To keep his promise to Esther and to befriend Rick, Mr. Woodcourt had had to first meet with Mr. Vholes. Needless to say, the meeting was unpleasant what with Mr. Vholes indefinitely detaining Mr. Woodcourt and making a point of confiding in Mr. Woodcourt of Richard Carstone's lack of funds which would make it impossible for Richard Carstone to continue employing Mr. Vholes. Indeed, according to Mr. Vholes, Richard is already heavily indebted to Mr. Vholes, making their relationship a converse of what it is: Richard will have to serve Mr. Vholes to work off his debt. Eventually, Mr. Woodcourt learns where Richard is currently situated (two storeys below Mr. Vholes' office) and pays him a visit. There Richard admits that he is not doing well but urges Mr. Woodcourt to take him--Richard--as he is and never to forget that his attempt to unravel the Chancery suit is done with Ada's welfare in mind.
Two months have passed since Mr. Woodcourt's first visit, two months during which Esther had been taking care of Cadddy, when Esther and Ada pay Richard a visit. There Rick informs Esther that Mr. Woodcourt has been daily paying him a visit, making his days bearable. Suddenly, Ada informs Esther of momentous news: She and Rick had secrectly gotten married two months ago. Henceforth, Ada will not return to Bleak House; she will stay with her husband. The news disburbs Esther to the core, but she manages to keep her outward composure, for Ada's sake. Nonethless, when Esther is by herself, she cannot control her tears. The thought of Ada spending her life in such a desolate place cleaves her heart in two. Having informed Mr. Jarndyce of this turn of events, Esther, accompanied by Charley, returns to Ada and Richard's new domicile later that night. But she can't bring herself to knock on their door; Esther settles for kissing "the hearse-like panel of the door." The act mitigates Esther's pain.