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Summary Chapter 8

Esther wakes up to a new day and acclimates herself to her new surroundings. She attends to the making of tea which is one of her duties at Bleak House. As everyone else is still asleep, Esther takes a tour of the garden, which is lovely.

At breakfast, Mr. Skimpole again impresses Esther and everyone else with his child like qualities as he discourses about the busy bee and his—Mr. Skimpole’s—aversion of work and industry. After breakfast, Mr. Jarndyce invites Esther to his study which Mr. Jarndyce has dubbed the Growlery on account of it being the place where Mr. Jarndyce growls when he is in a bad mood and the wind is blowing from the east. Unable to help herself, Esther kisses Mr. Jarndyce’s hands in a show of gratitude, but Mr. Jarndyce assures her that he has done no more for Esther than what any reasonable man of means can do for a poor orphan who has merited the support and consideration.

Presently, Mr. Jarndyce tells Esther about the miseries and horrors of the Chancery suit. Esther is told that it originated with a will that was to confer Mr. Jarndyce’s uncle Tom Jarndyce with a great wealth. On account of that will getting tied up in the courts, Tom Jarndyce, the previous owner of Bleak House, had neglected the house to the extent that it was in utter ruins when John Jarndyce took custody of it (hence the name Bleak House). As things have brightened up, however, Mr. Jarndyce hopes that with Esther’s management of it, the Growlery itself will be obsolete in due time. Indeed, Mr. Jarndyce puts so much faith in Esther’s management of Bleak House’s affairs, including finding Richard Carstone an occupation worthy of his status, that Esther has a mind to object and argue that Mr. Jarndyce, who she now calls her Guardian, may be overestimating her abilities. But loathe to spoil Mr. Jarndyce’s current cheerful mood, Esther assures her Guardian that she will do her best not to disappoint him.

Thus, with Ada’s help, Esther sees to Mr. Jarndyce’s correspondences only to feel overwhelmed by the volume of it, not to mention by the general import of the correspondences which deal in one fashion or another with charity work. One day, when Mr. Jarndyce is absent from Bleak House, a Mrs. Pardiggle pays a visit with her five young sons. She is not unlike Mrs. Jellyby—a philanthropist extraordinaire. Indeed, she currently boasts of her philanthropic work and distinguishes herself from Mrs. Jellyby by asserting that unlike Mrs. Jellyby, who keeps her children apart from her philanthropic activities, she—Mrs. Pardiggle—has her children play active roles and proceeds to enumerate their monetary contributions to her charitable causes. Presently, Mrs. Pardiggle invites Ada and Esther to join her and her children who will be making a charity visit to a benighted bricklayer and his family. Esther tries to excuse herself from taking part in the activity to no avail; Mrs. Pardiggle will not be denied.

Subsequently, Mrs. Pardiggle, her children, Ada, and Esther make their way through a mean poverty-stricken area of London. They enter a miserable looking hovel where they find the bricklayer resting and smoking a pipe. His wife who is huddled nearby and nursing a baby averts her face so as to hide her black eye. Despite the bricklayer’s objection to Mrs. Pardiggle’s charitable activity which he argues is more an intrusion and an inconvenience to all concerned, Mrs. Pardiggle proceeds to read from a book and to deliver a lecture. When she concludes, Mrs. Pardiggle assures the bricklayer that though she is done for day but that she will return. Meanwhile, Esther and Ada attend to the bricklayer’s wife and her baby when, to their horror, they realize the baby is dead and the woman is grieving.

Later that night, attended by Richard, Esther and Ada return to the sad scene at the hovel to provide what small comfort they can to the grieving bricklayer’s wife.

Charles Dickens