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(Esther's back. She's still blind, so we kind of feel bad making fun of her so much before.)
Esther is full-on sick for several weeks. She's got a fever, she's delirious, and she hallucinates about endless staircases and being part of a necklace. Really, the works.
But then, very slowly, she starts to get better. And also, her eyesight starts to gradually come back. Whew!
Suddenly she realizes that all the mirrors have been taken away from the rooms. When she asks Charley about it, Charley starts to cry. That's pretty scary, right there. So Shmoop's guessing Esther had shingles, or smallpox, or some similar kind of skin-disfiguring illness.
Jarndyce comes to see Esther and they are very sweet together. Esther again feels like he's a dad figure for her.
They talk about Richard a little bit. Apparently he's been hiring lawyers for himself and is starting to really mistrust Jarndyce. He's got Chancery-itis.
Finally Esther asks to go off to the country for a little bit before seeing Ada. She wants to get used to her new face before she sees Ada's reaction to her.
It's really all so very sad.
Boythorn wants nothing more than to have Esther at his place. He leaves so she can have the house all to herself.
Before she goes, though, she gets a visit from Miss Flite, who has heard that she is ill.
Miss Flite is super sweet, with hugs and kisses, and tears all around.
She tells Esther that a lady came to see Jenny and Liz, the wives of the brickmakers, took the handkerchief that Esther had left there a long time ago for the dead baby, and left some money for it.
Esther kind of figures maybe it was Caddy and doesn't think too much about it.
Then Miss Flite tells her life story. Her dad apparently was a nice guy who was sucked into a Chancery lawsuit and became a miserable, angry man. After he died her brother got sucked in until he became an alcoholic. Then her sister was also sucked in and became... well, Miss Flite won't elaborate, but the implication is that she became a prostitute. And finally, Miss Flite was sucked and went mad.
Hey, you know what's apparently a really great institution? Chancery.
OK, Dickens, we get it, Chancery sucks.
Miss Flite warns that she sees the signs of Richard's getting sucked in.
Finally she tells Esther what's happened to Mr. Woodcourt, the nice young doctor.
Seems that his boat sailing to China was shipwrecked! But he's OK. Actually, better than OK – he was a very heroic first-responder, helping the other passengers, saving lives, and generally being extremely awesome.
Miss Flite is psyched because she thinks he will get a title out of this, but Esther knows that however awesome people are in peacetime, titles are only awarded for acts of bravery in war. Or to very, very rich people.
Hint: we're guessing Dickens is ticked off at the way titles are distributed, not Esther so much.
Anyway, now we come to another totally expected reveal. Would you believe that Esther loves Woodcourt? And that she kind of thinks maybe he loved her too? She claims, however, to be psyched that he never told her, because now she won't have to disappoint him with her disfigured face. That's some hardcore denial right there, folks.