Esther has a short illness after Lady Dedlock’s death but recovers quickly. They remain in London, and Mr. Jarndyce says that they should stay there for a time. They see Ada every day and hear reports from Mr. Woodcourt every few days on the state of Richard’s health. Mr. Woodcourt says that although Richard is not ill, he is deeply troubled and weak. Mr. Jarndyce is very concerned about Richard, but Richard still distrusts him. Esther says that this is unreasonable, but Mr. Jarndyce laments that no one is reasonable about Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
Richard’s condition continues to deteriorate, and Mr. Jarndyce suspects that it will end in tragedy because of the negative effect that the lawsuit has on people.
Mrs. Woodcourt has come to stay with them, and Mr. Jarndyce asks Esther how she gets along with the old lady. Esther says that Mrs. Woodcourt seems more personable this time, and Mr. Jarndyce agrees she does not talk about her lineage as much as she used to. Mr. Jarndyce says that it is also good to have her there because Mr. Woodcourt comes often to visit her. Esther feels uncomfortable about this and tries to hide it from her guardian.
Mrs. Woodcourt now knows that Esther is a Dedlock but does not realize that Lady Dedlock was not of noble birth. It seems, then, that Mrs. Woodcourt now thinks that Esther is good enough for her son.
Esther asks Mr. Jarndyce if he thinks that Mr. Woodcourt will go abroad again, and Mr. Jarndyce says that Mr. Woodcourt has been offered a position in Yorkshire at a new hospital for the poor. Esther thinks that the parish there will be very lucky to have him, and Mr. Jarndyce agrees but cautions her that it is a meager living and not a prestigious post.
Mr. Jarndyce is one of the most honorable characters in the novel. He is both levelheaded and charitable, hence his belief that Mr. Woodcourt is doing a good thing by serving the poor but that he will have a difficult time supporting himself on this salary. It is interesting, though, that he stresses to Esther how little Mr. Woodcourt will make, suggesting that Mr. Jarndyce perhaps has other motives for discussing the doctor with her.
Esther goes to visit Ada every day during this time. She lives with Richard in his gloomy lodgings, and her husband grows paler and more distracted by the day. One evening, on her way there, Esther meets Miss Flite who tells her that she has just left Richard at the court with Mr. Vholes. Miss Flite wrinkles her nose at the name and says that she distrusts the lawyer. Richard, she says, has become quite a regular in court, and she has made him her “executor,” a title she had once thought to bestow on Gridley.
Miss Flite is very self-aware in her madness and her dealings with Chancery. She distrusts Mr. Vholes because she can see he is part of the Chancery system, which draws people in and sends the mad. Richard is now mad, like Miss Flite, and Miss Flite treats him as a colleague in the delusional lawsuit over which she presides. Richard, she says, will be her successor in this.
Esther is unhappy to hear this but hides it from the old woman. Miss Flite leans towards her and tells her confidentially that she has added two new birds to her aviary. She has called them “The Wards in Jarndyce” after Richard and Ada, and they live in the cage with all the others that are named things like “Hope,” “Joy,” and “Peace.” Esther thinks Miss Flite looks worried as she tells Esther this, and she watches unhappily as the old lady hurries away.
Miss Flite is fully aware that Richard and Ada’s situation is tragic. She has named two birds after them because she knows that they are trapped by the madness of Chancery and cannot escape until the case is over. All their hopes, joy, and peace are bound up with the case, too.
Mr. Vholes arrives at Richard’s a few minutes after Esther gets there, and while Ada and Richard prepare the food, he asks to speak with Esther in private. Mr. Vholes tells her that he thinks Richard’s marriage to Ada is “ill advised” and that Richard is in a very bad state. Esther, who deeply dislikes Mr. Vholes and thinks he is like a vampire, says that Richard’s ill health is due to the bad influences in his life. Mr. Vholes disregards this, however, and explains patiently that he is quite respectable and that he only performs the work for his client which he has been paid to oversee.
It seems that Mr. Vholes does not like that Ada distracts Richard from the case and feels that she may talk him out of investing in the lawsuits, which would prevent Mr. Vholes from profiting off of Richard. Esther feels that Mr. Vholes is vampiric and will drain the life out of Richard by exploiting him. Since Mr. Vholes’s work is all legal and considered respectable, it is difficult to challenge his ethics, although they are clearly skewed.
Richard is irritable and sullen over dinner, although he tries to be merry for Esther and Ada’s sake. Mr. Vholes leaves immediately after dinner and Richard goes with him. When he returns, he gives a brief defensive speech in which he dwells upon what a solid, honest fellow Mr. Vholes is and then throws himself mournfully on the couch. Mr. Woodcourt comes in soon after this and persuades Richard, in a friendly, unassuming way, to take a walk with him.
Richard defends Mr. Vholes because he is losing face but cannot bring himself to admit this. Mr. Woodcourt is very good with Richard and persuades him to take care of himself by treating him as an equal and making Richard feel that it is valuable to Mr. Woodcourt to spend time with him.
Ada and Esther sit together while the men are out and Esther notices that her friend is very agitated. Ada explains that she can see how far Richard has fallen and how ill and worn he is. She begins to cry and tells Esther that she is pregnant. Esther is very pleased for her, but is distressed when Ada says that, although the thought of her child gives her hope for the future, she is afraid that Richard will die before the child is born.
Ada can see how bad Richard’s health and mental state are but does not like to show this in front of him.