Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Little Nell Trent lives alone with her aged grandfather, who runs an old curiosity shop. The grandfather, Little Nell’s mother’s father, has two obsessions. One is keeping Little Nell away from her brother, Fred, a drunken profligate. The other is a burning desire to gamble. Hoping to provide a fortune for the little girl, the old man gambles away every penny he can get. Not content with using the income of the curiosity shop, the old man borrows money recklessly.
One of the old man’s creditors is an ugly, misshapen, cruel dwarf named Quilp. The husband of a pretty but browbeaten young woman, Quilp plots to ruin the old man and someday marry Little Nell, who is only fourteen years old. Having discovered the old man’s passion for gambling by forcing his wife to spy on Little Nell, Quilp is soon able to take over the old curiosity shop by due process of law. Little Nell and her grandfather leave during the night and start an aimless journey from London to western England.
Almost penniless, the old man and the little girl find many friends on their way. For a time, they travel with a Punch-and-Judy troupe, until the girl becomes alarmed at the habits of the men connected with the show and persuades her grandfather to leave them. She and the old man are next befriended by Mrs. Jarley, owner of a waxworks, but the grandfather’s passion for gambling causes them to leave their benefactor. At last a schoolmaster, on his way to fill a new...
(The entire section is 1128 words.)
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Chapter 1-3 Summary
The unnamed narrator (Master Humphrey) is walking the streets of London late at night, as is his usual habit. A young girl by the name of Nell Trent stops him and asks him to help her find her way home. She sees that Master Humphrey is old, so she knows he is trustworthy. Touched by the child’s innocence, Master Humphrey walks her to a distant section of the city to the door of The Old Curiosity Shop. Nell knocks on the door, which is opened by her grandfather. He invites Master Humphrey to enter. Master Humphrey questions whether the old man should be allowing his granddaughter to be out on the streets at night. Grandfather takes offense at this and claims that Nell is the sole object of his consideration. He invites Master Humphrey to stay for tea, and Nell brings it in.
Nell had told Master Humphrey that she could not tell what her errand had been, and Grandfather refuses to divulge any more information. Master Humphrey can tell that Grandfather does indeed love his granddaughter. Kit Nubbles arrives after having performed an errand for Grandfather. He is an odd boy with a comical appearance. He tells Master Humphrey that he would have found Nell if she had not come to him when she was lost. As Master Humphrey prepares to leave, Nell brings her grandfather’s hat and coat. Master Humphrey questions his leaving Nell alone all night. He watches as Grandfather walks away into the night.
After a few days, Master Humphrey decides to return to The Old Curiosity Shop, though he knows he might not be welcome. He enters to find Grandfather in an argument with his grandson (Nell’s brother), Fred. Each accuses the other of using Nell as a pawn to get back at the other. With Fred is his friend Dick Swiveller, who talks about outrageous topics but leads back to the unpleasantness when family members have a falling out.
Nell walks into the shop, followed by a “dwarf” by the name of Daniel Quilp. Nell had been coming from his home the night she got lost; now Quilp has escorted her home. Quilp is interested to hear the argument between Grandfather and Fred; he sarcastically comments on the nature of family relations. Fred vows to take Nell from his grandfather, who swears that he will not allow it. Fred and Dick leave, and Quilp gives Grandfather the money that was the point of Nell’s errand. Afterward, Quilp says he must return to Mrs. Quilp, who will worry over his absence.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 4-5 Summary
Daniel Quilp lives on Tower Hill, but his business is at Quilp’s Wharf on the opposite side of the Thames. He does not have a specific occupation, but he owns a great deal of property from which he earns rent, and he lends large sums to people in need of ready cash. His wife is young and pretty; she married Quilp in a strange fit of infatuation that soon passed after the wedding. Living with Quilp and his wife is his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jiniwin. Both women live in great fear of displeasing Quilp. Mrs. Jiniwin had urged her daughter to marry him but has since come to regret it.
As Quilp is returning from The Old Curiosity Shop, Mrs. Quilp and Mrs. Jiniwin are entertaining half a dozen women whom they invited to tea. The conversation is centered on Quilp and his abusive treatment of his wife. The women proclaim what they would do to Quilp if he tried such tactics with them. Mrs. Jiniwin is in the process of relating her plan of attack when Quilp himself walks in. Mrs. Quilp and Mrs. Jiniwin change tactics to subtle revelations of Quilp’s cruelty. Quilp responds with complements that are understood to be veiled threats. He suggests that his mother-in-law has tired herself out from constant talking and orders her to bed. The women slip away in fear of the little man, who seats himself before the fire after they leave.
Quilp warns his wife that, should she ever communicate with those women again, he will bite her—and Mrs. Quilp readily believes him. He compels her to sit up all night while he sleeps in his chair. He awakens the next morning when Mrs. Jiniwin comes into the room. She calls him a brute when she sees that her daughter has been prevented from going to bed. Quilp willfully misunderstands, acting as if she is referring to her daughter. He releases Mrs. Quilp to fix him breakfast, after which he rows across the river to his counting house.
The only employee present is a small boy who stands on his head while waiting for errands to run. Quilp enters his counting house, climbs up on the desk, and covers his head with a handkerchief. The boy enters to tell him he has a guest. Quilp acts pleased when the guest is revealed to be Nell Trent, who has brought him a letter. Quilp lies on his side on the top of the desk while he reads the letter.
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapter 6-8 Summary
Nell waits anxiously while Quilp reads the letter from her grandfather. She acts fearful that his response will be unpleasant. He mutters his amazement that the old man has lost all the money he had borrowed from Quilp the previous day. Quilp asks Nell fiercely if she had read the letter, and Nell denies doing so. He asks Nell how she would like to be the second Mrs. Quilp, supposing the first one were to die in four or five years, at which time Nell would be old enough to marry. Quilp invites her back to his house on Tower Hill across the river, but Nell says she is to return as soon as possible with the answer. Quilp replies that he cannot give her the answer unless he goes back to Tower Hill. As they leave the counting house, they see two boys fighting; one of them is Quilp’s errand boy and the other is Kit. Quilp breaks up the fight and takes Kit and Nell into his boat to cross the Thames.
As Kit waits outside, Quilp takes Nell in to Mrs. Quilp. He tells his wife to take Nell into a separate room and pump her for information about her grandfather’s dealings with all the money he borrows from Quilp. Mrs. Quilp is reluctant to do so because she if fond of Nell, but Quilp threatens her. He insists that she do his bidding, telling her that he will be listening and will squeak the door if she does not get information out of Nell. Mrs. Quilp follows his order but only learns that Nell’s grandfather has changed and that he is often absent all day and all night. Nell has heard him say that, if it were not for Nell, he would wish he were dead. Quilp allows Nell to return home with Kit and wonders what the old man’s secret dealings might be.
Fred Trent comes up with a scheme in which Dick Swiveller will marry Nell when her grandfather dies. Dick wants to make sure the old man is as rich as Fred says, and Fred assures him he is. Dick tells his friend that he has been courting Sophy Wackles, but he is going to a party that night and will break off with her there.
Sophy Wackles runs a Ladies’ Seminary with her mother and sisters. She and her friend, Miss Cheggs, plan on forcing Dick into making a commitment by making him jealous of Sophy’s attentions to Miss Cheggs’ brother. At the party, Sophy spends most of her time with Mr. Cheggs. Dick tells her that he is leaving the party and regrets spending time on her. He informs her that there is a young girl who is at that moment growing up into a woman expressly...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Chapter 9-12 Summary
Nell becomes very worried about her grandfather’s deteriorating health. He is becoming feeble, burdened by some secret grief. She fears that he will die, either from natural causes or by his own hand. She pleads with him to leave The Old Curiosity Shop with her and become beggars. She begins to sob, as does Grandfather. Quilp has unexpectedly crept into the shop, listening in on this tender scene. He comments on Nell’s beauty, which disturb Grandfather, who asks Quilp if he has come to bring him the money he has requested. Quilp says very politely that he is unable to lend any more funds to the old man, and he reveals that he knows the money is spent on gambling. Grandfather tells Quilp that his only intention was to get money for Nell. He asks Quilp who told him of his gambling habits and suggests that it was Kip. Quilp smiles but does not admit it. Quilp mocks his weakness and departs, leaving Grandfather in a hopeless condition.
Kip has been watching over The Old Curiosity Shop, and seeing Quilp leave, he goes home to his widowed mother and two small brothers. His mother suggests that he is in love with Nell, but he dismisses this and speaks of the necessity of getting Nell out of that place.
Grandfather falls ill with a fever that lasts several weeks. Nell stays by his side, especially when Quilp takes possession of The Old Curiosity Shop. He and his lawyer friend, Mr. Brass, remain at the shop. Brass tells Quilp he is impressed that he is waiting until the old man gets better (or dies) before he sells off his property. Nell stays as far away from Quilp as possible. She hears Kit calling at the window. Kit has been exiled from the shop by Grandfather on suspicion of telling Quilp about his gambling habits. Kit begs Nell to leave The Old Curiosity Shop and come to live with him and his mother.
Grandfather eventually gets better, but his mind is somewhat altered. Quilp, now that the old man has recovered, sells off the things in the shop and tells Grandfather to move out as soon as possible. It is agreed that the old man and his grandfather will leave by the end of the week. Nell returns to her plan of the two of them leading a vagabond life, and on Friday morning, she and Grandfather pack up what few belongings remain to them and set out to the outskirts of London.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 13-16 Summary
Quilp awakens on Friday morning, having slept all night in The Old Curiosity Shop. Mr. Brass is also present, and the two discuss who has the front door key, since someone is knocking on the door. Quilp finds the front door suspiciously unlocked. He opens the door, thinking it is Mrs. Quilp and throws himself at her, intending to knock her about. He lands instead on Dick Swiveller, who beats Quilp in return. Dick had stopped by to check on Grandfather (and Nell) and had found Mrs. Quilp lightly knocking on the door. Quilp and Dick discover that Nell and the old man have gone. Kit also arrives and fights Quilp’s errand boy for Nell’s bird, which he takes home to his mother.
Kip goes out to earn some money for food by offering to hold gentlemen’s horses. He stops by The Old Curiosity Shop to see if Nell has returned, but he finds it empty except for some boys playing on the steps. After several fruitless attempts, Kit finds a gentleman, Mr. Garland, who asks him to follow them to the Notary’s office to hold his horses. Mr. Garland, his wife, and his son Abel are completing the paperwork to make Abel an apprentice. Kit is told afterward to return the next week where he will find another job waiting for him.
Nell and Grandfather walk out of London, past increasingly poverty-stricken areas, and into the countryside. Grandfather seems relieved to be out of the city and hesitates to stop. In the evening, they stop at a farmhouse to buy some milk and eat a bite of supper. The farm couple is very solicitous, the wife tending Nell’s blistered feet. They urge Grandfather and Nell to stay for the night, but Grandfather is anxious to be on his way and as far from London as possible. After many thanks, they begin walking toward the next village but are overtaken by a man in a wagon, who learned from the farm couple of their journey. He gives them a ride, for which they are very thankful, and lets them off near the village. Nell compares their journey to that of Christian in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. As they pass through the wicket gate into a churchyard, they encounter two men, Codlin and Short, who are entertainers, putting on a Punch and Judy puppet show in villages around the area. They are repairing their puppets, which Nell helps them to do. They invite Nell and Grandfather to join them at the inn where they are staying. Nell makes the decision to stop for the night, despite her grandfather’s...
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 17-20 Summary
Nell awakens early the next morning, at first confused by her surroundings. She goes out to visit the graveyard, reading the various epitaphs on the gravestones. She comes across one of a man who died fifty-five years ago at the age of twenty-three. An old woman comes and asks Nell to read the engraving to her. She tells Nell that she is the dead man’s wife, which strikes Nell as interesting, imagining her as an old woman married to such a young man. The widow explains how she used to want to die when her husband passed away, but now she comes often to his grave to pick daisies.
Nell and Grandfather join Codlin and Short, who are going to the races to perform their Punch and Judy show. On the way, they encounter the Grinders, who are walking on stilts (to save the trouble of having to carry them). They are heading for the races as well.
When the group encounters many other performers on their way to the races, Mr. Codlin worries that there will be no accommodations for them. They find room, however, at the Jolly Sandboys. Mr. Codlin waits eagerly for the dinner to be prepared. Mr. Short speculates that Grandfather is fleeing London for some nefarious reason, using Nell to help him along the way. As they wait for the meal to be set, Codlin and Short discuss their past history as a travelling show.
Mr. Codlin draws Nell aside and tells her that he is her friend, but she should beware of Short. He suggests that she stay close to him and not think of leaving. Short also seems to be keeping a close eye on her, which worries Nell. She reminds her grandfather of what he told her before they left The Old Curiosity Shop, that people would separate them if they thought that he were mad. Nell, now out of money, gathers flowers and makes nosegays to sell to the crowds. When she has a little money, she and Grandfather decide the time is ripe to leave. They sneak away through the masses and depart without letting Codlin and Short discover their absence.
Kit continues to go by The Old Curiosity Shop, worrying about Nell’s disappearance. His mother tells him that she has heard a rumor that they were seen boarding a ship and so most likely have gone to some foreign country. Kit rejects this, certain that he will find Nell someday. He goes back to the Notary’s office and sees Mr. Garland there again, who is please that Kit has shown himself faithful. Mr. Chuckster, from the Notary’s office, questions him as...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Chapter 21-24 Summary
Kit is surprised, on returning home, to see the Garlands’ pony parked near his home. Mr. and Mrs. Garland have arrived to talk with Mrs. Nubbles, Kit’s mother, about the possibility of Kit’s coming to live with and work for them at a salary of six pounds a year. Kit and his mother agree to the arrangement. After the Garlands have departed, the two of them are talking of the great fortune that has come to Kit when Quilp and Dick Swiveller arrive. They inquire as to the whereabouts of Grandfather and Nell, but Mrs. Nubbles tells them that they have no idea where the old man and his granddaughter have gone. Quilp and Dick leave to go to a nearby tavern, where Dick relates his sorrows in the impending marriage of Sophy Wackles to Cheggs. Dick and Quilp drink curses to Cheggs in hopes that the marriage will fall through.
Kit and his mother spend the next day packing and repacking his belongings. Before he leaves, Kit warns his mother about being too heavily influenced by Little Bethel, the low-church chapel that she has taken to attending. He tells her that she is becoming too serious-minded, as is his little brother Jacob, who has taken to calling himself a “little sinner” and a “son of the devil.” Assuring his mother that he will visit whenever he comes to town, Kit takes off walking to the Garlands’ home, Abel Cottage, in nearby Finchley. At the door, he rings several times with no answer, until the servant girl, Barbara, arrives. She apologizes for not answering, stating that everyone is in the paddock trying to catch the pony. Kit goes out and grabs hold of him with little effort. He is shown his room, which he finds clean and comfortable, and is fed by Barbara as a welcome to Abel Cottage.
Quilp and Dick (who is slightly intoxicated) return to Tower Hill. Fred Trent has joined them, and Dick tells Quilp of his and Fred’s plan concerning Nell. The search is still on for Fred’s grandfather and sister. Quilp suspects that there might be some attraction between his wife and Fred, but he says nothing. They play cards, maliciously shutting out Mrs. Jiniwin, who is fond of the game. Quilp agrees to join Fred and Dick in their pursuit of Nell and her grandfather.
Nell and Grandfather escape the races successfully, but the old man is fearful of being followed, captured, and locked away. Nell is fearful too that she might be separated from her grandfather. They eventually come to a small village and...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Chapter 25-28 Summary
Nell awakens in the morning and, finding the schoolmaster already gone, makes his bed and straightens the house. She spends time with him in the schoolroom, listening to him conduct lessons with the boys. At noon, the schoolmaster declares that it will be a half-holiday but begs the students to be quiet as the go past the sick child’s house, lest they disturb his rest. Though promising that they would do so, they begin shouting as soon as they are outside. In the afternoon, several mothers and other villagers arrive to express their displeasure at this lessening of the school day, hinting that the schoolmaster is lazy and should not expect to be paid for the half day. That evening, the schoolmaster is sent for, and he goes immediately to the home of the sick child, accompanied by Nell. The boy is fading fast, and his grandmother accuses the schoolmaster of being the cause of his death, endangering his health by too much study to please the schoolmaster. As the child fades away, the schoolmaster holds his hand, even after the boy’s death.
Nell grieves for the boy, thinking that he was a grandchild like herself, and dying left the grandparent alone. The next morning, she and her grandfather bid the schoolmaster farewell. As they continue their journey, they come upon a caravan by which a stout lady by the name of Mrs. Jarley sat drinking tea. She identifies them as having been to the races, which worries Nell that she might be in connection with Codlin and Short, but all the woman knows is that they are a Punch and Judy troupe, which she holds in low opinion. She calls to George, her driver, if the horses can pull the weight if Nell and Grandfather join them. George assures her they can, and so Nell and her grandfather join Mrs. Jarley in the caravan. Mrs. Jarley explains that she runs a wax-work show, in which life-sized figures in wax are presented for display, with herself conducting the tour. She offers jobs to Nell and her grandfather, with the old man taking tickets and the young girl giving tours. Nell accepts the offer gladly, knowing that she and Grandfather will not have to be separated. When they arrive in the next town late at night, Nell is startled to see Quilp. She hides and thinks he is beckoning to her, but he is calling to his errand boy. Nell sneaks back to the inn where she and her grandfather are staying.
As Mrs. Jarley sets up her wax figures, Mr. Slum surprises her. He is writing descriptions and...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
Chapter 29-32 Summary
Nell enjoys her work conducting tours of Mrs. Jarley’s wax-work, as well as the company of Mrs. Jarley herself. She fears encountering Quilp again, but otherwise feels comfortable in Mrs. Jarley’s presence. One day, she and her grandfather go for a walk but run into a thunderstorm. They seek shelter in the Valiant Soldier Inn. As they dry themselves before the fire, Grandfather overhears the sounds of a card game in the next room. He demands that Nell give him whatever money she has, which she does reluctantly, begging him to come away before he is drawn back into his gambling habit. He ignores her and joins the game. As he wins and loses, Nell despairs of her grandfather’s being able to control this passion.
The hour is now late, and Nell asks the landlord how much it would cost for a room and supper. She finds she has enough hidden in the hems of her skirts. Grandfather is overcome with the idea of how closely he came to winning, but having lost it all because he had no more money to bet. After dinner, Nell goes up to her room and encounters a servant girl, who tells her of the dishonest characters who stay at the inn. Fearful, Nell worries about being robbed in the middle of the night. She falls asleep but awakens, and just as she feared, she spots a man crawling about the room. He examines her clothes lying on the chair and then leaves. Nell tries to follow him, afraid that he might go into her grandfather’s room. As she enters the old man’s chamber, she sees her grandfather at the table, counting the money he stole from his granddaughter.
The next morning, Nell tells her grandfather that someone stole the rest of her money. Grandfather avoids looking at her. When they return to Mrs. Jarley, they find the woman had stayed up late for them but had eventually become convinced that they found shelter from the storm. She sends Nell to Miss Monflathers’s school with advertisement for the wax-work, but Miss Monflathers condemns her as a wicked child to be associated with such a company. Miss Edwards, one of the teachers tries to point out that Nell is at least working rather than loafing, but Miss Monflathers cuts her down. She leads her students off, leaving Nell standing there.
Mrs. Jarley is highly offended when she learns of Miss Monflathers’s remarks. She order Nell that at every thought of the headmistress in the future, Nell should laugh at her. Grandfather demands that Nell turn over to him...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Chapter 33-36 Summary
Mr. Sampson Brass, Quilp’s attorney friend, lives and works with his spinster sister, Sally. The two of them look almost identical, even to the evidence of facial hair. Sally has served as his law partner without appearing in a courtroom. Sally, in fact, is the driving force of the law firm, as she reminds her brother, whom she calls “Sammy.” Mr. Brass has received a note from Quilp, “recommending” a clerk to him, by which Brass understands that he has no choice. Quilp himself arrives with the new clerk in tow, who happens to be Dick Swiveller. Dick is to be instructed in the law by Sally and thus learn on the job. Reluctantly, Sally starts Dick in his duties, which Dick does not take that seriously.
Sally announces to Dick that she is going out for a while and that he is in charge. After she leaves, Dick grumbles at the turn his life has taken. Fred Trent supported Quilp’s decision in assigning this job to Dick, who has been cut off by his aunt and thrown out of his lodgings. Dick draws pictures of Sally when someone rings the bell, which he ignores. Soon a very small servant girl interrupts him and asks him to show a single gentleman the rooms that are for rent. Dick protests that he knows nothing about it, but the servant girl insists that Miss Brass would not want her to do it. Dick escorts the single gentleman to the rooms and tries to make a little extra money by upping the rent, but the man agrees to everything, stating that he will take the rooms for two years and gives ten pounds down. Dick is surprised by the success that he has had on his first day on the job.
Mr. Brass and Sally return to learn of Dick’s doings. Mr. Brass is impressed, but Sally displays indifference. The next day, the three are concerned that the single gentleman has yet to appear. Dick suggests that he is still asleep, though Brass finds this odd. At the end of the day, they begin to fear that he is dead and so try to think of a plan to enter the room. Finally, Dick makes so much noise that the single gentleman opens the door and demands to know what is going on. Dick tries to get information out of him, but he will not give even his name. When asked if Sally is Brass’s sister or wife, Dick tells him that she is his sister, which the single gentleman is convenient if Brass should want to get rid of her.
Over the coming weeks, the single gentleman communicates only with Dick, who also manages to form a working...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapter 37-39 Summary
The single gentleman has no visitors except men who run Punch and Judy shows. The Brasses and Dick wonder what is going on, trying to overhear their conversations without success. One day, Codlin and Short are shown into the single gentleman’s chambers. He is delighted to finally find the men he is looking for and asks them what has become of the old man and the young girl with whom they were seen at the races. Codlin proclaims that he is not surprised that they have been searched for, knowing that there was something mysterious about the pair, as was Short. However, they cannot tell the single gentleman anything about their whereabouts. The single gentleman is downcast, after finding the pair he was looking for at last but being no more knowledgeable than he was before. Short suddenly remembers that he had met a man named Jerry who had seen the old man and his granddaughter in the company of a traveling wax-work show. Jerry will be in London the next day, says Short. The single gentleman tells Short to find Jerry and bring him to his lodgings, promising him good payment if he is successful.
Kit continues in service to the Garlands and has gained a high reputation with all those he comes in contact with. One day a strange gentleman arrives and asks to talk to Kit. He questions him about the old man with whom he used to live at The Old Curiosity Shop and his granddaughter. Kit tells him what he knows, about the old man’s habit of leaving at night and not returning until morning, and also of their disappearance. The stranger thanks him and tells him he will visit him again. As he leaves, Dick Swiveller passes nearby and recognizes the stranger as the single gentleman. After Kit is alone, Dick asks the boy what he knows about the stranger, but Kit does not even know his name. Thinking that Kit might be holding back information, Dick takes him to a pub and buys him beer, hoping to get Kit to tell him more. When he is convinced Kit has told him all he is going to, the two part company.
The end of the first quarter of Kit’s employment with the Garlands arrives, and he is paid his salary. Barbara, the maid, also receives her wages. The mothers of the two servants meet and immediately become friends. Kit and Barbara are given a half-holiday, so they take their parents to Astley’s, a theater/circus popular in London, and afterwards they go out to supper. At the end of his holiday, Kit walks his family home.
(The entire section is 446 words.)
Chapter 40-43 Summary
Kip and Barbara return to Abel Cottage the morning after their holiday. Mr. and Mrs. Garland inform Kip that the single gentleman wishes to take Kip as his servant and is willing to pay more than his wages at the Garlands’. Kip displays his loyalty to the Garlands by refusing the job. Mr. Garland then suggests that perhaps Kip may be “lent” to the single gentleman, since he wants Kip to help him find Nell and her grandfather. Kip has no choice and so consents, just as Mr. Chuckster arrives to take him back to London. Kip waits for a long time in the Notary’s office before the single gentleman arrives to tell him that Grandfather and Nell have been found at a place almost seventy miles away. If they drive all night, they may be able to make it the next morning. The single gentleman reasons that if he approaches them himself, Nell might be fearful that he had come to take her grandfather away, but with Kit she would have some assurance that no harm would come to him. Kit disagrees, telling the single gentleman that Grandfather had sent Kit away in a fit of temper and would not want to see him. He suggests that his mother would be met with trust, so the single gentleman sets out to get Mrs. Nubbles.
Kit rushes home to find his mother is gone, and is told by a neighbor that she is at Little Bethel Chapel. Kit curses the influence Little Bethel has on his mother, but finds the crooked way to the meeting hall. He slips into a pew across from his mother (who is asleep) and is startled to see Quilp also in attendance. Giving up all sense of propriety, he awakens his mother and drags her from the church, accompanying by the remonstrations of the preacher. Kit tells his mother what is required of her and finally manages to get her packed up and into the coach.
Nell becomes more worried about her grandfather’s constant gambling, which has left them constantly penniless. One evening, Nell goes for a walk and overtakes a gypsy wagon, where he grandfather is playing cards. She overhears the men talking Grandfather into stealing Mrs. Jarley’s moneybox. When he agrees to do it and leaves, Nell hears the others talk about their plan to take half the money and get rid of her grandfather. Nell returns to her lodgings and tells her grandfather that she has had a terrible dream about an old man robbing others. She insists they leave immediately, and Nell and Grandfather depart on the road once again. They accept a ride on a canal...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapter 43-47 Summary
Nell and her grandfather wander through the dirty factory town. Grandfather becomes petulant, asking Nell why she took him away from the last village and demanding to be returned to it. Nell begs him not to make her return, for fear of the dream that she had, which in reality was the threat that her grandfather would be caught as a thief should he steal Mrs. Jarley’s money. As it begins to rain, they seek some shelter but are approached by a factory worker, who tells them there is shelter in a nearby building. As they sit before the fire, the worker tells them that the fire is his friend, and in fact was the place where his father died. The next morning, Nell and Grandfather depart, with two pennies that the factory laborer gave to Nell.
The old man and the young girl keep walking on, through the interminable factory towns with their smoke and dirt. Nell worries about finding a place to sleep that night, since the factory worker said that it would be two days before they reached the countryside on foot. At last, they find some quiet corner amidst the filth to lie down and sleep. The next day, Nell tries to beg for some food. At one house, a man tells her he has no charity to give, pointing to a bundle on the floor containing his third dead child. He has been unemployed for a long time, and there is no food to give to his children. Nell goes on to another house and sees two women being confronted by a police officer. He has brought back one of the women’s deaf and dumb son, who had stolen but was presumed to not know the difference between right and wrong due to the conditions of his upbringing. The other woman asks why her son was not returned, having been transported overseas, since his conditions were no better. Nell leaves with nothing. She has lost her appetite and fears that she is becoming mortally ill. As they reach the last street of the town, Nell sees a traveler ahead, who is reading a book as he walks. She cries out and runs to him, but falls unconscious at his feet. It is the poor schoolmaster who had lost his favorite student. He carries her into a nearby inn, where she quickly regains consciousness. As she recovers, the schoolmaster proposes that she and her grandfather accompany him to a distant town where he has been hired as clerk and schoolmaster. She agrees, and the three of them travel by coach to the pleasant, distant village on the Welsh border.
Mrs. Nubbles and the single gentleman arrive at the...
(The entire section is 511 words.)
Chapter 48-51 Summary
Mrs. Nubbles and the single gentleman are surprised when Quilp jumps out at them at the inn. The single gentleman confronts him for having driven Nell’s grandfather away, though Quilp assures him that the old man left of his own accord after losing his property to Quilp over his loans. Quilp had learned of this intended journey by seeing Dick Swiveller talking to Kit. He had then followed Kit to Little Bethel and then back to the coach station where Mrs. Nubbles and the single gentleman had left on their quest. Quilp followed them in another night coach. Mrs. Nubbles and the single gentleman, having failed to find Nell and her grandfather, head back to London, with Quilp riding on the top of the coach, leaning over and making faces at Mrs. Nubbles during the entire journey. Kit meets his mother and the coach station and tells Quilp to leave his mother alone.
Quilp returns home to find that he is presumed dead by drowning, having last been seen near the pier. Mrs. Quilp, Mrs. Jiniwin, Mr. Sampson Brass, and other watermen are gathered in Quilp’s house, discussing his untimely death. Quilp listens in to their conversation, as they prepare to write a description of him. Mrs. Jiniwin particularly wants his crooked legs to be mentioned. When Quilp finally interrupts and reveals himself to be alive, Mrs. Quilp faints and Mrs. Jiniwin runs from the room.
Mr. Quilp tells his wife that, since she had anticipated so quickly being a widow, he will be a bachelor in earnest. He states that he is moving out and will live by himself down by the wharf. He packs his things, buys a hammock, and sets up his new abode. Going over to Dick Swiveller’s usual place of drinking, he learns that Fred from Dick that Fred has confronted his grandfather and been turned away. Fred is now a traveling gambler. Quilp contemplates a way to let the single gentleman know that Dick is planning to marry Nell for the money that he believes she has. Mrs. Quilp comes to the wharf to beg him to come home, but he refuses, telling her that he will come home when he pleases, if at all.
Quilp invites Sampson and Sally Brass to tea in a run-down summer house. He tells them that has a mission for them: to get rid of Kit Nubbles. They agree to do so and leave, while Quilp returns to his new bachelor lodgings.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 52-55 Summary
Nell and her grandfather wait for the schoolmaster (whose name is now revealed to be Mr. Marton), who soon returns. He points out an old house to Nell and tells her that the house is hers. Showing the ancient building to her, he explains that the church caretaker who lived there had died. Since the position was still open, Mr. Marton has recommended to the clergyman that Nell be given the job. He takes her to meet the pastor, who sees that she is very young. Mr. Marton assures her that she is old in life and trouble. She is given the job, though her grandfather says he would rather see her being young, dancing in the moonlight. A college friend of the clergyman, known as the Bachelor, introduces several of the schoolchildren and villagers to Nell and Grandfather. Nell feels that she has at last come to a place of security and happiness.
Nell awakens early the next morning and performs housekeeping chores for the schoolmaster. She goes to the churchyard where some children are playing near a small grave. One of the children explains that it is not a grave, but his brother’s garden. Nell meets the old sexton, who explains that he tends the graveyard but is also a gardener, showing her his many gardening tools. She wanders around the church and finds the effigies of knights long dead. She takes the Bible and finds a quiet spot where she may read. This becomes a favorite quiet spot for her, to which she returns after her duties are done.
Nell wanders through the graves, sorrowful that the dead are soon forgotten. She decides that she will take up the responsibility of tending the graves by clipping the grass and planting flowers, so that those who have passed away will not be left alone. Her grandfather helps her, but he notices a change in her. She is not as healthy as she used to be. He watches her carefully, but when she catches him and asks why he is looking at her, he does not answer.
Nell becomes a great favorite among the villagers. Young and old, they always stop to say a kind word to her. The schoolchildren love her and long to keep her with them. As she was in the church reading, a boy came in to assure himself that she was still there. The other children had told him that Nell would be an angel before springs. Mr. Marton and the old sexton come every evening to read to her. Her grandfather watches over her carefully.
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Chapter 56-59 Summary
Dick Swiveller is at his desk in Brass’s office when Mr. Chuckster arrives from the Notary’s office. They speak of Kit, whom Mr. Chuckster is sure will eventually turn out to be a thief. He is just finished with this assessment when Kit himself arrives with a letter for the single gentleman. He explains that he must deliver the letter himself, though Dick tries to get him to hand over the letter to him. The single gentleman comes down to see if the person at the door was for him. He discovers that it is Kit and receives the letter that he was evidently expecting. Dick outwardly changes his attitude toward Kit, giving him some money before he returns to the Notary’s.
Kit comes to Brass’s office frequently with letters to and from the single gentleman. Dick Swiveller always gives him two crowns, but Kit assumes that they come from the single gentleman. One day, Dick catches the small servant girl spying at him through the key hole. She begs him not to say anything, because Sally would beat her if she knew that she had been upstairs. Dick offers to teach her cards, as well as how to drink beer. Since she does not know her age, nor will she tell her name, Dick calls her “Marchioness.”
Dick and the Marchioness play cribbage whenever Sampson and Sally are absent. The Marchioness tells Dick that the Brasses do not trust him. Soon, several small articles disappear, but Dick worries that it is the Marchioness who stole them. Sampson, however, suspects Kit, since he comes to the office almost every day, so he has ready access to things. He lays out a five pound note, defying someone to steal it. Just as he does so, Kit arrives with another letter for the single gentleman. After he comes back downstairs, Mr. Brass detains him to ask about his mother. He takes Kit’s hat from him and sets it on his desk, fiddling with it as he speaks. He offers a job to Kit’s mother, if Kit thinks that she would take it. Kit thanks him and believes she will. He takes his hat and leaves, and Dick and Sally return soon after. Mr. Brass declares that he is missing a five pound note that was lying on the desk. Sally insinuates that it was probably stolen by Kit, whom she has always suspected of being dishonest. Mr. Brass insists that Kit is honest, but runs after Kit anyway. He is searched, and Dick finds the five pound note in Kit’s hate. Mr. Brass “regretfully” calls for a constable.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Chapter 60-63 Summary
Kit is dumbfounded that he should be accused of theft. He pleads with the Brasses and Dick to remember how honest they have found him to be in the past. The constable arrives, but Kit asks that he first be taken to Mr. Witherden, the notary, so he can appeal to them. Before they can leave, Quilp shows up and mocks Kit’s predicament. At the Notary’s office, Kit begs Mr. Witherden and Mr. Garland to testify to his honesty. They do so, but the evidence is to clear. Kit is taken away to the police station, where he is scheduled for trial and then taken to a jail cell.
Kit spends the night weeping, thinking that all his best friends must think him guilty. He thinks of Nell and wonders what she would think if she should ever hear of his shame. The next morning, Kit is allowed to walk about in a little yard. He is told by the turnkey that visiting hours are later in the day. If anyone should come to see him, he will be called for by the turnkey. Kit spends the day in misery until the turnkey arrives to announce that he has visitors. They are his mother, Barbara’s mother, and his little brother Jacob. The women weep at the sight of him behind bars, and soon Jacob catches the mood and begins to cry as well. Mrs. Nubbles has brought him some food, which the turnkey says she may give to him to be passed on to the prisoner. She begs him to give it to him now so that, as a mother, she may make sure her child is eating properly. After Kit is returned to his cell, the turnkey brings him some beer, which he learns is to be given to him every day as a gift from Dick Swiveller.
Sampson Brass goes to Quilp’s place and overhears him singing and gloating over Kit’s arrest. He feels that Quilp is being too obvious about his involvement. He enters and Quilp invites him to share some fiery drink with him. Brass reluctantly agrees and is soon quite tipsy. Quilp tells him that he is to discharge Dick Swiveller from his position as clerk. Brass cannot understand why Dick must go, but Quilp reminds him that it was he who told him to get a clerk in the first place. Brass goes, asking for a light so that he may find his way through the rubbish around Quilp’s abode.
Despite the testimony of his friends, Kit is found guilty and sentenced to prison. Dick goes to Brass’s office, only to be told by Sampson Brass that his services are no longer required. Dick returns home and falls into a fever that lasts several weeks.
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapter 64-66 Summary
After three weeks, Dick Swiveller awakens from his fever. He is confused to find himself wasted away to a skeleton. He hears sounds and thinks he has awakened into an Arabian Nights tale. He discovers that it is the Marchioness who is in his room, playing cribbage by herself. She explains that she has run away from the Brasses and is now living here with Dick, having explained to his landlord that she was his sister. She tells Dick that she overheard Brass and Sally how to plant the five pound note in Kit’s hat and so frame him to get him out of the way. The Marchioness, who was nightly locked in the cellar by Sally, had found an old key and often sneaked out of the cellar in search of food. Using the key, she escaped from the Brasses, since Dick and the single gentleman are both now gone. Dick is grateful for her care, realizing that she saved his life. When he asks for his clothes, the Marchioness explains that she had to sell all of his clothes in order to buy medicine for Dick. He sends her off to the Notary’s office, since Kit is soon to be transported overseas. She runs as quickly as she can and peaks through the door. She sees Chuckster, as well as the notary and Mr. Abel Garland. She waits until she can speak to Mr. Abel without Mr. Chuckster hearing. Soon she hears a pony coming down the street, who seems reluctant to be led. Mr. Abel tells the driver that he is used to his old driver (meaning Kit) and just got out that morning. Mr. Abel climbs into the cart and drives off. The Marchioness runs after him and, not having enough breath to shout out to him, grabs onto the back of the cart and climbs up. He stops when she speaks to him and tells him to drive to Dick Swiveller’s residence in order to save Kit. There, Dick has the Marchioness tell Mr. Abel what she witnessed concerning Kit’s being framed by the Brasses.
The next morning, Mr. Witherden, Mr. and Mrs. Garland, and the single gentleman meet with Sally Brass in order to convince her to testify against her brother and Quilp. She refuses, however, but is interrupted by Sampson, who says that he followed his sister. He proclaims that the entire blame is to be laid on Quilp, while he and his sister were simply tools of his malice. Brass writes out is confession in the site of the Notary, but Sally manages to slip away unnoticed. Dick Swiveller learns that his aunt has died and, though she did not leave him her entire estate, she did leave him an annuity of one...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapter 67-70 Summary
Quilp stays in his bachelor lodgings, attended only by Tom Scott, his errand boy. On a cold and foggy day, Mrs. Quilp arrives with a letter. Quilp refuses to let her in, telling her to throw the letter through the window. She begs to be let in to warm by the fire. Quilp relents and opens the door. He reads the letter, which is from Sally Brass, telling him about Sampson’s confession and the plot to capture Quilp. Quilp is furious, frightening his wife. He tells Tom Scott to escort Mrs. Quilp home and then stay away until he hears from him. He warns his wife that he will disappear, but he will not be dead. After they leave, Quilp checks for escape routes. Soon he hears knocking on his door. He sneaks out to make his escape but falls into the river and drowns. His body floats down the river until it comes to land in a swamp.
When he hears the news of his pardon on proof of innocence, Kit faints, not out of relief for himself but for his mother. Mr. Garland comes to drive him home, where everyone is gathered. There is great rejoicing, and Kit gives Barbara a kiss or two. Mr. Garland tells him that his good news is far from over, that Nell and her grandfather have been found, happy and content, though Nell had been recently ill. Mr. Garland says that they happen to be living in the same village where his brother (the Bachelor) lives. Kit will be going to see them the next day.
Barbara is little jealous of Nell, but Kit assures her that he loves Nell as a servant loves his mistress. Kit leaves with Mr. Garland and the single gentleman. On the way, the single gentleman tells a story of two brothers who separated over a rivalry in love. The younger brother eventually went away, and the older brother married his love, by whom he had an infant daughter before she died. When the girl became a woman, she married a man who was not worthy of her, and who beggared his father-in-law. Soon the unworthy son-in-law died and his wife also died, leaving a son and a daughter to be raised by their grandfather. The single gentleman is now going to see his brother, who is Nell’s grandfather, to end the cycle of discord.
It begins to snow before they reach the village. Kit goes to the old sexton’s house to ask directions, thinking that he sees Nell. He finally reaches the parsonage where Nell and her grandfather are staying, and finds the door unlocked.
(The entire section is 442 words.)
Chapter 71-73 Summary
Kit enters to find the room dark, lit only by the fire in the fire place. He sees an old man rocking back and forth before the fire. He recognizes him as his former master and Nell’s grandfather. He tells Kit that Nell is in the other room, asleep. He thinks he hears her call, but Kit hears nothing.
Grandfather goes into her room and brings out her dress, pressing it to his lips. Mr. Garland, the single gentleman, the schoolmaster and the bachelor enter the house. Grandfather begins to cry, grasping his hair with both hands. The schoolmaster reaches out to him. They speak of Nell, and Grandfather goes once again into her room, returning to say he thought her hand moved. The single gentleman reveals himself to his brother, but Grandfather says that Nell is his only family and only friend.
Kit and the other gentleman enter the room to find Nell dead, lying on her bed surrounded by winter berries and green leaves. They weep for her, though she is past all help or need of it. The schoolmaster speaks of heaven where her spirit has taken flight and would not be recalled to life on earth if anyone dared. Nell had been dead for two days. Before that, she had drifted in and out of sleep, often talking of the friends she met on the journey with her grandfather. She speaks of Kit, wishing that there were some way that she could send him her love. After that, whenever she talks of Kit, she laughs as she used to.
At Nell’s funeral, the people of the village gather to weep and mourn, remembering the gentle girl who had graced their lives for so short a period of time but had made such a deep impression. The days and weeks pass. Grandfather goes to visit her grave often. One day in the spring, he does not return. They find him dead by Nell’s grave. He is buried by her side.
Sampson Brass is put in prison. He pleads for leniency, but all that he is allowed is to avoid transportation to another country by staying in a British jail. It is rumored that Sally Brass became either a sailor or a soldier, dressed as a man. When Quilp’s body is found, it is decided that he committed suicide and therefore was buried at a crossroads with a stake in his heart. Mrs. Quilp becomes rich, though she feels guilty for allowing her husband to join him in his deception. She remarries, but her husband refuses to allow her mother to live with them, so they live happily ever after. Mr. Abel marries and becomes a partner in the...
(The entire section is 525 words.)