On a stormy night in late November 1775, the mail coach from London slogs its way toward Dover. Three passengers sit in the carriage. Everyone is suspicious of each other. When he hears an approaching horse, the coach driver stops the carriage: it's a messenger seeking one of the passengers, Mr. Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank. Mr. Lorry recognizes the man as Jerry Cruncher, who works odd-jobs for Tellson's.
The port city of Dover was the main port for passage between England and France. The road from London to Dover, battered by storm and fraught with suspicion and highwaymen, represents the worsening political conditions in both countries.
Jerry gives Mr. Lorry a note that reads "Wait at Dover for Mam'selle." In reply, Mr. Lorry tells Jerry to return to Tellson's with the message: "Recalled to life." The coach drivers overhear the mysterious message but can make nothing of it. Neither can Jerry, though he worries that "recalling to life" would be bad for his other work.
"Recalled to life" sets up the theme of resurrection. At both ends of the book, someone liberates another person from prison and saves them from the grave. Jerry's odd thought establishes the mystery of what his other work might be.