Esther now visits Ada every day and, “on two or three occasions,” she finds Skimpole there. She thinks that it is likely that Skimpole is continuing to help Richard spend money foolishly; she also senses that Skimpole’s “careless gaiety” is vexing to Ada in her difficult situation.
Esther goes to see Skimpole and reproaches him for accepting a bribe to betray Jo’s presence at Bleak House to Bucket. Skimpole defends himself with his usual perverse reasoning. Mr. Jarndyce becomes highly critical of Skimpole’s behavior, and five years later, when Skimpole dies, the dilettante leaves a diary in which he says that Mr. Jarndyce, like “most other men I have known,” is “the Incarnation of Selfishness.”
As the months go by, Richard, still haunting the Chancery Court day after day, becomes more haggard and often sinks into an alarming lethargy of mind and body.
Allan Woodcourt walks Esther home one night and tells her that he loves her. Esther’s first thought is, “Too late,” but then she considers that thought to be “ungrateful” to Mr. Jarndyce. She tells Allan she is not free to think of his love. Allan is understanding, and the two part without unhappiness. Allan promises that he will continue to look after Richard.
The story continues to hold the reader’s interest because several lines of action remain to be resolved, among them the fate of Richard and Ada and the relationship between Esther and Allan. The fact that Esther has even a moment of regret about her prior commitment to Mr. Jarndyce makes her seem more lifelike. Readers are glad to see Skimpole exposed, at last, as the fraud and parasitic ingrate that he truly is.