One evening, Volumnia mentions that she frequently sees a pretty girl on the stairs. Sir Leicester says it is Lady Dedlock’s protégée, Rosa. Volumnia then compliments the housekeeper, Mrs. Rouncewell. Sir Leicester tells Volumnia that Mrs. Rouncewell has two sons. He says that Mr. Tulkinghorn told him that one of Mrs. Rouncewell’s sons was invited into Parliament but declined. Sir Leicester says that Mr. Rouncewell is called an “ironmaster.” He tells Lady Dedlock that this man has requested to speak with them about Rosa.
Mr. Rouncewell comes in. He says that his son is in love with Rosa and wants to propose marriage. Mr. Rouncewell thinks they are much too young, but he says that if he does give his consent, Rosa must leave Chesney Wold. He explains that he isn’t ashamed of Rosa’s position there, but that he doesn’t want his son to make an unequal marriage and would want to educate Rosa first. Sir Leicester is insulted, since Rosa has attended a school he supports. He tells Mr. Rouncewell that the decision is his to make. Mr. Rouncewell says he will try to get his son to forget about Rosa.
Later, Lady Dedlock asks Rosa if she is in love. Rosa says yes and begins to cry. Lady Dedlock comforts her and suggests she isn’t yet ready to leave Chesney Wold, and Rosa agrees. Lady Dedlock tells Rosa that she’ll make her happy.
Chesney Wold is shut up, and the Dedlocks go to their house in town. Tulkinghorn visits frequently, and the narrator suggests that Lady Dedlock is afraid of him. One day, Mr. Guppy visits. Sir Leicester finds out that Lady Dedlock has told Guppy he can visit when he wants. He leaves Guppy and Lady Dedlock alone. Guppy has apparently written many letters to Lady Dedlock, and she has finally agreed to see him. He tells her that he works for Kenge and Carboy, which is connected to the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, but that he isn’t here about that. He says that if he had Jarndyce and Jarndyce matters to discuss, he would have gone to Tulkinghorn, with whom he is acquainted. This gets Lady Dedlock’s attention.
Guppy requests that Lady Dedlock not complain of this visit to Kenge and Carboy to Tulkinghorn, and she agrees. He then asks if Lady Dedlock knows Esther Summerson, and she says she met Esther last fall. Guppy asks if Esther reminded her of any of her relatives. Lady Dedlock says no but doesn’t take her eyes off Guppy as he speaks. Guppy persists and says that he sees a strong resemblance between Esther and Lady Dedlock—he saw Lady Dedlock’s portrait at Chesney Wold.
Guppy then says that Esther’s birth and upbringing are mysteries, and that he hopes to somehow prove that she is part of Lady Dedlock’s family so that she can be made a party to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. He is doing all this to try to get Esther to reconsider his marriage proposal. He tells Lady Dedlock that he has found out that Esther’s guardian before Mr. Jarndyce was a Miss Barbary.