فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter two

Unwanted Visitors

About a week later a young man of twenty-one years of age walked confidently into The Old Curiosity Shop. He was tall and quite handsome, but there was something unattractive about his clothes and the arrogant way he stood.

The old man, who was alone in the shop at the time, was certainly not pleased to see him.

‘Why have you come, Fred?’ asked the old man. ‘You are not welcome here.’

‘I know,’ replied Fred angrily. ‘But I am here and I will stay until I decide it’s time for me to go. I’ve come to see my sister.’

‘Your sister!’ cried the old man angrily.

‘Ah! You can’t change that relationship! If you could, you’d have done it years ago,’ replied Fred. ‘I want to see my sister, who you keep imprisoned here with all your dark secrets. You pretend to love her so that you can work her to death, and add a few shillings every week to the piles of money you have hidden away. I want to see her; and I will.’

‘And who are you to criticize me?’ cried the old man. ‘Everyone knows you are a liar. You’ve wasted everything you’ve ever been given and have treated your family terribly, just like your father did before he died.’

‘Well, grandfather,’ said the young man calmly, ‘there’s a friend of mine outside, and as it seems that I may have to wait some time, I’ll call him in.’ He stepped to the door and called out. A young man appeared and began walking slowly towards the shop. He seemed at first to be dressed fairly smartly, but when he came closer his clothes were dirty and untidy.

‘This is Richard Swiveller,’ said Fred, and he pulled the young man into the shop.

Mr Swiveller looked about him with a weak smile on his face, then winked at his friend as if they shared a secret. ‘Carefully, carefully, that’s right,’ he whispered loudly to Fred, then sat down heavily in a nearby chair.

The old man turned to his grandson and shouted, ‘I suppose you want money from me. Why do you keep asking me for money? And why do you bring silly people like him here? How often do I have to tell you that I am poor?’

‘And how often do I have to tell you,’ replied Fred, looking coldly at him, ‘that I know better?’

‘You have chosen your own path in this world,’ said the old man. ‘Follow it. Leave Nell and me to work and lead our simple life.’

‘Nell will be a woman soon,’ replied Fred, ‘and, brought up by you, she’ll forget me unless I come to see her sometimes.’

‘No, of course you don’t want her to forget you!’ cried the old man. ‘Especially when she’s older and riding in an expensive carriage and she sees you poor and hungry!’

‘Ah! So you admit that she will be rich when you die, do you?’ replied Fred angrily. But before the old man could answer, the door opened and Nell herself appeared.

She was closely followed by a surprisingly unattractive man. He was unusually short, but his head and face were large enough for the body of a giant. His small black eyes were constantly moving; his mouth and chin were covered with a short, rough beard; and his skin was of the kind that never looks clean or healthy. But what added most to the ugliness of his face was a horrible smile, which seemed to be always on his face. It showed only a few brown teeth left in his mouth. His hair was thin and long, and he wore a big, tall hat, an old, dark suit and a pair of very large shoes.

There was more than enough time to notice these details, because some moments passed before anyone spoke. Nell moved shyly towards her brother and put her hand in his. The ugly little man looked carefully at the two young men, and the grandfather, who clearly had not expected this unwelcome visitor, seemed very uncomfortable.

‘Ah!’ said the short man, looking at Fred. ‘He must be your grandson! But who is that?’ he added, pointing at Richard Swiveller.

‘A friend of his, but both of them are unwelcome,’ said the grandfather.

‘Well, Nelly,’ said Fred aloud. ‘Does grandfather teach you to hate me, eh?’

‘No, no! Of course not,’ cried the child. ‘I love you dearly, Fred.’

‘And if you stopped upsetting grandfather then I could love you more.’

‘I see!’ said Fred, and he roughly kissed the child on her cheek and then pushed her away. ‘That’s enough then - we are friends.’ He stopped speaking and followed her with his eyes until she had left the room. Then he turned to speak to the short man.

‘Now, Mr…’

‘Do you mean me?’ said the ugly little man. ‘Quilp is my name. It’s easy to remember. It’s not a long one - Daniel Quilp.’

‘Mr Quilp, then,’ continued Fred. ‘You know my grandfather.’

‘A little,’ said Mr Quilp, quickly.

‘And you know about some of his mysteries and secrets.’

‘A few,’ replied Quilp, simply.

‘Then let me tell him once and for all, through you, that I will come here as often as I like, so long as he keeps Nell here. I came here today to see her, and I’ll come here again fifty times for the same reason. I have seen her, and now my visit has ended.’ He turned suddenly to his friend. ‘Let’s leave, Richard.’

‘Humph!’ said Quilp with a disgusted look on his face when the young men had gone. ‘What a selfish grandson you have!’ he said to the old man. ‘You are such a weak man.’

‘What would you do, then?’ the old man answered helplessly. Then he added, with a shake of his head, ‘Something violent, I’m sure.’

‘You’re right there,’ replied the ugly little man, who was very pleased with the comment. ‘Oh yes, I like causing trouble and pain if I can!’ He rubbed his hands slowly together, again and again, still with the horrible smile on his face. Then he moved very close to the old man and putting his hand into his pocket he spoke again.

‘Here’s the gold you asked to borrow,’ he said. ‘I brought it myself because it’s valuable and heavy - I didn’t want Nell to get into trouble carrying it on her own. But, of course, she’ll soon need to get used to carrying gold, because she’ll be carrying a lot when you are dead, won’t she?’

‘I… I really do hope so,’ said the old man quietly as he took the money.

‘Hope so!’ repeated Quilp, moving close to the old man’s ear. ‘I wish I knew what good investments you are putting all my money into. But you are a private man and keep that secret well.’

‘My secret!’ said the old man with a worried look. ‘Yes, you’re right… I… I am quite a private man.’

When Daniel Quilp had finally left and the old man and his granddaughter were alone, he put his hand on hers and spoke.

‘Don’t worry, Nell,’ he said gently. ‘Things will get better. Yes, I’m sure… I really hope things will get better.’

She smiled at him, but did not answer. Then there was a knock at the door. She stood up, looked at the clock and went to the door, saying excitedly, ‘It must be Kit coming for his lesson!’

Nell was soon busy giving Kit a writing lesson, of which he had two every week. He found writing very hard and made many mistakes, but Nell was a patient teacher. The evening passed quickly as they laughed and chatted together and the time soon came for Kit to leave. It was not long after he had left that Nell’s grandfather prepared to go out all night again. And once more the child was left alone in the darkness of The Old Curiosity Shop.

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