't dishearten Richard. Esther notices Richard's lackadaisical nature despite his self-perception as cautious. She illustrates this by sharing how Richard hastily used the money Mr. Jarndyce returned — a sum she and Richard had lent to Skimpole. Richard views this as a gain, believing the money was permanently lost. Mr. Jarndyce receives a letter from Lawrence Boythorn, an old school friend. Jarndyce portrays him as boisterous, impulsive, and friendly, with a booming voice and a propensity to magnify everything. Boythorn's visit to Bleak House confirms these attributes, including his infectious laughter and constant use of superlatives. His presence is enjoyed by all. During dinner, he introduces his pet bird that perches on his head and advises Jarndyce to be more assertive in resolving the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. Boythorn shares his involvement in a trespassing dispute with his neighbor, Sir Leicester, and his disdain for the entire family. However, his outbursts are softened by his laughter and the bird perched on his head. Later, upon inquiry by Esther about Boythorn's marital status, Jarndyce confirms that Boythorn remained unmarried, softening Esther's heart. According to Jarndyce, a woman had caused him heartbreak, leaving him solitary except for his pet bird. The next day, Mr. Guppy, Kenge and Carboy's clerk, drops by to see Boythorn. Esther warms up to his visit and offers lunch after his meeting. Mr. Guppy expresses his love for Esther during the meal and proposes marriage. She is shocked and declines his offer. He insists his emotions won't alter and invites her to reach out if she reconsiders. His departure leaves Esther in tears.

chapter 10

We meet Mr. Snagsby, a Law-Stationer managing legal paperwork at his company, Peffer and Snagsbywith. Peffer, his business partner, is rarely in court, likely due to possible mental instability. Snagsby's wife is Peffer's niece, who he met while working at the law office. Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby share their home with Guster, a young woman known for her frequent hysterical fits. Mrs. Snagsby, who manages all business operations, has become an ideal of the perfect wife in the eyes of many. A crow soars towards Lincoln’s Inn, guiding us to Mr. Tulkinghorn’s residence. Seemingly a fortress, the house doubles as his office. He departs for the Snagsby’s residence where he praises Snagsby's recent Jarndyce and Jarndyce document copies for their excellent handwriting. When asked, Snagsby reveals they were penned by a man named Nemo. Mr. Tulkinghorn is shown to Krook’s shop where Nemo resides. He thanks Snagsby, assuring him he will visit another day. Yet, Mr. Tulkinghorn secretly returns to the shop. Krook hands him a candle and directs him to Nemo's room. Upon entry, his candle is extinguished by the foul, disheveled room. A man lies motionless on the bed. Despite Tulkinghorn's loud greetings, the man remains unmoving.

chapter 11

Krook and Mr. Tulkinghorn discover Nemo's lifeless body. The eccentric old lady, Miss Flite, who rents from Krook, requests a physician's presence, who verifies Nemo's death. A young, dark-skinned surgeon claims that Nemo procured opium from him, leading to his fatal overdose. Mr. Tulkinghorn appears indifferent to the events, focusing his attention on a coat that belonged to the deceased. Snagsby enters the scene, oblivious to Nemo's circumstances. He calls for a law enforcement officer, or a beadle. He mentions that Mrs. Snagsby employed Nemo, after noticing something in his demeanor that moved her to assist him. Snagsby identifies the coat, while Mr. Tulkinghorn feigns ignorance of it. The arrival of the beadle piques the curiosity of the locals, though there is nothing they can contribute. The next day during the inquest, the coroner interrogates some neighbors regarding Nemo's death to no avail. A destitute child named Jo testifies, acknowledging that Nemo offered him money and shelter previously. Post the court proceedings, Mr. Snagsby hands Jo a half-crown coin. Back at his residence, Snagsby's housekeeper, Guster, experiences multiple convulsions due to the day's distressing events.

chapter 12

We're given a picture of a rainy day at Chesney Wold where Lady Dedlock and Sir Leicester have just returned from Paris. Lady Dedlock was eager to depart Paris due to her boredom. In their journey, Sir Leicester informs Lady Dedlock that Mr. Tulkinghorn has a message for her. At their estate, Mrs. Rouncewell presents Rosa to Lady Dedlock. Rosa's beauty captivates Lady Dedlock, she even touches her cheek softly. However, Lady Dedlock's maid, Hortense, feels a strong envy towards Rosa. Despite serving Lady Dedlock for half a decade, Hortense has always felt a cold distance from her employer. Chesney Wold often hosts a number of guests. Every evening, Lady Dedlock inquires about Mr. Tulkinghorn's arrival. He usually enters without prior notice and proceeds directly to his designated tower room. Eventually, Mr. Tulkinghorn makes his appearance, his demeanor suggest that he carries many secrets. He converses with Sir Leicester about the lawsuit involving Mr. Boythorn. Sir Leicester remains uncompromising. When Lady Dedlock queries Mr. Tulkinghorn about his message, he reveals it's about the mysterious deceased writer whose handwriting she had inquired about. Their interaction is intense, yet afterwards, they seem to pay little attention to each other.

chapter 13

Esther, Richard, and Mr. Jarndyce discuss Richard's career choice repeatedly. Due to his unpredictable childhood, Richard tends to be ambivalent, eventually choosing medicine, a decision he sticks to despite Mr. Jarndyce's serious talk. Several guests, such as Mr. Boythorn and Mr. Kenge, back Richard's choice, with Mr. Kenge offering to arrange a study opportunity with his relative. Esther begins to notice Mr. Guppy's constant presence wherever she goes in the city, especially at the theatre. His attention unsettles her, but she feels helpless to stop it. Mr. Kenge's kinsman, Mr. Bayham Badger, consents to supervise Richard's medical training. They all attend a dinner at his residence, where Mr. Badger takes pride in being the third husband of Mrs. Badger, who previously married Captain Swosser and Professor Dingo. The couple freely praises the former husbands during the meal. Later, back at home, Ada reveals to Esther that she and Richard are romantically involved, which Esther expected. Richard also shared his feelings with Esther, making her realize the deep affection they both have for her. When informed about the relationship, Mr. Jarndyce gives his blessing but urges them to proceed with caution. Esther casually mentions a young, dark-skinned surgeon who was present at the Badgers' dinner, noting that she found him quite agreeable.

chapter 14

Richard becomes involved in his new job, anticipating along with Ada that they will soon be wealthy thanks to the Jarndyce lawsuit. Any plans they make include their companion, Esther. While visiting London, Mr. Jarndyce, Esther and Ada unsuccessfully try to see Mrs. Jellyby. Shortly after, Miss Jellyby, accompanied by the misfit Peepy, pays them a visit. Mr. Jarndyce grumbles about the wind while Miss Jellyby vents her frustrations regarding her parents and her refusal to marry Mr. Quale. She confesses her secret engagement to a man named Prince, whom she met while taking dance classes at Mr. Turveydrop's Academy. Esther agrees to accompany her to the dance school to meet Prince. At the academy, Esther is introduced to the Turveydrops and observes Miss Jellyby's dance class. The elder Mr. Turveydrop proves to be very sophisticated, speaking at length about the significance of good deportment. Afterward, Miss Jellyby admits Prince might lack academic skills but dismisses it as irrelevant. Esther proposes they continue their conversation later. They then visit Miss Flite, an elderly woman residing above Krook's shop, where they meet Mr. Woodcourt, a doctor, who comforts an upset Miss Flite over a sudden death in the building. Miss Flite shares with them that she receives regular financial help from Mr. Guppy and is awaiting a judgment from the Jarndyce lawsuit. Krook, the landlord, appears and introduces himself to Mr. Jarndyce. As he names each of Miss Flite's birds, he hints at a secret he harbors. Despite his efforts to keep Mr. Jarndyce longer, they eventually leave. Before parting, Krook shares his self-taught reading and writing efforts, fearing someone might mislead him. Mr. Woodcourt assures Mr. Jarndyce that Krook is sane. Lastly, Esther acknowledges Mr. Woodcourt as the surgeon from the Badgers' dinner and dismisses Ada's teasing as insignificant.

chapter 15

Mr. Quale, a Londoner, constantly follows Mrs. Pardiggle, fawning over her while joined by Mr. Gusher. The trio eagerly talk about different charities, which causes Mr. Jarndyce to feel annoyed by their overzealous philanthropy, leading him to grumble about the wind for an extended period. Mr. Skimpole, a London resident, makes a visit to Mr. Jarndyce, Esther, and Ada. He finds it absurd that his physician and butcher are asking for payment. He mentions Mr. Boythorn, whom Mr. Jarndyce plans to visit in Lincolnshire, but Mr. Skimpole admits he doesn't particularly like Mr. Boythorn. Mr. Skimpole's debt collector has been arrested and he jokingly refers to him as 'Coavinses', which is the name of a debtor’s jail. He also says his new debt collector has claimed his house. Mr. Jarndyce agrees to visit the previous debt collector's residence. They first make a stop at Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, where Mr. Jarndyce inquires about a deceased "follower" named Neckett. They later visit Bell Yard, finding Neckett's former home, a chandler’s shop. The woman there hands over a key to the apartment to Esther, where they discover two of Neckett's children, Tom and Emma, locked in. Tom tells them they are waiting for their elder sister, Charlotte, who is just thirteen and their sole guardian. The revelation shocks Mr. Jarndyce, Ada, and Esther. The woman, Mrs. Blinder, tells them Charlotte has been doing her best since their parents' death. Mrs. Blinder confesses she allows the children to live rent-free. Another tenant, Mr. Gridley, is also kind towards the children. When Mr. Gridley arrives, he shares his frustration with Mr. Jarndyce about a never-ending lawsuit he's entangled in but maintains his soft demeanor around the children. Charlotte then leaves for work.

chapter 16

Sir Leicester suffers from gout in his legs, an ailment common in his family. The narrator muses over the relationship between Sir Leicester, Lady Dedlock, their residences, and a range of people including Jo. Jo resides in Tom-all-Alone’s, a place where buildings are falling apart. Tom Jarndyce might have once stayed here, yet Jo is unsure. The narrator attempts to empathize with Jo's situation, a boy without a proper home or knowledge. Jo roams the town, watching people and animals, trying to procure enough funds to return to Tom-all-Alone’s. Mr. Tulkinghorn is in his office, engrossed in work, while a woman walks past on the road. The narrator suggests she might be on a covert mission. She finds Jo and despite his request for money, she overlooks him, crosses the road and signals him to come over. She quizzes him about a dead man in the newspaper due to a legal case about him. She attempts to make Jo admit that the deceased man resembles him. When Jo inquires if she knew the dead man, she becomes guarded. She instructs Jo to guide her to all the locations linked to the death, including the burial site, but to maintain distance and avoid speaking to her. Jo escorts the woman to Cook’s Court, Krook’s shop and the burial site. She hands him a gold coin before promptly leaving. The narrator lets us know that while Lady Dedlock attends a dinner and various parties, Sir Leicester remains at home. The housekeeper, Mrs. Rouncewell, notes the Ghost’s Walk footsteps sound louder than ever.

chapter 17

Esther notes Richard's frequent visits to London and his lack of focus and ambition, despite her affection for him. Mr. and Mrs. Badger also express concern about Richard's lack of dedication to his chosen career. When Richard arrives, he admits his disinterest in medicine and expresses an interest in shifting to law under Mr. Kenge's tutelage. Mr. Jarndyce supports this, but seems uneasy when looking at Ada. Esther struggles with insomnia and low mood but avoids explaining why. She attempts to distract herself with embroidery and encounters Mr. Jarndyce, who seems worried. He shares with Esther the story of how he became her guardian after receiving a letter from her aunt, who was her caretaker. Despite agreeing to never meet the writer, Mr. Jarndyce expresses happiness in having Esther in his life. His troubled reaction to her gratitude confuses her. Mr. Woodcourt visits briefly before his long journey to China and India. Despite his age difference with Esther and his lack of wealth, she notes everyone is sad about his departure. During his visit, his mother expresses hope that he will meet a proper English lady in India, leading Esther to ponder over her own lineage. Caddy, or Miss Jellyby, visits after the Woodcourts leave and brings flowers she believes were left for Esther. She hints that the person leaving the flowers was kind to Miss Flite and was planning to leave for a trip. Ada teases Esther about the flowers being from a secret admirer, but Esther keeps mum about who they could be from.

chapter 18

Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce return to Bleak House while Richard begins work with Mr. Kenge. Richard, now living in London, behaves recklessly with his finances. The group, now joined by Mr. Skimpole, sets off to visit Mr. Boythorn in Lincolnshire. They take a detour to Mr. Boythorn's house due to his refusal to step on Sir Leicester’s land, Chesney Wold. Despite this, Mr. Boythorn permits their exploration of Sir Leicester’s park, which Esther finds serene and lovely. In town, they meet Mrs. Rouncewell’s grandson, introduced by Mr. Boythorn, who is infatuated with a girl staying at Lady Dedlock's. Mr. Boythorn's residence is cozy and pretty, though marked by signs warning trespassers, specifically Sir Leicester. The group tours the park the next day and encounter several attractive ladies, including the one mentioned earlier by Mr. Boythorn, in church. A Frenchwoman, who seems to hold a grudge against the girl, is also present. Esther notices a woman in the church that strangely mirrors her own past memories. Esther realizes that this unfamiliar woman, who stirs up an intense emotional response within her, is Lady Dedlock. This leaves Esther significantly shaken. A week after, the group is caught in the rain while in the park and take shelter in a lodge. Inside, they encounter Lady Dedlock whose voice triggers another strong reaction in Esther. Lady Dedlock introduces herself to Mr. Jarndyce and Ada but avoids Esther after learning she is Mr. Jarndyce's ward. She mentions to Mr. Jarndyce of her estrangement from her sister. As Lady Dedlock's carriage arrives, the young girl and the Frenchwoman accompany it. Despite Lady Dedlock's request for only the girl's company, the Frenchwoman insists on tagging along, eventually trailing behind the carriage barefoot in the rain as it departs.

chapter 19

Summer brings a hiatus to Chancery Lane, as court sessions adjourn and people depart for holidays. Law-stationer Mr. Snagsby takes a break and along with Mrs. Snagsby, welcomes Mr. and Mrs. Chadband. Mr. Chadband is known for his lengthy, sermon-like speeches. During this gathering, Guster informs Mr. Snagsby of a visitor. A policeman has brought a young boy named Jo, who refuses to leave the vicinity. Jo claims to know Mr. Snagsby from the inquest into a man's death, a fact Mr. Snagsby affirms, but he conceals that he bribed Jo to keep silent. At this point, Mr. Guppy arrives, having witnessed the commotion outside. The policeman notes that Mr. Guppy vouched for Mr. Snagsby's respectability. Jo shares his encounter with a lady who paid him to guide her to the dead man's grave. Mr. Guppy shows keen interest in Jo's tale, prompting a barrage of questions from him. Jo is then invited upstairs by Mrs. Snagsby. Mrs. Chadband then shares her connection with Kenge and Carboy’s office, courtesy of an incident involving a girl named Esther Summerson, whom she used to care for. Mr. Guppy reveals that he has met Esther in London. Mr. Chadband, prattling on about Jo's impoverished life, finally allows Jo to slip away.

chapter 20

The tale tells of the seemingly endless summer break, wherein Mr. Guppy can't shake off a feeling of unease. He shares workspace with Richard in Kenge and Carboy's office but is envious of Richard's privilege of residing in Kenge's quarters. Mr. Guppy continually feels threatened by everyone around, but finds some solace knowing Richard is occupied with the doomed Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. Young Smallweed, also known as Chick, is another individual in the office who surprisingly exhibits wisdom beyond his fifteen years. In an unexpected turn of events, a gentleman named Jobling shows up and joins Smallweed and Mr. Guppy for dinner. The eatery patrons hold Smallweed in high regard while Mr. Jobling indulges in a generous meal. They converse about Jobling's career struggles. Despite contemplating joining the army, Mr. Guppy has an alternative suggestion — seeking employment from Mr. Snagsby. Mr. Guppy vaguely alludes to his relationship with the Snagsbys and his last encounter at their residence, but avoids delving into details. He also mentions his financial aid to Miss Flite and his knowledge of Mr. Krook's boarding house, suggesting that Mr. Krook could offer Jobling accommodation. Believing that Mr. Krook is affluent, Mr. Guppy shares this information with Jobling. The news of Krook's last lodger's demise does not deter Jobling. A subsequent visit to Krook by Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling finds Krook sleeping. The sudden interruption causes Krook to lash out at Mr. Guppy before he fully wakes up. Once awake, Krook shows Jobling the room. Later, through Mr. Guppy's intervention, Jobling secures work with the Snagsbys. After Jobling settles in his new quarters, local women start whispering about him, suspecting that he's after Krook's wealth.

chapter 21

This section introduces the Smallweed household, led by Bart Smallweed, whose family has an unusual history of children behaving like adults, and elderly members retaining their mental faculties despite deteriorating physical health. Bart's grandfather, despite his frailty, remains sharp-minded and has accumulated a sizable fortune. Bart and his twin sister Judy, were raised devoid of joy or carefree merriment typical of childhood. Judy, who has never known how to play or laugh, callously chastises the maid, Charley. Bart returns home, earning his Grandfather's approval for being economical with his funds. They, along with Judy and Bart's grandmother, discuss their long-deceased parents over tea. The twins are introduced to their future careers, with Judy going into the flower business and Bart pursuing law, using the money their grandfather has saved. Both eagerly anticipate their grandfather's demise. Judy hands Charley a cup of tea before sending her back to her duties. George makes an appearance at the Smallweed residence, asking Bart's grandfather for a pipe as part of a deal they have. George pays for the pipe, smokes it, and makes a comment about the grandfather's sedentary lifestyle. They proceed to discuss a city acquaintance who lent George money and is expected to be stern about repayment. The grandfather asks George if his family can help him repay the loan, but George declines. The grandfather expresses regret that George chose not to be ‘made’. They discuss a past business venture that George didn't partake in, and Captain Hawdon, a debtor of the grandfather who ended up impoverished and possibly drowned intentionally. After his visit, George heads to the theatre and then his own establishment, George’s Shooting Gallery. He rouses a man named Phil, described as small, lame, and with visible scars on his hands, from the floor. After firing a few shots, Phil retires for the night.

chapter 22

In his office, Mr. Tulkinghorn sips wine while contemplating a friend's suicide. Mr. Snagsby, visiting unbeknownst to his wife, tells Mr. Tulkinghorn about Jo's recent conversation with the house guests. Suddenly, Mr. Snagsby sees another individual in the room, Mr. Bucket, a detective introduced by Mr. Tulkinghorn. He requests Mr. Snagsby to lead him to Jo, promising no harm to the boy. Mr. Bucket indicates that the deceased tenant might have had some property that the woman Jo met might be seeking. Mr. Bucket inquires if Mr. Snagsby is acquainted with a man named Gridley, owing to his violent threats and the subsequent arrest warrant. They locate Jo's dwelling in Tom-all-Alone's, but the boy is out. The men engage with some house occupants, noting unconscious men on the floor, claimed by Liz and Jenny as their husbands. Liz cradles a baby while Jenny mourns her deceased child. On his return, Jo, along with Mr. Bucket and Mr. Snagsby, head to Mr. Tulkinghorn's office. Jo exclaims on seeing a garbed figure, believing it's the woman he had met. However, he quickly retracts his statement, citing discrepancies in the hand and voice. The woman reveals herself to be Mademoiselle Hortense, Lady Dedlock's French maid, reminding Mr. Tulkinghorn of his job assistance promise before departing. Mr. Bucket proposes that the woman Jo saw was disguised in Mademoiselle Hortense’s garments. Mr. Snagsby leaves and finds his wife in bed on reaching home. She had sent Guster to the police station believing Mr. Snagsby to be missing.

chapter 23

After spending six weeks at Mr. Boythorn’s house, Esther and her companions leave, but not before a strange interaction with the Frenchwoman who used to serve Lady Dedlock. The Frenchwoman praises Esther and asks her for a job, but Esther declines since she doesn't employ servants. Richard keeps visiting Bleak House but Esther is concerned about his obsession with the Jarndyce versus Jarndyce case. During a discussion, Richard confesses his financial problems and disinterest in law, revealing his plans to join the military. Esther catches up with Caddy Jellyby, who reveals Prince Turveydrop's admiration for her. Caddy requests Esther's presence when they announce their engagement to their families. Oddly, Mr. Turveydrop Jr. agrees to their union and offers to reside with them, while Mrs. Jellyby, preoccupied with her letters, barely acknowledges the news. The chapter concludes with Charley's arrival at Bleak House. Hired by Mr. Jarndyce as Esther's maid, Charley and Esther express their happiness about this new arrangement.

chapter 24

Richard unveils his army enlistment plan to Mr. Jarndyce, prompting a conversation between Richard, Ada, and Esther. Amidst debts, Richard believes the pending Jarndyce lawsuit will cover him. Mr. Jarndyce's anger flares as he warns against reliance on the lawsuit. He orders Richard and Ada to end their romance as Richard prepares to leave for Ireland. Esther notes the growing divide between Richard and Mr. Jarndyce. In London, the trio encounters George, an ex-cavalry soldier, at their accommodation. George sees potential in Richard as a swordsman and vaguely recognizes Esther. He also shares information about his student, Gridley, who got so agitated during a shooting practice that George had to expel him. George admits he doesn't know Gridley's current whereabouts, leaving Esther and Mr. Jarndyce puzzled. On the day before Richard's departure, he and Esther visit court for the Jarndyce lawsuit. Despite the piles of paperwork, the case is abruptly ended. Afterwards, they meet Mrs. Rachael, now Mrs. Chadband, who used to live with Esther's godmother. A brief interaction follows before George reveals Gridley is hiding at his place, requesting Esther to fetch Miss Flite. At George's place, an abrupt man named Bucket introduces himself as a physician there to see Gridley. He discloses he has a warrant against Gridley, who he spotted from the skylight. Inside, they find Gridley surrounded by copious writings. Miss Flite sits with him, symbolizing the one bond the Jarndyce lawsuit has not destroyed. Despite Bucket's efforts to console him, Gridley's hopelessness persists until he suddenly passes away, much to Miss Flite's horror.

chapter 25

Mr. Snagsby is disturbed due to his involvement with Bucket, Jo, and Mr. Tulkinghorn's case, unsure of what's unfolding and feeling like he's implicated in a perilous secret. His anxiety spikes up whenever a visitor asks for him at the store. Meanwhile, Mrs. Snagsby is aware her husband is hiding something. She scours through his letters, pockets, financial records and even his safe during his sleep. She is always on high alert, eavesdropping and peeping through windows. However, she incorrectly interprets the scattered tidbits she stumbles across. Mr. Chadband and Jo cross paths on the street, leading Mr. Chadband to invite him to Cook’s Court for self-improvement. Mrs. Snagsby is resolved to keep a hawk-eye on Jo and another person, suspecting everyone and overlooking nothing. As the group, including the Chadbands, Jo, Guster, and the apprentices, gathers at the Snagsby residence, she observes Jo with a suspicious eye. She misconstrues Snagsby's cough as a secret signal and jumps to the conclusion that Jo is Snagsby's son. Throughout the evening, Mr. Chadband keeps lecturing about Jo's pitiful life and the necessity of his betterment. He often targets Mr. Snagsby to make his speeches more impactful. Mrs. Snagsby mistakenly believes that Chadband's gaze carries hidden meanings and gets emotionally overwhelmed by his words, eventually breaking down into tears and spasms. She is then escorted upstairs. Jo finally gets to leave, and Mr. Snagsby discreetly gives him a half-crown, reminding Jo to remain silent about their late-night encounter with a woman. The narrator assures us that Mrs. Snagsby will continue to be like a shadow to her husband, always watching.

chapter 26

George, the owner of the shooting gallery, and his assistant, Phil, begin their day. Phil shares his dream about the countryside, which prompts George to reveal he was born there. Upon discussion about their past, Phil is unable to confirm his age, and George recalls how he saved Phil, who was physically handicapped, from living on the streets. George receives a visit from Grandfather Smallweed and Judy. Smallweed warns George about Phil's careless handling of firearms and reminds George of a debt he owes him. He also informs George that his city friend, Carstone, has involved himself in some questionable transactions with George's students. George advises Smallweed that Carstone should refrain from such dealings, implying the latter's situation might be at an end. Smallweed, however, insists that Carstone still holds value. The conversation shifts to Captain Hawdon, whom Smallweed claims is alive. He mentions a lawyer seeking Hawdon's writing for comparison purposes. Smallweed, possessing only Hawdon's signature, questions George about any additional writing samples. George refuses to share any, even if such samples exist. Despite this, George agrees to Smallweed's proposition to meet the lawyer personally.

chapter 27

The group gets to Lincoln’s Inn Fields to see Mr. Tulkinghorn. There, George notices that Mr. Tulkinghorn's clientele includes Sir Leicester Dedlock. Tulkinghorn hints to George about his association with Captain Hawdon and the possibility of him having Hawdon's handwriting. Any information provided will be rewarded, he assures. However, George appears uneasy and denies involvement in the matter. Tulkinghorn does not reveal his reason behind wanting Hawdon's handwriting. George decides to seek advice from a soldier friend. Meanwhile, Smallweed tells Tulkinghorn privately that he saw George tuck away some handwriting. George pays a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet at their music store. He meets their daughters, Quebec and Malta, and inquires about their son, Woolwich. Upon Mr. Bagnet's arrival, they have dinner together. George shares with the Bagnets Tulkinghorn's proposal, and they advise him to stay clear of it. George stops at Tulkinghorn’s on his way home and confirms he hasn't reconsidered. Tulkinghorn then questions George whether Gridley was discovered at his shooting gallery, to which George replies affirmatively. Tulkinghorn labels Gridley as “threatening, murderous, dangerous.” Overhearing Tulkinghorn's comments, a clerk climbing the stairs assumes those words were meant for George.

chapter 28

The story reveals that Sir Leicester Dedlock, despite his status, bears the burden of financially supporting his less fortunate relatives. His cousin, the sixty-year-old Volumnia Dedlock, is a regular guest at Chesney Wold, reliant on his aid. Another character, the Honourable Bob Stables, is introduced, who provides food for the animals. Lady Dedlock is highly respected by all the impoverished relatives. During one conversation, Volumnia brings up a young girl, Rosa, she notices frequently. Sir Leicester identifies her as Lady Dedlock’s ward. Volumnia then praises the housekeeper, Mrs. Rouncewell, to which Sir Leicester adds that she is a mother of two sons. He mentions that one son, referred to as an “ironmaster,” turned down a parliamentary position and wishes to discuss Rosa with them. Mr. Rouncewell appears and speaks of his son's affections for Rosa and his intentions of marriage. While not feeling comfortable due to their young ages and differing social statuses, Mr. Rouncewell is not against the union, given that Rosa leaves Chesney Wold and receives further education. This offends Sir Leicester, as Rosa is an alumna of a school he endorses. He leaves the decision to Mr. Rouncewell, who hopes his son will forget about Rosa. Lady Dedlock later talks to Rosa about love, and Rosa admits her feelings tearfully. Lady Dedlock soothes her, hinting that she may not be ready to leave Chesney Wold. Rosa agrees, and Lady Dedlock promises to ensure her happiness.

chapter 29

The Dedlocks depart from Chesney Wold to their city residence. Solicitor Tulkinghorn is a frequent visitor, an occurrence which seems to unsettle Lady Dedlock. During one particular visit, she meets with Mr. Guppy, who was granted permission to call upon her at any time. Guppy, who has been in persistent correspondence with Lady Dedlock, reveals his association with Kenge and Carboy, connected to the Jarndyce case, but clarifies that isn't the reason for his visit. However, his familiarity with Tulkinghorn piques Lady Dedlock's interest. Guppy solicits Lady Dedlock's silence about their meeting while questioning her about Esther Summerson. Lady Dedlock mentions having met Esther previously, but denies any familial resemblance, despite Guppy's insistence that he noticed similarities when viewing Lady Dedlock's portrait at Chesney Wold. Guppy's theory, based on unclear details about Esther's lineage, suggests that Esther may be a relative of Lady Dedlock and could be involved in the Jarndyce case. Guppy hopes this revelation might sway Esther to accept his marriage proposal. He informs Lady Dedlock that Esther's previous guardian was Miss Barbary, a name that unsettles Lady Dedlock. She admits to knowing Miss Barbary but denies any familial ties. Guppy divulges that Miss Barbary revealed to Esther that her real name was Esther Hawdon, a disclosure that briefly flusters Lady Dedlock. Guppy also reveals the man found dead at Krook’s was surnamed Hawdon. Furthermore, a mysterious woman visited Hawdon’s grave, an account that seems to distress Lady Dedlock. He promises to share any letters linking Lady Dedlock to these events, then departs. Alone, Lady Dedlock collapses in shock, coming to the heart-wrenching realization that Esther is her daughter—a child she was led to believe had died at birth.

chapter 30

Esther mentions Mrs. Woodcourt's arrival at Bleak House for a short stay. She quickly forms a bond with Esther, which annoys her. Esther is uncertain why Mrs. Woodcourt irks her, though she admits she does have a reason unimportant to disclose. The older woman chats about her son, Allan, and his potential matrimonial prospects, and predicts a wealthy, older husband for Esther, causing discomfort. Esther finds Mrs. Woodcourt manipulative and can't understand why her opinion matters while she annoys her. She promises to clarify later. Upon Mrs. Woodcourt's departure, Caddy Jellyby visits, announcing her upcoming wedding. Caddy plans to stay at Bleak House for dressmaking assistance from Esther and Ada. Esther also tutors Caddy in housekeeping. After three weeks, Esther accompanies Caddy to her future residence, persuading Mrs. Jellyby of the impending marriage and the need to dress accordingly. The Jellyby residence is a mess, and cleaning it is overwhelming. Mr. Jellyby advises Caddy against having a mission. Wedding attendees include Mr. Jarndyce, the Pardiggles, Mr. Quayle, and his betrothed, Miss Wisk. Mr. Jarndyce mentions Miss Wisk's mission is advocating for impactful public declarations. She also argues that defining a woman's purpose solely in the home is "slander". Esther comments that those with missions typically ignore others' missions. Following the wedding, Caddy and Prince leave for a week's holiday. Mr. Jarndyce and Esther send them off with best wishes for a successful marriage.

chapter 31

Esther discloses Charley's struggle with handwriting and her encounter with a woman named Jenny, who has been seeking Esther's presence. They discover Jenny has been caring for an impoverished orphan, prompting a visit from Esther and Charley. En route to her cottage, Esther remains oblivious to the forthcoming events. Upon arrival, Esther, still veiled, meets Jenny and the boy, who resists her visit to the cemetery. When she lifts her veil, he likens her to a woman he once guided there. The boy, known as Jo, shares his ill-health with the pair. Meanwhile, Jenny, pretending that Liz's child is hers, informs them Jo must depart before her husband returns. When Liz announces the imminent return of their spouses, Esther decides to take Jo with her to Bleak House. At Bleak House, Esther encounters Mr. Skimpole, who views Jo as a risk due to his sickness and urges Mr. Jarndyce to send him away. However, Mr. Jarndyce instructs Esther to house him in the stable. The next day, Jo disappears without a trace. Concurrently, Charley contracts what appears to be smallpox, her condition deteriorating rapidly. As Esther cares for her, she restricts anyone else's access to the room, including Ada. Charley narrowly escapes death and gradually recuperates, but Esther falls prey to smallpox, suffering severe sickness and temporary blindness. Charley agrees to tend to her.

chapter 32

Evening falls over Lincoln's Inn as Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins discuss Krook's drinking problem, his tenant, and their offspring. Krook has retired for the night while his tenant, Mr. Weevle, walks anxiously between his room and the street. Mr. Snagsby unexpectedly finds himself tangled in a mysterious scenario and is startled to encounter Mr. Weevle outside Krook's shop. He shares his discomfort about residing in a room where someone has passed away, mentioning the coincidence that both Weevle and the deceased were his writers. After this, he rushes home, unknowingly pursued by Mrs. Snagsby. Mr. Weevle, who has been waiting for Mr. Guppy, enters the shop with him after Mr. Snagsby departs. Weevle tells Guppy about his gloomy room and Guppy admits to seeing him speak to Snagsby, but chose to remain unseen. They acknowledge their activities are as clandestine as if they were committing a crime. Guppy, while examining Weevle's room, notices a picture of Lady Dedlock and acknowledges its accuracy. He scolds Weevle for his lax attitude as they prepare to retrieve letters from Krook, who they are due to meet at midnight. Weevle confirms that Krook cannot read. On noticing his soot-streaked sleeve, Guppy is unable to clean it. They agree to duplicate the letters as soon as they receive them. Guppy, while sitting on the windowsill, gets sticky yellow liquid on his hands, though Weevle denies pouring anything out. At the stroke of midnight, Weevle hastens to fetch the letters from Krook's but returns quickly, claiming Krook has vanished. Both men search Krook's area, discovering a scorched spot and other signs of fire. They mistake a charred object for a burnt log, only to realize it's Krook. Horrified, they flee, realizing that Krook has undergone spontaneous combustion.

chapter 33

Weevle and Guppy narrate their experiences at Sol’s Arms tavern, drawing the attention of all the onlookers to Krook’s residence. The establishment stays open all night due to the commotion, with Miss Flite taking up temporary residence. Mr. Snagsby and his wife make an appearance, with Mrs. Snagsby teasing her husband about his potential for spontaneous combustion, leaving him questioning his own involvement. Later, Weevle and Guppy take a stroll, denying any collusion but mutually deciding not to discuss the letters. Weevle expresses his desire to vacate his room, despite Guppy’s attempts to persuade him to stay and probe further. Guppy is offered to stay in Weevle's stead. The Smallweed grandparents and Judy arrive by carriage, with Grandfather Smallweed requesting assistance into the courthouse. He is taken aback upon learning of Guppy's discovery of Krook’s demise. He reveals Krook was his wife’s sibling and clarifies his presence to handle Krook’s estate, with Mr. Tulkinghorn as his legal counsel. Mr. Guppy has a private encounter with Lady Dedlock, confessing the absence of the letters and his suspicion that they perished along with Krook. His departure is observed by Mr. Tulkinghorn, whose gaze towards Lady Dedlock carries a hint of suspicion.

chapter 34

George scrutinizes an ambiguous letter, leading him to consult Phil for advice. The letter, from Mr. Smallweed, proclaims Mr. Bagnet's debts to George are due the next day. The letter sparks distress in the Bagnets, who visit George at the gallery and fear financial ruin. However, George calms them, promising to resolve the issue and contemplates selling his shooting gallery. He and Mr. Bagnet then decide to confront Mr. Smallweed, and during their journey, Mr. Bagnet praises his wife's many admirable qualities. Mr. Smallweed requests his pipe from Judy, but George declines the offer to smoke. He tries to remind Mr. Smallweed of their previous understanding and argues that Mr. Bagnet lacks funds. He urges Mr. Smallweed to clarify their agreement to Mr. Bagnet. Instead, Mr. Smallweed responds aggressively, breaking his pipe and threatening George's ruin, instructing him to consult his lawyer. Following this, George and Mr. Bagnet pay a visit to Tulkinghorn. They encounter Mrs. Rouncewell exiting the office, who shares she once had a son who became a soldier. Tulkinghorn demands the debt payment, declaring no alternatives. George, requesting a private conversation with Tulkinghorn, makes an offer: he will provide the requested handwriting sample if the Bagnets are freed from their financial obligations. Tulkinghorn agrees, promising the Bagnets will no longer be troubled and everything will revert to the old state. George subsequently hands over the “letter of instructions.” The day culminates with a somber dinner at the Bagnets’, with George appearing desolate. He advises Woolwich, the Bagnets' son, to cherish his mother and avoid causing her sorrow. He emphasizes that this lesson should guide Woolwich into adulthood.

chapter 35

After enduring a prolonged illness, Esther starts regaining her strength and vision, reveling in the letters from Ada in the tranquility of her home. She appreciates the cleanliness of her room and notes the removal of the mirror by Charley to spare her the sight of her altered appearance. This triggers an emotional outburst from Charley, which Esther mitigates with reassurances of her well-being. Mr. Jarndyce's visit fills him with relief and fondness, unaltered by Esther's modified looks. He reveals the hardship he and Ada faced in her absence and informs her about Richard's transformation due to the Jarndyce suit, expressing his hopes for Richard's eventual understanding. Yearning for a country retreat prior to seeing Ada, Esther receives Mr. Jarndyce's suggestion of Boythorn's house and plans a visit from Miss Flite. Overwhelmed by Esther's recovery, Miss Flite shares about an unidentified woman's inquiry into Esther's welfare and the loss of Esther's handkerchief. Esther deduces this veiled woman to be Caddy Jellyby. Miss Flite further discloses her anticipation for a verdict in the Jarndyce case, expressing concern about Richard's entanglement in it. She praises Esther's doctor, Mr. Woodcourt, who survived a shipwreck while saving lives. In a revelation to Miss Flite, Esther discloses her belief of Mr. Woodcourt's former affection for her. Although she yearned for a confession of his love, she finds relief in his absence now, given her altered appearance. She absolves him of any commitment, affirming that such a commitment never existed.

chapter 36

Esther, Charley, and Mr. Jarndyce visit Lincolnshire, staying in Mr. Boythorn’s home. Esther takes care of Mr. Boythorn’s bird during her stay and has a startling self-realization by looking at her scarred face in the mirror, failing to recognize herself. She feels her beauty has completely faded away. Esther admits to having kept Mr. Woodcourt’s flowers in secret as a reminder of her past beauty. Esther and Charley spend their days in the open air, engaging in healthful activities like horse riding and enjoying the serenity of Esther's favorite woodland spot. Even though Chesney Wold is nearby, Esther never ventured there. One day, Lady Dedlock appears in the woods, holding Esther's handkerchief that was given to Jenny. This leads to a shocking revelation — Lady Dedlock is Esther's mother. Lady Dedlock tearfully requests Esther's understanding and secrecy, especially for Sir Leicester's sake. She is burdened with regret and conveys that they can't communicate further. She warns Esther that Tulkinghorn might expose their secret. Esther is advised to share this information with Mr. Jarndyce if she feels the need. Lady Dedlock leaves a letter with Esther, the contents of which are kept undisclosed for a later time. Ada arrives in Lincolnshire and is unphased by Esther’s altered appearance.

chapter 37

Esther keeps her knowledge of Lady Dedlock to herself. Summoned by Mr. Grubble, the proprietor of Dedlock Arms, she arrives to find Richard who is visiting to oversee his portion in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. He is accompanied by Mr. Skimpole, who is pleased about Richard's involvement in the litigation. Esther gets Richard to Ada, but doubts his declarations of love for Ada. Richard enlightens Esther the following day about his commitment to the lawsuit, which he now considers his sole aim, having severed ties with Mr. Jarndyce. Ada pens a letter to Richard pleading him to reconsider, but it's futile. Esther attempts to persuade Mr. Skimpole to stop endorsing Richard's reckless pursuit, but he insists he can't be accountable. Mr. Skimpole later reveals that Richard is heading to meet Mr. Vholes, his legal counsel, and admits that Vholes compensated him for introducing Richard. When Richard returns with Vholes, he introduces him to the group. Vholes claims his actions are all for his three daughters and elderly father. Richard and Vholes leave, intending to engage with the lawsuit the next day. Despite the potential for the lawsuit to devastate Richard, Ada assures Esther of her unwavering love for him.

chapter 38

Having fully recovered, Esther makes a trip to London, using a visit to Caddy as an excuse. Caddy and Prince Turveydrop share their home with Mr. Turveydrop, and are frequently visited by Mr. Jellyby in the evenings. Caddy is learning to become a dance teacher, and there are children in the house who are taking dance lessons. Esther gets to witness one of these dance sessions. Later, Esther and Caddy pay a visit to Mr. Guppy. Esther gets a chance to talk to him privately. Mr. Guppy seems keen on reminding her about his rejected proposal and assures her he has no plans of asking again. Esther is quick to agree that the proposal is a closed chapter. However, she recalls that Mr. Guppy had previously offered to dig up information about her past. She requests him to stop all such investigations if he hasn't already. Mr. Guppy promises to respect her request.

chapter 39

A description is given of Mr. Vholes and his dimly lit office at Symond’s Inn. Mr. Vholes portrays himself as a reputable man, fully committed to his clients and their business. He strongly believes that the essence of English law is its self-serving nature. However, he manages to assure Richard that progress will be made in their lawsuit, and Richard has unwavering faith in him. Richard is spotted in the street by Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle, who note that Richard has fallen into debt due to his involvement with the lawsuit. Mr. Guppy shares with Mr. Weevle his change of heart about locating the letters from the late Krook. He requests Mr. Weevle to notify him if there is a likelihood that the letters have survived the fire and are stashed somewhere in Krook’s shop. The shop has been receiving daily visits from Grandfather Smallweed, who rummages through Krook’s possessions but finds nothing of worth. Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle swing by the shop, have a short conversation with Grandfather Smallweed before proceeding upstairs to Mr. Weevle’s former lodging. There, they meet Mr. Tulkinghorn. He playfully mocks Guppy about his ability to mingle with high-end ladies. Guppy, turning red, defiantly retorts that he owes no explanation to Tulkinghorn. After Tulkinghorn's departure, Guppy confides in Weevle about his interactions with an aristocrat, but insists that this connection must be severed and forgotten.

chapter 40

England is in chaos. Mrs. Rouncewell believes help may be required and readies Chesney Wold. The mansion, however, feels gloomy. A servant informs her of Lady Dedlock's poor health. She, Sir Leicester, and a large crowd journey to Chesney Wold the following day. The mansion buzzes with activity over the next weeks. Sir Leicester and Volumnia converse daily about the nation’s state, with him commenting it is “tolerably” well but people are against the government. He also mentions the party's large expenditures. Volumnia notes Tulkinghorn's likely busyness, but Sir Leicester is unaware of him assisting any clients. Mercury, a servant, announces Tulkinghorn's arrival. He shares with Sir Leicester the news of his electoral loss. Tulkinghorn reveals Mr. Rouncewell, assisted by his son who loves Rosa, was his opponent. Sir Leicester is furious and suggests Lady Dedlock warn Rosa about the boy. Tulkinghorn, however, believes the boy will abandon Rosa due to his family's immense pride. Tulkinghorn narrates a story about a man, from Mr. Rouncewell's town and of similar social status, whose daughter was favored by a noble woman. The woman had a secret past: a previous engagement to a captain, with whom she had an illegitimate child. The captain passed away, but her secret was exposed due to a careless error. Her husband was heartbroken, and the townsman forbade his daughter from associating with the woman, taking her away. Lady Dedlock remains motionless throughout the story. Tulkinghorn asks for her forgiveness for the distressing tale.

chapter 41

Mr. Tulkinghorn, content with revealing the tale, retreats to his room at Chesney Wold. He steps out for a moment to gaze at the stars when suddenly, Lady Dedlock appears. He reassures her that he alone is privy to her secret. Lady Dedlock agrees, fearing the consequences for Rosa should her secret be exposed. She volunteers to write a detailed account to spare Sir Leicester any hassle. Tulkinghorn declines her offer only to be informed that all her expensive possessions remain untouched. Confused, he learns that Lady Dedlock plans to depart Chesney Wold at once. Despite her abrupt decision, Tulkinghorn does not hinder her. Instead, he wishes to mention something before she leaves. Sensing her intention to gravitate towards the window, he worries she might leap to her death. Thankfully, she refrains. He informs her that Sir Leicester's devastation and the inevitable exposure of her secret will result from her sudden disappearance. He advises her to remain, keeping her guilt concealed. He promises to notify her when he must reveal the secret. With that, she exits his room.

chapter 42

Tulkinghorn, according to the narrator, makes his way to Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. Snagsby pays him a visit, bringing news about Mademoiselle Hortense who has been lingering around his store, demanding to see Tulkinghorn and causing jealousy in Snagsby's wife. Tulkinghorn decides to meet her. In his dimly lit chambers, Tulkinghorn is unable to see the depicted Roman on the ceiling, who is pointing down. He unlocks several small boxes to retrieve a key, planning to visit the wine cellar. However, his plan is interrupted by Mademoiselle Hortense's knock on his door. She angrily admits to doing everything Tulkinghorn asked of her. She showed him Lady Dedlock's dress, met “that boy,” and then affirms that she was compensated by him. In her fury, she tosses the unspent money she received for her services. She despises Lady Dedlock and beseeches Tulkinghorn to find her another job. If he fails to do so, she proposes aiding him in discrediting Lady Dedlock. She warns Tulkinghorn that she will persist until he fulfills her demands. Tulkinghorn declines and threatens her with imprisonment if she continues to pester him. She departs, seething with rage.

chapter 43

Esther tries hard to put Lady Dedlock out of her mind, despite being drawn in by her voice and constantly seeking her name in public. Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce discuss Richard, who seems unlikely to abandon the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lawsuit. Esther discloses Skimpole's influence on Richard, including the introduction to Vholes for a fee of five pounds, but Mr. Jarndyce believes Skimpole had no ill intentions. When they visit Skimpole in his shabby dwelling in London, they find him as childlike as ever, much to Mr. Jarndyce's relief. Skimpole admits to accepting money from Richard and his incapacity to stop encouraging the lawsuit. Esther had no inkling something extraordinary would occur by day's end. Suddenly, Sir Leicester arrives at Bleak House. He assures Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce that despite his squabble with Boythorn, they are always welcome at Chesney Wold. He mentions Mrs. Rouncewell's account of Skimpole being denied access to their family art. Upon meeting Skimpole, Sir Leicester extends an invitation for future visits and reasserts their welcome, given Lady Dedlock's respect for Mr. Jarndyce. Later, Esther reveals her secret to Mr. Jarndyce. She asks about Lady Dedlock's sister, whom she was separated from. Mr. Jarndyce admits he doesn't know the reason behind the separation but informs Esther that this sister was Boythorn's former lover. Their relationship ended due to her quarrel with Lady Dedlock, and she eventually cut off ties with Boythorn. Esther is devastated, feeling responsible for Boythorn's heartache. She confesses to Mr. Jarndyce that she was raised by this sister and Lady Dedlock is her mother. Mr. Jarndyce offers comfort, for which Esther is profoundly thankful, expressing her feelings of indebtedness to him.

chapter 44

Mr. Jarndyce cautions Esther to safeguard her secret, mentioning she shouldn't disclose it to anyone. Esther expresses her fears that not only Tulkinghorn, but also Mr. Guppy and Mademoiselle Hortense might harbor some suspicions. As Esther is about to leave, Mr. Jarndyce admits he has something to share with her, however, he prefers to communicate it in a letter. He further assures her that his feelings for her will remain constant, regardless of what transpires. Esther dispatches Charley to fetch the awaited letter on the assigned day. Upon reading, Esther realizes it's a marriage proposal, which doesn't surprise her. She views this as an opportunity to express her gratitude towards him and to bring him joy. Despite being happy about the proposal, it brings tears to her eyes as she feels a sense of loss. She convinces herself to adopt a positive outlook, believing that happiness is in her future. Subsequently, she recalls Mr. Woodcourt’s gift of flowers, which she promptly incinerates. After a few days of contemplation, Esther shares her decision with Mr. Jarndyce - she has decided to say yes to his marriage proposal.

chapter 45

Esther and Ada notice Richard and Mr. Vholes at Bleak House while they are in the garden. Esther is fetched by Charley on Mr. Jarndyce's request, who then introduces her to Vholes. Vholes shares the grim news about Richard's financial condition, adding that he can't lend more money and fears Richard might have to abandon his commission. Vholes' intention is to bring Mr. Jarndyce into the loop about Richard's situation. Mr. Jarndyce requests Esther to assist Richard, leading her to accompany Charley to Deal, where Richard is positioned. Ada hands Esther a letter meant for Richard. When Esther meets Richard, she finds him looking frail and troubled. He confesses his struggles and reveals that he's quit his commission due to causing trouble for the authorities. He is solely focused on the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit, despite Esther's objections. Reading Ada's letter offering him a small inheritance, Richard is filled with despair, which soon turns to anger as he suspects Mr. Jarndyce's motives for keeping him away from Ada. He refuses Ada's offer but holds faith in Vholes to continue the lawsuit. Esther's pleas fall on deaf ears. Returning to the hotel, Esther spots a boat docking at the beach, attracting a crowd. She recognizes Mr. Woodcourt among them and hastily leaves. Back at the hotel, she rebukes herself and pens a note for him. When Mr. Woodcourt visits, she senses his pity for her due to her disfigured face. Richard arrives and converses with Mr. Woodcourt. Later, Esther requests Mr. Woodcourt to keep an eye on Richard in London, promising gratitude from her, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce. Mr. Woodcourt consents.

chapter 46

The narrative depicts Tom-all-Alone’s as a sinister, gloomy place. Tom, currently asleep, has been the subject of parliamentary debates concerning his removal from the streets. It's suggested that Tom retaliates by spreading filth and disease. As daylight breaks, Mr. Woodcourt cruises through Tom-all-Alone’s and encounters a woman with a bruised forehead on a doorstep. After treating her injury, he queries about her spouse, suspecting him to be a violent brickmaker. She informs him that her husband will soon come looking for her. On being asked about a child, she denies having one but mentions her friend Liz's baby whom she considers her own. Shortly after, Woodcourt spots a distressed boy sprinting towards him, who seems oddly familiar. A woman trails behind the boy, pleading to halt him. Woodcourt intercepts the boy, assuming he's a thief. However, on the woman's arrival, she excitedly reveals the boy to be Jo. Jo recalls seeing Woodcourt at a coroner's inquest. Woodcourt inquires if Jo stole from her. She denies, rather commending Jo's kindness. She explains that Jo was taken in by a woman when he fell ill, but fled. This woman subsequently fell ill and lost her attractiveness, leaving Woodcourt speechless. Regaining his composure, Woodcourt questions Jo about his abrupt departure. Jo insists he was unaware of the woman's care and never intended to harm her. He reveals a man, whose identity he refuses to disclose for fear of retribution, whisked him away and handed him money with instructions to “move on.” Woodcourt promises to find Jo a refuge. Hence, they embark on their journey.

chapter 47

During breakfast, Woodcourt tries to help Jo breathe but it's clear he's struggling. Jo shares his recent experiences including how he guided a veiled woman to a cemetery. The duo visit Krook’s former shop and learn from Judy Smallweed that Miss Flite now lives with Mrs. Blinder. They locate her and she suggests Jo can take refuge with “General George” at his Shooting Gallery. Woodcourt informs George that Jo is being hunted by Inspector Bucket and needs a safe place, which George agrees to provide. However, Woodcourt cautions that Jo's health is declining. George introduces Phil, a former street dweller, to Jo and expresses his belief that Bucket had once taken Jo to Tulkinghorn, who he believes is not a good man. Woodcourt then visits Mr. Snagsby, who, fearful of Mrs. Snagsby overhearing them, quietly confesses about continuously getting tangled in others' secrets. Despite being warned not to discuss Jo, he agrees to visit him. Jo, pleased to see Snagsby, requests him to document the truth of his life's events when he's gone, with the aim to show he never intended to harm anyone. Snagsby consents, marking their last interaction. Upon another visit, Woodcourt finds Jo's condition deteriorated further. He leads Jo in prayer before Jo eventually passes away.

chapter 48

The Dedlocks are at their London residence with Lady Dedlock continuing to be the focus of adoration. Tulkinghorn remains silent about her secret, causing no suspicion of his control over her. Against their agreement, Lady Dedlock chooses to act independently, informing Rosa that she must depart. Despite her distress, Rosa prepares to leave as Lady Dedlock has made arrangements with Mr. Rouncewell for her pick-up. She informs Sir Leicester of Rosa's dismissal in the presence of Tulkinghorn, who she insists remains. Upon Mr. Rouncewell's arrival, Lady Dedlock asserts her decision that Rosa must depart, a decision he concurs with. Rosa enters, visibly troubled, and Lady Dedlock bids her a chilly farewell. Subsequently, Tulkinghorn confronts Lady Dedlock alone, accusing her of breaching their agreement. He speculates that Rosa's departure might arouse suspicion. He claims that Lady Dedlock's secret is his to bear as he is safeguarding Sir Leicester and his lineage. Lady Dedlock admits that her aim was to shield Rosa. Tulkinghorn states that he will now take matters into his own hands with no further warning. Lady Dedlock inquires when he intends to inform Sir Leicester but receives no definite reply. He then departs. Later that night, Lady Dedlock is seen strolling solo in the garden. Meanwhile, Tulkinghorn is at his residence. The narrator vividly paints the nocturnal scene before abruptly asking, "What's that?" A gunshot rings out. The narrator notes that Tulkinghorn doesn't investigate the sound. He states that a hitherto aimless pointing Roman painting on the ceiling now points directly at Tulkinghorn's lifeless body, a bullet lodged in his heart.

chapter 49

The birthday of Mrs. Bagnet is narrated, which is highlighted by a lavish feast arranged by Mr. Bagnet. He assures his wife that George will indeed pay them a visit. Mrs. Bagnet, however, expresses her worry that George might revert to his nomadic lifestyle, but her husband thinks otherwise. George arrives for dinner, though looking pale, and breaks the news of the death of the young boy under his care. Soon afterwards, Bucket makes his entrance, having seen George from the window. The Bagnets’ daughters are immediately smitten with him. Mrs. Bagnet informs Bucket about George's distress, but George remains silent. Bucket reveals he has a spouse but no offspring. Unexpectedly, Bucket admires their garden and inquires if there's an exit from it, to which the answer is no. The Bagnets' son, Woolwich, delights them with a performance on the fife. Bucket's friendly and lively demeanor enhances the evening and George starts warming up to him. When George decides to depart, Bucket decides to accompany him. Before leaving, Bucket requests the price of a violoncello from Mr. Bagnet and promises to return the next day for more examination. George and Bucket stroll down the street, arm in arm. Suddenly, George is forcefully shoved by Bucket into a tavern and is arrested. George is dumbfounded as Bucket accuses him of murdering Tulkinghorn the previous night. Realizing his presence at the scene the previous night, George is filled with horror. Bucket further reveals that George frequently visited the scene, often had disputes with Tulkinghorn, and was once labeled by Tulkinghorn as a "threatening, murderous, dangerous" man. Bucket also mentions Sir Leicester offering a reward for the murderer's apprehension. George, now handcuffed, is led away by Bucket.

chapter 50

Caddy, who has recently birthed a peculiar-looking child and is unwell, sends Esther a letter. Caddy feels that Esther's presence always brings good fortune. Esther travels to London every day to see Caddy. To facilitate these visits, Mr. Jarndyce proposes they relocate to London for some time and suggests that Woodcourt should look after Caddy's health. Esther concurs and discloses to Ada her plans to wed Mr. Jarndyce. While spending a lot of time with Caddy, Esther notes that despite her poor health, Caddy maintains a facade of recovery. With Woodcourt as her physician, Caddy gradually starts improving. Esther encounters Woodcourt frequently and senses his continued sympathy for her. She also detects a shift in Ada's behavior, suspecting her disapproval of Esther's engagement to Mr. Jarndyce. As Caddy's health improves, Mr. Jarndyce lauds Woodcourt's virtues to Esther and wishes he could offer him wealth. He also hints at Woodcourt's potential travel plans and possible disappointments. One evening, Ada breaks down and admits her struggle in communicating with Esther and Mr. Jarndyce. Esther, assuming this is due to her upcoming wedding, reassures Ada of their love and well-anticipated future. She observes Ada sleep with a hand tucked under her pillow.

chapter 51

Upon Mr. Woodcourt's arrival in London, his first stop is Symond’s Inn to seek Richard's whereabouts from Mr. Vholes, as agreed. Mr. Vholes takes this opportunity to discuss Richard's financial struggles, how strenuously he's been working to help him and his motive for doing so. He then reveals that Richard resides next door. When Woodcourt meets Richard, he's met with a warm reception. Richard admits he's not been particularly successful recently but wishes for Woodcourt to accept him nonetheless. He states with great conviction that he's doing everything in his power to protect Ada's interests, which impresses Woodcourt. Esther proposes a visit to Richard with Ada, who reluctantly agrees. Despite Esther's assumption that Ada's unfamiliar with Symond’s Inn, Ada leads them directly to it. On their arrival, they find Richard engrossed in reading Jarndyce and Jarndyce case files. Richard claims the lawsuit is progressing favorably, but his lack of self-assurance is painfully obvious to Esther. He confesses his fatigue. Ada then admits that she and Richard have been secretly wed for two months and will be staying together. This revelation stirs a sense of pity in Esther for Ada and she feels regretful for misconstruing Ada’s mood swings as related to her own marriage to Mr. Jarndyce. Esther returns home, heavy-hearted and missing Ada, and visits Symond’s Inn later that night, to hear their voices from outside the door. Esther discloses Ada and Richard's secret marriage to Mr. Jarndyce. He remarks that Bleak House is gradually becoming vacant, to which Esther assures him she will stay to maintain its liveliness. She confirms their secret marriage hasn't affected their relationship.

chapter 52

Woodcourt comes to Bleak House with shocking news: Tulkinghorn has been killed, and suspicion has fallen on George. Esther recalls Lady Dedlock's intense fear of Tulkinghorn. Despite their disbelief, Mr. Jarndyce and Esther acknowledge that the evidence points towards George. Together, they visit him in jail. Mr. Jarndyce urges George to hire a lawyer, but he stubbornly insists on defending himself, preferring to face the gallows honestly rather than be defended by a lawyer who assumes his guilt. The Bagnets make an appearance, and Mrs. Bagnet adamantly tells George to engage legal representation, dismissing his obstinacy as foolish. As Esther prepares to depart, George shares a curious observation: on the murder night, as he was leaving Tulkinghorn's room, a woman bearing a similar figure passed him on the staircase. This leaves Esther stunned. Later, Mrs. Bagnet reveals to Mr. Jarndyce, Woodcourt, and Esther that George has family, unknown even to him. She is resolved to locate his mother and sets off for Lincolnshire.

chapter 53

Bucket, an investigator, is known for moving his finger around his face when in deep thought. Despite his wife's detective skills, he tends to ignore her. Tulkinghorn's funeral is sparsely attended, symbolized by several empty cars for his deceased kin. Bucket encounters Mrs. Bucket at Tulkinghorn's house before moving on to Sir Leicester’s residence, thanks to a key in his possession. He receives a letter marked simply "Lady Dedlock," similar to other letters he's received recently. He compares the handwriting on these letters to other documents in the house, planning to inform Sir Leicester of his findings the next day. When asked if he has any news, Bucket assures a grieving Sir Leicester that he hasn't yet, but will soon have the murder case solved. Bucket strikes up a conversation with the servant, Mercury, about Lady Dedlock. Upon her return, she questions Bucket about any new developments before retiring upstairs. Seizing the moment, Bucket cleverly extracts a confession from Mercury about Lady Dedlock being out on the murder night, veiled and alone.

chapter 54

Bucket reveals to Sir Leicester that George isn't the murderer, but rather a woman. He prepares Sir Leicester for the shock by revealing that Lady Dedlock was suspected by Tulkinghorn for having links to her deceased former lover. This suspicion arose from her visit to the man's grave and her recognition of his handwriting, details uncovered through interrogations of Mademoiselle Hortense and Jo. Lady Dedlock, in a veiled disguise, is said to have visited Tulkinghorn's room on the murder night. Sir Dedlock is shattered by this revelation, questioning why Tulkinghorn hid this from him. Bucket reassures him that he meant to disclose it when the time was right. At this point, some visitors arrive- Grandfather Smallweed, the Chadbands, and Mrs. Snagsby. Smallweed reveals his familial ties with Krook and his possession of letters from Krook's dead tenant, Captain Hawdon, to his lover, Honoria. Dismissing his ignorance of Honoria, Smallweed demands a thorough investigation into the murder and the whereabouts of the letters. Bucket confirms he is in possession of the letters and promises to solve the murder. Smallweed requests monetary compensation. Mrs. Chadband also drops a bombshell, stating she had raised Lady Dedlock's daughter after it was claimed the child had died. Mrs. Snagsby, on the other hand, laments about being wronged by everyone, citing numerous baseless offenses. The group then disperses. Bucket then informs Sir Leicester of his intent to arrest the murderer, and summons Mademoiselle Hortense. Referring to her as his "angel," he arrests her for the crime, asking her to remain silent despite her fit of rage. Bucket discloses that Hortense had been living with him and his wife while she badgered Tulkinghorn and Snagsby. He suspected her when he found her dining with Mrs. Bucket, pretending to grieve for Tulkinghorn. He reveals that Hortense attempted to frame Lady Dedlock for the murder, writing letters in her name. Bucket further explains that had he arrested Hortense the previous night, he wouldn't have been able to recover the murder weapon. He reveals that Hortense had discarded the weapon in a water body during a countryside tea trip with Mrs. Bucket, which they later retrieved. After Bucket leaves with Hortense, Sir Leicester falls to the floor, filled with sympathy for Lady Dedlock.

chapter 55

The narrative unfolds the happenings before Bucket put Hortense under arrest. A coach, conveying Mrs. Rouncewell and Mrs. Bagnet, travels from Lincolnshire to London. Mrs. Rouncewell is taken aback when she realizes Mrs. Bagnet has inferred that she is George's mother, deduced from George's talks about her. Confirming her suspicions, George once shared that his mother was Mrs. Rouncewell from Chesney Wold. Mrs. Bagnet urges Mrs. Rouncewell to help George establish his innocence in the murder case. In the jail, George unites with his mother. He expresses regret for his wayward life and not keeping in touch. His mother grants him full forgiveness and agrees to his request to keep his return a secret from his brother. George reveals he has been documenting his involvement in the Tulkinghorn case. The women depart after a while. Next, Mrs. Rouncewell visits the Dedlock residence. She locates Lady Dedlock in Tulkinghorn's room and informs her about finding her imprisoned son, accused of Tulkinghorn's murder. Seeking Lady Dedlock's assistance, she discloses having received a letter the previous night. She affirms she hasn't shared the letter with anyone and implores Lady Dedlock to disclose any useful information to help George. After Mrs. Rouncewell's exit, Lady Dedlock studies the letter, which is a news article about the murder, with her name and the word 'Murderess' featured beneath. Mr. Guppy arrives next. He conveys to Lady Dedlock that Esther requested him to discontinue probing into her past. He reveals Tulkinghorn had been hindering his progress, causing him to struggle with honoring Esther's request. He inquires if Lady Dedlock had any peculiar visitors that day, such as Miss Barbary's ex-maid or a chair-bound man, only to reveal that they had indeed visited. He warns her that the letters, assumed to be destroyed, survived and the visitors probably intended to exploit them for profit. Afterwards, Guppy departs. Upon realizing her secret is exposed, Lady Dedlock leaves a note for Sir Leicester, confessing her guilt of every accusation except Tulkinghorn's murder, and makes her escape.

chapter 56

Volumnia discovers Sir Leicester lying weak and silent on the library floor. Her terrified shriek attracts the servants. Sir Leicester's speech is impaired, so he takes to writing to communicate. The doctors inform him that Lady Dedlock has yet to learn about his ailment. They permit Mrs. Rouncewell to hand Lady Dedlock's letter to Sir Leicester. In turn, Sir Leicester summons Bucket, conveys his full forgiveness for Lady Dedlock and requests him to locate her promptly. Before departing, Bucket assures Mrs. Rouncewell about George's safety and advises her to focus on Sir Leicester's care. Bucket begins his search in Lady Dedlock's quarters, finding a white handkerchief marked with Esther's name in a drawer. He hastens to George, who provides Esther's address. Upon arriving at her residence, he shares the letter with Mr. Jarndyce and expresses fear that Lady Dedlock might be contemplating suicide. Bucket seeks Esther's assistance in his search. Mr. Jarndyce obliges and fetches her. The narrator concludes the chapter speculating on Lady Dedlock's whereabouts and noting a poorly dressed figure darting around the brick kilns.

chapter 57

Esther is awakened by Mr. Jarndyce and leaves with Bucket, who has read her a letter. Bucket inquires if Lady Dedlock shared her secrets with anyone, with Esther suggesting Mr. Boythorn. As they journey, Bucket makes a few stops, including at a police station to pass on instructions and by the waterside where Esther thinks he's examining a drowned person. Eventually, they head for Saint Albans. After a brief pause for tea, Bucket informs Esther that Lady Dedlock was spotted there earlier, and they move towards Bleak House. At the house, Bucket queries about Skimpole's rooming habits during visits. He discloses to Esther that Skimpole told him Jo's location in exchange for money, leaving Esther feeling betrayed. Bucket advises her to be careful of people like Skimpole. There's no sign of Lady Dedlock at the house. The pair then venture towards the brickmaker's cottage, home to Jenny, Liz and their husbands. On finding out that a lady had visited the previous night, Jenny's husband becomes defensive. Esther asks about Jenny's whereabouts and is told she's in London. Esther's questioning reveals that the lady requested her handkerchief. After hearing that the lady appeared unwell, they exit the cottage. Outside, Bucket theorizes that Lady Dedlock gave the brickmakers her watch, noting the unusual watch comment. He speculates that Jenny might have been sent to London by Lady Dedlock to meet Esther, but they press on. The journey is impeded by snow and Bucket gradually loses hope. At an inn, Esther faints and is looked after by the innkeeper's family. Later, an epiphany strikes Bucket, leading him to order a return to London to follow Jenny. Despite Esther's concerns about leaving Lady Dedlock, Bucket reassures her.

chapter 58

At the Dedlock residence, everyone is under the impression that Lady Dedlock has traveled to Lincolnshire, though gossip about her real location and her relationship with Sir Leicester is rampant. Sir Leicester remains confined to his bed. He requests Mrs. Rouncewell to ready Lady Dedlock’s quarters for her return. Mrs. Rouncewell expresses to George her suspicion that Lady Dedlock won’t be coming back to Chesney Wold or any place else, revealing that Lady Dedlock confessed to her that the footsteps on the Ghost’s Walk had “almost walked her down.” Lady Dedlock’s rooms are depicted as deserted. Mrs. Rouncewell and George assist the house staff in setting up fires and getting ready for her return. Volumnia keeps Sir Leicester company. Once Mrs. Rouncewell comes back, Volumnia commends George. Mrs. Rouncewell then informs Sir Leicester that George is her long-lost son. Sir Leicester appears hopeful about this revelation and demands to see George right away. George shows up and aids in making Sir Leicester comfortable in his bed. Sir Leicester confides in George about his illness, which has caused him to feel “deadened” and “confused” (probably a stroke). He conveys to everyone present—Volumnia, Mrs. Rouncewell, and George—that if his condition worsens and he loses his ability to communicate, they should let everyone know that his feelings for Lady Dedlock remain unchanged and he bears no resentment towards her. He then reclines back and George stays by his side. The narrative mentions that the day is nearing its conclusion, but Sir Leicester is not ready to acknowledge it. Mrs. Rouncewell persuades him to rest. He keeps his hopes alive by believing that Lady Dedlock's rooms are ready for her. Eventually, all retire for the night, except for Mrs. Rouncewell and George. Volumnia lies awake, anxious that Sir Leicester's death would leave her penniless. George encounters her while patrolling the house and manages to persuade her to sleep. Dawn breaks.

chapter 59

Bucket and Esther arrive in London at dawn, with Esther concerned about leaving Lady Dedlock behind. Bucket comforts her, insisting he had a plan. As they navigate London's labyrinth streets, Bucket frequently halts to engage with acquaintances. Eventually, he declares he's located the woman they're seeking, prompting them to proceed on foot. On Chancery Lane, they encounter Mr. Woodcourt, who has been caring for an ailing Richard, and he accompanies them. They reach Mr. Snagsby's residence where they hear a girl crying. Bucket identifies her as the Snagsbys' servant, Guster, and reveals he needs information from her. He requests Woodcourt to soothe her, enabling him to retrieve an essential letter. Upon their arrival, Mr. Snagsby introduces them to his wife. Woodcourt and Snagsby attend to Guster while Bucket admonishes Mrs. Snagsby for her excessive jealousy. Woodcourt returns with the letter and Bucket asks Esther to identify the penmanship. She confirms it's Lady Dedlock's. The message reveals that she sought assistance from Jenny at the cottage, with the sole intention of dying. When Esther inquires about the letter's origin, Guster shares that a woman approached her while she was performing errands and asked for the location of the burial ground. This is the same graveyard where Krook’s tenant was laid to rest. The woman handed Guster a letter and asked her to send it. Leaving Snagsby's home, they rush to the cemetery. Esther is disoriented and emotionally numb. Upon reaching the cemetery entrance, she spots a woman on the ground who she assumes is Jenny. She darts towards the figure, but Bucket intercepts her, proposing that Lady Dedlock and Jenny swapped clothing, and that Jenny only walked a brief distance before doubling back home to create confusion. Esther is puzzled by this revelation. She approaches the woman and discovers it's Lady Dedlock, lifeless.

chapter 60

Esther reveals her reluctance to dwell on her sorrow and decides to press forward with her tale. Falling ill in London, Mrs. Woodcourt accompanies them during her illness. Mr. Jarndyce, who proposes they remain in the city to keep Esther near Ada, reveals he sees Woodcourt daily. His desire to stay in London also stems from his hope to keep tabs on Richard, who refuses to communicate with him. Upon enquiring about Esther’s feelings towards Mrs. Woodcourt, Esther affirms her likeness but feels a strange unease. Mr. Jarndyce then hints that Mr. Woodcourt might consider a job in Yorkshire instead of leaving the country. In her daily visits to Ada, Esther sees a noticeably different Richard. She realizes Vholes is exploiting Richard for his wealth and suspects Ada's ignorance of Richard's self-destruction. During one visit, Miss Flite, who doesn't approve of Vholes, leaves just as Esther enters. She mentions making Richard her estate's executor since he frequents Chancery. Her initial choice, Gridley, had passed away. Esther, Ada and Richard dine with Vholes, who, in the absence of Richard and Ada, expresses his disapproval of their marriage and concerns about Richard's declining condition. Richard's excessive praise for Vholes post-dinner triggers Esther's suspicion about Richard's own doubts regarding Vholes. Mr. Woodcourt visits and takes a stroll with Richard. Ada confides in Esther about knowingly marrying Richard despite his issues, with the hope of reforming him. She vowed not to add to his misery, and discloses her pregnancy. Initially, she hoped the baby might help Richard, but now fears that Richard might not live to see their child's birth.

chapter 61

Esther recounts her daily visits to Ada and her encounters with the constantly cheerful Skimpole. Finding his behavior unfitting to Ada's sad state, Esther questions him. Skimpole, avoiding the subject, claims ignorance of such matters and promises to distance himself from Ada and Richard. Esther also accuses him of betraying Mr. Jarndyce by accepting money to reveal Jo's location to Bucket. Skimpole denies being bribed and provides a long explanation. Esther no longer sees him after this encounter and shares that he passed away five years later, leaving behind a book that labeled Mr. Jarndyce as selfish. Esther prepares to share an unexpected part of her story. Richard's health is deteriorating, his only distraction being Woodcourt. One evening, Woodcourt escorts Esther home and confesses his love for her, surprising Esther who believed he pitied her. She informs him that she is engaged to Mr. Jarndyce, but assures him that his love will comfort her. Tearfully, Esther watches him leave, believing she will recover from this sooner than Woodcourt.

chapter 62

Esther avoids socialization for a night and then discusses her impending marriage with Mr. Jarndyce the next day, questioning whether she has been neglecting any responsibilities. Mr. Jarndyce proposes to have the wedding in a month, which Esther accepts. Bucket arrives, accompanied by Smallweed. He brings news: Smallweed, the inheritor of Krook’s estate, has discovered a will related to the Jarndyce family. Bucket persuaded Smallweed to reveal the will, promising him a reward. After receiving the will from Smallweed, Bucket passes it to Mr. Jarndyce. Mr. Jarndyce reassures Smallweed that he will be compensated if the will is valuable. After Smallweed and Bucket depart, Mr. Jarndyce and Esther pay a visit to Mr. Kenge at Lincoln's Inn. Mr. Kenge inspects the will and observes it to be more recent than other wills involved in the ongoing lawsuit. He points out that Mr. Jarndyce's portion is decreased, but Ada's and Richard's portions are increased according to this will. Vholes concurs about the will's significance after reading it. Mr. Kenge mentions the case is due for another hearing next month.

chapter 63

George now resides at Chesney Wold, having closed his Shooting Gallery. He heads for the iron region to find his family, the Rouncewells, who are popular there. He gets directions to their factory from a worker, where he meets his nephew, who takes him to his brother. George's identity isn't immediately revealed, but his brother recognizes him swiftly. His brother insists they celebrate this encounter, with an impending celebration for Watt's wedding in the cards. George goes with them to their home and meets his nieces and Rosa. The following day, George's brother suggests he could join their business. George, however, requests his brother to ensure Mrs. Rouncewell excludes him from her will. He fears his presence in the will might cause a reduction in his brother's and nieces' inheritance. Despite his brother's refusal and doubt about their mother's agreement, George promises not to let their inheritances suffer and is willing to renounce any share from the will he might receive. He also confirms his disinterest in the iron business. Before departing, George hands a letter he has written to his brother. The letter is for Esther, and it clarifies that he received a letter from Bucket, originally addressed to him by "a certain person" and found in that person's documents. The letter gave instructions from abroad on how to send an enclosed letter to a young English woman. George clarifies that he surrendered the letter, believing it was required only for handwriting analysis, with no intention of causing any harm. He adds that had he known "a certain unfortunate gentleman" was alive, as he was rumored to have drowned, he would have helped him. George then mails the letter and heads back to Chesney Wold.

chapter 64

Mr. Jarndyce supplies Esther with funds to commence her wedding preparations, which she prefers to be intimate. She shares the news with Mrs. Woodcourt, who is supportive. Esther harbors some optimism regarding the ongoing lawsuit and understands her wedding will follow its next court appearance. Mr. Jarndyce travels to Yorkshire to assist Woodcourt and instructs Esther to meet him in the countryside through a letter. Despite her attempts to guess his intentions, she is off the mark. Upon her arrival, Mr. Jarndyce reveals he has purchased a house for Woodcourt, expressing gratitude for his services. He requests Esther's aid in refurbishing it, leaving her in tears, which she hopes are of joy. The subsequent day, Mr. Jarndyce escorts Esther to the house, identical to the Bleak House's gardens and mirroring Esther's preferences. Unveiling the house's name as Bleak House, he confesses he had initially wanted to marry her but felt it wouldn't fulfil her. Mr. Woodcourt's return solidified this belief, and Mr. Jarndyce decided to reassume his roles as Esther's guardian and father. Unaware of Mr. Jarndyce's prior proposal, Woodcourt had confessed his love for Esther to him. Mr. Jarndyce, to test Esther's virtue, confided in Mrs. Woodcourt, certain that Esther would choose him despite her affection for Woodcourt. Mr. Jarndyce admits to anticipating Woodcourt's confession and encouraging it. He is pleasantly surprised by Esther's reaction. Woodcourt appears, and Mr. Jarndyce presents Esther to him, requesting no thanks. The following day, Woodcourt declares the news to Ada and Richard, while Esther remains with Mr. Jarndyce. During their absence, Guppy visited thrice, and Esther discloses that Guppy had proposed and later withdrawn it. Guppy, accompanied by his mother and Mr. Weevle, returns to propose again, considering it a generous act. However, Mr. Jarndyce jovially rejects it on Esther's behalf and bids the visitors farewell.

chapter 65

Esther relates that the Jarndyce case has resumed. En route to court, she encounters Caddy and they converse. Their delay results in a flurry of agitation on arrival, as the Jarndyce case has concluded permanently. Upon meeting Mr. Kenge and Mr. Vholes, they learn that the entire estate has been consumed by legal expenses. Woodcourt visits Richard while Esther informs Mr. Jarndyce about the developments, before joining Woodcourt at Richard and Ada's place. Upon reaching, they discover that Woodcourt had encountered Richard, semi-unconscious, at court. Richard attempted to shout at the judge but was hindered by a mouthful of blood. Now, he is resting at home on a couch. Despite discussing future plans, Esther is aware of Richard's impending demise. Richard expresses a wish to see Esther and Woodcourt's home and insists that he needs to "begin the world" before he passes away. Later, Miss Flite visits and reveals to Esther that she has released all her birds.

chapter 66

Chesney Wold has fallen into a tranquil state. Sir Leicester, although ailing, remains alive. Boythorn's ongoing dispute with him serves more to amuse Sir Leicester than create conflict. Phil, who has taken up residence in a lodge on the property, oversees the stables. The caring duo, Mrs. Rouncewell and George, continue to look after Sir Leicester. Occasional visitors, like Bagnet, can be spotted. A significant portion of the mansion is shuttered, with Volumnia present but other relatives visiting infrequently. The eerie silence and gloom of the house deter individuals from roaming its corridors alone.

chapter 67

Esther reveals she's been wedded for seven years and is about to conclude her narration. She's been sharing her life with an "unknown friend," but will soon part ways. She hosts Ada, who stays with her for weeks, with her infant son who aids Ada's healing process. Esther, a mother of two girls, introduces us to her circle, including Charley, who is wed, his sister Emma, now her servant, and brother Tom, an apprentice to a miller. Caddy is portrayed as flourishing and a nurturing mother. Esther and Woodcourt have included a Growlery in their home, designated for Mr. Jarndyce, but Esther notes that the wind doesn't blow from the east anymore. She acknowledges Woodcourt's success as a physician and her respect as his spouse. In a recent introspection, Esther doubted Woodcourt's affection for her, particularly if she lost her beauty. He assured her of her increasing charm. She expresses uncertainty about her beauty but acknowledges the splendor in those around her. Her story draws to a close abruptly, leaving a speculative thought unfinished.

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