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.