One theme of this story is the monstrous injustice and even ruin that could be wrought by the delays in the old Court of Chancery, which defeated all the purposes of a court of justice; but the romance proper is unconnected with this. The scene is laid in England about the middle of this century. Lady Dedlock, a beautiful society woman, successfully hides a disgraceful secret. She has been engaged to a Captain Hawdon; but through circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to marry, and her infant she believes to have died at birth. Her sister, however, has brought up the child under the name of Esther Summerson. Esther becomes the ward of Mr. Jarndyce, of the famous chancery law case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, and lives with him at Bleak House. Her unknown father, the Captain, dies poor and neglected in London. A veiled lady visits his grave at night; and this confirms a suspicion of Mr. Tulkinghorn, Sir Leicester Dedlock's lawyer, already roused by an act of Lady Dedlock. With the aid of a French maid he succeeds in unraveling the mystery, and determines to inform his friend and client Sir Leicester of his wife's youthful misconduct . On the night before this revelation is to be made, Mr. Tulkinghorn is murdered. Lady Dedlock is suspected of the crime, disappears, and after long search is found by Esther and a detective, lying dead at the gates of the grave-yard where her lover is buried. The story is told partly in the third person, and partly as autobiography by Esther.