Summary of Chapter LI: Enlightened
Woodcourt tries to keep his promise to help Richard and goes to Vholes’s office to get his address. Richard lives next door to Vholes, and Woodcourt finds him in a dirty apartment, dejected, but insisting he is now pursuing the suit for his dear Ada as well. He is happy to have Woodcourt’s friendship and advice.
Esther suggests to Ada they pay Richard a call, and she seems reluctant. Ada mysteriously knows the way. Richard’s eyes are sunken, but he says Woodcourt has been to see him, and “the place brightens whenever he comes, and darkens whenever he goes again” (p. 526). Esther is happy that Woodcourt has kept his word. Richard says of the suit, “We are really spinning along” (p. 527).
Suddenly Ada puts her arms around Richard and says to Esther she is not going home again. She and Richard have been married for two months. Esther sees “a love that nothing but death could change” (p. 527). Esther blesses them and promises to visit often but when she leaves, she weeps from loneliness at having lost Ada. When Mr. Jarndyce hears of it, he says, “Bleak House is thinning fast” (p. 530).
Commentary on Chapter LI
The voracious Vholes, ever anxious for more fees, assaults Woodcourt as a possible source of more income for Richard. Any increase in Richard’s income will of course be eaten up in court costs, and so more and more friends must be found to help bear the cost. Ada’s marriage means that Richard now has use of her money. Richard likes Woodcourt, but mentions to Esther that he “is only an outsider, and is not in the mysteries” (p. 526) like he and Ada and Vholes. Richard speaks of the suit as a “labyrinth” but he speaks as though he is one of the privileged in a great mystery (p. 526). He talks more and more like the mad Miss Flite, and Ada, whether or not taken in, is in love. Esther feels that even if the suit disappeared overnight, Richard would retain the damage for life.
Mr. Jarndyce takes the news philosophically, but both he and Esther mourn for the fate of the young couple, whom they cannot help. Esther says that he cast “his old bright fatherly look on me” (p. 530), which once again confirms she is giving up romance to marry a father figure. She does not say she envies it, but she looks upon the beauty of the young love of Richard and Ada. Ada’s devotion is unshakeable.