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Summary Chapter 38

Esther Summerson's return to Bleak House makes for a busy time for Esther as she catches up on the housekeeping that she had left in the care of others while she was away convalescing in Mr. Boythorn's house in Chesney Wold. Even so she is reminded of a document given her by Lady Dedlock, which proves their consanguinity and which Esther had disposed of in the fire. She is reminded of her avowal to Lady Dedlock that she--Esther--will keep the nature of their relationship a secret from the rest of the world. To that end, she decides to pay the solicitor clerk Mr. Guppy a visit in London under the pretext of seeing Caddy Jellyby.

Reuniting with Caddy turns out to be a great success as Esther learns of Caddy and Prince's domestic arrangements. Mr. Turveydrop has struck up a friendship with Mr. Jellyby. He is also very fond of the Jellyby's big-headed toddler Peepy who is living with Caddy and Prince within the precincts of Mr. Turveydrop's dancing school. Meanwhile, Caddy is exerting herself to the utmost to master the piano and the fiddle so that she may lend Prince a hand in the family business.

Presently, when Caddy has finished helping Prince train their apprentices who number four and who are veritable street urchins, Caddy accompanies Esther to Mr. Guppy's house where Mr. Guppy's mother greets and ushers them in. Esther Summerson's presence discomfits Mr. Guppy to the extent he doesn't know whether he's coming or going. Nonetheless, having secured a one-on-one conference with Mr. Guppy, Esther proceeds to gist of the matter of her visit. She wants Mr. Guppy to drop his investigations with regard the circumstances of her orphanage the revelation of which Mr. Guppy had informed Esther would advance her fortunes. Mr. Guppy avows that he would, all the while referring to his unsuccessful marriage proposal vis-a-vis Esther. Esther assures Mr. Guppy that she has never disclosed Mr. Guppy's unsuccessful marriage proposal to another party.

With that, Esther, accompanied by Caddy, leaves the Guppys' residence only to be repeatedly waylaid by Mr. Guppy who comes running to Esther to inform her that she could rely on him to keep his word, and to seek assurances from her that he has her word she hasn't spoken a word about Mr. Guppy's unsuccessful marriage proposal to a third party. Esther thanks Mr. Guppy for his avowal and assures him that his secret is safe with her.

Charles Dickens