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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 41–45

Chapters 36–40

Chapters 41–45, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter 41, “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Room”

The narrator says that Mr. Tulkinghorn goes up to his room at Chesney Wold, happy that he told the story. He steps outside and looks at the stars. Lady Dedlock appears. He tells her that he felt he had to let her know that he knew her secret, and that only he knows it so far. She tells him that he was right, and that she knows what will happen to Rosa if her secret is discovered. She offers to write down details to save Sir Leicester any trouble, but Tulkinghorn says it isn’t necessary. She tells him that her jewels and other valuables are all in their places. Tulkinghorn doesn’t understand what she means, and Lady Dedlock declares that she is leaving Chesney Wold immediately. He doesn’t try to stop her but wants to tell her something first. She tells him she wants to move toward the window, and Tulkinghorn fears she’ll jump out and kill herself. But she doesn’t. He tells her that his only concern in all this is Sir Leicester and that her disappearance will destroy him and make her secret immediately known to all. Tulkinghorn suggests that she stay and continue to hide her guilt. He says he will alert her when he must make the secret known. She leaves his room.

Summary: Chapter 42, “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers”

The narrator says that Tulkinghorn goes to Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. Snagsby arrives at his office with some information about Mademoiselle Hortense. He says his wife is very jealous because Mademoiselle Hortense has been hovering around his shop, determined that someone should let her in to see Tulkinghorn. Tulkinghorn says to send her to him.

He goes to his chambers. The narrator says it is too dark to see the painted Roman on the ceiling, who points downward. Tulkinghorn unlocks a series of small chests and retrieves a key. He intends to go to the wine cellar, but there is a knock at his door. It is Mademoiselle Hortense. She angrily says that she has done what Tulkinghorn wanted—she showed him her dress that Lady Dedlock wore, she has met “that boy”—and Tulkinghorn says that he paid her. She says she hasn’t spent the money because she is so angry, and she throws it into a corner. She says that she hates Lady Dedlock and asks Tulkinghorn to find her a new job. If he can’t, she offers to help Tulkinghorn disgrace Lady Dedlock. She says she will keep coming to him until he gives her what she wants. Tulkinghorn refuses. He says that if she harasses him, she will go to prison. She leaves, enraged.

Summary: Chapter 43, “Esther’s Narrative”

Esther studiously avoids mentioning Lady Dedlock, and she does her best not to think about her. She says it doesn’t matter how she struggled not to think about her voice or how she obsessively looked for Lady Dedlock’s name in public.

Esther and Ada talk with Mr. Jarndyce about Richard. Mr. Jarndyce no longer seems to hope that Richard will give up the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. Esther reveals that Skimpole has been encouraging Richard, but Mr. Jarndyce can’t be angry because Skimpole is such a child. Esther also tells him that Skimpole introduced Richard to Vholes for five pounds, but Mr. Jarndyce is convinced Skimpole didn’t mean any harm. They go to London to visit Skimpole, who lives in a dingy apartment. He is happy to see them and seems characteristically childlike, which seems to be a relief to Mr. Jarndyce. He tells Skimpole that he mustn’t take money from Richard, but Skimpole says he can’t refuse. He says he thought Richard was rich. He also says he is unable to stop encouraging Richard in the lawsuit, since he understands nothing about it. Skimpole introduces them to his three daughters and his wife and prepares to go to Bleak House with the group.

Esther observes that she didn’t anticipate at this point that something very remarkable was going to happen by the end of the day.

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