Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Summary Chapter 21

Kit is wondering what has become of Nell and her grandfather. He persuades himself they must return. He is returning home, and he is surprised to see Mr. Abel outside of it. He walks in and is confused by the sight of the Garlands talking to his mother.

Mrs. Nubbles and Mr. Garland take turns explaining that the couple has come to inquire about whether Kit had a position, and to offer him employment if he did not. As the couple asks questions, Kit begins to fear he won’t get the post. Mrs. Garland explains that they have to be careful. Mrs. Nubbles explains that she understands and has no reason to refuse to answer the questions.

The mother states that Kit is a good son, just like her husband had been—who had been a good man too. The mother is tearful upon reminiscing. Mrs. Garland says she is certain Mrs. Nubbles is a respectable, honest person. She compliments on how clean the house and children are. Kit’s mother is consoled. She continues to give a very detailed account of Kit’s life.

Mr. Garland questions Kit on his qualifications and acquirements. Mrs. Garland discusses the other children with Kit’s mother, sharing stories about raising her own son. Mr. and Mrs. Garland hire Kit for an annual income of six pounds. They provide him an advance to buy clothes. Both parties are pleased by this arrangement. The couple gives the two younger children a half-crown each. They tell Kit to start the next day. They take their leave.

Kit says he will make his mom a lady and a scholar out of little Jacob. Mrs. Nubbles scoffs at this good-naturedly. Just then, Quilp and Dick Swiveller enter. Quilp has overheard the last and believes that Kit’s new income comes from the grandfather. He asks Kit why he hasn’t come to see him. Kit replies he has no business with him. Quilp asks Mrs. Nubbles where Nell’s grandfather is. She says she does not know. She wished she did, for it would ease many people’s minds.

Quilp and Swiveller leave. They had met on the Nubbles’ doorstep. Dick Swiveller is just as baffled by the disappearance of Nell and her grandfather, but Quilp is suspicious of Swiveller’s interest in the two. Wanting to discover Swiveller’s motivations, he invites him for a drink. Swiveller accepts the invitation.

Quilp take him to a crumbling, rat-infested drinking house that has very good smuggled ale. Swiveller has to water it down, but Quilp drinks it raw. Swiveller’s tongue loosens as he ingests more beer and feels more comfortable with Quilp. He tells Quilp about Sophia Wackles and Mr. Cheggs. Quilp sympathizes. Swiveller eventually reveals the scheme of marrying Nell. Quilp offers to help him.

Quilp excuses himself, saying he will be back. He rejoices at the thought of helping Swiveller marry Nell, and then revealing how destitute she really is. He taunts a chained dog, and then he returns to the drinking house to rejoin Swiveller.  

Charles Dickens