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Summary Chapter 16

Nell and her grandfather enter a church graveyard. They come across a puppeteer and his assistant repairing their dolls. The grandfather is delighted by the puppets, and he asks why they are repairing them in a church graveyard. The owner claims it is because he doesn’t want the audience to see them being repaired. It would destroy the illusion. They will be performing at a public house nearby tonight.

The owner laughs, claiming that his assistant—Tommy Codlin—is right now calculating the loss by his talking to them. Tommy claims that the owner is too free. Tommy claims that he knows human nature much better having been the one that watches the audience. The owner remarks how much Tommy has changed. He doesn’t believe in anything. Tommy agrees, and admits he is a little unhappier because of it. Tommy notices that one of the doll’s dresses needs repairing. Nell offers to do it.

The owner asks if they are traveling further. Nell, after looking at her grandfather, says no. The owner tells them they should stay at the same house they are, for it is cheap. The grandfather is delighted by the puppets and their new companions, and he is happy to be anywhere they are.

The landlady and landlord delight in Nell’s beauty. The landlady tries to question Nell about where they are going, but stops when she sees the conversation is painful to the girl. She wants to serve Nell first and give her the larger portions of food, but Nell insists that her grandfather gets served first and gets the best portions. Tommy practices his routine, which delights his audience—particularly the grandfather. Nell has fallen asleep and can’t be roused. She is too tired to eat and goes to bed. The grandfather stays up to talk with his new friends.

When the grandfather retires to bed, he begs Nell to sit with him until he falls asleep. Nell reflects later on the life before them. She has a little money, but they will be beggars when that runs out. She has one gold piece, but she plans to save that for a desperate emergency. She sews it into her dress.

Charles Dickens