Having vacationed in Paris, the Dedlocks return to Lincolnshire, England where it has stopped raining. Lady Dedlock is especially eager to return, as Paris has proved to be as equally dull as England. Indeed, there isn’t a place where she hasn’t already been and an activity that she hasn’t already done. Meanwhile, thrilled with the Dedlocks every move, the fashionable world awaits the Dedlocks return to England with bated breath.
Presently, Lady Dedlock, who is bored and fatigued, asks Sir Leicester about the letter he is busy reading. Sir Leiscester replies that the letter is from Tulkinghorn who writes among other things that he has met the person who wrote an affidavit and whose handwriting had piqued Lady Dedlock’s interest. Abruptly, Lady Dedlock orders the coach to be stopped, gets out of the coach, and goes for a walk.
When the Dedlocks arrive at Chesney Wold, Lady Dedlock takes note of Rosa. Upon inquiry, Lady Dedlock learns that Rosa is an assistant housekeeper and Mrs. Rouncewell’s understudy. Lady Dedlock beckons Rosa, compliments her, and advises her not to let the flattery go to her head.
Later that evening, Rosa profusely praises Lady Dedlock, asserting among other things that Lady Dedlock is affable. Though Mrs. Rouncewell agrees that Lady Dedlock is graceful, beautiful, and elegant, she has reservations about the claim that Lady Dedlock is affable. Indeed, Mrs. Rouncewell’s grandson Watt, who has been assured that he may prolong his stay at the Dedlock’s residence, hazards to joke about the pride of the Dedlocks which is a bane to the common folk. By and by, they are joined by Hortense, Lady Dedlock’s personal maid, who proceeds to tease Rosa on account of Lady Dedlock’s having paid Rosa a compliment. Though pretty, Hortense, who is French albeit fluent in English, has a surly and sullen disposition which imbues her with an unpleasant aspect.
Meanwhile, upon the Dedlock’s arrival at Chesney Wold, there’s no lack of distinguished visitors. They fill the estate with activity: There is hunting and there are conversations with regard the woeful state of the present government. Lady Dedlock is anxious to have a word with Mr. Tulkinghorn but he is nowhere to be seen. However, come evening, the visitors leave, and Mr. Tulkinghorn, who has his own room at Chesney Wold, joins Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock.
Mr. Tulkinghorn and Sir Leicester speak of the latter’s legal dispute vis-à-vis Boythorn. Tulkinghorn opines that the case won’t be easy to resolve to Sir Leicester’s advantage. Sir Leicester fulminates that Mr. Boythorn is a rabble rouser and that in the good old days he would have been hanged, drawn, and quartered. Sir Leicester calms down somewhat as he leads his wife indoors.
Presently, Mr. Tulkinghorn speaks of that which Lady Dedlock has been anxious to hear: the affidavit and the man who had copied it. Mr. Tulkinghorn reports that upon going to meet the man, the man was found to be dead. Sir Leicester objects to be told of such sordid things, but Lady Dedlock exhorts Mr. Tulkinghorn to continue with his report. Mr. Tulkinghorn proceeds with his report, saying that the cause of the man’s death was either suicide or accidental overdose, and that according to another eyewitness, the dead man, who was in a state of woeful poverty, had at one time been a very distinguished man. Neither Lady Dedlock nor Mr. Tulkinghorn betrays what he or she is feeling inside.