Chapters 36-38 Summary

At Mr. Boythorn’s invitation, Esther and Charley relocate to his country estate next to Chesney Wold. Esther braces herself and looks in the mirror to see the extent of the scarring on her face. She knows that she was never beautiful, but she sees that whatever attractiveness she had is gone. She thinks of Mr. Woodcourt’s flowers, which she kept and dried. Although she feels his love could not remain due to her change of appearance, she decides to keep them anyway in memory of what might have been.

Esther and Charley take frequent walks around the grounds. One day she meets Lady Dedlock, who expresses her concern over Esther’s illness. Suddenly Lady Dedlock breaks into tears and throws herself at Esther’s feet—and confesses that she is Esther’s mother. Esther is overcome to at last meet the woman about whom she has dreamed so often. Lady Dedlock begs for Esther’s forgiveness but tells her that she must keep her secret for the sake of her husband. What is more, she and Esther can never speak to each other again, lest the secret come out. She leaves Esther a letter, which explains that she had been told her baby had died.

Esther struggles to contain herself because Ada is arriving that afternoon. As Esther knew she would, Ada greets her with love, with no concern over her altered appearance. Esther receives a message that someone wants to meet her at the Dedlock Arms, the local pub. It turns out to be Richard, who has brought Mr. Skimpole. Richard tells Esther that he is still involved in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Esther takes him to Ada, who senses a change in Richard’s feelings toward her. Richard then goes off to meet a Mr. Vhole, who has become his legal adviser. Esther distrusts Mr. Vhole; she feels that he is preying on Richard in his obsession over Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

After Esther returns to Bleak House, she travels to London to see Caddy. Caddy says she is learning to be a dance instructor because Prince’s health is so uncertain. Caddy goes with Esther to visit Mr. Guppy. Mr. Guppy thinks she has come to accept his proposal of marriage, but she has come to end the matter. She removes her veil and shows her scarred face. Mr. Guppy stammeringly insists that he at no time meant seriously to ask Esther to marry him. Esther assures him that she does not hold him to his promise. Having rid herself of Mr. Guppy, Esther returns to Bleak House with a lightened heart.