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Summary Chapter 59

It is between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. when Esther and Mr. Bucket arrive in the outskirts of London (Islington). There they change horses and carriage. Mr. Bucket has proven himself to be as industrious and indefatigable as the horses which have had to labor mightily on account of the snow and sleet which have made the roads difficult to pass. Indeed, it is many a time when Mr. Bucket had alighted to help the drivers extricate a horse from the harness, an inconvenience caused by the treacherousness of the roads. Esther herself has endured much hardship. Though she isn’t conscious of it, the snow has soaked her dress wet. Seeing this, one of the drivers fetches an armful of dry straw with which Esther might buffer herself against the cold while traveling. Thus insulated, Esther arrives in London with Mr. Bucket, who is as vigilant and industrious as ever in procuring information from fellow police officers whom they pass along the way. All the while Esther can’t quite believe why they have returned to London when her mother is plunging deeper and deeper into the countryside.

Presently, they alight at Holborn, which Esther recognizes as a place near Chancery Lane. The clock strikes half-past five when Mr. Woodcourt recognizes Esther. They exchange explanations as to their being at this particular place at this particular time (Mr. Woodcourt is returning from having paid a Richard a visit at Ada’s behest; Esther confirms Mr. Woodcourt’s having heard from Mr. Jarndyce that she has been called away on some uncommon business), and it’s agreed upon, with Mr. Bucket’s encouragement, that Mr. Woodcourt accompany Esther and Mr. Bucket. By and by, the trio arrives at the law-stationer’s establishment Cook’s Court, Cursitor Street. Mr. Snagsby greets them and ushers them in. According to a fellow police officer, the Snagsby’s maid servant Guster was last seen receiving a letter from a woman, a letter which may very well be the key to finding Lady Dedlock. The problem is that Guster is going through a nervous breakdown on account of this business. Thus the doctor Mr. Woodcourt administers to Guster.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bucket sets things straight with Mrs. Snagsby who is under the impression that Esther is carrying on an affair with her husband. Mr. Bucket explains that tonight’s business has nothing to do with her husband who is only mixed up in this matter on account of Mr. Tulkinghorn, who had wanted some information from Mr. Snagsby, and that the boy Jo is also tied up with Mr. Tulkinghorn’s agenda, which again has nothing to do with Mr. Snagsby. Presently, Mr. Bucket shows Esther a letter and asks her to confirm if indeed the letter’s handwriting is her mother’s. Esther reads and, to her dismay, confirms that the handwriting is her mother’s. (The content speaks of the writer’s determination to die.) By and by, Mr. Woodcourt assures Mr. Bucket that the house servant Guster is well enough to be questioned. Guster is still emotionally unsettled but with Esther’s help and encouragement, Guster comes around to telling her story.

She had been returning from an errand when a woman, who was dressed shabbily but who exhibited a noble bearing and speech, beckoned to her and asked her whether she knew the way to a nearby burying-ground where there was “an archway, and a step, and an iron gate.” It took a while for Guster to realize what the woman was speaking of, but when she did, she didn’t hesitate to tell the way to the burying ground where Captain Hawdon was buried, the place where Mr. Snagsby spoke of once with such dread that Guster shuddered to even think of. Then the woman had handed Guster the letter, which Mr. Bucket had only just read to Esther, and which Guster had promised to hand deliver it to the addressee.

Subsequently, Esther, Mr. Bucket, and Mr. Woodcourt head towards the burying-ground with the archway, a step, and an iron gate. There they notice a body of a woman slumped over. She is dead. Esther thinks the woman is Jenny as she is dressed in Jenny’s clothes, but Mr. Bucket and Mr. Woodcourt know better. Lady Dedlock had changed clothes with Jenny for the sake of throwing off her pursuers. They debate as to whether they should allow Esther to see the dead woman’s face. They decide that it’s only right for Esther to see her mother’s face before anyone else.

Charles Dickens