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 advertisements for the displays. Mrs. Jarley teaches and drills the presentation to Nell, who learns it quickly.