Paper Trail

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Bleak House

Copyright: Charles Dickens' estate/BBC

My dear daughter,

When last we spoke, I know it distressed you to hear me referring to your conception with such remorse. Please believe me, the last thing I intended was to hurt you. I admit I made an error when I was young, one which has haunted me ever since, but if that error has led to the birth of a woman like you, I am truly, sincerely thankful to have made it.

I confess to you, Esther, that I have been a selfish woman all my life. It was selfish not to wait until my wedding night with your father. Selfish to marry Sir Leicester for his name and fortune, knowing I could never love him as he loved me. Selfish to keep my young maid beside me for the pleasure of her company, instead of setting her free to find a better life.

But you, my daughter, with your father's generous spirit looking out from behind my eyes – you have changed me. When I heard of how you contracted your illness, from taking care of that poor boy with no thought of your own safety – when I saw how you filled the lives of Mr. Jarndyce, Miss Clare and all around you with comfort and joy – when you forgave me from your heart that day on the Ghost's Walk – my eyes were opened, and I saw what I might have been if, so many years ago, I had began down a different road.

It is too late for me to reverse the damage I have caused, but perhaps not too late to prevent further harm from being done.

When my sister told you you should never have been born, she was not only cruel, but mistaken. You have been a blessing to all who know you, not least to myself. You are all that was best in James and me, our love made flesh, our living legacy to the world. Whatever happens now, wherever I am going, know that I am proud to be

Ever your loving

Mother