Chapter LVII: Esther’s Narrative
Esther goes into great detail about the ordeal of the pursuit of her mother, and her fears as each hour passes in the blinding snow and ice storm. At all times Bucket is kind and encouraging. At the dock area near the river, they check a drowned corpse, and Esther waits in suspense. They have detectives combing the streets for someone of Lady Dedlock’s description. They stay on the trail of her dress, following it to St. Albans. They go to Jenny’s house, but only Liz and the surly brickmakers are there. They say Lady Dedlock was there but left. Jenny went one way, and she went another. One went toward London, the other away from there.
Bucket notices the brickmakers have Lady Dedlock’s watch and surmises she gave it to them in exchange for something. He realizes they are holding something back. They follow descriptions of the dress away from London. She is on foot. In the carriage, Bucket explains to Esther that it was he who took the boy Jo because he was talking too much about Lady Dedlock, and it was to keep him quiet. He says that Skimpole helped him for a five pound note.
As the sleet falls all day, Bucket starts to lose hope. He has lost track of the dress. At a tea shop, Esther faints as she thinks of her mother lying down in a wood to die. She is given some hot drink, and they go on. Bucket finally realizes what happened and turns around and goes back to London. He decides to follow Jenny.
Commentary on Chapter LVII
This is a nail-biting chase scene, and like Esther, we fear the worst. When Bucket tells Esther about Skimpole’s treachery, she thinks this betrayal is more than “childishness” and Bucket delivers a sermon on people who claim to be innocent: “Fast and loose in one thing, Fast and loose in everything” (p. 587). Esther will confront him for this later.