Meanwhile, Richard has still not decided what profession he should go into. Mr. Jarndyce feels that this is because Richard has been born into uncertainty, with his familial connection to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. When Mr. Jarndyce suggests that Richard should become a doctor, Richard agrees that he has always thought this, although he has never mentioned it before. Mr. Jarndyce is not sure that Richard has the discipline to become a surgeon, however, and invites Mr. Kenge down to discuss it with him.
Richard has inherited the court case and, although it is not his fault, this inheritance has had a negative effect on his temperament. Richard has clearly not always wanted to become a doctor, as he has never mentioned it before. He does not really care about his profession and just goes along with whatever Mr. Jarndyce says. Mr. Jarndyce can tell this is the case but does not wish to force Richard into anything.
Mr. Kenge agrees with Mr. Jarndyce that a doctor is a noble profession, but that it is a great deal of work. Mr. Jarndyce says that all professions require diligence and hard work. Mr. Kenge arranges for Richard to take an apprenticeship with a cousin of his in London. Mr. Jarndyce agrees to take him to the city the next week, and to take Esther and Ada along for a holiday.
Mr. Jarndyce and Mr. Kenge suspect that if Richard is not serious about medicine, he will not put in the necessary amount of effort to be a success.
They take an apartment in London and Esther is excited to explore the city. She is dismayed, however, to find that Mr. Guppy has seen her and that he now follows her around; he always attends the theater on the same nights that she does and stares at her all the way through performances. She notices that his dress is shabby and that he makes himself look very pitiable; she is totally at a loss as how to put him off. She does not want to tell Richard or Mr. Jarndyce because she does not want to get Mr. Guppy into trouble, but his pursuit annoys her and makes her feel she is “haunted” by him.
Mr. Guppy is an attention seeker and throws himself into Esther’s way so that she will notice him and repent her decision. He tries to make himself look pathetic so that she may reconsider. This is very off-putting behavior, however, and has the opposite effect. Esther is very decent and does not wish to hurt Mr. Guppy, although he makes life difficult for her and has little regard for her feelings.
Richard is apprenticed to a surgeon named Mr. Badger, whose wife, Mrs. Badger, has been married twice before to two very eminent men. One night, the party is invited to dinner with the Badgers, and Mrs. Badger entertains them with tales of her previous lovers, who are both dead and whom she never tires of talking about. Her first husband was a famous sea captain, while her second was a prodigious scientist; both were extremely dedicated to their careers.
Mrs. Badger’s husbands are all examples of professionally successful men. Their success comes from their dedication and discipline, which contrasts sharply with Richard’s undisciplined and scattered approach to his career.
Esther notices towards the end of their stay in London that Ada and Richard have been unusually quiet. Richard is set to remain behind in London, while Esther, Ada, and Mr. Jarndyce are to return to Bleak House. After their dinner at the Badgers’, Ada takes Esther aside and tells her that she and Richard have fallen in love and agreed to be married. Esther tells Ada that she has known all along, and the pair celebrate together.
It seems that Ada and Richard are worried about Esther’s reaction to their secret and are relieved when she is happy for them. Of course, Esther always puts others before herself and is nothing but delighted for her friends.
Richard comes into the room, and he and Ada ask Esther if she will speak to Mr. Jarndyce for them. They realize that they are too young to be married but wish to have their guardian’s permission. Esther goes to Mr. Jarndyce’s study the next evening and tells him of their relationship. Mr. Jarndyce confesses that he had anticipated this but that he hoped they would wait a little before deciding anything. Nonetheless, he is happy for them and invites the pair into his office.
Richard and Ada are young and impulsive, and rush into this romantic decision. Mr. Jarndyce, who is older and more measured, understands that they might change their minds but supports them, nonetheless.
Mr. Jarndyce congratulates Richard and Ada but cautions them against getting married too young. He tells them both, however, that he will support their decisions no matter what, and that although he is their guardian, he does not want any power over them. He advises Richard to invest in his future career and repeats his friendly warning that he will get nowhere without hard work, then sends the young couple away with his blessing. He and Esther watch them go but, as they pass down the corridor from his room, the sun goes behind a cloud, casting a shadow on the pair.
Mr. Jarndyce is not judgmental and seeks to guide the young people rather than to dictate to them. Mr. Jarndyce knows that, as her husband, Richard will be responsible for Ada’s income as well as his own and encourages him to work her for her sake. However, the shadow which falls on them foreshadows their doomed romance and Richard’s early death.