At the approach of cold weather, the Dedlocks close Chesney Wold and move to their place in London. Their lawyer, Tulkinghorn, is a frequent visitor there, and, for Lady Dedlock, a discomfiting one. Guppy, the law clerk from Kenge and Carboy, has written her numerous letters requesting that he be allowed to visit her. Thus, one day she receives him, and he tells her that a long investigation has led him to believe that Lady Dedlock might have "a family interest" in knowing that the father of Esther Summerson (a name Lady Dedlock nervously admits knowing) was Captain Hawdon (Nemo).
After Guppy leaves, Lady Dedlock breaks into tears as she realizes that her daughter is alive. Her sister (Miss Barbary) lied about the child's having died shortly after birth.
In this chapter, Lady Dedlock, one of the book's principal figures, learns a fact so momentous that all of her subsequent actions are bound to be highly significant. In this way, suspense is heightened.