Nell asks, "What is it, my pet? Time for love?" (1.142). Nagg asks if she was asleep. Nell exclaims that she was not, and Nagg tells her to kiss him. She says that they can't, and Nagg asks her to try. They strain their heads toward each other, fail to meet, and then fall apart again.
Nell asks why they must maintain this farce, day after day. Nagg says that he has lost a tooth. Nell asks when he lost it, and Nagg says that he lost it yesterday. Nell thinks longingly of yesterday, and they turn painfully and look at each other.
Nagg asks if Nell can see him, and she says hardly. She asks if Nagg can see her, and he says What? She asks again, and he says hardly. Nell says it's probably for the better, and Nagg tells her not to say that. After a pause, he observes that their sight has failed.
Nell acknowledges that it has, and there is a pause as they turn away from each other. Nagg asks if Nell can hear him, and she says yes, and then asks if he can hear her. He says that he can, and after a pause observes that their hearing hasn't failed. Nell asks "Our what?" (1.164). Nagg repeats himself.
Nell acknowledges that their hearing has not failed. After a pause, she asks if Nagg has anything else to say to her. He starts to ask if she remembers, but she says that she does not. He refers to a time that they fell off their tandem (probably a type of bicycle, in which two riders sit one behind the other as they peddle) and lost their shanks (legs from the knees down, explaining why they have 'stumps' and are sitting in those trash bins). They both laugh (oh, the hilarity of amputation).
Nell remembers that it was in the Ardennes, and they laugh a bit less heartily. Nagg remembers that it was on the road to Sedan, and they laugh even less heartily. He asks if Nell is cold.
Nell says that she is perished, and asks about Nagg. He pauses and says he's freezing. He then asks if she wants to go in, and she says yes. Nagg tells her to go in, but she does not move. He asks why she doesn't go in, and she says that she does not know. There is a pause.
Nagg asks if he (Clov) has changed her sawdust? Nell says that it isn't sawdust, and asks Nagg why he cannot be more accurate.
He says it is sand, and it is not important. Nell says that it is important, and there is a pause. Nagg says that it was sawdust once, and Nell thinks longingly of once. Nagg says, again, that now it is sand from the shore, and after a pause he repeats himself impatiently.
Nagg asks if Clov has changed her sand, and Nell says no. Nagg says that Clov hasn't changed his either. After a pause, he says that he won't have it.
He offers Nell part of the biscuit, but she doesn't want it. She then asks what he was offering her, and he tells her. He says that he kept half of the biscuit for her. He then says proudly that it was actually three quarters, and proffers it to her. When she makes no sign, he assumes she does not want it, and asks if she feels well.
Hamm, wearily, tells the two of them to be quiet because they are keeping him awake. He tells them to talk softer. After a pause he thinks that "if I could sleep I might make love. I'd go into the wood. My eyes would see… the sky, the earth. I'd run, run, they wouldn't catch me" (1.190). After a pause, he thinks longingly of nature. After another pause, he thinks that there is something dripping in his head. He pauses, and wonders if it is a heart inside of his head.
Nagg softly asks Nell if she hears Hamm speaking of a heart in his head. He chuckles quietly. Nell tells Nagg that people mustn't laugh at such things, and asks him why he always laughs at them. He tells her not to be so loud.
Nell says, without lowering her voice, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But–" (1.194). Nagg is shocked and exclaims Oh!
Nell continues, "Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh any more" (1.196). She pauses and asks if Nagg has anything else to say to her. Nagg says that he does not.
Nell asks if he is certain, and then says that she will leave him. Nagg asks, again, if she does not want her biscuit. There is a pause, and he says that he will keep it for her. There is another pause, and he says that he thought she was going to leave him. Nell says that she is.
Nagg asks if Nell can give him a scratch before she goes. Nell says that she cannot, and then pauses and asks where. He says that it is in the back. Nell says no. There is a pause, and she tells him to rub himself against the rim.
Nagg says that it is lower down, in the hollow. Nell asks what hollow, and he repeats himself. There is a pause and Nagg asks again if Nell could not scratch it? There is another pause and he notes that yesterday she scratched him there. Nell thinks longingly of yesterday.
Nagg again asks if she could not. He asks if Nell would like him to scratch her, and then asks if she is crying again. Nell says that she was trying.
Hamm wonders if it is a little vein (the thing dripping in his head). There is a pause, and Nagg asks Nell what he said. Nell repeats Hamm's words. Nagg asks what it means, and then decides that it means nothing. He asks Nell if he can tell her the story of the tailor. She says no, and then there is a pause before she asks what for. Nagg says it would be to cheer her up.
Nell says that the story is not funny, but Nagg says it always made her laugh. He says that the first time he told, it he thought she would die.
Nell says that it was on Lake Como (a glacial lake in the Lombardy region of Italy) one April afternoon (the first time he told the story). She asks if Nagg can believe it. Nagg asks, "what?" Nell replies that they once went rowing on Lake Como on an April afternoon. Nagg recalls that they were engaged the day before, and Nell exclaims, "engaged!"
Nagg remembers that Nell was in such fits that they capsized; by all rights they should have been drowned.
Nell says it was because she felt happy. Nagg is indignant, and says that was not why. He says it was only his story that was the reason, and scoffs at the idea of happiness. He asks if she does not still laugh every time that he tells it.
Nell says that the lake was very deep, but that you could see all the way to the bottom because the water was so white and clean.
Nagg says that he will tell his funny story once more. He tells it putting on the voices of the different characters. The joke is that an Englishman needs a pair of striped trousers ready for New Year festivities, and so he goes to his tailor, who takes his measurements. The tailor tells the Englishman to come back in four days, but when he does, the tailor tells the Englishman to come back in a week because the tailor has made a mess of the seat. The Englishman agrees that he should wait because a nice seat can be very ticklish. When he comes back again, the tailor tells him to come back in ten days because he has made a hash of the crotch. The Englishman agrees that a snug crotch is always a teaser. When he comes back, the tailor tells him to come back in a fortnight because he has made a balls of the fly. The Englishman agrees that a smart fly is a stiff proposition.
Nagg stops and laments the fact that he has never told the story worse – that each time he tells it worse and worse. Nagg dives back into the joke, but cuts it short by saying that the next excuse the tailor gives is that the bluebells are blooming and he bollixes up the buttonholes. The Englishman becomes indignant, and damns him to hell. The Englishman says that God made the entire world in six days, and the tailor can't even make a pair of trousers in three months.
The tailor responds, "But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look—at the world—and look—at my TROUSERS!" (1.228).
By the end, Nagg is proud, and he looks at Nell, who is impassive. Nagg breaks into a high laugh, then stops and leans his head toward Nell, and then launches into another laugh.
Hamm calls for silence, and Nagg cuts short his laugh again.
Nell remembers that you could see all the way to the bottom of Lake Como.
Hamm is exasperated and asks if they will ever finish, or if anything will ever finish. Nagg disappears into his bin and closes the lid behind him. Nell does not move. Hamm says, "My kingdom for a nightman!" (1.231). He whistles for Clov, who enters, and tells Clov to clear away the muck (his parents) and chuck it into the sea. Clov goes to the bins and halts.
Nell again recalls how white it was (in Lake Como). Hamm asks what she is blathering about. Clov stoops and takes Nell's pulse by her wrist. Nell calls "desert!" to Clov, and he lets go of her hand, pushes her back in the bin, and closes the lid. When he returns to his place beside Hamm's chair, Clov says that she has no pulse.