Suffering from the gout, which he has inherited from his forefathers, Sir Leicester Dedlock is confined to his rooms at Chesney Wold.
Meanwhile, in the London streets, the homeless boy Jo sweeps various places with a broom in the hopes of earning enough money to secure his lodgings at Tom-all-Alone’s, which is a building in a state of near collapse. Jo’s condition is not unlike the beasts of burden--the horses, dogs, and cattle—he sees every day in the streets. Like them, Jo is illiterate and hasn’t an inkling of what the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which is housed in a great building, is all about.
Presently, Mr. Tulkinghorn sits and meditates in his London apartment when he notices a secretive woman outside his window rushing off somewhere in a great hurry. He muses that all women are secretive and it is they who are often the cause of the world’s ills. He consoles himself with the fact that because women are the cause of much trouble, it is they who create business for lawyers.
But the secretive woman outside Mr. Tulkinghorn’s window is not just any woman. Though she is dressed like a servant, there is a lady’s aspect about her that a passerby invariably notices. Presently, the secretive woman accosts Jo, and having confirmed that he is the homeless boy to whom the dead man Nemo had been kind to, she commissions Jo to direct her to the place where Nemo had acquired employment, then to the place where Nemo had lived, and finally to the place where Nemo rests never to arise again. Alas, Nemo’s resting place is so horrible that the woman demands to know if the burial ground is sacred. Jo doesn’t know. By and by, she pays Jo with gold, which Jo periodically bites to make sure it is indeed gold, as he makes his way to Tom-all-Alone’s.