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Bleak House

Charles Dickens

Chapters 36–40

Summary Chapters 36–40

Richard returns with Vholes and introduces him to everyone. Vholes says he does everything for the sake of his three daughters and his aging father. He and Richard depart so that Richard can attend to the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case the next day. Ada tells Esther that she’ll love Richard even if the lawsuit ruins him.

Summary: Chapter 38, “A Struggle”

Esther returns to Bleak House in full health and visits London on the pretense of visiting Caddy. Caddy and Prince Turveydrop live with Mr. Turveydrop, and Mr. Jellyby visits every evening. Caddy is practicing to be a dancing instructor. There are also several children in the house who are learning to dance. Esther attends one of the dance practices.

Afterward, Esther and Caddy go to see Mr. Guppy, and Esther speaks to him alone. Mr. Guppy is intent on reminding Esther that she refused his proposal and that he will not renew it. Esther agrees readily that the proposal is now defunct. Esther then reminds him that when he made the proposal, he suggested that he could find out information about her background. Esther asks him to cease all investigation if he hasn’t already, and Mr. Guppy agrees to honor her wish.

Summary: Chapter 39, “Attorney and Client”

The narrator describes Mr. Vholes and his small, dark office in Symond’s Inn. Mr. Vholes claims to be a respectable man, fully devoted to his clients and their affairs. Mr. Vholes wholeheartedly promotes the idea that the backbone of English law is that it must make business for itself. Yet he convinces Richard that they will make progress in the suit. Richard trusts him completely.

Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle see Richard on the street, and Mr. Guppy observes that Richard is now in debt because he wouldn’t stay away from the suit. Mr. Guppy then tells Mr. Weevle that he no longer wishes to find the letters from the now dead Krook. He asks Mr. Weevle to tell him if there’s any chance the letters didn’t burn and might be hidden in Krook’s shop.

Grandfather Smallweed has been coming to the shop every day, searching through Krook’s belongings, but he never finds anything of value. Mr. Guppy and Mr. Weevle go to the shop, chat briefly with Grandfather Smallweed, then go upstairs to Mr. Weevle’s old lodging. Mr. Tulkinghorn appears. He congratulates Guppy on being able to meet with grand ladies. Guppy grows red and tells Tulkinghorn that he doesn’t have to explain himself. Tulkinghorn leaves. Guppy admits to Weevle that he’s been in communication with a member of the aristocracy, but that this must end and be forgotten.