Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 12

By Charles Dickens

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Chapter 12

On the Watch

  • (Third-person narrator.)
  • The Dedlocks are coming back to Chesney Wold from Paris. Turns out that however exciting Paris was, it was still far too dull for Lady Dedlock.
  • She goes through life totally bored, closed in, and cold, despite being at the heart of the upper echelons of England's social elite.
  • Oh, and also a bunch of people are coming to Chesney Wold with the Dedlocks to spend a few weeks hanging out. (A mansion like theirs probably had something like fifteen to twenty bedrooms for guests and for the guests' servants.)
  • Sir Leicester reads letters in the carriage. Lady Dedlock notices a letter from Tulkinghorn and asks him about it.
  • The letter has a little P.S. in it for her – that Tulkinghorn has something to tell her about the copied letter she was curious about.
  • Lady Dedlock all of a sudden stops the carriage and says she wants to walk. Dedlock goes out after her and offers her his hand. He is very gentlemanly and chivalrous to her. When they travel, everyone can tell how he loves her, despite being so much older (he's 60 to her 40).
  • Finally they get to the house and say hi to Mrs. Rouncewell, and Lady Dedlock notices the new maid Rosa.
  • Then out of the blue, she pets Rosa's face, tells her she's so pretty, and generally is all nice to her. This is way, way out of character.
  • That night Rosa is psyched at how nice Lady Dedlock was to her (but in a humble and charming way), and Watt Rouncewell decides to stay at Chesney Wold longer because ...'s so pretty there... ahem. (He's got the hots for Rosa, remember.)
  • That night Lady Dedlock's maid Hortense, a vicious-looking French woman, rants and raves furiously about Rosa. Hortense has been with Lady Dedlock for five years and has never received any such niceness. She is angry, resentful, and way overreacting – and she stays that way for weeks and weeks.
  • Meanwhile the house party is going on. There's some hunting for the dudes, some music and art for the ladies, and some totally annoying and elitist political conversation for everyone.
  • The narrator mocks these guys hardcore for not knowing or caring about real people.
  • Lady Dedlock, meanwhile, is on pins and needles waiting for Tulkinghorn to come.
  • Finally he does and apologizes for not coming sooner. He's been busy dealing with Sir Leicester's many lawsuits with Boythorn.
  • Sir Leicester gets all hot and bothered talking about his neighbor and they are both as obstinate as obstinate can be about the random nonsense they are fighting about.
  • Finally Lady Dedlock buts in and tries to be really smooth, asking Tulkinghorn about this handwriting he was talking about.
  • Lady Dedlock hardly ever cares about anything, so any time she does express an interest in something, it's a red flag.
  • Tulkinghorn tells her that he found the law writer dead and that there was no way of figuring out who he was or even his name.
  • Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock spend the rest of the house party pretending to ignore each other but secretly watching each other's every movement. They are each suspicious of the other.

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