Esther, Richard, and Ada leave the city and head deep into the country. The wagon stops, and the driver comes around to talk to them. In his hat are three notes, one for each child. The notes are from Richard and Ada’s cousin, John Jarndyce, and contain a message welcoming each child to his home. Richard and Ada have the impression that their cousin is chronically unable to accept thanks and that he will go to great lengths to avoid having people express gratitude. The three are excited and nervous to meet him.
Bleak House sits atop a hill and finally comes into view. Mr. Jarndyce greets the trio enthusiastically and takes them all inside. Esther recognizes him as a man she had seen in a stagecoach many years ago. Mr. Jarndyce encourages them to say what they really think about Mrs. Jellyby, then worries that the wind is in the east. Ada extols Esther’s behavior, telling Mr. Jarndyce that she cared for the children and made herself useful. Mr. Jarndyce asks Richard about the wind and is relieved that it is coming from the north, not the east.
Esther describes Bleak House, which is made up of a complex warren of rooms that one can easily get lost in. She, Ada, and Richard like the house.
Mr. Jarndyce announces a visitor for dinner, who he claims is a child but not a real child. He says that this person has many children but doesn’t look after them because he himself is a child. He then notes that the wind seems to be stirring up.
Mr. Jarndyce gives Esther two bunches of keys for the housekeeping. Esther is pleased that he trusts her so much.
Harold Skimpole, the childlike man, arrives. He describes himself and says that he has no idea about time or money and has therefore never made much of himself. He just wants to live freely. Everyone is enchanted by him. Richard and Ada sing together by the piano, and Mr. Skimpole greatly admires Ada’s beauty. Esther thinks Mr. Jarndyce gives her a look suggesting that he hopes Richard and Ada’s relationship will grow deeper someday.