Esther is walking in the garden, when Mr. Woodcourt hurries towards her and tells her that George has been arrested for Mr. Tulkinghorn’s murder. Esther is horrified when she remembers Lady Dedlock’s hatred of the lawyer and rushes inside with Mr. Woodcourt to consult Mr. Jarndyce. Mr. Jarndyce does not believe that George is guilty, and Esther acknowledges that it is unfortunate that there appears to be so much evidence against him.
Esther does not believe George is guilty either but is realistic. She acknowledges that there is evidence to suggest that he may have committed the murder.
Mr. Woodcourt explains that George is the one who sent him to see Mr. Jarndyce and the rest of the group because the trooper is very concerned that his friends will think he’s guilty. Mr. Jarndyce says that he will stand by George. Mr. Woodcourt and Mr. Jarndyce decide to visit George immediately. Esther goes too, both for George’s sake, but also because of Mr. Tulkinghorn’s relationship with her mother, Lady Dedlock.
George is afraid that his friends will turn against him. He does not care what happens to him as much as he cares about losing his friends’ respect and trust. Esther is worried that her mother has something to do with the murder and wants to find out more.
They are allowed into George’s cell and immediately let the trooper know that they believe he is innocent. They are surprised to find George very calm; he explains that as he is innocent and there is nothing he can do, he sees no point in protesting about his situation. Mr. Jarndyce asks if George has entered a plea and he replies that he has told the magistrate the truth. Mr. Jarndyce exclaims that the truth alone will not do, and that George needs a lawyer, but the trooper does not want one. He dislikes lawyers and says that Gridley did not have one. Mr. Jarndyce protests that Equity is a different type of law.
George is not canny in the ways of law and business and thinks that the case will be a straightforward matter of telling the truth. Mr. Jarndyce feels that Chancery law is unnecessary and should be abolished, but criminal law is important. Chancery was separate from the regular courts, and although Dickens dislikes this institution, he acknowledges that criminal law is important to uphold justice.
George explains that, even if he had a lawyer, the man would probably not believe him and would lie about events in court. George explains that he did have motive to kill Mr. Tulkinghorn because he was very much in debt to the man. George says that, if he is to be hanged, he’d rather be hanged on his own terms as an honest man. While he talks, the door opens and, a few moments later, they are alerted to the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Bagnet, who have just entered the cell.
George is a very honest and straightforward man who dislikes the theatricality, intellectual arguments, and legal gymnastics which go into courtroom justice. George feels that he does not need a lawyer’s help but can defend himself.
Mrs. Bagnet, who has heard the conversation, urges George to take Mr. Jarndyce’s advice. Mrs. Bagnet complains that George has always been willful and gives him the small supper which she has brought for him. Esther notices that Mrs. Bagnet is signaling for them to meet her outside and she draws Mr. Jarndyce away with many kind words to the trooper. As Esther leaves the room, George looks at her intently and remarks on a strange coincidence. He thinks that he saw Esther the previous night outside Mr. Tulkinghorn’s house. Esther feels a chill at these words as she leaves the cell.
Mrs. Bagnet feels that George is stubborn to refuse legal help and that he does not care about himself because, he feels, he is burden on people. Esther believes that George has seen her mother outside Mr. Tulkinghorn’s and suspects that she may have committed the murder to keep her secret safe.
Mrs. Bagnet follows them outside and immediately bursts into tears. She composes herself quickly though, and tells Esther that although George will never admit this, his mother is still alive and must be summoned. Mrs. Bagnet decides then and there that she will go to Lincolnshire herself and fetch George’s mother. She sets off right away with a small pouch of money in her skirts. Esther and Mr. Jarndyce watch her go, amazed, and Mr. Bagnet remarks that she is an incredible woman.
George will not admit that his mother is alive, suggesting that he is ashamed of his past. Mrs. Bagnet, who is an objective outsider, knows that she must take action and contact his mother even if George can’t or won’t.