The Dedlocks have retired to their town-house, away from Chesney Wold, where as usual Lady Dedlock is bored while Sir Leicester is as stolid and composed as a marble statue. Presently, Sir Leicester reads a newspaper article and remarks upon the perspicacity of the writer when their town-house butler Mercury announces the arrival of a young man named Guppy who wishes to have a private conference with Lady Dedlock. Though upset that Mercury hadn't taken him into account when making the announcement, Sir Leicester goes to his library, facilitating his wife's and Mr. Guppy's private conference.
Lady Dedlock is eager to cut the conversation short, but as Mr. Guppy unfolds the nature of his business, mentioning the case Jarndyce and Jarndyce and of his association with Mr. Tulkinghorn, whom Lady Dedlock fears, Lady Dedlock invites Mr. Guppy to have a seat and to state the cause of his visit in its entirety. Slowly and surely, Mr. Guppy speaks of that which discomforts Lady Dedlock: of Esther Summerson's physical likeness to Lady Dedlock; of Lady Dedlock's possible blood relationship to Esther's old guardian Miss Barbary; and, last but not least, of the possiblity that Esther's real last name is Hawdon, which would make the lately deceased Captain Hawdon Esther's father.
For a moment, Lady Dedlock betrays her emotion but she is quick to regain her composure. She denies of having any interaction with the boy Jo with regard the location of Captain Hawdon't woeful gravesite in Tom-all-Alone's. And when Mr. Guppy boasts that he will soon be in possession of Captain Hawdon's private papers which will disclose whether Captain Hawdon is a principle in the case Jarndyce and Jarndyce and whether Esther Summerson is indeed a blood relation of Lady Dedlock, Lady Dedlock merely gives Mr. Guppy permission to bring those papers of Captain Hawdon to her if he so chooses.