فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

Everything Changes

Someone, hiding in the shadows across the street, had been carefully watching The Old Curiosity Shop. He had seen Daniel Quilp arrive and leave, and had noticed that the old man had not left the house that evening as usual. This person used to wait for hours and hours every night, watching the house and making sure that Nell was safe while her grandfather was gone. This kind and thoughtful person was Kit.

Sometime later, once Kit knew Nell would not be alone that night, he went home to his widowed mother and his two young brothers.

‘Oh Kit!’ cried his mother when he walked into the small and simple room. ‘I wonder what Nell would say if she knew that every night, when she is sitting all alone, you are out there on the street keeping an eye on her.’ She looked closely at Kit and then said, ‘Some people might say you’ve fallen in love with her…’

Kit, whose face was starting to turn red, was saved by a loud knock at the door. It was Nell herself, looking worried and upset.

‘I must not stay long,’ she said. ‘Grandfather is very ill.’

‘I’ll run to get a doctor,’ said Kit, picking up his coat. ‘I’ll be there soon. I…’

‘No, no,’ cried Nell. ‘The doctor is there already and… I don’t know why, but grandfather’s very angry with you and says you are the cause of all his problems.’

Kit looked at her with his eyes open wide.

‘The doctor says you must not come near him or he will die,’ added Nell, who had started to cry. ‘Oh Kit, what have you done? I trusted you. You were the only friend I had!’

Kit was so shocked that he could not speak. Nell gave him the money that he had earned that week, and then was gone, as quickly as she had come.

Nell’s grandfather became seriously ill and could not move from his bed. Despite this, within a few days Mr Quilp closed the shop and made the house and everything in it his own. He then decided to live for a while in the back rooms of the ground floor with his lawyer - a man called Mr Sampson Brass.

Mr Brass was a tall, thin man, with an ugly nose, a large forehead, very small eyes, and hair of a deep red. He wore a very long, black coat, short, black trousers and high shoes. He was not a very pleasant man and he was clearly afraid of Daniel Quilp.

‘Will we be staying here long?’ asked Mr Brass.

‘We must stay, I suppose, until the old man upstairs is dead,’ answered Quilp. ‘Or, if he doesn’t die quickly, we’ll just tell him and his granddaughter to leave.’

‘He he he!’ cried Mr Brass, trying to laugh.

Nell stayed away from Quilp and his lawyer friend and spent most of the next few weeks beside her sick grandfather’s bed. One night, she was sitting alone by the open window when Kit came and called to her from the street below.

‘I hope you don’t really believe that I’ve done anything wrong, Nell!’ he shouted up to her. ‘I can say, with a true and honest heart, that I haven’t. When your grandfather gets better, will you tell him that? I want to work for him again.’

‘If I did tell him, what good would it do? We are very poor now, so we wouldn’t be able to pay you,’ said Nell sadly.

‘I don’t care about the money,’ replied Kit. ‘I just thought… I just thought that if he believed me, then you could both come and live with my family. Just for a while. Ours is a small and simple home, but it’s very clean.’

But just then Mr Brass came out and chased Kit away.

Many people came to the house while her grandfather was ill, but Nell had never felt more lonely. And she knew that her grandfather would never agree to live at Kit’s house. It was not long until her grandfather’s illness passed. However, he was very weak. He was different now: he was confused and what he said often did not make sense.

As soon as he could see that the old man was feeling a little better, Mr Quilp said that he was going to sell everything in the house and the shop. He told Nell that she and her grandfather would have to leave and find somewhere else to live.

Hearing this news, Nell began to cry and turned to her weak grandfather. ‘Let’s go,’ she said to him. ‘Let’s leave this place and never come back or think of it again. We can live as beggars and be happy. I am not afraid. We can walk through the countryside and sleep in fields and under trees. In the day you can rest and I will knock on doors and beg for money. We will feel the sun and wind on our faces.’

The old man looked at his granddaughter for a few moments. There were tears in his eyes as he replied, ‘Then yes, let’s do that. But we must keep our plan secret. If anyone finds out, they will think I am mad and take you from me.’ Then he added, ‘We will be all right. You and I together, Nell, forever.’ The child’s heart was suddenly full of hope. She did not think of hunger or cold or thirst or difficulties. She saw an end to their sadness and a return to the happy life they had once enjoyed together. She thought of the sun and rivers and green grass and summer days, and there were no dark comers in the picture she saw.

They left the house quietly the next morning, before Quilp and Mr Brass were awake. It was the beginning of a bright day in June, and as they stood in front of The Old Curiosity Shop Nell asked her grandfather, ‘Which way should we go?’

The old man looked helplessly, first at her, then to the right and left, then at her again, and shook his head. From that moment Nell knew that she would always have to look after both of them. She took a deep breath and then held her grandfather’s hand and led him away.

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