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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 31–35

Chapters 26–30

Chapters 31–35, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 31, “Nurse and Patient”

Esther tells us that Charley isn’t making much progress in her handwriting lessons. Charley asks Esther if she knew a woman named Jenny. She says that Jenny has been coming to the house hoping to see Esther and that Charley ran into her at the doctor’s office. Charley tells Esther that Jenny was buying medicine for a poor orphan boy. Charley and Esther decide to visit Jenny. As they walk to her cottage, Esther observes that, on this night, she didn’t yet know what was going to happen to her.

At the cottage, Esther, with her veil still down, greets Jenny and looks at the boy on the floor. The boy says immediately that he won’t take her to the burial ground. Jenny asks him what’s the matter, calling him Jo. When Esther lifts her veil, Jo says she looks like the lady he took to the burying ground. Jo tells Esther and Charley about his sickness. Jenny shows Esther Liz’s baby, whom she calls her own. She tells Esther that Jo must leave before her husband gets home. Liz arrives and says both their husbands are on their way home. Esther takes Jo home with her.

At Bleak House, Esther finds Mr. Skimpole, who tells Mr. Jarndyce to send Jo away. He says Jo’s illness makes him unsafe to be around. But Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther to settle him in the stable.

In the morning, Jo is gone. They look for him everywhere, but to no avail. Charley, meanwhile, has gotten sick (ostensibly with smallpox) and becomes much sicker very quickly. Esther nurses her, forbidding anyone else to come into the room, including Ada. Charley nearly dies, but she slowly recovers. Esther, however, contracts smallpox and becomes very sick too. She confides in Charley, who agrees to nurse her. She gets sicker and temporarily goes blind.

Summary: Chapter 32, “The Appointed Time”

The narrator describes nighttime in Lincoln’s Inn. Two women, Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins, gossip about Krook’s alcoholism, his lodger, and their own children. Krook has gone to bed, and his lodger, Mr. Weevle (Jobling), paces restlessly from his room to the street and back. Mr. Snagsby, uneasy at the mystery he has somehow become involved in, comes to Krook’s shop and is surprised to find Weevle outside. Mr. Snagsby tells Weevle that he would find it troubling to live in a room where a man died. He tells Weevle how strange it is that the lodger had been a writer for him, just as Weevle is. Mr. Snagsby hurries home. Meanwhile, Mrs. Snagsby has followed him.

Weevle was waiting for Mr. Guppy, who arrives after Mr. Snagsby has left. They go inside. Weevle tells Guppy he is depressed in his room. Guppy says he saw Mr. Snagsby talking to him but thought it best to stay hidden until he left. Weevle asserts that they are as secretive as they’d be if they were murdering someone.

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