Jane, the midwife, saves "Brat", the young girl at the beginning of the story, from boys who are taunting the young girl for sleeping in a dung heap. Jane is a greedy, proud woman who shows little compassion for anyone, so she doesn't save "Brat" out of the kindness of her heart. Jane needs someone to work for her and figures the young girl is so desperate she'll do whatever she's told. She renames the girl "Beetle" and uses and abuses her. Beetle's only friend is a cat named Purr that she saved from the abuse of some boys. Beetle is young, eager to learn, and compassionate, whereas Jane is hardened to life's problems. Beetle later takes the name Alyce.
Will Russet is a boy who used to torment Alyce, but she saves him from drowning, and he becomes her friend. Magister Reese is a man Alyce meets when she runs away and goes to work at the inn. He helps restore Alyce's confidence.