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Summary Chapter 61

Despite her misgivings, for the sake of Ada’s peace of mind, Esther decides to pay Mr. Skimpole a visit to dissuade him from visiting Ada and Richard. It was some time ago when Mr. Jarndyce had prevailed upon Mr. Skimpole to stop visiting Richard on account of Mr. Skimpole’s cadging ways, which Richard’s finances could do without. But of late, Mr. Skimpole has resumed his visits, worrying Esther.

Thus, one morning, with Charley in tow, Esther heads off for Mr. Skimpole’s house in Somers Town. Upon arrival, Esther intimates that her visit won’t be pleasant. Citing Richard’s penury and Ada’s concern for her husband, Esther is on the verge of making her point when Mr. Skimpole anticipates Esther and articulates what Esther had wanted to say: that she would like it if Mr. Skimpole would cease visiting Ada and Richard as they are hard up. Indeed, Mr. Skimpole not only articulates Esther’s point, thus sparing Esther her fear in giving offense, but he agrees that doing as she suggests is the best policy on the grounds that Ada and Richard are not their former, youthful, happy selves. Though Mr. Skimpole’s spin on the matter offends Esther, she consoles herself with the fact that the main objective, that Mr. Skimpole cease visiting Ada and Richard, has been achieved.

Then Esther goes into the circumstances involving the boy Jo and Mr. Bucket. Esther chides Mr. Skimpole for taking a bribe from Mr. Bucket which led to having the boy removed from Bleak House. Mr. Skimpole objects however. First of all, he argues that he knows nothing about the value of money. Secondly, he argues that the boy’s illness posed a public health hazard. Finally, he argues that in taking Mr. Bucket’s money, he had only been upholding the public’s trust of law enforcement. Unable to offer a riposte, Esther lets the matter be.

As it turns out, this is the last time Esther would ever see Mr. Skimpole. When Mr. Jarndyce learns that Mr. Skimpole had resumed his visits of Richard, he alienates himself from his old friend. It is five years hence when Mr. Skimpole dies. Esther learns that Mr. Skimpole had left a diary, published as a memoir, for posterity. In it, there is an entry which reads, “Jarndyce, in common with most other men that I have known, is the Incarnation of Selfishness.” Consequently, Esther never reads the memoir.

Presently, Esther is accompanied by Mr. Woodcourt as she leaves from visiting Ada late in the day. She is to meet Mr. Jarndyce who is to accompany her home. Today, however, for whatever reason, Mr. Jarndyce is not in in their usual meeting place. Consequently, Mr. Woodcourt accompanies Esther all the way home. Strangely enough, Mr. Jarndyce is not at home; neither is Mrs. Woodcourt. By and by, as Esther reflects on Ada and Richard’s past happiness, Mr. Woodcourt declares his love for Esther. He assures her that her changed looks are of no account to him. Esther is grateful, but, hinting at her ties to Mr. Jarndyce, she tells him that it is quite impossible for her to requite his love.

Charles Dickens