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Summary Chapter 5

Upon Caddy’s suggestion, Esther decides to go for a walk with Caddy to see London by day. They are to be joined by Ada and Richard. But first, Esther lulls Peepy back to sleep.

As Caddy and Esther emerge onto the streets, Caddy walks at an agitated, rapid pace all the while venting her frustration with regard her mother’s preoccupation with Africa; Caddy equally excoriates Mr. Quale, the young gentleman with whom Mrs. Jellyby shares her obsession. Esther objects, but it isn’t until Ada and Richard join them that Caddy calms down.

By and by, the quartet encounters Miss Flite, the little old woman who is a suitor in Chancery and who is mad as Richard correctly surmised yesterday when they had met at Lincoln’s Inn outside the High Court of Chancery. The quartet tries to avoid Miss Flite to no avail. Miss Flite greets and addresses them, wonders if Caddy is another ward of Jarndyce (is told that she is not), and invites the young people to her apartment.

Because Miss Flite’s apartment isn’t far, before the young people could decline the invitation, the young people find themselves at a rag shop of sorts which is run by a gnarly, cadaverous looking man named Krook who is also Miss Flite’s landlord. When Miss Flite has some difficulty unlocking the door to her apartment, Mr. Krook invites them to use an alternate entrance which will take them through his shop.

Besides used bottles of all sorts, old clothing, and old parchments, Mr. Krook has a collection of ladies’ hair. Presently, Mr. Krook touches a tress of Ada’s golden hair in admiration when Richard puts a stop to it. The young people notice a gray cat with tigerish claws which Mr. Krook has named Lady Jane. As Miss Flite had earlier mentioned, Mr. Krook is often called the Chancellor on account of his knowledge of the case Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Indeed, when the old man learns that Richard is a ward of Jarndyce, he demonstrates that his knowledge of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is comparable to the High Lord Chancellor’s and presently tells the story of Tom Jarndyce who had committed suicide on account of the case’s interminable nature.

The young people are glad when they finally part from Mr. Krook and enter Miss Flite’s apartment which is clean but utterly bare and lacking in amenities. By and by, Miss Flite continues to harp on her eternal hope and optimism to be rendered a decision in court that will reward her handsomely. Then she draws aside the curtain and shows her caged birds which she explains will be released the day when the court renders a decision in her favor. She also explains that she has the birds often covered with the curtain so as to have them hid from Mr. Krook’s cat Lady Jane. Presently, bells outside indicating the time remind Miss Flite that she has to be in court.

On their way out, the party witnesses Mr. Krook securing packets of waste paper in a sort of a well in the floor. As Mr. Krook makes a chalk mark on the paneling of wall, he detains Esther. He writes various letters and assures Esther that though he is illiterate, he can yet read and write some words through sheer memory. Esther is relieved when Richard summons her to hurry and to exit the shop.

By and by, the young people part from Miss Flite and return to Mrs. Jellyby’s residence. There they find that everything is as it previously was: in disorder with Mrs. Jellyby beginning her new day with yet more correspondences to Africa, never mind that Peepy was missing for an hour and a half before being returned by a policeman who found the child wandering in Newgate (apparently in search of Esther).

After breakfast, the wards of Jarndyce say their goodbyes to the Jellybys and board a coach for Bleak House.

Charles Dickens