Summary of Chapter XLV: In Trust
Mr. Vholes, Richard’s attorney, comes to Bleak House to announce that Richard is in debt and going to lose his commission. Vholes is described as a “bird of ill-omen,” (p. 466) gloved and buttoned up, as usual.
Mr. Jarndyce asks Esther to go to Richard, since he will not accept help from him. Esther and Charley go to Deal, Kent, to find Richard in his barracks. His room is a wreck, and he is in civilian clothes: “he looked as wild as his room” (p. 469). He reads Ada’s letter that Esther brought him, offering all her inheritance when she comes of age, to use to keep his commission. He says it is too late; he is not just leaving because he wants to, he has been ordered to sell out, and he admits soldiering is not his calling. Now he will be free to spend fulltime on the Chancery suit. He is still bitter towards Jarndyce for interfering with his engagement.
As Esther leaves, she sees Mr. Woodcourt, and at first she avoids him. Then she takes command of herself and goes out to greet him: “And I saw that he was very sorry for me” (p. 473). His tender pity for her altered looks does her good; she takes new fortitude. He dines with Richard and Esther, and mentions to her later that Richard is much changed. She asks him to befriend Richard, and he replies, “I will accept him as a trust, and it shall be a sacred one!”(p. 474).
Commentary on Chapter XLV
Mr. Vholes is described in more and more disgusting terms. He has a “cold-blooded fish-like manner” and picks his red pimples with his black glove. He claims he is being professional and has no interest in the case, but he is “a long thin shadow” (p. 465) “diffusing a very unpleasant perfume” (p. 467). His ghoulish work on Richard is nearly completed.
Both Esther and Ada are loyal to Richard, as is Mr. Jarndyce, but Richard has trouble recognizing this. Esther seems to know what is coming: “He was ever the same to me. Down to—ah, poor fellow!—to the end” (p. 469). He tells her “I can’t help it now, and can’t be sane” (p. 470). He is obsessed like Miss Flite.
Esther has already accepted Mr. Jarndyce and has put Woodcourt behind her, but his warm sympathy is soothing to her. The way he accepts Esther’s request as a command and sacred trust shows how much he still cares.