Bleak House – Chapters 36–40

Summary: Chapter 36, “Chesney Wold”
Esther, Charley, and Mr. Jarndyce go to Lincolnshire to
stay at Mr. Boythorn’s house. Esther cares for Mr. Boythorn’s bird
while she’s there. When she’s alone, she looks in a mirror for the
first time and sees her scarred face, barely recognizing herself.
She believes her beauty has entirely disappeared. Esther confesses
that she has secretly kept Mr. Woodcourt’s flowers. She decides
to keep them still, to remind herself of her former beauty.
Esther and Charley stay outdoors all day, to help restore
Esther’s health. They ride horses through town and stop to rest
at Esther’s favorite place in the woods. Though Chesney Wold is
very close, Esther says she never ventured close to it, for no good
reason. One day, Esther spots Lady Dedlock approaching in the woods.
Lady Dedlock approaches her and inquires about her health. Esther
is shocked to see Lady Dedlock holding her handkerchief, the one she’d
given to Jenny. Instantly understanding, Esther sends Charley away,
and Lady Dedlock cries and says she is Esther’s mother.
Lady Dedlock begs for Esther’s forgiveness and says that
she must continue to keep this secret for Sir Leicester’s sake.
Lady Dedlock is overcome with grief and guilt but says they can
never communicate again. Esther asks if the secret is safe, and
Lady Dedlock says that Tulkinghorn may reveal it soon. She tells
Esther to confide in Mr. Jarndyce if she wishes. Esther tells us
that Lady Dedlock gives her a letter but says that she’ll tell us
the contents of the letter another time.
Ada arrives at Lincolnshire and has no negative reaction
to Esther’s changed appearance.
Summary: Chapter 37, “Jarndyce and Jarndyce”
Esther tells no one about Lady Dedlock. One day, Mr. Grubble,
the landlord of the public house Dedlock Arms, summons Esther. When she
arrives, she finds Richard there. He is on leave and has come to check
up on his interests in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit. Mr. Skimpole
is with him and is glad Richard’s involved with the suit. Esther
brings Richard to Ada, but she suspects Richard doesn’t love her
as he says he does.
The next day, Richard tells Esther more about his pursuit
of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. He says he and Mr. Jarndyce have parted ways
and that the suit is his one goal now. Ada writes Richard a letter
trying to dissuade him, but to no avail. Esther tries to convince Mr.
Skimpole not to support Richard’s goal, since it’s irresponsible, but
Mr. Skimpole says he can’t possibly be responsible. Later, when Richard
goes off to meet someone, Mr. Skimpole says he is going to meet
Mr. Vholes, his legal advisor. Skimpole admits that Vholes paid
him to be introduced to Richard.