فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

Chance Meetings

Nell and her grandfather walked for several hours before they felt that they were far enough away from the puppeteers to stop and rest. The old man was confused and frightened and did not seem to really understand what had happened. This worried and upset Nell, but she knew that she had to be strong. After a short rest they started walking again, and did not stop until they reached a village late in the afternoon.

The village was very small and they walked through it to see where they could stay. They saw an old man sitting in a little garden in front of a cottage. Nell knew that he must be the schoolteacher because above the window of the cottage was a sign that said ‘School’. He wore a simple black suit and he looked friendly. Nell felt quite shy, but she went into the garden and spoke to him.

‘Do you know of anywhere we could stay for the night?’ asked Nell. ‘We have walked a long way today and we would be happy to pay a small amount of money.’

‘My name is Mr Marton,’ said the schoolteacher. ‘You’re a very young traveller, my child. Why don’t you both stay here? Come in,’ he added.

It was a simple house, but Nell and her grandfather were comfortable there and had more than enough to eat and drink. They slept well, and in the morning while they were eating breakfast Mr Marton made a suggestion.

‘You both look very tired,’ he said. ‘You’re very welcome to stay here longer, before you continue with your long journey.’ And so they stayed another two nights. Nell cleaned and tidied the house during the day to show the schoolteacher how thankful she was to him. She also spent some time watching him as he taught his class of young boys to read and write. Both she and her grandfather became friends with Mr Marton, and they were able to relax and rest in the cottage. They were a little sad when the time came for them to leave and continue with their journey.

Soon they had left the village far behind and were following the main road. They walked all day but as the sun began to set they had not found a village or town. Just as they were beginning to get worried about where they would stay, they saw a caravan at the side of the road. It seemed to be a smart little house on wheels, which was painted brightly and had white curtains at the windows. There was a woman sitting on its steps drinking a cup of tea and she looked friendly and well dressed. Just near the caravan a man - Nell guessed he was the driver - was holding two fine-looking horses that were eating the grass.

‘Excuse me,’ Nell said to the lady. ‘Do you know how far it is to the next town? We hope to stay there tonight.’

The woman said the next town was about eight miles away.

‘Oh!’ cried Nell. ‘That’s such a long way.’

There was a moment’s silence during which the woman looked carefully at both Nell and her grandfather.

‘Are you hungry?’ the lady asked. ‘Come and have something to eat.’

And so they drank hot tea and ate bread and cheese at the side of the road. After a little more conversation, the woman invited Nell and her grandfather to ride with her in the caravan to the next town. As Nell climbed into the caravan she thanked the woman several times. She sat down inside the caravan and was happy to be saved from such a long walk so late in the day.

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