"Bored to death" by the rainy weather of Lincolnshire, Lady Dedlock has returned to the Dedlocks' home in London. She plans to stay there a few days, then go on to Paris.
In middle age, Lady Dedlock retains her beauty and is always attractively groomed. Her husband, the baronet Sir Leicester Dedlock, loves her and does not complain that she brought to the marriage neither dowry nor prestige.
This afternoon she receives Mr. Tulkinghorn, a rich, close-lipped, and secretive solicitor (attorney) who represents her interests in Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Noticing some legal paper that Tulkinghorn has placed on a table next to her, she takes an interest in the handwriting and asks the lawyer whose it is. A few moments later, she feels faint and asks to be taken to her room. Sir Leicester is surprised but attributes her condition to the stress of the bad weather in Lincolnshire.
Dickens now introduces two major characters (Lady Dedlock and Tulkinghorn) and a minor character, Sir Leicester (pronounced "Lester"). There is a continuity here with the first chapter: Dickens regards the world of the idle rich as comparable in futility to the world of Chancery Court, and, coincidentally, Lady Dedlock is involved in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce suit. Tulkinghorn is characterized as rather sinister, Sir Leicester as crotchety and self-satisfied but not vicious or depraved. About Lady Dedlock, we feel ambivalent. She seems rather empty, vain, and restless, but if Sir Leicester loves her, she may have some redeeming features that will be revealed later. The story's first bit of suspense appears when she half-faints.