Summary of Chapter LXI: A Discovery
Esther goes to see Rick and Ada every day and often sees Skimpole there. She feels uncomfortable about this, knowing Skimpole is spending money the young couple needs. Esther visits Skimpole at home to ask him not to visit the Carstones at this delicate time. She expresses displeasure at his taking money from Bucket and delivering Jo to him behind Mr. Jarndyce’s back.
Skimpole gives out some ludicrous and amusing logic for his behavior, but Esther is strong in insisting that he leave the Carstones alone. He agrees, and a coolness arises between Jarndyce and Skimpole. They never see him again, but in his memoirs published after his death five years later, he describes Jarndyce as “the Incarnation of Selfishness” (p. 629).
One evening when Esther leaves the Carstones, Mr. Jarndyce is not there to walk her home as usual, so Woodcourt walks her home. They are alone, and he confesses his love to her. She thinks “Too late” (p. 630). She explains she is not free to think of it but that she is honored by his love, and that it will change her: “it shall not be lost. It shall make me better” (p. 631). She expresses her great attachment to Mr. Jarndyce and praises his character. They leave as friends, and she feels a great happiness despite her regret.
Commentary on Chapter LXI
At last the moment comes that has been building for several chapters. Woodcourt has only increased love for Esther despite her scarred face. He tells her, “You do not know what all around you see in Esther Summerson, how many hearts she touches and awakens” (p. 630). She replies, “it is a great thing to win love!” (p. 630). This has been her dream since her loveless childhood, and now she has indeed won love from every good person in her world. She does not feel she will be unhappy marrying Mr. Jarndyce because Allan’s love means so much to her: “I felt a dignity rise up within me that was derived from him” (p. 631).