Having been awakened and told of the situation in the Dedlock household and of her mother having fled, Esther quickly gets dressed and joins Mr. Bucket in the search for her mother. Mr. Bucket’s rationale for enlisting Esther’s help is that in the event he fails to persuade Lady Dedlock to return to the fold of the Dedlock household, that Esther may yet persuade her mother to refrain from rushing headlong into a rash undertaking. Presently, as they ride off in horse and carriage, Mr. Bucket asks Esther if she knows of anyone or anyplace where Lady Dedlock might flee to. Esther replies Mr. Boythorn’s on account of Mr. Boythorn having been once engaged to Lady Dedlock’s sister.
They first stop at a police station where Mr. Bucket busies himself with three other officers in copying out a description of Lady Dedlock. Esther, who has been given a seat by a fire, confirms the accuracy of the description, and again she and Mr. Bucket ride off in horse and carriage. They cross a bridge and arrive at a wharf of sorts. There Mr. Bucket alights to have a chat with a worker. All the while, Esther, who remains in the carriage, is haunted by a bill, which is pasted on a wall and which states, “FOUND DROWNED.” Presently, Mr. Bucket, satisfied that Lady Dedlock had not come by this way, gets back in the horse and carriage which presently sets off for Saint Albans.
Fresh horses are acquired at Barnet before Esther and Mr. Bucket set off again. During the journey, Mr. Bucket engages anyone and everyone, who happens to be along their route, with questions about Lady Dedlock. Mr. Bucket informs Esther that her mother had indeed passed the route that they are currently traversing. Presently, they arrive at Saint Albans. As they head towards Bleak House, Mr. Bucket mentions of how he once saw Esther, her servant Charley, and the boy Jo, who Mr. Bucket refers to as Toughey, on this very stretch of road. He explains of how he was in Mr. Tulkinghorn’s service, and of how his job was to keep Toughey silent about his having met Lady Dedlock for the purpose of keeping Lady Dedlock’s secret a secret from Sir Leicester Dedlock. He also explains that he was able to do his job with the help of Harold Skimpole who received payment for taking Mr. Bucket to the boy Jo. This revelation angers Esther who now sees Mr. Skimpole’s childish innocence in a new light.
Presently, Esther learns from the servants of Bleak House that Lady Dedlock hadn’t come by. Mr. Bucket decides they had best pay the bricklayers and their wives a visit, which they do to the bricklayers’ displeasure. Indeed, Esther tries to engage Liz to no avail. Her husband demands that she remain silent. As to Jenny’s bricklayer husband, he begrudges to answer. He replies that Lady Dedlock had indeed been here last night, that she looked very tired and worn out, that she rested for a bit before heading off in a direction opposite Jenny, who headed to Lunnum. When Esther and Mr. Bucket return to their horse and carriage to resume their search, Mr. Bucket surmises that Jenny’s husband had acquired Lady Dedlock’s watch what with his account of Lady Dedlock’s visit and departure being full of specific references to the hour and minutes.
Having returned to Bleak House, Esther has a note dispatched to Mr. Jarndyce. Then Esther and Mr. Bucket resume their search. They plunge further and further into the countryside. Needless to say, the weather is very cold and unpleasant. At dawn, it had started to snow. That snow has now turned to sleet. Alas, as Mr. Bucket continues to converse with every passerby, Lady Dedlock’s trail goes cold. Mr. Bucket assures Esther that this often happens when tracking someone and that eventually the trail is bound to be picked up again. But several stages of the journey passes with not sign of Lady Dedlock’s trail. Mr. Bucket decides to turn back to London. Mr. Bucket assures Esther that things will be all right.