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Summary Chapter 17

Nell wakes up disoriented, not recognizing her surroundings. As she remembers where she is, she feels hopeful. She takes a walk in the church graveyard while the grandfather sleeps, interested in the inscriptions on the tombstones.

An old woman approaches her and asks her to read an inscription on the gravestone of a man that died when he was twenty-three. She knows it by heart, but she can no longer see the writing. Nell assumes the man was her son, but he was her husband (he died 55 years ago). She used to come and mourn. Now she comes every Summer to pick daisies. She had wanted to die at first when he did, but time made the pain bearable until it troubled her no more. Now she takes a solemn pleasure in the duty of visiting the grave. She reminisces about the strong young man stricken down prematurely, and her eagerness to meet him in the next life.

Nell comes to breakfast. The puppeteer, whose nickname is Short, asks Nell where they are going next. Nell doesn’t know. Short invites her and the grandfather to travel with them. The grandfather eagerly accepts the invitation. Short says they are heading towards the races, and Nell thinks it is a good destination for people who are going to be beggars—since there will be a crowd of rich people there.

Tommy doesn’t object to their accompanying them, though he criticizes Short for being too free. They breakfast and resume their journey. They stop when Short gets an audience and sets up the stage. Despite the stops, they travel a good distance. Short makes the best of everything, and Codlin curses his fate.

They stop to rest and meet Mr. Grinder and his stilt walkers. Short wants to continue traveling with them, but Codlin refuses to go further than The Jolly Sandboys—where he wants to stop for the night. Short has no choice but to follow him. He is glad, though, when it starts to rain.

Charles Dickens