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When she left Thornfield, Jane had only 20 shillings. She hails a passing coach on the road and asks the driver to take her as far as her money will carry her.
After two days, Jane's money runs out. The driver leaves her at a crossroads in the moor district. Jane spends the night sleeping outdoors under the stars, and in the morning she hikes into the village where she asks without success for work as a house servant or a seamstress. By the end of the day she's so hungry she begs for a piece of bread from a farmer, the next day it's a meal of porridge from a child who is about to feed the cold mess to a pig.
Jane returns to the moors, planning to spend a second night out of doors, but the threat of rain sends her looking for a sheltered spot. At that moment she notices a light in the distance. She follows this beacon until she finds herself standing outside a neat little house. Peeking through a window, she sees an elderly woman servant and two young ladies. The latter are translating a story in a strange language (it turns out to be German).
At first, Jane thinks the distant light is an ignis fatuus. Also known as "elf-fire" or "Will o' the wisp," this is a phosphorescent glow that sometimes occurs around marshes and is caused by decaying plant matter.
Jane knocks at the door of the house. The servant woman, suspicious that Jane might be fronting for a band of house robbers, refuses to let her in. But she's saved by the arrival of the young ladies' brother, St. John (pronounced sin'jun). He welcomes Jane into the house, where he and his sisters give Jane supper and a room for the night. Afraid that news of the scandal at Thornfield might reach even this remote place, Jane decides to give them a false name-Jane Elliott.
Worn out by her wanderings on the moor, Jane is ill for three days. When she recovers, she learns from the old servant, Hannah, that the lovely house where she is staying is known as Marsh End or Moor House. It is owned by the two young ladies, Mary and Diana Rivers, whose father has recently died. St. John Rivers, their brother, is a minister with a parish in the village, which Jane now learns is called Morton.
Left alone with St. John in the parlor, Jane notices that he is in his late 20s, with blue eyes, blond hair, and the handsome features of a classical Greek statue. In spite of his gentle looks, Jane can't help sensing that there is something "restless, or hard, or eager" in St. John's nature. Jane admits that she is a governess who once attended Lowood School, but she refuses to tell St. John her real name or where she's been living. His sisters take her side, and he agrees to help her find work.