Richard Swiveller, known as Dick, asks Fred if he remembers an old popular song. Dick lives above a tobacco shop. He doesn’t refer to the pad as his. He has a bed that is also a bookcase, and he refuses to acknowledge to others that it is his bed.
He is trying to cheer up his morose friend by passing him drink. Fred refuses to be cheered and is irritated by his friend’s attempts to lighten his mood. He wants Dick to talk seriously. He has an idea of how Dick can increase his fortunes with little trouble. Dick is skeptical. He has heard so many of these schemes, and every one has resulted in empty pockets.
Fred asks Dick if he thinks Nell is pretty. Dick believes so, though she is small for her age. Fred says he and his grandfather will never reconcile, which Dick agrees is unlikely. The money he believed he would share with Nell upon the grandfather’s death is likely to be her inheritance only.
Fred believes that he can use Nell’s affection for him to bend her to his will and coax her into marrying Dick. Dick doesn’t approve of this idea because Nell is so young. Fred says he is talking about in another two or three years. He doesn’t think the grandfather will live long. Dick is doubtful about that, saying that old people are not reliable about dying. Fred says it doesn’t matter. He can’t see the grandfather disinheriting Nell if she marries Dick. Dick has his doubts that the grandfather is actually rich. Fred doesn’t doubt there is a fortune to be had.
Fred Trent has tremendous influence over his friend, despite how often Dick has suffered for Fred’s vices. Gradually Dick starts liking the idea. He can marry Nell and gain a pretty wife with a fortune, which he and Fred can enjoy spending.
There is a knock at the door. A servant girl enters with a letter for Dick. It is from Sophia Wackles, who Dick has been romancing. She has reminded him of a dance they are to go to that evening. He says he has to go—if only to start breaking off things with her. He questions the servant girl on whether Sophia had left the letter. The girl confirms this. Sophia had come with her sister, but she had refused to come up to a bachelor’s room, even though she knew he was in. Dick is impressed with this. Fred is undisturbed, confident in his control over his friend.