فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Chapter three

Fred and Richard Make a Plan

Mr Richard Swiveller lived in a small rented room above a shop in an area of London famous for its theatres and cheap houses. And it was here that Fred had come to visit him one evening. Fred had spent nearly an hour listening to Richard talking about nothing important, and he was now walking up and down the room impatiently.

‘Richard,’ said Fred angrily, ‘I don’t understand how you can be so cheerful with everything that has happened. I wish you would stop talking!’

‘Well,’ said Mr Swiveller, ‘I must say that you are very rude! I’ve invited you into my fashionable gentleman’s apartments and this is how you treat me! Well, I really don’t know…’

‘Richard!’ shouted Fred, returning to his chair. ‘Will you talk seriously for two minutes, if I show you a way to make a lot of money with very little effort?’

Richard Swiveller immediately fell silent and stared at his friend. A moment passed before Fred spoke again.

‘Do you think my sister Nell is pretty?’

‘Well, yes, of course,’ replied Richard. ‘But I must say that you two don’t look very similar at all.’

‘Good - you think she’s pretty,’ said Fred, choosing to ignore Richard’s comment. ‘So… it’s very clear that the old man and I never agree about anything, and that he’s not going to give me any money, not even when he dies. You see that, don’t you?’

‘A bat could see that, even with the sun shining,’ said Richard, nodding his head.

‘Well,’ Fred went on, ‘Nell is a friendly girl and, because she is young, we can easily change what she thinks. You could make friends with her and then she might be persuaded to marry you.’

Richard Swiveller, who could not believe what he had just heard, spoke just one word.

‘What!’

‘She could be persuaded to marry you,’ repeated Fred calmly. ‘And if you married her, all that money could be yours.’

‘But she’s not even fourteen years old!’ cried Richard.

‘I don’t mean you should marry her now!’ replied Fred impatiently. ‘I mean you could marry her in three or four years’ time.’

Richard looked very uncertain.

‘Look,’ began Fred. ‘I think I could get her to marry you. Even if the old man lived for several more years, you would inherit all his money in the end. Then you and I would be able to spend it together. And just think - you would also have a beautiful wife!’

Richard thought for a moment. His rich aunt had been sending him money over the years, but in the last few months he had received nothing. She had heard about how he lived his life and wasted the money she sent him. Richard had sent her many letters asking, even begging, for money, but she refused to help him. He had always expected to inherit her money, but that would certainly never happen now. He was poor and might always be poor.

‘And you are sure that he’s rich?’ he asked Fred.

‘Am I sure? You heard what he said last week about Nell riding in an expensive carriage one day, didn’t you?’ replied Fred.

The conversation continued in this way. At first Richard did not think Fred’s idea was a good one. However, the truth was he was poor and greedy, and Fred was clever and persuasive. So it was only an hour later that Richard Swiveller found himself agreeing to his friend’s surprising new plan.

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