Study Guide

Bleak House Chapter 54

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 54

Springing a Mine

  • (Third-person narrator keeps at it.)
  • OK, Shmoop is kind of sad about having to list the characters in this chapter because it's pretty hard to do justice to a mystery plot when there's no element of surprise. So, you know, spoiler alert and everything.
  • Bucket gets up at the Dedlock mansion, where he's been bunking, gets dressed, and meets with Sir Dedlock.
  • First things first, Bucket says, and prepares Dedlock for a huge shock by reminding him of the long line of proud Dedlocks that he comes from and how they would do their best to deal with any shocking thing they heard. Bucket is extremely sensitive. The other thing he says is for Sir Dedlock not to stress that Bucket knows the family's secrets – he knows so many secrets about so many families that one more doesn't really matter.
  • Dedlock is all, OK, get on with it already.
  • And so begin the reveals. We basically get the whole mystery solved and out of the way in this chapter, so pay attention.
  • Bucket knows who the killer is. Is it Mr. George? No, obviously not. It's a woman! Dun-dun-dun.
  • So, the deal with Lady Dedlock: before she was married, she was engaged to Captain Hawdon. Tulkinghorn started being suspicious and figured most of it out. Sir Dedlock is shocked that Tulkinghorn wouldn't have immediately told him about it, and that the lawyer must have had some ulterior motive.
  • Suddenly, Smallweed, Mrs. Snagsby, and the Chadbands bust into the house. Since Bucket knows who they are and everything about it, they lose the element of surprise. Still, they try to go for the element of extortion instead, asking for hush money.
  • Bucket hustles them out the door and says he'll get back to them tomorrow.
  • Now, Bucket says, we'll arrest the murderess, and into the room walks... Hortense!
  • She's very indignant about not finding Mrs. Bucket there, but Bucket immediately arrests her and starts telling her story.
  • She was super angry at being fired by Lady Dedlock, and then even more angry with Tulkinghorn.
  • The night of the murder, Hortense came and rented the spare room at the Buckets' house, hoping to throw Bucket off the scent. But she was way too overemotional about Tulkinghorn's death, which made Bucket suspicious. So he and Mrs. Bucket decided to pretend like everything was fine while actually trying to get Hortense to incriminate herself.
  • Which she did. A lot.
  • First, she started sending those "LADY DEDLOCK" letters to Bucket – which Mrs. Bucket saw her writing and mailing.
  • Then she used a little piece of paper from a description of Chesney Wold as the wadding in the gun she used to kill Tulkinghorn. A nice symbol? Maybe. But also a really good piece of evidence, especially since Mrs. Bucket found the original sheet that the wadding was torn from.
  • Finally, she tried to get rid of her gun when she went out to tea with Mrs. Bucket – which they have since found.
  • Hortense is enraged, but Bucket cuffs her and gets out of there.
  • Floored by everything he has heard, Sir Dedlock tries to get up, but has a fit (a stroke, Shmoop is guessing), and collapses on the ground, saying Lady Dedlock's name with love.
  • You guys, he actually really loves her – that might actually be the biggest surprise in this mystery.

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