Chapter 54: Mr Bucket tells Sir Leicester that not George but a woman killed Tulkinghorn, much to Sir Leicester's distress, implying that Lady Dedlock did it. A weird group of people interrupt this meeting: Grandfather Smallweed, Mr and Mrs Chadband, and Mrs Snagsby. They share what the know about the case and how it comes together. They are shuffled off and Hortense arrives, having been the lodger of Mr Bucket. She is revealed to be the murderer. Mr Bucket takes her off to jail and Sir Leicester falls to his knees with compassion for Lady Dedlock. I'm confused if Hortense is really the murderer or if it's a scheme to protect Lady Dedlock.
Chapter 55: Now we go back in time before chapter 54 occurs. Mrs Bagnet has found out Mr George's mother who turns out to be Mrs Rouncewell (thank you for this improbable coincidence Dickens!) Mrs Bagnet expects the mother to encourage her son to get a lawyer and fight the false charges. Tearful and joyful reunion of mother and son. Mrs Rouncewell returns to the Dedlock London home where she asks Lady Dedlock to intervene in her son's case and hands her a note denouncing Lady Dedlock as a murderess. Mr Guppy then arrives and speaks in a way I can't understand but Lady Dedlock knows her secret is out and leaves a note for Sir Leicester that she did not kill Mr Tulkinghorn but that she is guilty of everything else; then she leaves.
Chapter 56: Sir Leicester has had a stroke and has been lying on the floor for hours. He is found, put to bed, and Mrs Rouncewell and Mr Bucket help figure out what he wants. What he wants is Lady Dedlock, with him, forgiven. So Bucket sets out to find her. He goes to get Esther, believing that approaching the lady with Esther will enable him to get closer and not force her to try anything desperate.
Chapter 57: It picks up with Esther being awakened by Mr Jarndyce in order to accompany Bucket. They travel through London, stopping at popular places for suicides. They reach Bleak House. Bucket basically calls out Skimpole's behavior although unfortunately he does not perform a smackdown on Skimpole as is deserved. They visit the women and their husbands' house; the one woman is even more brutalized now but the other has left for London after Lady Dedlock visited them. The snow comes down hard and causes them to lose the trail. At the end, Bucket decides to head back to London and follow the trail of the poor woman.
Chapter 58: It is put out that Lady Dedlock is in Lincolnshire but rumors abound as Sir Leicester remains bedridden. He perks up when he hears that Mrs Rouncewell has been reunited with her son George and demands that he come see him. He says in the hearing of his cousin Volumnia, Mrs Rouncewell, and George that Lady Dedlock has as ever his constancy and support. The rest of the chapter covers the long night as Sir Leicester waits most anxiously for what the rest of the household fears will never come.
Chapter 59: Bucket and Esther return to London and track down the woman. They run into Mr Woodcourt, bringing up Esther's feelings again and reach the Snagsbys. Mrs Snagsby finds out that her husband didn't cheat on her and the group finds out where the woman went. They reach the graveyard and see the woman lying on the steps. The men allow Esther to go check on and her and she looks at the woman's face only to discover that it is her mother, who had changed dresses with Jenny, and who is dead without knowing about Sir Leicester's enduring love.
I did NOT like that ending; why couldn't Dickens have saved Lady Dedlock in one of his famed improbably coincidences?