The young painter Walter Hartright has gotten a job as a drawing teacher in the city of Cumberland. He was recommended for this position by his good friend Pesca who was an Italian professor. Walter had been living in London, so he has to leave his town and to go to Cumberland for this new job. He decided to say goodbye to his mother and sister. As he was going out, he met a strange woman. She was dressed in white from head to foot. They continued talking on their way together. The woman in white was excited when he told her about his future work, and about the people who had hired him. She has been talking about these people with a mixture of love, anger and fear. Walter helped her to catch a cab. Then, almost immediately afterwards, he met two men who were searching for a woman in white who had escaped from an asylum.