Still the third-person narrator. Still nothing but harsh and snide words, but this time it's all about Sir and Lady Dedlock.
Lady D. is at the very top of high society, aka "fashion". This makes her basically a celebrity, and the papers feature the parties she gives and the places she goes.
The Dedlocks have just come back to London from the country, where Lady Dedlock was "bored to death" (2.3). They are about to take off for Paris. Oh, her sad, sad life.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is twenty years older than his wife and apparently married her for love because she didn't bring any land or wealth to the family. They don't have kids. They do however have lots of money and social status and are super-duper well bred.
While they are in London, Mr. Tulkinghorn, the family lawyer, comes to visit.
He is terrifying from the get-go, always wears black, knows way too many family secrets, and is just generally crazy powerful. His main mission in life is to protect the secrets and dignity of the families who retain him.
Lady Dedlock is apparently involved in the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case. Mr. Tulkinghorn gives a boring little summary of the inaction in the court that day.
While he is talking, Lady Dedlock notices one of the documents he has brought with him and asks about the handwriting on it.
OK, folks, quick brain snack. This is 19th- century England, so all official documents are handwritten. If copies are needed, the originals are sent out to copy clerks, part of whose professional skill is to have specifically developed handwriting for legal work. Also, this is a time when everybody is constantly writing things by hand, which means you get to know the handwriting of people close to you.
So, anyway, Lady Dedlock asks about this handwriting and is strangely excited and curious by it.
Mr. Tulkinghorn wonders why she wants to know, and she goes back to her indifferent mood, shrugging it off as a random question.
After a little while, Lady Dedlock faints. She comes to and goes to rest in her room.
There's a commotion, and Sir Dedlock is pretty worried, since he's never seen her faint before.