It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees, and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the solemn thunder, and to see the lightning; and while thinking with awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are, and how upon the smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from all this seeming rage, which seemed to make creation new again.

This quotation appears in chapter 18, “Lady Dedlock,” one week after Esther saw Lady Dedlock for the first time and felt a strange connection to her. Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce, who are visiting Mr. Boythorn in Lincolnshire, wait out a violent storm in a keeper’s lodge, and Esther makes these observations as she looks out from the doorway. This is not the first time Esther has contemplated that she has benefited from the kindness of others or even from “tremendous powers,” but the placement of this particular meditation is significant since it follows her first sighting of Lady Dedlock. The storm seems to be significantly timed, as if the seeing Lady Dedlock for the first time shook the world itself. The storm suggests a disruption or a disturbance, mirroring in larger form the violent beating of Esther’s heart when she spotted Lady Dedlock in the church. Although Esther’s observations are idle and content, there is an element of suspense, even foreboding, to the storm.

Immediately after Esther makes these observations, Lady Dedlock speaks to the group—unbeknownst to them, she had been in the lodge as well. She greets Esther indifferently and seems to ignore her, but her coldness takes on new meaning when we eventually discover Lady Dedlock’s secret. Indeed, it is the discovery of this secret along with the violent events that follow it that will ultimately shape Esther’s life most dramatically.