Daniel Quilp is observed by Kit leaving the Curiosity Shop. Kit has been there since twilight, looking for Nell’s figure at the window. As the hours pass, and he doesn’t see her—he realizes he should go home, though he backtracks a few times to be sure the grandfather hasn’t left.
Finally, he returns home. He tells his mom that the grandfather didn’t go out tonight, so he came home.
Kit’s home is clean and comforting, but it is poor. Kit’s mother is working hard at the ironing board despite the lateness of the hour. A child sleeps in a cradle, and a toddler is wide awake in a basket. Kit tries to be good-humored despite his real feelings for the sake of his family. He tells his mom that there aren’t many who are as hard-working or even-tempered as she. She says she hopes this is not true.
She comments that it is good that the old man didn’t go out tonight and leave Nell alone. She asks Kit what Nelly would think if she knew that he stood guard over the house every night to make sure she was safe. Kit, blushing, says she will never know. Mom comments that people would say that he was in love with her, making him more uncomfortable. She says it is a good thing that he worries over Nell, and she hopes one day Nell does know how he looks after her. She doesn’t know why grandfather keeps Nell locked up. Kit says he isn’t doing it out of cruelty, but admits he doesn’t know why he does it either.
Kit claims it was the secretiveness of the grandfather that clued him to his leaving Nell every night. He had wondered why the grandfather had sent him home earlier every night when he hadn’t before.
Kit hears someone coming, and he fears something has happened at the Curiosity Shop to Nelly. However, it is Nelly herself, who says the grandfather had some fit and collapsed on the floor. A doctor is with him now, but she has come to tell Kit he must never return. She doesn’t know why, and it isn’t her idea—but the grandfather blames Kit for something, raving that he is the cause of all his misery. Nell asks him what he has done, but Kit does not know.
Nell has brought him money for his wages and a little more. She says he was always kind to her, and she hopes he doesn’t take it personally. She hopes he’ll do well elsewhere. She can’t help him, though—it has to be this way. She leaves crying.
Mrs. Nubbles (Kit’s mother) wonders why her son didn’t defend himself. She starts fearing that maybe his nightly absences were due to his being involved in some unlawful activity. She is afraid to ask him. She weeps bitterly. Kit is stupefied.