Nell didn’t fully express her gloom, loneliness, anxiety, and fear of injuring the old man to Mrs. Quilp. She has been anxious over her grandfather’s breakdown due to an unknown stressor, his agitation, his despondent madness, and the knowledge that there is no one to help them. The grandfather fails to see that his condition has altered her, due to the cheerful façade she successfully maintains in his presence. He doesn’t know that in the hours that he is gone, she sits motionless while she stares out the window.
As she watches the people on the street, her only source of company, she indulges fearful thoughts of what might happen to the grandfather. She fears that one day her grandfather will kill himself while she is asleep. The child stares out the window until the last business closes. Then she goes to bed, praying fervently for the restoration of her grandfather’s peace of mind. She cries herself to sleep.
The third night after her visit to Mr. Quilp, she is happy when her grandfather announces he will not go out. However, this fades when she realizes how sick he is. He asks her to repeat Quilp’s message. She offers to see Quilp again, but he says it would do no good. He tells her that if Quilp does not help him by giving him more money, they will be ruined. Nell states she would rather them be beggars than live the life they do now. Whatever happens, let her be his companion in his joys and sorrows. She begs the grandfather to not waste away and keep her ignorant of the cause. She wants to leave tomorrow to start a new life.
Mr. Quilp has entered silently and has been watching this scene. When they notice him, Quilp asks Nelly to give them some privacy. He compliments her beauty and purity. He notices the state the grandfather is in.
Quilp hasn’t brought the money. He now knows the old man’s secret. He knows the old man is a gambler. The old man admits he has lost all the money at the gambling table, but he isn’t a gambler because he did it for Nell and not for himself. He thought that God would help him win the money because he was taking it from wicked men for the sake of a saintly child. It occurred to him how little he had managed to save after he had sent his grandson to sea. That is when it started. He came to Quilp after losing his savings, but he never won once.
The grandfather asks for one more loan. He is certain he will win this time because he has had the same dream three times in a row where he won a huge amount of money. He never has had a dream like that before, and he thinks it is an omen that his time has finally come. He asks Quilp to consider Nell.
Quilp refuses. He said he had been fooled by the grandfather for many reasons. The grandfather had been miserly about how they lived, which the old man claims he did to save every penny for Nelly’s fortune. Quilp also mentioned the old man had a reputation for being wealthy, so he had believed the old man’s assurances that he would pay him back quadruple the interest. He would have loaned him the money if he didn’t know now that he was a gambler.
The grandfather asks who betrayed his secret. Quilp doesn’t want to admit that he found out from Nelly, because it would force him to reveal how he tricked her. The grandfather believes that Quilp had gotten Kit to betray him, and Quilp allows him to believe that. He leaves the grandfather’s shop.