Childhood Esther Summerston takes place in Windsor, in her godmother’s house, Miss Barberi. The girl feels lonely and often sentences, addressing her best friend, a ruddy doll: “You know perfectly well, doll, that I’m stupid, so be kind, do not be angry with me.” Esther seeks to learn the secret of her origin and begs the godfather to tell her anything about her mother. One day, Miss Barberry does not stand up and sternly says: “Your mother has covered herself with shame, and you brought shame on her. Forget about it…” Once, after returning from school, Esther finds in the house an unfamiliar important lord. Looking over the girl, he says something like “A!”, Then “Yes!” and leaves…
At the end of his studies, John Jarndyce (the guardian, as Esther calls him), identifies the girl as a companion to her cousin Ade Clare. Together with a young relative of Ada, Mr. Richard Carston, they go to the estate of the guardian, known as the Cold House. Once the house belonged to the great-uncle of Mr. Jarndyce, the unhappy Sir Tom, and was called the “Spiers”. Almost the most famous case of the so-called Chancellor Court “Jarndyce against Jarndyce” was connected with this house. The Chancery Court was created in the
Their neighbors are Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife, who is younger than him for a good two decades. As connoisseurs get drunk, my lady “has the perfect exterior of the most groomed mare in the whole stable.” The secular chronicle notes every step of her life, every event in her life. Sir Lester is not so popular, but does not suffer from this, for he is proud of his aristocratic family and cares only about the purity of his honest name. Neighbors sometimes meet in church, on walks, and Esther long can not forget that emotional excitement that gripped her at first glance at Lady Dedlock.
A similar excitement is felt by the young employee of Kenge’s office William Guppy: when he saw Esther, Ada and Richard in London on the way to Sir John’s estate, he falls in love with the pretty fair Esther at first sight. Being in those parts of the firm, Gappi visits the Dedlock estate and, amazed, stops at one of the family portraits. The face of Lady Dedlock for the first time seems to the clerk strangely familiar. Soon Guppy comes to the Cold House and admits Esther in love, but gets a strong rebuff. Then he hints at the amazing resemblance between Esther and my Lady. “Grant me your handle,” says William to the girl, “and what can not I do to protect your interests and make up your happiness! What can not I find out about you!” He kept his word. In his hands are letters of an unknown master, who died from an excessive dose of opium in a dirty, wretched little room and buried in a common grave in a cemetery for the poor. From these letters, Guppy learns about the connection between Captain Houdon (that’s the name of this gentleman) and Lady Dedlock, about the birth of their daughter. William immediately shares his discovery with Lady Dedlock, which leads her to extreme embarrassment. But, not succumbing to panic, she aristocratically coldly rejects the arguments of the clerk and only after her leaving exclaims: “Oh, my child, my daughter!” So she did not die in the first hours of her life! “
Ester is seriously ill with smallpox. This happened after the orphaned daughter of the judicial officer Charlie appears in their estate, which becomes for Esther and a grateful pupil, and a devoted maid. Esther nurses the sick girl and becomes infected herself. The householders hide the mirrors for a long time, so as not to upset Chopotun with the look of her face, which is getting fat. Lady Dedlock, waiting for the recovery of Esther, secretly meets with her in the park and confesses that she is her unhappy mother. In those old days, when Captain Houdon threw her, she – as she was convinced – gave birth to a dead child. Could she assume that the girl will come to life at the hands of her elder sister and be raised in complete secrecy from her mother… Lady Dedlock sincerely repents and begs for forgiveness, but most of all – about silence, in order to preserve the familiar life of a rich and noble person and peace spouse. Esther,
Nobody knows what happened – not only burdened with worries Sir John, but also in love with Esther young doctor Allen Woodcourt. Clever and discreet, he makes a favorable impression on the girl. He lost his father early, and his mother invested all his meager means in his education. But not having enough connections and money in London, Allen can not earn them for the treatment of the poor. It’s not surprising that at the first case Dr. Woodcourt agrees to the position of ship’s doctor and goes to India and China for a long time. Before leaving, he goes to the Cold House and excitedly bids farewell to its inhabitants.
Richard also tries to change his life: he chooses a legal profession. Starting to work in Kenge’s office, he, to Guppy’s displeasure, boasts that he has found out the Jarndyce case. Despite Esther’s advice not to engage in a tedious litigation with the Chancery court, Richard lodges an appeal in the hope of seizing Sir John’s inheritance for himself and the cousin of Ada, with whom he is engaged. He “puts at stake anything that can scrape together”, spends on taxes and taxes small savings of his beloved, but judicial delays take away his health. Secretly married to Ada, Richard falls ill and dies in the arms of his young wife, never seeing his future son.
And around the lady Dedlock the clouds are gathering. A few careless words suggest the frequenter of their home lawyer Tulkinghorn on the trail of her secrets. This respectable gentleman, whose services are generously paid for in high society, skillfully possesses the ability to live and imposes on himself the duty to dispense with no convictions whatsoever. Tulkinghorn suspects that Lady Dedlock, dressed in the maid-Frenchwoman’s dress, visited the house and grave of her lover, Captain Houdon. He steals from Guppy letters – so he gets the details of the love story. In the presence of the four Dedlocks and their guests, Talkinghorn tells this story, supposedly happened to some unknown person. Milady realizes that it’s time to find out what he is trying to achieve. In response to her words that she wants to disappear from her house forever,
Esther decided to open her secret to the guardian. He meets her confused story with such understanding and tenderness that the girl is filled with “ardent gratitude” and the desire to work hard and selflessly. It is not difficult to guess that when Sir John makes her an offer to become a real hostess of the Cold House, Esther answers with her consent.
A terrible event distracts her from the upcoming pleasant troubles and takes her out of the Cold House for a long time. It so happened that Tulkinghorn broke the agreement with Lady Dedlock and threatened to reveal to Sir Leicester a shameful truth shortly. After a serious conversation with milady, the lawyer goes home, and in the morning he is found dead. Suspicion falls on Lady Dedlock. Inspector Bucket conducts an investigation and informs Sir Leicester of the results: all the evidence collected is evidence against the maid-Frenchwoman. She’s arrested.
Sir Lester can not bear the thought that his wife “was cast down from those heights that she was decorating,” and he himself falls, struck with a blow. Milady, feeling himself hunted, runs away from home, without taking any jewelry or money. She left a farewell letter – that she was innocent and wants to disappear. Inspector Bucket undertakes to find this troubled soul and turns to Esther for help. They go a long way in the footsteps of Lady Dedlock. Paralyzed spouse, ignoring the threat of honor of the family, forgives the fugitive and looks forward to her return. The search is joined by Dr. Allen Woodcourt, who recently returned from China. During the separation, he even more loved Esther, but alas… At the grate of the memorial cemetery for the poor, he discovers the lifeless body of her mother.
Esther for a long time, painfully experiences what happened, but gradually life takes its toll. Her guardian, having learned about Allen’s deep feelings, nobly gives way to him. The cold house is empty: John Jarndyce, who is also the guardian, took care of the device for Esther and Allen, an equally glorious estate the size smaller in Yorkshire, where Allen gets the doctor’s place for the poor. This estate he also called “Cold House”. In it there was a place for Ada and his son, named in honor of his father Richard. On the first free money, they attach a room (“grudge”) to the guardian and invite him to stay. Sir John becomes a loving guardian now Ada and her little Richard. They return to the “senior” Cold House, and to Woodcourts often come to stay: for Esther and her husband, Sir John has always remained the best friend.