Bleak House: Chapter 48
Summary of Chapter XLVIII: Closing In
At the Dedlock mansion in London, Lady Dedlock calls Rosa to her. Only around Rosa is she herself, and she assures the girl of her love. She explains that she has to place confidence in the young woman and asks her to keep the secret. She is going to send her away to her lover, and it will give her pain, but she does it for her own good. She explains that Mr. Rouncewell is on his way to take her with him.
In the library, she goes to tell Sir Leicester of Rosa’s departure, but Tulkinghorn is there. She announces her intentions boldly, and when Mr. Rouncewell comes, he agrees to take Rosa with him. She says the girl has done nothing wrong but is in love, and so she wants her out of the house. Rosa cries but goes.
Afterwards, Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock have a talk. He is amazed at her strength; she is equal to him in her resolve. He says that their agreement is broken because he had told her not to protect Rosa. She asks if this is the warning he said he would give, and he says yes, but does not make it clear when he will expose her.
As soon as Tulkinghorn walks home, Lady Dedlock goes out alone for air. In Tulkinghorn’s house there is a shot fired. The figure of Allegory on the ceiling points to his dead body in a pool of blood.
Commentary on Chapter XLVIII
This chapter is set up to make it look like Lady Dedlock murdered Tulkinghorn. When she sees him, she wishes he were out of the way. He has been dogging her steps. The lawyer is clearly surprised that this mere woman is challenging him. He thinks, “The power of this woman is astonishing” (p. 499) and that “This woman understands me . . . She cannot be spared. Why should she spare others?” (p. 501). The woman is his equal in determination, yet she has pity for another and puts herself in jeopardy for the sake of Rosa’s happiness. He could not gauge her strength for the very reason that she is nobler than he is and has a mother’s strength to protect. He only understands the base emotions. It is clear Lady Dedlock has some desperate plan, but one wonders if she has been driven to murder.