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One July evening, Daniel goes rowing by himself. We find out that he has begun to study law, but he's still not sure what he wants to do with himself.
As he rows, he starts to sing, which we guess is what you should do if you're a proper Victorian gentleman in a rowboat. Except his song is about misery.
Daniel notices a young woman, maybe eighteen years old, who stands staring at the river "with a look of immovable, statue-like despair" (17.4). Daniel seems to think that she's not totally aware of her surroundings – her mind is somewhere else.
Daniel is startled by how unhappy she looks. But he drifts on and decides to just hang out in his boat for a while.
He starts to get lost in his thoughts, but then he notices the girl again. She takes off her cloak and dips it in the water. Daniel realizes she's trying to make it heavy so she can wrap it around herself and drown.
Daniel realizes he has no time to lose and starts rowing like crazy towards her. He gets her attention and tells her to trust him.
The girl tells him that she heard him singing before. Then she tells him that he looks good (good as in a good person, though we can only imagine from all the descriptions of Daniel's appearance that Daniel is hunky enough to make her think that he also looks good).
Daniel finds her sweet appearance to be incredibly moving, and also wonders if his mother was anything like her.
The young woman tells Daniel that she doesn't have anywhere to go or anyone to belong to. Daniel says he'll take her to "a lady who has daughters" (17.18).
She asks Daniel if he belongs to the theatre. He says no. It seems like kind of a random question. Then he tells her that life might still be happy again.
The young woman gets in the boat and they row. Daniel can't think of anything to talk about. The young woman tells Daniel that if he hadn't rowed toward her, she'd be dead by now. She says she doesn't see how she can live now.
Daniel asks her if she's English. She reveals that she's English-born, but also Jewish; then she asks Daniel if that news makes him hate her.
She tells him that her mother and brother were good people, but that she'll never find them again. She bursts into tears.
Daniel's sort of like, "Oh man, what'd I get myself into this time?"
Daniel decides to take her to Mrs. Meyrick's.
He feels like he's starting a new chapter of his life.