It is a few hours before dawn breaks when Mr. Allan Woodcourt notices a woman with a wound on her head sitting down for a rest in London's ghetto Tom-All-Alone's. Mr. Woodcourt asks the woman whether she has been locked out. She replies that she has been but not before the building where she is sitting. Indeed, she has chosen to sit where she has because the sun will briefly light on that spot.
Getting closer, Mr. Woodcourt asks about the wound and correctly sumises that she has been hit by her husband who is a bricklayer. Mr. Woodcourt also learns that she had had a child who had recently died and that she has a home at Saint Albans. The mention of Saint Albans inwardly moves Mr. Woodcourt (Bleak House is near Saint Albans) when there's a shouting in the streets: A boy in rags is being chased by a woman. Thinking that the boy has stolen something, Mr. Woodcourt gives chase. The boy proves elusive,however, i.e. until the boy corners himself int a cul-de-sac.
By and by, Mr. Woodcourt learns that the boy's name is Jo, and that he has been chased by the woman not because of theft but because the woman cares for the boy (the boy had done the woman a good turn) and because she hasn't seen him for the longest time. When the woman mentions how the boy had been taken in by Bleak House, of how Esther Summerson had caught her illness on account of the boy, and of how the boy had inexplicably ran away from the house, Mr. Woodcourt, who remembers Jo, asks him why he ran away. Jo replies that he was forced out but refuses to name the person who had forced him out. Mr. Woodcourt urges Jo to trust him--Mr. Woodcourt--and to name the person. Jo whispers the name into Mr. Woodcourt's ear. Subsequently, Mr. Woodcourt takes custody of Jo for Jo's welfare.