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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 56–60

Chapters 51–55

Chapters 56–60, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 56, “Pursuit”

The narrator says that Volumnia finds Sir Leicester sprawled on the floor of the library. She screams, causing a commotion and bringing servants running to help. Sir Leicester is much weaker and quieter than he was before. He can barely speak and writes notes to communicate. When he asks about Lady Dedlock, the doctors say she has gone out and doesn’t yet know Sir Leicester is sick. They let Mrs. Rouncewell give Sir Leicester the letter from Lady Dedlock. Sir Leicester requests Bucket. He tells Bucket that he fully forgives Lady Dedlock and asks him to find her immediately. Before Bucket leaves, he reassures Mrs. Rouncewell that George will be fine and that her immediate concern must be attending to Sir Leicester.

Bucket first inspects Lady Dedlock’s chambers. In a drawer, he finds a white handkerchief with Esther’s name on it. He rushes to George, who tells him Esther’s address. When he reaches Esther’s home, he shows the letter to Mr. Jarndyce and says he fears Lady Dedlock is going to kill herself. Bucket says he needs Esther to go with him on his search, and Mr. Jarndyce gets her. The narrator ruminates on where Lady Dedlock is and then says there is a figure wearing shabby clothes fleeing near the brick kilns.

Summary: Chapter 57, “Esther’s Narrative”

Esther tells us that when Mr. Jarndyce wakes her up, she immediately prepares to go with Bucket. Bucket reads her the letter, and they set off. Bucket asks her a few questions about her relationship with Lady Dedlock and if there is anyone Lady Dedlock may have confided in. Esther says perhaps Mr. Boythorn. Bucket stops in a police station and quietly gives instructions to a few men. They continue on their journey. Bucket stops by the water and speaks to some policemen and sailors, then he inspects what Esther suspects is a person who drowned. They make several other stops as they go on and eventually head toward Saint Albans. After another stop, where Bucket gets Esther a cup of tea, he says he’s been told that Lady Dedlock passed through there that evening. They head toward Bleak House. Bucket tells Esther that he took Jo away when she’d been sheltering him in the stable to protect Lady Dedlock since Jo had been telling too many people about the lady he led to the burial ground.

At Bleak House, Bucket asks if Skimpole always stays in the same room when he visits. He tells Esther that Skimpole had showed him where to find Jo after Bucket had given him some money for the information. Esther feels betrayed by Skimpole, and Bucket warns her to watch out for people like Skimpole. None of the servants at Bleak House has seen Lady Dedlock.

Bucket and Esther head toward the brickmaker’s cottage. There, Esther finds out that Jenny, Liz, and their husbands live together in a single cottage. Jenny is not there, but they speak to the others. Bucket asserts that he knows a lady had been there the night before; Jenny’s husband is defensive and unresponsive. Esther suspects that Liz wants to talk to her alone, but there is no way for her to do this. Esther asks where Jenny is, but before Liz can answer, her husband kicks her. Jenny’s husband says she went to London last night. Esther asks if Jenny was home when the lady visited. Liz asks her husband if she can answer, but her husband threatens her. Jenny’s husband says Jenny was home, and that the lady asked for Esther’s handkerchief. Then he says that the lady went one way and Jenny went the other. He says he isn’t sure what time it was, since they don’t have a watch. Esther asks how the lady looked, and Liz said she didn’t look well. They leave the cottage.

Outside, Bucket tells Esther he’s sure Lady Dedlock gave them her watch, since it was strange for Jenny’s husband to mention a watch. He wonders what they gave Lady Dedlock in return and says that if Liz had been alone she probably would have told them more. Bucket speculates that Lady Dedlock may have sent Jenny to London to see Esther, but they continue on straight ahead.

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