فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Chapter six

The Long Journey Begins

Nell and her grandfather walked all morning through the streets of London. At first the city was quiet and peaceful in the early morning sunlight. But slowly the streets filled with people as they passed through an area with shops, and then came to streets where very poor people lived. Nell was a little afraid, but they carried on walking.

After a while she noticed that small gardens started to appear, and the rough-looking houses began to turn into small cottages.

In the early afternoon they found themselves near a pleasant field and they sat down to rest and eat the bread and meat that Nell had brought. Then on they went again, walking through country roads and hearing the birds sing and the wind gently moving the branches of the trees. They walked all day, and paid some money to sleep that night at a small cottage.

Next morning they set off walking again. They often rested, but only for a few minutes at a time. It was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon when they stopped near some workmen’s cottages and asked if they could buy some milk. They spent some time resting by the cottages, then continued walking to the nearest town, which was about five miles away.

The sun was setting when they reached the church in the small town. The old man led the way into the churchyard. As they walked in they heard voices and soon found two men. They were surrounded by puppets lying on the ground around them.

‘Are those puppets from a show?’ asked the old man, excitedly. Travelling puppet shows were very popular at that time and the old man loved to watch them.

‘Yes,’ replied one of the men. ‘We’ve come here to fix them before our show tonight. My name’s Tommy Codlin and we’re staying at the public house.’

‘Good!’ said the old man, reaching out to touch one of the puppets.

‘Where are you travelling to?’ asked the other man, whose name was Mr Harris.

‘Oh, I don’t think we’re travelling any further tonight,’ said the child, looking towards her grandfather.

‘If you want a place to stop,’ Harris commented, ‘you should stay at the public house as well. It’s very cheap.’

And so Nell and her grandfather followed the two men to the public house, where they watched the puppet performance and ate some dinner. Later, they went upstairs to their simple rooms, where the tired old man asked Nell to sit by his bed until he fell asleep.

As she sat next to him she thought of the life that was in front of them. She had a little money, but when that was gone they would have to beg. In her purse there was also one gold coin. She decided that it would be best to hide this valuable coin, and save it for a time when they really needed it. So she carefully sewed the piece of gold into the bottom her dress and then, feeling a little more in control of her future, she lay down and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning at breakfast Mr Codlin suggested that Nell and her grandfather should travel with them to the next town. Nell thought for a moment. They had no other plans and it would be good to have some company. It was agreed, and it was not long before they were all walking together down the country lane away from the public house. They walked all day, stopping only for Codlin and Harris to give short puppet shows for money in the villages they passed through.

It was raining and dark when they arrived at the next public house that they planned to stay in. A big fire was burning in the kitchen. Soon both Nell and her grandfather, warm and dry at last, fell asleep near the fire, and while they were sleeping, Codlin and Harris discussed their new travelling friends.

‘It’s clear that the old man is mad and the young girl isn’t used to this type of life,’ whispered Harris. ‘I think he’s taken her and he’s running away from someone,’ he added.

‘What!’ cried Mr Codlin, looking worried.

Harris said quietly, ‘If she’s gone missing, there might be a reward for her.’

Codlin, after thinking for a few moments, replied, ‘You might be right. And if you are right, remember that we work together - we share everything!’ Then he added, ‘Yes, then we need to keep an eye on little Nell and that mad old man. We must keep them with us until we find out more information about them.’

The men did not know it, but Nell had begun to wake up and had heard Codlin’s reply. The following morning Nell noticed that Codlin and Harris were watching her closely. She no longer felt safe after what she had heard them say. While the two puppeteers were busy packing up their puppets, she saw a chance to escape. Nell was afraid, but she quickly and quietly led her grandfather out through the back door of the public house. They, did not stop to look behind them, but walked quickly away into the fields.

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