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Summary Chapter 17

Esther is concerned with Richard, at his lack of purpose and direction. Subsequently, when the Badgers pay a visit during Mr. Jarndyce’s absence, Esther inquires them about Richard’s progress.

Presently, repeatedly referring to the wisdom of her two previous husbands Captain Swosser and Professor Dingo, which wisdom Mr. Badger repeatedly confirms, Mrs. Badger informs Esther that Richard isn’t really cut out to be a medical doctor, that the effort he exerts falls short of true dedication without which any endeavor is bound to fail. Mr. Badger agrees.

Alarmed, Esther decides to have it out with Richard before Mr. Jarndyce gets wind of the situation.

To Esther’s chagrin, Mrs. Badger’s assessment turns out to be true, as Richard admits that he is bored, and that he would rather dedicate his energy to the law and serve under Mr. Kenge. Ada is of two minds. On the one hand, she believes in Richard. Richard has made a mistake, and he will make amends. On the other hand, she does not like Richard’s choice of the law as his backup plan. It has too many associations with the Chancery suit and all its miseries and torments.

When Mr. Jarndyce is apprised of Richard’s situation, he is understanding and sympathetic. He makes only one stipulation: that Richard does not cause Ada any distress and heartache with his actions.

Yet, as Ada seeks reassurances that her cousin John Jarndyce isn’t angry with Richard, Esther senses an ominous shadow in consequence whereof Esther finds herself unable to sleep later that night. She attends to her needlework. She goes to her Guardian’s study where she had left some silk when she finds her Guardian Mr. Jarndyce awake and distraught. He tells her that he is occupied with a matter that Esther would not understand. In lieu of the matter that had him preoccupied, Mr. Jarndyce informs Esther of the circumstances that led to Esther becoming a ward of Mr. Jarndyce. It involves Esther’s mother who had solicited John Jarndyce through a letter asking him if he wouldn’t mind becoming her daughter’s guardian, and who, according to Esther’s aunt, was the family’s disgrace.

Presently, Mr. Jarndyce assures Esther that he hasn’t once regretted his decision to be Esther’s guardian. Esther thanks him and calls him his surrogate father.

The next day, the dark young man Mr. Allan Woodcourt, who is due to sail in a ship destined for China and India and who is to serve as the ship’s physician, pays a visit and brings with him his mother, who goes on about how the Woodcourt family, though presently impoverished, derives from Welsh royalty on account of which she expects Allan’s betrothed to be likewise of gentle birth. Somewhat embarrassed, Mr. Woodcourt bids adieu and departs.

Later that day, as Esther is busy attending to the household chores, Caddy pays a visit. She has a posy of flowers for Esther. The posy is from Allan Woodcourt.

Charles Dickens