Central Hall, Wymondham, Norfolk.
In the 1850s young Catherine Sloper lives with her father, Dr. Austin Sloper. Catherine is shy, unsophisticated and plain-looking; her father blames her for the death of her mother, who died giving birth to her. Morris Townsend courts her. Catherine believes him sincere, her father believes he's after her inheritance. When the three confront each other, they agree that Austin will take his daughter to Europe for six months. He believes that either Morris or his daughter will give up, they don't think so. On their return, Dr. Sloper sees that nothing has changed, and threatens to disinherit her if she marries Morris. Catherine suggests to Morris that they elope immediately, she cannot stand to be in her father's house another night; but she also mentions the threat of disinheritance. Morris leaves to get his things, but does not return, and Catherine is crushed. Three days later Dr Sloper realizes that he is mortally ill, and tries to reconcile with Catherine. She refuses.Two years later Morris returns, and makes excuses about his jilting her. She seems to be swept away again, and tells him to go fetch his things so they can elope; but when he returns, she has the maid bolt the door against him, and turns out the lights.