Jane arrives at a small town in the middle of England, having paid a coachman all her money. With no money and all her belongings accidentally forgotten in the carriage, Jane spends the night outdoors, praying. In the morning, she walks to a village and asks for work, but is turned away. She eats only a slice of bread from a farmer and the next day only some stale porridge from a young girl. At night, she wanders across the moors, expecting to die, when she sees the light of a distant house.
Jane watches inside the house as two sisters, Mary and Diana Rivers, study German and wait for their brother, St John, to return. Jane knocks and begs for food and shelter, but the suspicious housekeeper turns her away. Jane collapses on the front steps of the house and decides to wait for God’s will. St John, having seen Jane beg the housekeeper for food, decides to help her and let her inside. The Rivers give Jane food and decide to let her sleep the night. They ask her who she is and where she is from, but Jane refuses to answer, only identifying herself as Jane Elliott.
Jane remains weak in bed for three days, and on the fourth day, she manages to go into the kitchen. She talks to Hannah, the housekeeper. Jane criticizes Hannah for turning her away, but the woman apologizes. Hannah tells her about Moor House, as the house is called, and about the Rivers family, who come from a long lineage but became poor after their father made a disastrous business decision. Mary and Diana are training to become governesses and St John is a priest in the nearby town of Moreton.
After the Rivers return home, Jane speaks to them too. She tells them she wishes to keep her real name and reason for leaving her governess pos...