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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 36–40

Chapters 31–35

Chapters 36–40, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 36, “Chesney Wold”

Esther, Charley, and Mr. Jarndyce go to Lincolnshire to stay at Mr. Boythorn’s house. Esther cares for Mr. Boythorn’s bird while she’s there. When she’s alone, she looks in a mirror for the first time and sees her scarred face, barely recognizing herself. She believes her beauty has entirely disappeared. Esther confesses that she has secretly kept Mr. Woodcourt’s flowers. She decides to keep them still, to remind herself of her former beauty.

Esther and Charley stay outdoors all day, to help restore Esther’s health. They ride horses through town and stop to rest at Esther’s favorite place in the woods. Though Chesney Wold is very close, Esther says she never ventured close to it, for no good reason. One day, Esther spots Lady Dedlock approaching in the woods. Lady Dedlock approaches her and inquires about her health. Esther is shocked to see Lady Dedlock holding her handkerchief, the one she’d given to Jenny. Instantly understanding, Esther sends Charley away, and Lady Dedlock cries and says she is Esther’s mother.

Lady Dedlock begs for Esther’s forgiveness and says that she must continue to keep this secret for Sir Leicester’s sake. Lady Dedlock is overcome with grief and guilt but says they can never communicate again. Esther asks if the secret is safe, and Lady Dedlock says that Tulkinghorn may reveal it soon. She tells Esther to confide in Mr. Jarndyce if she wishes. Esther tells us that Lady Dedlock gives her a letter but says that she’ll tell us the contents of the letter another time.

Ada arrives at Lincolnshire and has no negative reaction to Esther’s changed appearance.

Summary: Chapter 37, “Jarndyce and Jarndyce”

Esther tells no one about Lady Dedlock. One day, Mr. Grubble, the landlord of the public house Dedlock Arms, summons Esther. When she arrives, she finds Richard there. He is on leave and has come to check up on his interests in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. Mr. Skimpole is with him and is glad Richard’s involved with the suit. Esther brings Richard to Ada, but she suspects Richard doesn’t love her as he says he does.

The next day, Richard tells Esther more about his pursuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. He says he and Mr. Jarndyce have parted ways and that the suit is his one goal now. Ada writes Richard a letter trying to dissuade him, but to no avail. Esther tries to convince Mr. Skimpole not to support Richard’s goal, since it’s irresponsible, but Mr. Skimpole says he can’t possibly be responsible. Later, when Richard goes off to meet someone, Mr. Skimpole says he is going to meet Mr. Vholes, his legal advisor. Skimpole admits that Vholes paid him to be introduced to Richard.

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