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Bleak House

Charles Dickens
  • Study Guide

Chapters 21–25

Summary Chapters 21–25

George leaves the Smallweed home and goes to the theatre. He then goes to George’s Shooting Gallery, &c. A little man wearing a green baize apron and cap is asleep on the floor. George calls his name—Phil—and wakes him up. Phil is lame, is missing one eyebrow, and has hands that are bruised and scarred. He shoots a couple of rounds, then goes to bed.

Summary: Chapter 22, “Mr. Bucket”

Mr. Tulkinghorn relaxes with a glass of wine in his office. He thinks about a friend, much like him, who hanged himself. Mr. Snagsby is there as well, without his wife knowing. He tells Mr. Tulkinghorn what Jo said to the guests at his house recently. Mr. Snagsby then spots another man in the room, whom Mr. Tulkinghorn introduces as Mr. Bucket. He is a detective. He asks Mr. Snagsby to take him to Jo and assures him Jo will not be harmed. Mr. Bucket suggests that the dead lodger was perhaps entitled to some property, which he suspects the woman Jo encountered may be after.

Bucket asks Snagsby if he knows of a man named Gridley, who lost his temper, threatened some people, and has a warrant out for his arrest. In Tom-all-Alone’s, they find where Jo is staying. Jo has gone out, but the men talk to a few people in the home. There are men lying unconscious on the floor, and a woman named Liz says they are hers and Jenny’s husbands. Liz is holding a child. Jenny says she had a child too, but it died.

Jo appears with some medicine he had gotten for the woman. Then he, Bucket, and Snagsby go to Mr. Tulkinghorn’s. Jo shouts that he sees the woman, there in the room. A figure wearing a flowing scarf and robe is standing there. But when the figure shows her hand, Jo says it is not the lady, whose hand was whiter, smaller, and adorned with different rings. The figure speaks, and Jo says it’s not the voice he remembers. Bucket gives Jo some money and dismisses him. The woman takes off her scarf. It is Mademoiselle Hortense, the French maid of Lady Dedlock. She reminds Mr. Tulkinghorn that he promised to help her find a job, and she leaves.

Bucket asserts that the lady Jo saw must have been wearing the Frenchwoman’s clothes. Snagsby leaves. When he gets home, he finds Mrs. Snagsby in bed. She had sent Guster to the police station to report that Mr. Snagsby was missing.

Summary: Chapter 23, “Esther’s Narrative”

Esther says they left Mr. Boythorn’s after six weeks. They hadn’t seen Lady Dedlock again, except at church. Esther has an idea that her presence is as vexing to Lady Dedlock as Lady Dedlock’s is to her. Esther recounts an incident that occurred before she left Mr. Boythorn’s house. One day, the Frenchwoman sends for Esther. She says how wonderful Esther is and tells her that she has quit her post as Lady Dedlock’s servant. She asks Esther to hire her as a maid. Esther says she keeps no maid, and the matter is closed.