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Full text of "The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby"

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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

GIFT OF 



Ralph Freud 



THE 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES 



OF 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 



BY 



CHARLES DICKENS. 




WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. BARNARD. 



NEW YORK: 
JOHN WURTELE LOVELL, 

No. 24 Bond Street. 



A-/ 



PREFACE. 



This story was begun, within a few months after the pub- 
lication of the completed " Pickwick Papers." There were, 
then, a good many cheap Yorkshire schools in existence. 
There are very few now. 

Of the monstrous neglect of education in England, and 
the disregard of it by the State as a means of forming good 
or bad citizens, and miserable or happy men, private schools 
long afiforded a notable example. Although any man who 
had proved his unfitness for any other occupation in life, was 
free, without examination or qualification, to open a school 
anywhere; although preparation for the fimctions he under- 
took, was required in the surgeon who assisted to bring a boy 
into the world, or might one day assist, perhaps, to send him 
out of it ; in the cliemist, the attorney, the butcher, the baker, 
the candlestick-maker ; the whole round of crafts and trades, 
the schoolmaster excepted ; and although schoolmasters, as a 
race, were the blockheads and impostors who might naturally 
be expected to spring from such a state of things, and to 
flourish in it ; these Yorkshire schoolmasters were the lowest 
and most rotten round in the whole ladder. Traders in the 
avarice, indifference, or imbecility of parents, and the helpless- 
ness of children ; ignorant, sordid, brutal men, to whom few 
considerate persons would have entrusted the board and lodg- 
ing of a horse or a dog ; they formed the worthy corner-stone 
of a structure, which, for absurdity and magnificent high- 
minded laissez-allcr neglect, has rarely been exceeded in the 
world. 

We hear sometimes of an action for damages against the 






iv PREFACE. 

unqualified medical practitioner,, who has deformed a broken 
limb in pretending to heal it./ But, what of the hundreds of 
thousands of minds that have "Been deformed for ever^by the 
incapable pettifoggers who have pretended to form them/! 

I make mention of the race, as of the Yorkshire school- 
masters, in the past tense. Though it has not yet finally dis- 
appeared, it is dwindling daily. A long day's work remains 
to be done about us in the way of education, Heaven knows ; 
but great improvements and facilities towards the attainment 
of a good one, have been furnished, of late years. 

I cannot call to mind, now, how I came to hear about York- 
shire schools when I was a not very robust child, sitting in 
bye-places near Rochester Castle, with a head full of Par- 
tridge, Strap, Tom Pipes, and Sancho Panza ; but I know 
that my first impressions of them were picked up at that time, 
and that they were somehow or other connected with a sup- 
purated abscess that some boy had come home with, in con- 
sequence of his Yorkshire guide, philosopher, and friend, 
having ripped it open with an inky penknife. The impression 
made upon me, however made, never left me. I N\as always 
curious about Yorkshire schools — fell, long afterwards and at 
sundry times, into the way of hearing more about them — at 
last, having an audience, resolved to write about them. 

With that intent I went down into Yorkshire before I 
began this book, in very severe winter-time which is prett}'' 
faithfully described herein. As I wanted to see a schoolmas- 
ter or two, and was forewarned that those gentlemen might, 
in their modesty, be shy of receiving a visit from the author 
of the "Pickwick Papers," I consulted with a professional 
friend who had a Yorkshire connection, and with whom I con- 
certed a pious fraud. He gave me some letters of introduc- 
tion, in the name, I think, of my travelling companion ; they 
bore reference to a supposititious little boy who had been left 
with a widowed mother who didn't know what to do with him ; 
the poor lady had thought, as a means of thawing the tardy 
compassion of her relations in his behalf, of sending him to a 
Yorkshire school ; I was the poor lady's friend, travelling that 
way ; and if the recipient of the letter could inform me of a 
school in his neighborhood, the writer would be very much 
obliged. 

I went to several places in that part of the country where 
I undcrstoofl the schools to be most plentifullv sprinkled, and 
had no occasion to deliver a letter until 1 came to a certain 



PREFACE. V 

town which shall be nameless. The person to whom it was 
addressed, was not at home ; but he came down at night, 
through the snow, to the inn where I was staying. It was 
after dinner ; and he needed little persuasion to sit down by 
the fire in a warm corner, and take his share of the wine that 
was on the table. 

I am afraid he is dead now. I recollect he was a jovial, 
ruddy, broad-faced man ; that we got acquainted directly ; 
and that we talked on all kinds of subjects, except the school, 
which he showed a great anxiety to avoid. Was there any 
large school near 1 I asked him, in reference to the letter. 
" Oh yes," he said ; " there was a pratty big 'un." " Was it 
a good one ? " I asked. " Ey ! " he said, " it was as good as 
anoother ; that was a' a matther of opinion ; " and fell to look- 
ing at the fire, staring round the room, and whistling a little. 
On my reverting to some other topic that we had been dis- 
cussing, he recovered immediately ; but, though I tried him 
again and again, I never approached the question of the 
school, even if he were in the middle of a laugh, without 
observing that his countenance fell, and that he became 
uncomfortable. At last, when we had passed a couple of 
hours or so, very agreeably, he suddenly took up his hat, and 
leaning over the table and looking me full in the face, said, in 
a low voice : " Weel Misther, we've been vara pleasant 
toogather,^and ar'U spak' my moind tiv'ee. Dinnot let the 
weedur send her lattle boy to yarn o' our school-measthers, 
while there's a harse to hoold in a' Lunnun, or a gootther to 
lie asleep in. Ar wouldn't mak' ill words amang my neeburs, 
and ar speak tiv'ee quiet loike. But I'm dom'd if ar can gang 
to bed and not tellee, for weedur's sak', to keep the lattle boy 
from a' sike scoondrels while there's a harse to hoold in a' 
Lunnun, or a gootther to lie asleep in ! " Repeating these 
words with great heartiness, and with a solemnity on his jolly 
face that made it look twice as large as before, he shook hands 
and went away. I never saw him afterwards, but I sometimes 
imagine that I descry a faint reflection of him in John Brow- 
die. 

In reference to these gentry, I may here quote a few words 
from the original preface to this book. 

" It has afforded the Author great amusement and satis- 
faction, during the progress of this work, to learn, from coun- 
try friends and from a variety of ludicrous statements con- 
cerning himself in provincial newspapers, that more than one 



vi PREFACE. 

Yorkshire schoolmaster lays claim to being the original of Mr. 
Squeers. One worthy, he has reason to believe, has actually 
consulted authorities learned in the law, as to his having good 
grounds on which to rest an action for libel ; another, has 
meditated a journey to London, for the express purpose of 
conimitting an assault and battery on his traducer ; a third, 
perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelve- 
month, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversa- 
tion while the other took his likeness ; and, although Mr. 
Squeers has but one eye, and he has two, and the published 
sketch does not resemble him (whoever he may be) in any 
other respect, still he and all his friends and neighbors know 
at once for whom it is meant, because — the character is so 
like him. 

" While the Author cannot but feel the full force of the 
compliment thus conveyed to him, he ventures to suggest that 
these contentions may arise from the fact, tha t Mr. Sq ueers 
is the representative of a claiis, and not of an individual. 
Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the 
stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described 
by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognize some- 
thing belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiv- 
ing that the portrait is his own. 

" The Author's object in calling public attention to the 
system would be very imperfectly fulfilled, if he did not state 
now, in his own person, emphatically and earnestly, that Mr. 
Squeers and his school are faint and feeble pictures of an 
existing reality, purposely subdued and kept down lest they 
should be deemed impossible. That there are, upon record, 
trials at law in which damages^ have been sought as a poor 
recompense for lasting agonies and disfigurements inflicted 
upon children by the treatment of the master in these places, 
involving such offensive and foul details of neglect, cruelty, 
and disease, as no writer of fiction would have the boldness 
to imagine. And that, since he has been engaged upon these 
Adventures, he has received, from private quarters far beyond 
the reach of suspicion or distrust, accounts of atrocities, in 
the perpetration of which upon neglected or repudiated chil- 
dren, these schools have been the main instruments, very far 
exceeding any that appear in these pages." 

This comprises all I need say on the subject ; except that 
if I had seen occasion, T had resolved to reprint a few of these 
details of legal proceedings, from certain old newspapers. 



PR El- ACE. vii 

One other quotation from the same Preface, may serve to 
introduce a fact that my readers may think curious. 

" To turn to a more pleasant subject, it may be right to 
say, that there arc two characters in this book which are drawn 
from life. It is remarkable that what we call the world, which 
is so very credulous in what professes to be true, is most 
incredulous in what professes to be imaginary ; and that, 
while, every day in real life, it will allow in one man no blem- 
ishes, and in another no virtues, it will seldom admit a very 
strongly-marked character, either good or bad, in a fictitious 
narrative, to be within the limits of probability. But those 
who take an interest in this tale, will be glad to learn that the 
Brothers Cheeryble live ; that their liberal charity, their 
singleness of heart, their noble nature, and their unbounded 
benevolence, are no creations of the Author's brain ; but are 
prompting every day (and oftenest by stealth) some munificent 
and generous deed in that town of which they are the pride 
and honor." 

If I were to attempt to sum up the thousands of letters, 
from all sorts of people in all sorts of latitudes and climates, 
which this unlucky paragraph brought down upon me, I 
should get into an arithmetical difficulty from which I could 
not easily extricate myself. Suffice it to say, that I believe 
the applications for loans, gifts, and offices of profit, that I 
have been requested to forward to the originals of the Broth- 
ers Cheeryble (with whom I never interchanged any com- 
munication in my life), would have exhausted the combined 
patronage of all the Lord Chancellors since the accession of 
the House of Brunswick, and would have broken the Rest of 
the Bank of England. 

The Brothers are now dead. 

There is only one other point, on which I w^ould desire to 
offer a remark. If Nicholas be not always found to be blame- 
less or agreeable, he is not always intended to appear so. He 
is a young man of an impetuous temper and of little or no 
experience ; and I saw no reason why such a hero should be 
lifted out of nature. 



CONTENTS. 



CBAP. PAGE. 

I. Introduces all the rest 7 

II. Of Mr. Ralph Nickleby, and his establishment, and 
his undertakings. And of a great joint stock com- 
pany of vast national importance 12 

III. Mr. Ralph Nickleby receives sad tidings of his 
brother, but bears up nobly against the intelligence 
communicated to him. The reader is informed 
how he liked Nicholas, who is herein introduced, 
and how kindly he proposed to make his fortune at 

once 23 

IV. Nicholas and his uncle (to secure tlie fortune without 
loss of time) wait upon Mr. Wackford Squeers, the 

Yorkshire schoolmaster 34 

V. Nicholas starts for Yorkshire. Of his leave-taking 
and his fellow-travellers, and what befel them on 

the road 47 

VI. In which the occurrence, of the accident mentioned 
in the last chapter, affords an opportunity to a 
couple of gentlemen to tell stories against each 

other ." 58 

VII. Mr. and Mrs. Squeers at home 80 

VI II. Of the internal economy of Dotheboys Hall 89 

IX. Of Miss Squeers, Mrs. Squeers, IVlaster Squeers, 
and -Mr. Squeers; and of various matters and per- 
sons connected no less with the Squeerses than 

with Nicholas Nickleby 102 

X. How Mr. Ralph Nickleby provided for his niece and 

sister-in law 118 

XI. Newman Noggs inducts Mrs. and Miss Nickleby 

into their new dwelling in the city 132 

XII. Whereby the reader will be enabled to trace the 

further course of Miss Fanny Squeers "s love, and 

to ascertain whether it ran smooth or otherwise. . . 137 

XIII. Nicholas varies the monotonv of Dotheboys Hall by 

a most vigorous and remarkable proceeding, which 

leads to consequences of some importance 149 

3 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. _ _ PAGB. 

XIV. Having the misfortune to treat of none but common 
people, is necessarily of a mean and vulgar 

character 163 

XV. Acquaints the reader with the cause and origin of the 
interruption destribed in the last chapter, and with 

some other matters necessary to be known 175 

XVI. Nicholas seeks to employ himself in a new capacity, 
and being unsuccessful, accepts an engagement as 

tutor in a private family r88 

XVI I. Follows the fortunes of Miss Nickleby 208 

XVin. Miss Knag, after doating on Kate Nickleby for three 
whole days, makes up her mind to hate her for 
evermore. The causes which lead Miss Knag to 

form this resolution 217 

XIX. Descriptive of a dinner at Mr. Ralph Nickleby's, and 
of the manner in which the company entertained 
themselves, before dinner, at dinner, and after 

dinner. ... 231 

XX. Wherein Nicholas at length encounters his uncle, to 
whom he expresses his sentiments with much can- 
dor. His resolution 247 

XXI. Madame Mantalini finds herself in a situation of some 
difficulty, and Miss Nickleby finds herself in no 

situation at all 259 

XXII. Nicholas, accompanied by Smike, sallies forth to seek 
his fortune. He encounters Mr. Vincent Crumm- 
ies; and who he was, is herein made manifest 272 

XXII I. Treats of the company of Mr. Vincent Crummies, 

and of his affairs, domestic and theatrical 287 

XXIV. Of the great bespeak for Miss Snevellicci, and the 

first appearance of Nicholas upon any stage 30a 

XXV. Concerning a young lady from London, who joins 
the company, and an elderlv admirer who follows 
in her train ; with an affecting ceremony conse- 
quent on their arrival 317 

XXVI. Is fraught with some danger to Miss Nickleby's 

peace of mind 330 

XXVII. Mrs. Nickleby becomes acquainted with Messrs. 

Pyke and Pluck, whose affection and interest are 
beyond all bounds 341 

XXVIII. Miss Nicklebv, rendered desperate by the persecu- 

tion of Sir IVIulbcrry Hawk, and the complicated 
difficulties and distresses which surround her, ap- 
peals, as a last resource, to her uncle for protection 356 

XXIX. Of the proceedings of Nicholas, and certain internal 

divisions in the company of Mr. Vincent Crummies 373 
XXX. Festivities are held in honor of Nicholas, who sud- 
denly withdraws himself from the society of Mr. 
Vincent Crummies and his theatrical companions. 382 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. 

XXXI. 



XXXII. 

XXXIII, 

XXXIV 

XXXV 

XXXVI 

XXXVII, 



Of Ralph Nickleby and Newman Noggs, and some 
wise precautioiLS, the succe.ss or faikire of which 
will appear in the sequel 398 

Relating chiefly to some remarkable conversation, 
and some remarkable proceedings to which it 



406 



416 



423 



440 



In which Mr. Ralph Nickleby is relieved, by a very 
expeditious process, from 'all commerce with his 

relations 

Wherein Mr. Ralph Nickleby is visited by persons 
with whom the reader has been already made 

acquainted 

Smike becomes known to Mrs. Nickleby and Kate. 
Nicholas also meets with new acquaintances. 
Brighter days seem to dawn upon the family. . . . 
Private and confidential ; relating to familv matters. 
Showing how Mr. Kenwigs underwent violent 
agitation, and how Mrs. Kenwigs was as well as 

could be expected 457 

Nicholas finds further favor in the eyes of the 
brothers Cheeryble and Mr. Timothy Linkin- 
water. The brothers give a banquet on a great 
annual occasion. Nicholas, on returning home 
from it, receives a mysterious and important dis- 
closure from the lips of Mrs. Nickleby 465 

XXXVIII. Comprises certain particulars arising out of a visit 
of condolence, which may prove important here- 
after. Smike unexpectedly encounters a very 
old friend, who invites him to his house, and will 

take no denial 483 

XXXIX. In which another old friend encounters Smike, 

very opportunely and to some purpose 498 

XL. In which Nicholas falls in love. He employs a 
mediator, whose proceedings are crowned with 
unexpected success, excepting in one solitary 

particular ^07 

XLI. Containing some romantic passages between Mrs. 
Nickleby and the gentleman in the small-clothes 

next door 

XLI I. Illustrative of the convivial sentiment, that the best 

of friends must sometimes part 

XLI 1 1. Officiates as a kind of gentleman usher, in bring- 
ing various people together 548 

XLIV. Mr. Ralph Nickleby cuts an old acquaintance. It 
would also appear from the contents hereof, that 
a joke, even between husband and wife, may be 

sometimes carried too far 562 

XLV. Containing matter of a surprising kind 577 

XLVI. Throws some light upon Nicholas's love; but 



524 
537 



S CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE. 

whether for good or evil, the reader must de- 
termine 590 

XLVII. Mr. Ralph Nickleby has some confidential inter- 
course with another old friend. They concert 
between them a project, which promises well for 

both 604 

XLVIII. Being for the benefit of Mr. Vincent Crummies, 

and positively his last appearance on this stage. 620 
XLIX. Chronicles the further proceedings of the Nickleby 
family, and the sequel of the adventure of the 

gentleman in the small-clothes 631 

L. Involves a serious catastrophe 647 

LI. The project of Mr. Ralph Nickleby and his friend, 
approaching a successful issue, becomes unex- 
pectedlv known to another party not admitted 

into their confidence 661 

LI I. Nicholas despairs of rescuing Madeline Bray, but 
plucks up his spirits again, and determines to 
attempt it. Domestic inteUigence of the Ken- 

wigses and Lillyvicks -. 672 

LIII. Containing the further progress of the plot con- 
trived by Mr. Ralph Nickleby and Mr. Arthur 

Gride 685 

LIV. The crisis of the project and its result 701 

LV. Of family matters, cares, hopes, disappointments, 

and sorrows 713 

LVI. Ralph Nicklel.iy, baffled by his nephew in his late 
design, hatches a scheme of retaliation which 
accident suggests to him, and takes into his 

counsels a tried auxiliary 726 

LVII. How Ralph Nickleby's auxiliary went about his 

work, and how he prospered with it 738 

LVin. In which one scene of this history is closed 749 

LIX. The plots begin to fail, and doubts and dangers to 

disturb the plotter 755 

LX. The dangers thicken, and the worst is told 770 

LXI. Wherein Nicholas and his sister forfeit the good 

opinion of all worldly and prudent people 781 

LXII. Ralph makes one last appointment — and keeps it.. 791 
LXI 1 1. The brothers Cheeryble make various declarations 
for themselves and others. Tim Linkinwater 

makes a declaration for himself 797 

LXIV. An old acquaintance is recognized under melan- 
choly circumstances, and Dotheboys Hall breaks 

uj) for ever 808 

LXV. Conclusion 817 



LIFE AND ADVENTURES 



OF 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCES ALL THE REST. 



There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of 
Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby : a worthy gentleman, 
who taking it into his head rather late in life that he must 
get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to 
aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old 
flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him 
for the same reason. Thus two people who cannot afford to 
play cards for money, sometimes sit down to a quiet game for 
love. 

Some ill-conditioned persons who sneer at the life-matri- 
monial, may perhaps suggest, in this place, that the good 
couple would be better likened to two principals in a sparring 
match, who, when fortune is low and backers scarce, will chiv- 
alrously set to, for the mere pleasure of buffeting ; and in one 
respect indeed this comparison would hold good : for, as the 
adventurous pair of the Fives' Court will afterwards send 
round a hat and trust to the bounty of the lookers-on for the 
means of regaling themselves, so Mr. Godfrey Nickleby and 
his partner, the honey-moon beinc: over, looked wistfully out 
into the world, relying in no considerable degree upon chance 



8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

for the improvement of their means. ATr. Nirklehy '*; inrnmp 
at the period of liis marriage^ -fluctuated between sixty and 
eighty pounds /tv annum. 

There arc pcuplc enough in the world, Heaven knows! and 
even in London (where Mr. Nickleby dwelt in those days) but 
few complaints prevail of the population being scanty. It is 
extraordinary how long a man may look among the crowd 
without discovering the face of a friend, but it is no less true. 
Mr. Nickleby looked, and looked, till his eyes became sore as 
his heart, but no friend appeared ; and, when growing tired of 
the search, he turned his eyes homeward, he saw very little 
there, to relieve his weary vision. A painter who had gazed 
too long upon some glaring color, refreshes his dazzled sight 
by looking upon a darker and more sombre tint ; but everything 
that met Mr. Nickleby's gaze wore so dark and gloomy a hue, 
that he would have been beyond description refreshed by the 
very reverse of the contrast. 

At length, after five years, when Mrs. Nickleby had pre- 
sented her husband with a couple of sons, and that embar- 
rassed gentleman, impressed with the necessity of making 
some provision for his family, was seriously revolving in his 
mind a little commercial speculation of insuring his life next 
quarter day, and then falling from the top of the Monument 
by accident, there came, one morning, by the general post, a 
black-bordered letter to inform him how his uncle, Mr. Ralph 
Nickleby was dead, and had left him the bulk of his little 
property, amounting in all to five thousand pounds sterling. 

As the deceased had taken no further notice of his nephew 
in his lifetime, than sending to his eldest boy (who had been 
christened after him, on desperate speculation) a silver spoon 
in a morocco case, which, as he had not too much to eat with 
it, seemed a kind of satire upon his having been born without 
that useful article of plate in his mouth, Mr. Godfrey Nickleby 
could, at first, scarcely believ^e the tidings thus conveyed to 
him. On examination, however, they turned out to be strictly 
correct. The amiable old gentleman, it seemed, had intended 
to leave the whole to the Royal Humane Societ}', and had in- 
deed executed a will to that effect ; but the Institution, having 
been unfortunate enough, a few months before, to save the life 
of a poor relation to whom he paid a weekly allowance of three 
shillings and sixpence, he had in a fit of very natural exasper- 
ation, revoked the bequest in a codicil, and left it all to Mr, 
Godfrey Nickleby ; with a special mention of his indignation, 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. g 

not only against the society for saving the poor relation's life, 
but against the poor relation also, for allowing himself to be 
saved. 

With a portion of this property Mr. Godfrey Nickleby 
purchased a small farm, near Dawlish in Devonshire, whither 
he retired with his wife and two children, to live upon the 
best interest he could get for the rest of the money, and the 
little produce he could raise from his land. The two pros- 
pered so well together that, when he died, some fifteen years 
after this period, and some five after his wife, he was enabled to 
leave, to his eldest son, Ralph, three thousand pounds in cash, 
and to his youngest son, Nicholas, one thousand and the farm, 
which was as small a landed estate as one would desire to 
see. 

These two brothers had been brought up together in a school 
at Exeter ; and being accustomed to go home once a week, 
had often heard from their mother's lips, long accounts of their 
father's sufferings in his days of poverty, and of their deceased 
uncle's importance in his days of affluence : which recitals 
produced a very difterent impression on the two : for, while 
the younger was of a timid and retiring disposition, gleaned 
from thence nothing but forewarnings to shun the great world 
and attach himself to the quiet routine of country life, Ralph, 
the elder, deduced from the often-repeated tale the two great 
morals that riches are the only true source of happiness and 
power, and that it is lawful and just to compass their acquisi- 
tion by all means short of felony. " And," reasoned Ralph 
with himself, " if no good came of my uncle's money when he 
was alive, a great deal of good came of it after he was dead, 
inasmuch as my father has got it now, and is saving it up for 
me, which is a highly virtuous purpose ; and, going back to the 
old gentleman, good did come to him too, for he had the 
pleasure of thinking of it all his life long, and of being envied 
and courted by all his family besides." And Ralph always 
wound up these mental soliloquies by arriv-ing at the conclu- 
sion, that there was nothing like money. , 

Not confining himself to theor)', or permitting his faculties 
to rust, even at that early age, in mere abstract speculations, 
this promising lad commenced usurer on a limited scale at 
school ; putting out at good interest a small capital of slate- 
pencil and marbles, and gradually extending his operations 
until they aspired to the copper coinage of this realm, in which 
he speculated to considerable advantage. Nor did he trouble 



I o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

his borrowers wijh abstract calculations of figures, or refer- 
ences to ready-reckoners ; his simple rule of interest being all 
comprised in the one golden sentence, " two-pence for every 
half-penny," which greatly simplified the accounts, and which 
as a familiar precept, more easily acquired and retained in the 
memory tlian any known rule of arithmetic, cannot be too 
strongly recommended to the notice of capitalists, both large 
and small, and more especially of money-brokers and bill-dis- 
counters. Indeed, to do these gentlemen justice many of them 
are to this day in the frequent habit of adopting it, with emi- 
nent success. 

In like manner did young Ralph Nickleby avoid all those 
minute and intricate calculations of odd days, which nobody 
who has worked sums in simple interest can fail to have found 
most embarrassing, by establishing the one general rule that 
all sums of principal and interest should be paid on pocket- 
money day, that is to say, on Saturday : and that whether a 
loan were contracted on the Monday, or on the Friday, the 
amount of interest should be, in both cases, the same. In- 
deed he argued, and with great show of reason, that it ought 
to be rather more for one day than for five, inasmuch as the 
borrower might in the former case be ver^' fairly presumed to 
be in great extremity, otherwise he would not borrow at all 
with such odds against him. The fact is interesting, as illus- 
trating the secret connection and sympathy which always ex- 
ists between great minds. Though Master Ralph Nickleby 
was not at that time aware of it, the class of gentlemen before 
alluded to, proceed on just the same principle in all their 
transactions. 

From what we have said of this young gentleman, and the 
natural admiration the reader will immediately conceive of his 
character, it may perhaps be inferred that he is to be the hero 
of the work which we shall presently begin. To set this point 
at rest, for once and for ever, we hasten to undeceive them, 
and stride to its commencement. 

On the death of his father, Ralph Nickleby, who had been 
some time before placed in a mercantile house in London, ap- 
plied himself passionately to his old pursuit of money-getting, 
in which he speedily became so buried and absorbed, that he 
quite forgot his brother for many years ; and if, at times, a rec- 
ollection of his old playfellow broke upon him through the haze 
in which he lived — for gold conjures up a mist about a man 
more destructive of all his old senses and lulling to his feelings 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 1 1 

than the fumes of charcoal — it brought along with it a com- 
panion thought, that if they were intimate he would want to 
borrow money of liim. So Mr. Ralph Nickleby shrugged his 
shoulders and said things were better as they were. 

As for Nicholas, he lived a single man on the patrimonial 
estate until he grew tired of living alone, and then he took to 
wife the daughter of a neighboring gentleman with a dower 
of one thousand pounds. This good lady bore him two chil- 
dren, a son and a daughter, and when the son was about nine- 
teen, and the daughter fourteen, as near as we can guess — im- 
partial records of young ladies' ages being, before the passing 
of the new act, nowhere preserved in the registries of this 
country — Mr. Nickleby looked about him for the means of re- 
pairing his capital, now sadly reduced by this increase in his 
family, and the expenses of their education. 

"Speculate with it," said Mrs. Nickleby. 

" Spec — u — late, my dear ? " said Mr. Nickleby, as though 
in doubt. 

" Why not ? " asked Mrs. Nickleby. 

" Because, my dear, if we should lose it," rejoined Mr. 
Nickleby, who was a slow and time-taking speaker, " if we 
should lose it, we shall no longer be able to live, my dear." 

" Fiddle," said Mrs. Nickleby. 

" I am not altogether sure of that, my dear," said Mr. 
Nickleby. 

" There's Nicholas," pursued the lady, " quite a young 
man — it's time he was doing something for himself ; and Kate 
too, poor girl, without a penny in the world. Think of your 
brother ! Would he be what he is, if he hadn't speculated ? " 

" That's true," replied Mr. Nickleby. " Very good, my 
dear. Yes. I ivill speculate, my dear." 

Speculation is a round game ; the players see little or 
nothing of their cards at first starting ; gains may be great — 
and so may losses. The run of luck went against Mr. Nickle- 
by. A mania prevailed, a bubble burst, four stockbrokers 
took villa residences at Florence, four hundred nobodies 
were ruined, and among them Mr. Nickleby. 

" The very house I live in," sighed the poor gentleman, 
" may be taken from me to-morrow. Not an article of my old 
furniture, but will be sold to strangers ! " 

The last reflection hurt him so much, that he took at once 
to his bed ; apparently resolved to keep that, at all events. 

" Cheer up, sir ! " said the apothecary. 



1 2 NICIIOL A S NICKL EB V. 

" You musn't let yourself be cast down, sir," said the 
nurse. 

" Such things happen every day," remarked the lawyer. 

" And it is very sintul to rebel against them," whispered 
the clergyman. 

"And what no man with a family ought to do," added the 
neighbors. 

Mr. Nickleby shook his head, and motioning them all out 
of the room, embraced his wife and children, and having 
pressed them by turns to his languidly beating heart, sunk 
exhausted on his pillow. They were concerned to find that 
his reason went astray after this ; for he babbled, for a long 
time, about the generosity and goodness of his brother, and 
the merry old time when they were at school together. This 
fit of wandering past, he solemnly commended them to One 
who never deserted the widow or her fatherless children, and, 
smiling gently on them, turned upon his face and observed 
that he thought he could fall asleep. 



CHAPTER II. 

OF MR. RALPH NICKLEBY, AND HIS ESTABLISHMENT, AND HIS 
UNDERTAKINGS. AND OF A GREAT JOINT STOCK COMPANY 
OF VAST NATIONAL IMPORTANCE. 

Mr. Ralph Nickleby was not, strictly speaking, what you 
would call a merchant, neither was he a banker, nor an attor- 
ney, nor a special pleader, nor a notary. He was certainly 
not a tradesman, and still less could he lay any claim to the 
title of a professional gentleman ; for it would have been im- 
possible to mention any recognized profession to which he be- 
longed. Nevertheless, as he lived in a spacious house in 
Golden Square, which, in addition to a brass plate upon the 
street-door, had another brass plate two sizes and a half small- 
er upon the left hand door-post, surmounting a brass model 
of an infant's fist grasping a fragment of a skewer, and dis- 
playing the word "Office," it was clear that Mr. Ralph Nickle- 
by did, or pretended to do, business of some kind ; and the 
fact, if it required any further circumstantial evidence, was 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 13 

abundantly demonstrated, by the diurnal attendance, between 
the hours of half-past nine and five, of a sallow-faced man in 
rusty brown, who sat upon an uncommonly hard stool in a spe- 
cies of butler's pantry at the end of the passage, and always 
had a pen behind his ear when he answered the bell. 

Although a few members of the graver professions live 
about the Golden Square, it is not exactly in anybody's way 
to or from anywhere. It is one of the squares that have been , 
a quarter of the town that has gone down in the world, and 
taking to letting lodgings. Many of its first and second floors 
are let, furnishe"d,to single gentlemen ; and it takes boarders be- 
sides. It is a great resort of foreigners. The dark-complex- 
ioned men who wear large rings, and heavy watch-guards, and 
bushy whiskers, and who congregate under the Opera Colon- 
nade, and about the box-office in the season, between four and 
five in the afternoon, when they give away the orders, — all 
live in Golden Square, or within a street of it. Two or three 
violins and a wind instrument from the Opera band reside 
within its precincts. Its boarding-houses are musical, and 
the notes of pianos and harps float in the evening time round 
the head of the mournful statue, the guardian genius of a little 
wilderness of shrubs, in the centre of the square. On a sum- 
mer's night, windows are thrown open, and groups of swarthy, 
mustacMoed men are seen by the passer-by, lounging at the 
casements, and smoking fearfully. Sounds of gruff voices 
practising vocal music invade the evening's silence ; and the 
fumes of choice tobacco scent the air. There, snuff and 
cigars, and German pipes and flutes, and violins and violon- 
cellos, di\ide the supremacy between them, j^ It is the region 
of song and smoke. Street bands are on their mettle in 
Golden Square ; and itinerant glee-singers quaver involuntarily 
as they raise their voices within its boundaries. 

This would not seem a spot very well adapted to the trans- 
action of business ; but Mr. Ralph Nickleby had lived there, 
notwithstanding, for many years, and uttered no complaint on 
that score. He knew nobody round about, and nobody knew 
him, although he enjoyed the reputation of being immensely 
jrfch. The tradesmen held that he was a sort of lawyer, and the 
other neighbors opined that he was a kind of general agent ; 
both of which guesses were as correct and definite as guesses 
about other people's affairs usually are, or need to be. 

Mr. Ralph Nickleby sat in his private office one morn- 
ing, ready dressed to walk abroad. He wore a bottle-green 



14 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



spencer over a blue coat ; a white waistcoat, gray mixture pan- 
taloons, and Wellington boots drawn over them. The corner 
of a small-plaited shirt-frill struggled out, as if insisting to 
show itself, from between his chin and the top button of his 
spencer ; and the latter garment was not made low enough to 
conceal a long gold watch-chain, composed of a series of plain 
rings, which had its beginning at the handle of a gold repeater 
in Mr. Nickleby's pocket, and its termination in two little 
keys : one belonging to the watch itself and the other to some 
patent padlock. He wore a sprinkling of powder upon his 
head, as if to make himself look benevolent ; and if that were 
his purpose, he would perhaps have done better to powder 
his countenance also, for there was something in its very 
wrinkles, and in his cold restless eye, which seemed to tell of 
cunning that would announce itself in spite of him. How- 
ever this might be, there he was ; and he was all alone, 
neither the powder, nor the wrinkles, nor the eyes, had the 
smallest effect, good or bad, upon anybody just then, and are 
consequently no business of ours just now. 

Mr. Nickleby closed an account-book which lay on his 
desk, and, throwing himself back in his chair, gazed with an 
air of abstraction through the dirty window. Some London 
houses have a melancholy little plot of ground behind them, 
usually fenced in by four high whitewashed walls, and frowned 
upon by stacks of chimneys : in which there withers on, from 
year to year, a crippled tree, that makes a show of putting 
forth a few leaves late in autumn when other trees shed theirs, 
and, drooping in the effort, lingers on, all crackled and smoke- 
dried, till the following season, when it repeats the same pro- 
cess, and perhaps if the weather be particularly genial, even 
tempts some rheumatic sparrow to chirrup in its branches. 
People sometimes call these dark yards "gardens;" it is not 
supposed that they were ever planted, but rather that they are 
pieces of unreclaimed land, with the withered vegetation of 
the original brick-field. No man thinks of walking in this 
desolate place, or of turning it to any account. A few ham- 
pers, half-a-dozen broken bottles, and such-like rubbish, may 
be thrown there, when the tenant first moves in, but nothing 
more ; and there they remain until he goes away again : the 
damp straw taking just as long to moulder as it thinks proper : 
and mingling with the scanty box, and stunted everbrovvns, 
and broken (lower-pots, that are scattered mournfully about — • 
a prey to " blacks " and tiirt. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



IS 



It was into a place of this kind that Mr. Ralph Nickleby 
gazed, as he sat with his hands in his pockets looking out at 
window. He had fixed his eyes upon a distorted fir-tree, 
planted by some former tenant in a tub that had once been 
green, and left there, years before, to rot away piecemeal. 
There was nothing very inviting in the object, but Mr. Nickle- 
by was wrapt in a brown study, and sat contemplating it with 
far greater attention than, in a more conscious mood, he would 
have deigned to bestow upon the rarest exotic. At length, 
his eyes wandered to a little dirty window on the left, through 
which the face of the clerk was dimly visible ; that worthy 
chancing to look up, he beckoned him to attend. 

In obedience to this summons the clerk got off the high 
stool (to which he had communicated a high polish by count- 
less gettings off and on), and presented himself in Mr. Nickle- 
by's room. He was a tall man of middle-age, with two goggle- 
eyes, whereof one was a fixture, a rubicund nose, a cadaver- 
ous face, and a suit of clothes (if the term be allowable when 
they suited him not atallj much the worse for wear, very much 
too small, and placed upon such a short allowance of buttons 
that it was marvellous how he contrived to keep them on. 

" Was that half-past twelve, Noggs ? " said Mr. Nickleby, 
in a sharp and grating voice. 

" Not more than five-and-twenty minutes by the — " Noggs 
was going to add public-house clock, but recollecting himself, 
substituted " regular time." 

" My watch has stopped," said Mr. Nickleby : " I don't 
know from what cause." 

" Not wound up," said Noggs. 

" Yes it is," said Mr. Nickleby. 

" Over-wound then," rejoined Noggs. 

"That can't very well be," observed Mr. Nickleby. 

" Must be," said Noggs. 

" Well ! " said Mr. Nickleby, putting the repeater back in 
his pocket ; " perhaps it is." 

Noggs gave a peculiar grunt, as was his custom at the end 
of all disputes with his master, to imply that he (Noggs) tri- 
umphed ; and (as he rarely spoke to anybody unless some- 
body spoke to him) fell into a grim silence, and rubbed his 
hands slowly over each other : cracking the joints of his fin- 
gers, and squeezing them into all possible distortions. The 
incessant performance of this routine on eveiy occasion, and 
the connnunication of a fixed and ri^id look to his unaffected 



'O' 



1 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

eye, so as to make it uniform with the other, and to render it 
impossible for anybody to determine where or at what he was 
looking, were two among the numerous peculiarities of Mr. 
Noggs, which struck an inexperienced observer at first sight. 

" I am going to the London Tavern this morning," said 
Mr. Nickleby. 

" Public meeting? " inquired Noggs. 

Mr. Nickleby nodded. " 1 expect a letter from the solici- 
tor respecting that mortgage of Ruddle's. If it comes at all, 
it will be here by the two o'clock deliver}'. I shall leave the 
city by that time and walk to Charing-Cross on the left-hand 
side of the way ; if there are any letters, come and meet me ; 
and bring them with you." 

Noggs nodded ; and as he nodded, there came a ring at 
the office bell. The master looked up from his papers, and 
the clerk calmly remained in a stationary position. 

" The bell " said Noggs, as though in explanation. " At 
home ? " 

"Yes." 

" To anybody > " 

" Yes." 

"To the tax-gatherer?" 

"No ! Let him call again." 

Noggs gave vent to his usual grunt, as much as to say 
" I thought so ! " and, the ring being repeated, went to the 
door, whence he presently returned, ushering in, by the name 
of Mr. Eonney, a pale gentleman in a violent hurry, who, 
with his hair standing up in great disorder all over his head, 
and a very narrow white cravat tied loosely round his throat, 
looked as if he had been knocked up in the night and had 
not dressed himself since. 

" My dear Nickleby," said the gentleman, taking off a 
white hat which was so full of papers that it would scarcely 
stick upon his head, " there's not a moment to lose ; I have 
a cab at the door. Sir Matthew Pupker takes the chair, and 
three members of Parliament are positively coming. I have 
seen two of them safely out of bed. The third, who was at 
Crockford's all night, has just gone home to put a clean shirt 
on, and take a bottle or two of soda water, and will certainly 
be with us, in time to address the meeting. He is a little 
excited by last night, but never mind that ; he always speaks 
the stronger for it." 

"It seems to promise pretty well," said Mr. Ralph Nick- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



17 



leby, whose deliberate manner was strongly opposed to the 
vivacity of the other man of business. 

" Pretty well ! " echoed Mr. Bonney. " It's the finest idea 
that was ever started. ' United Metropolitan Improved Hot 
Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. 
Capital, five millions in five hundred thousand shares of ten 
pounds each.' Why the very name will get the shares up to a 
premium in ten days." 

" And when they are at a premium," said Mr. Ralph 
Nickleby, smiling. 

" When they are, you knew what to do with them as well 
as any man alive, and how to back quietly out at the right 
time," said Mr. Bonney, slapping the capitalist familiarly on 
the shoulder. " By the bye, what a very remarkable man 
that clerk of yours is." 

" Yes, poor devil ! " replied Ralph, drawing on his gloves. 
"Though Newman Noggs kept his horses and hounds once." 

" Ay, ay ? " said the other carelessly. 

" Yes," continued Ralph, '* and not many years ago 
either ; but he squandered his money, invested it anyhow, 
borrowed at interest, and in short made first a thorough fool 
of himself, and then a beggar. He took to drinking, and had 
a touch of pnralysis, and then came here to borrow a pound, 
as in his better days I had — " 

•' Done business with him," said Mr. Bonney with a mean- 
ing look. 

" Just so," replied Ralph ; " I couldn't lend it, you know." 

" Oh, of course not." 

" But as I wanted a clerk just then, to open the door and 
so forth, I took him out of charity, and he has remained 
with me ever since. He is a little mad, I think,'-' said Mr. 
Nickleby, calling up a charitable look, " but he is useful 
enough, poor creature — useful enough." 

The kind-hearted gentleman omitted to add that Newman 
Noggs, being utterly destitute, served him for rather less than 
the usual wages of a boy of thirteen ; and likewise failed 
to mention in his hasty chronicle, that his eccentric tacitur- 
nity rendered him an especially valuable person in a place 
where much business was done, of which it was desirable no 
mention should be made out of doors. The other gentleman 
was plainly impatient to be gone, however, and as they hur- 
ried into the hackney cabriolet immediately afterwards, per- 
haps Mr. Nickleby forgot to mention circumstances so unim- 
portant. 2 



1 8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

There was a great bustle in Bishopsgate Street Within, as 
they drew up, and (it being a windy day) half a dozen men 
were tacking across the road under a press of paper, bearing 
gigantic announcements that a Public Meeting would be 
holden at one o'clock precisely, to take into consideration 
the propriety of petitioning Parliament in favor of the 
United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet 
Baking and Punctual Deliveiy Company, capital five mil- 
lions, in five hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each ; 
which sums were duly set forth in fat black figures of 
considerable size. Mr. Bonney elbowed his way briskly vip 
stairs, receiving in his progress many low bows from the 
waiters who stood on the landings to show the way, and, 
followed by Mr. Nickleby, dived into a suite of apartments 
behind the great public-room : in the second of which was a 
business-looking table, and several business-looking people. 

" Hear ! " cried a gentleman with a double chin, as Mr. 
Bonney presented himself. " Chair, gentlemen, chair ! " 

The new comers were received with universal approbation, 
and Mr. Bonney bustled up to the top of the table, took off 
his hat, ran his fingers through his hair, and knocked a hack- 
ney-coachman's knock on the table with a little hammer ; 
whereat several gentlemen cried " Hear ! " and nodded 
slightly to each other, as much as to say what spirited con- 
duct that was. Just at this moment, a waiter, feverish with 
agitation, tore into the room, and throwing the door open 
with a crash, shouted " Sir Matthew Pupker ! " 

The committee stood up and clapped their hands for joy ; 
and while they were clapping them, in came Sir Matthew Pup- 
ker, attended by two live members of Parliament, one Irish and 
one Scotch, all smiling and bowing,and looking so pleasant that 
it seemed a perfect marvel how any man could have the 
heart to vi|te against them. Sir Matthew Pupker especially, 
who had a little round head with a fiaxen wig on the top of it, 
fell into such a paroxysm of bows, that the wig threatened to 
be jerked off, every instant. When these symptoms had in 
some degree subsided, the gentlemen who were on speaking 
terms with Sir Matthew Pupker, or the two other members, 
crowded round them in three little groups, near one or other 
of which the gentlemen who were not on speaking terms with 
Sir Matthew Pupker or the two other members, stood linger- 
ing, and smiling, and rubbing their hands, in the desperate 
hope of something turning up which might bring them into 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. \ 9 

notice. All this time, Sir Matthew Pupker and the two other 
members were relating to their separate circles what the in- 
tentions of government were, about taking up the bill ; with a 
full account of what the government had said in a whisper the 
last time they dined with it, aud how the government had 
been obser\-ed to wink when it said so ; from which premises 
they were at no loss to draw the conclusion, that if the govern- 
ment had one object more at heart than another, that one 
object was the welfare and advantage of the United Metro- 
politan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punc- 
tual Delivery Company. 

Meanwhile, and pending the arrangements of the proceed- 
ings, and a fair division of the speechifying, the public in the 
large room were eyeing, by turns, the empty platform, and 
the" ladies in the Music Gallery. In these amusements the 
greater portion of them had been occupied for a couple of 
hours before, and as the most agreeable diversions pall upon 
the taste on a too protracted enjoyment of them, the sterner 
spirits now began to hammer the floor with their boot-heels, 
and to express their dissatisfaction by various hoots and cries. 
These vocal exertions, emanating from the people who had 
been there longest, naturally proceeded from those who were 
nearest to the platform and furthest from the policemen in 
attendance, who having no great mind to fight their way 
through the crowd, bu^ entertaining nevertheless a praise- 
worthy desire to do something to quell the disturbance, im- 
mediately began to drag forth, by the coat tails and collars, 
all the quiet people near the door ; at the same time dealing 
out various smart and tingling blows with their truncheons, 
after the manner of that ingenious actor, Mr. Punch: whose 
brilliant example, both in the fashion of his weapons and 
their use, this branch of the executive occasionally follows. 

Several very exciting skirmishes were in progii^, when a 
loud shout attracted the attention even of the bdWigerents, 
and then there poured o\\ to the platform, from a door at the 
side, a long line of gentlemen with their hats off, all looking 
behind them, and uttering vociferous cheers ; the cause 
whereof was sufficiently explained when Sir Matthew Pupker 
and the two other real members of Parliament came to the 
front, amidst deafening shouts, and testified to each other in 
dumb motions that they had never seen such a glorious sight 
as that, in the whole course of their public career. 

At length, and at last, the assembly left off shouting, but 



20 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

Sir Matthew Pupker being into the chair, they underwent a 
relapse which lasted five minutes. This over, Sir Matthew 
Pupker went on to say what must be his feelings on that great 
occasion, and what must be that occasion in the eyes of the 
world, and what must be the intelligence of his fellow-country- 
men before him, and what must be the wealth and respecta- 
bility of his honorable friends behind him, and lastly, what 
must be the importance to the wealth, the happiness, the com- 
fort, the liberty, the very existence of a free and great people, of 
such an Institution as the United Metropolitan Improved Hot 
Mufhn and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company ! 
Mr. Bonney then presented himself to move the first reso- 
lution ; and having run his right hand through his hair, and 
planted his left, in an easy manner, in his ribs, he consigned 
his hat to the care of the gentleman with the double chin 
(who acted as a species of bottle-holder to the orators gener- 
ally), and said he would read to them the first resolution — 
" That this meeting views with alarm and apprehension, the 
existing state of the Muffin Trade in this Metropolis and its 
neighborhood ; that it considers the Muffin Boys, as at pres- 
ent constituted, wholly undeser\-ing the confidence of the 
public ; and that it deems the whole Muffin system alike preju- 
dicial to the health and morals of the people, and subversive 
of the best interests of a great commercial and mercantile 
community." The honorable gentleman made a speech which 
drew tears from the ej-es of the ladies, and awakened the 
liveliest emotions in every individual present. He had visited 
the houses of the poor in the various districts of London, and 
had found them destitute of the slightest vestige of a muffin, 
which there appeared too much reason to believe some of 
these indigent persons did not taste from year's end to year's 
end. He had found that among muffin-sellers there existed 
drunkenness, debauchery, and profligacy, which he attributed 
to the debasing nature of their employment as at present ex- 
ercised ; he had found the same vices among the poorer class 
of people who ought to be muffin consumers ; and this he at- 
tributed to the despair engendered by their being placed be- 
yond the reach of that nutritious article, which drove them to 
seek a false stimulant in intoxicating liquors. He would 
undertake to prove before a committee of the House of Com- 
mons, that there existed a combination to keep up the price 
of muffins, and to give the bellmen a monopoly ; he would 
prove it by bellmen at the bar of that house ; and he would 



NICHOLAS NICK'LEB Y. 2 1 

also prove, that these men corresponded with each other by 
secret words and signs, as "Snooks," "Walker," "Ferguson," 
" Is Murpliy right ? " and many others. It was this melancholy 
state of things that the Company proposed to correct ; firstly, 
by prohibiting, under heavy penalties, all private muffin trad- 
ing of every description ; secondly, by themselves supplying 
the public generally, and the poor at their own homes, with 
muffins of first quality at reduced prices. It was with this 
object that a bill had been introduced into Parliament by their 
patriotic chairman Sir Matthew Pupker ; it w^as this bill that 
they had met to support ; it was the supporters of this bill 
who would confer undying brightness and splendor upon Eng- 
land, under the name of the United Metropolitan Improved 
Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Com- 
pany ; he would add, with a capital of Five Millions, in five 
hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each. 

Mr. Ralph Nickleby seconded the resolution, and another 
gentleman having moved that it be amended by the insertion 
of the words "and crumpet " after the word " muffin," when- 
ever it occurred, it was carried triumphantly. Only one man 
in the crowd cried " No ! " and he was promptly taken into 
custody, and straightway borne off. 

The second resolution, which recognized the expediency 
of immediately abolishing "all muffin (or crumpet) sellers, all 
traders in muffins (or crumpets) of whatsoe\er description, 
whether male or female, boys or men, ringing hand-bells or 
otherwise," was moved by a grievous gentleman of semi-cleri- 
cal appearance, who went at once into such deep pathetics, 
that he knocked the first speaker clean out of the course in no 
time. You might have heard a pin fall — a pin ! a feather — as 
he described the cruelties inflicted on muffin boys by their 
masters, which he ver}^ wisely urged were in themselves a 
sufficient reason for the establishment of that inestimable 
company. It seemed that the unhappy youths were nightly 
turned out into the wet streets at the most inclement periods 
of the year, to wander about, in darkness and rain — or it 
might be hail or snow — for hours together, without shelter, 
food, or warmth ; and let the public never forget upon the 
latter point, that while the muffins were provided with warm 
clothing and blankets, the boys were wholly unprovided for, 
and left to their own miserable resources. (Shame !) The 
honorable gentleman related one case of a muffin boy, who 
having been exposed to this inhuman and barbarous system 



2 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

for no less than five years, at length fell a victim to a cold in 
the head, beneath which he gradually sunk until he fell into a 
perspiration and recovered ; this he could vouch for, on his 
own authoritv, but he had heard (and he had no reason to 
doubt the fact) of a still more heart-rending and appalling 
circumstance. He had heard of the case of an orphan muffin 
boy, who, having been run over by a hackney carriage, had 
been removed to the hospital, had undergone the amputation 
of his leg below the knee, and was now actually pursuing his 
occupation on crutches. Fountain of justice, were these 
things to last ! 

This was the department of the subject that took the meet- 
ing, and this was the style of speaking to enlist their sym- 
pathies. The men shouted ; the ladies wept into their pocket- 
handkerchiefs till they were moist, and waved them till they 
were dr}' ; the excitement was tremendous ; and Mr. Nickleby 
whispered his friend that the shares were thenceforth at a 
premium of five-and-twenty per cent. 

The resolution was, of course, carried with loud acclama- 
tions, every man holding up both hands in favor of it, as he 
would in his enthusiasm have held up both legs also, if he 
could have conveniently accomplished it. This done, the 
draft of the proposed petition was read at length ; and the 
petition said, as all petitions do say, that the petitioners were 
very humble, and the petitioned very honorable, and the ob- 
ject very virtuous ; therefore (said the petition) the bill ought 
to be passed into a law at once, to the everlasting honor and 
glory of that most honorable and glorious Commons of Eng- 
land in Parliament assembled. 

Then, the gentleman who had been at Crockford's all night, 
and who looked something the worse about the eyes in conse- 
quence, came forward to tell his fellow-countrymen what a 
speech he meant to make in favor of that petition whenever 
it should be presented, and how desperately he meant to 
taunt the Parliament if they rejected the bill ; and to inform 
them also, that he regretted' his honorable friends had not in- 
serted a clause rendering the purchase of muftins and crum- 
pets compulsory upon all classes of the community, which he 
— opposing all' half measures, and preferring to go the ex- 
treme animal — pledged himself to propose and divide upon, 
in committee. After announcing this determination, the 
honorable gentleman grew jocular ; and as patent boots, lemon- 
colored kid gloves, and a fur coat collar, assist jokes materially, 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 23 

there was immense laughter and much cheerhig, and more- 
over such a briUiant display of ladies' pocket-handkerchiefs, 
as threw the grievous gentleman quite into the shade. 

And when the petition had been read and was about to be 
adopted, there came forward the Irish member (who was a 
young gentleman of ardent temperament,) with such a speech 
as only an Irish member can make, breathing the true 
soul and spirit of poetry, and poured forth with such fervor, 
that it made one warm to look at him ; in the course whereof, 
he told them how he would demand the extension of that 
great boon to his native country ; how he would claim for her 
equal rights in the muffin laws as in all other laws ; and how 
he yet hoped to see the day when crumpets should be toasted 
in her lowly cabins, and muffin bells should ring in her rich 
green valleys. And, after him, came the Scotch member, 
with various pleasant allusions to the probable amount of 
profits, which increased the good humor that the poetiy had 
ajvakened ; and all the speeches put together did exactly what 
they were intended to do, and established in the hearers' 
minds that there was no speculation so promising, or at the 
same time so praiseworthy, as the United Metropolitan Im- 
proved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Deliv- 
ery Company. 

So, the petition in favor of the bill was agreed upon, and 
the meeting adjourned with acclamations, and Mr. Nickleby 
and the other directors went to the office to lunch, as they did 
every day at half-past one o'clock ; and to remunerate them- 
selves for which trouble (as the company was yet in its in- 
fancy), they only charged three guineas each man for every 
such attendance. 



CHAPTER III. 

MR. RALPH NICKLEBY RECEIVES SAD TIDINGS OF HIS BROTHER, 
BUT BEARS UP NOBLY AGAINST THE INTELLIGENCE COM- 
MUNICATED TO HIM. THE READER IS INFORMED HOW HE 
LIKED NICHOLAS, WHO IS HEREIN INTRODUCED, AND HOW 
KINDLY HE PROPOSED TO MAKE HIS FORTUNE AT ONCE. 

Having rendered his zealous assistance towards despatch- 
ing the lunch, with all that promptitude and energy which are 



24 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



among the most important qualities that men of business can 
possess, Mr. Ralph Nickleby took, a cordial farewell of his 
fellow speculators, and bent his steps westward in unwonted 
good humor. As he passed Saint Paul's he stepped aside 
into a doorway to set his watch, and with his hand on tlie 
key and his eye on the cathedral dial, was intent upon so doing, 
when a man suddenly stopped before him. It was Newman 
Noggs. 

" h\\ ! Newman," said Mr. Nickleby, looking up as he 
pursued his occupation. " The letter about the mortgage has 
come, has it .'' I thought it would." 

" Wrong," replied Newman. 

" What 1 and nobody called respecting it ? " inquired Mr. 
Nickleby, pausing. Noggs shook his head. 

" What has come, then 1 " inquired Mr. Nickleby. 

" I have," said Newman. 

" What else ? " demanded the master, sternly. 

"This," said Newman, drawing a sealed letter slowly from 
his pocket. " Postmark, Strand, black wax, black border, 
woman's hand, C. N. in the corner." 

"Black wax .^" said Mr. Nickleby, glancing at the letter. 
" I know something of that hand, too. Newman, I shouldn't 
be surprised if my brother were dead." 

"I don't think you would," said Newman quietly. 

" Why not, sir ? " demanded Mr. Nickleby. 

" You never are surprised," replied Newman, " that's all." 

Mr. Nickleby snatched the letter from his assistant, and 
fixing a cold look upon him, opened, read it, put it in his 
pocket, and having now hit the time to a second, began wind- 
ing- up his watch. 

"It is as I expected, Newman," said Mr. Nickleby, while 
he was thus engaged. " He ts dead. Dear me ! Well, that's 
a sudden thing. I shouldn't have thought it, really." With 
these touching expressions of sorrow, Mr. Nickleby replaced 
his watch in his fob, and, fitting on his glove to a nicety, 
turned upon his way, and walked slowly westward with his 
hands behind him, 

" Children alive ? " inquired Noggs, stepping up to him. 

"Why, that's the very thing," replied Mr. Nickleby as 
though his thoughts were about them at that moment. " They 
are both alive." 
'^ " Both ! " repeated Newman Noggs, in a low voice. 

"And the widow, too," added Mr. Nickleby, "and all 
three in London, confound them ; all three here, Newman," 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 25 

Newman fell a little behind his master, and his face waa 
curiously twisted as by a spasm ; but whether of paralysis, or 
grief, or inward laughter, nobody but himself could possibly ex- 
plain. The expression of a man's face is commonly a help to his 
thoughts, or glossary on his speech ; but the countenance of 
Newman Noggs, in his ordinary moods, was a problem which 
no stretch of ingenuity could solve, 

" Go home ! " said Mr. Nickleby, after they had walked a 
few paces, looking round at the clerk as if he were his dog. 
The words were scarcely uttered when Newman darted across 
the road, slunk among the crowd and disappeared in an in- 
stant. 

" Reasonable, certainly ! " muttered Mr. Nickleby to him- 
self, as he walked on, " very reasonable ! My brother never 
did anything for me, and I never expected it ; the breath is no 
sooner out of his body than I am to be looked to, as the sup- 
port .of^a_ great hearty woman, and a grown boy and girl. 
What are they to me ! /never saw them." 

Full of these and many other refiections of a similar 
kind, Mr. Nickleby made the best of his way to the Strand, 
and, referring to his letter as if to ascertain the number of the 
house he wanted, stopped at a private door about half-way 
down that crowded thoroughfare. 

A miniature painter lived there, for there was a large gilt 
frame screwed upon the street-door, in which were displayed, 
upon a black velvet ground, two portraits of naval dress coats 
with faces looking out of them, and telescopes attached ; 
one of a young gentleman in a very vermilion uniform, flourish- 
ing a sabre ; and one of a literary character with a high fore- 
head, a pen and ink, six books, and^ a curtain. There was, 
moreover, a touching representation of a young lady reading 
a manuscript in an unfathomable forest, and a charming whole 
lenath of a larsre-headed little bov, sitting on a stool with his 
legs fore-shortened to the size of salt-spoons. Besides these 
works of art, there were a great many heads of old ladies and 
gentlemen smirking at each other out of blue and brown skies, 
and an elegantly-written card of terms with an embossed 
border. 

Mr. Nickleby glanced at these frivolities with great con- 
tempt, and gave a double knock, which, having been thrice 
repeated, was answered by a servant girl with an uncommonly 
dirty face. 

" Is Mrs. Nickleby at home, girl ? " demanded Ralph 
sharply. 



2 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

"Her name ain't Nickleby," said the girl, " La Creevy, 
you mean." 

Mr. Nickleby looked very indignant at the handmaid on 
being thus corrected, and demanded with much asperity what 
she meant ; which she was about to state, when a female voice, 
proceeding from a perpendicular staircase at the end of the 
passage, inquired who was wanted. 

" Mrs. Nickleby," said Ralph. 

" It's the second floor, Hannah," said the same voice ; 
" what a stupid thing you are ! Is the second floor at home ? " 

" Somebody went out just now, but I think it was the attic 
which had been a cleaning of himself," replied the girl. 

" You had better see," said the invisible female. "Show 
the gentleman where the bell is, and tell him he musn't knock 
double knocks for the second floor ; I can't allow a knock ex- 
cept when the bell's broke, and then it must be two single ones." 

" Here," said Ralph, walking in without more parley, " I 
beg your pardon ; is that Mrs. La What's-her-name ? " 

" Creevy — La Creevy," replied the voice, as a yellow head- 
dress bobbed over the banisters. 

" I'll speak to you a moment, ma'am, with your leave," 
said Ralph. 

The \oice replied that the gentleman was to walk up ; but 
he had walked up before it spoke, and stepping into the first 
floor, was received JDy the wearer of the yellow-head dress, 
who had a gown to correspond, and was of much the same 
color herself. Miss La Creevy was a mincing young lady of 
fifty, and Miss La Creevy's apartment was the gilt frame down 
stairs on a larger scale and something dirtier. 

" Hem ! " said Miss La Creevy, coughing delicately behind 
her black silk mitten. " A miniature, I presume. A very 
strongly-marked countenance for the purpose, sir. Have you 
ever sat before ? " 

" You mistake my purpose, I see, ma'am," replied Mr. 
Nickleby, in his usual blunt fashion. " I have no money to 
throw away on miniatures, ma'am, and nobody to give one to 
(thank God) if I had. Seeing you on the stairs, I wanted to 
ask a question of you, about some lodgers here." 

Miss La Creevy coughed once more — this cough was to 
conceal her disa])pointment— and said, " Oh, indeed ! " 

" I infer from what you said to your servant, that the floor 
above belongs to you, ma'am ? " said Mr. Nickleby. 

Yes it did, Miss La Creevy replied. The upper part of 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 27 

the house belonged to her, and as she had no necessity for 
the second-floor rooms just then, she was in the habit of let- 
ting them. Indeed, there was a lady from the countr}' and 
her two children in them, at that present speaking. 

" A widow, ma'am ? " said Ralph. 

" Yes, she is a widow," replied the lady. 

^^ Kpoor widow, ma'am," said Ralph, with a powerful em- 
phasis on that little adjective which conveys so much. 

" Well, I am afraid she is poor," rejoined Miss La Creevy. 

" I happen to know that she is, ma'am," said Ralph. 
" Now, what business has a poor widow in such a house as 
tliis, ma'am .? " 

" Very true," replied Miss La Creevy, not at all displeased 
with this implied compliment to the apartments. " Exceed- 
ingly true." 

" I know her circumstances intimately, ma'am," said 
Ralph ; " in fact, I am a relation of the family ; and I should 
recommend you not to keep them here, ma'am." 

" I should hope, if there was any incompatibility to meet 
the pecuniary obligations," said Miss La Creevy with another 
cough, " that the lady's family would " 

" No they wouldn't, ma'am," interrupted Ralph, hastily. 
" Don't think it." 

"If I am to understand that," said Miss La Creevy, "the 
case wears a very different appearance." 

" You may understand it then, ma'am," said Ralph, " and 
make your arrangements accordingly. I am the family, ma'am 
— at least, I believe I am the only relation they have, and I think 
it right that you should know / can't support them in their ex- 
travagances. How long have they taken these lodgings for .'' " 

"Only from week to week," replied Miss La Creevy. 
" Mrs. Nickleby paid the first week in advance." 

" Then you had better get them out at the end of it," said 
Ralph. " They can't do better than go back to the country, 
ma'am ; they are in everybody's way here." 

" Certainly," said Miss La Creevy, rubbing her hands, " if 
Mrs. Nickleby took the apartments without the means of pay- 
ing for them, it was very unbecoming a lady." 

" Of course it was, ma'am," said Ralph. 

"And naturally," continued Miss La Creevy, " I who am, 
at present — hem — an unprotected female, cannot afford to lose 
by the apartments." 

"Of course you can't, ma'am," replied Ralph. 



28 NICHOLAS KICKLEBY. 

"Though at the same time," added Miss La Creevy, who 
was plainly wavering between her good-nature and her inter- 
est, " I have nothing whatever to say against the lady, who is 
extremely pleasant and affable, though, poor thing, she seems 
terribly low in her spirits ; nor against the young people 
either, for nicer, or better-behaved young people cannot be." 

"Very well, ma'am," said Ralph, turning to the door, for 
these encomiums on poverty irritated him ; " I have done my 
dutv, and perhaps more than I ought: of course nobody will 
thank me for saying what I have." 

" I am sure / am very much obliged to you at least, sir," 
said Miss La Creevy in a gracious manner. " Would you do me 
the favor to look at a few specimens of my portrait painting? " 

" You're very good, ma'am," said Mr. Nickleby, making 
ofif with great speed ; "but as I have a visit to pay up stairs, 
and my time is precious, I really can't." 

" At any other time when you are passing, I shall be most 
happy," said Miss La Creevy. " Perhaps you will have the 
kindness to take a card of terms with you ? Thank you — 
good-morning ! " 

"Good-morning, ma'am," said Ralph, shutting the door 
abruptly after him 'to prevent any further conversation. " Now 
for my sister-in-law. Bah ! " 

Climbing up another perpendicular flight, composed with 
great mechanical ingenuity of nothing but corner stairs, Mr. 
Ralph Nickleby stopped to take breath on the landing, when 
he was overtaken by the handmaid, whom the politeness of 
of Miss La Creevy had despatched to announce him, and who 
had apparently been making a variety of unsuccessful attempts 
since their last interview, to wipe her dirty face clean, upon an 
apron much dirtier. 

" What name ? " said the girl. 

" Nickleby," replied Ralph. 

" Oh ! Mrs. Nickleby," said the girl, throwing open the 
door, "here's Mr. Nickleby." 

A lady in deep mourning rose as Mr. Ralph Nickleby 
entered, but appeared incapable of advancing to meet him, 
and leant upon the arm of a slight but very beautiful girl of 
about seventeen, who had beei^ sitting by her. A youth, who 
appeared a }ear or two older, stepped forward and saluted 
Ralph as his uncle. 

" Oh," growled Ralph, with an ill-favored frown, " you are 
Nicholas, I suppose." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 29 

"That is my name, sir," replied the youth. 

" Put my hat down," said Ralph, imperiously. " Well, 
ma'am, how do you do .? You must bear up against sorrow, 
ma'am : /always do." 

" Mine was no common loss ! " said Mrs. Nickleby, apply- 
ing her handkerchief to her eyes. 

"It was no ?^;/common loss, ma'am," returned Ralph, as 
he coolly unbuttoned his spencer. " Husbands die every 
day, ma'am, and wives too." 

" And brothers also, sir," said Nicholas, with a glance of 
indignation. 

" Yes, sir, and puppies, and pug-dogs likewise," replied 
his uncle, taking a chair. " You didn't mention in your letter 
what my brother's complaint was, ma'am." 

" The doctors could attribute it to no particular disease," 
said Mrs. Nickleby, shedding tears. " We have too much 
reason to fear that he died of a broken heart." 

" Pooh ! " said Ralph, " there's no such thing. I can 
understand a man's dying of a broken neck, or suffering from 
a broken arm, or a broken head, or a broken leg, or a broken 
nose ; but a broken heart ! — nonsense, it's the cant of the day. 
If a man can't pay his debts, he dies of a broken heart, and 
his widow's a martyr." 

" Some people, I believe, have no hearts to break," ob- 
served Nicholas, quietly. 

" How old is this boy, for God's sake? " inquired Ralph, 
wheeling back his chair, and surveying his nephew from head 
to foot with intensq .scorn. 

"Nicholas is very nearly nineteen," replied the widow. 

" Nineteen, eh ! " said Ralph, " and what do you mean to 
do for your bread, sir ?■ " 

" Not to live upon my mother," replied Nicholas, his heart 
swelling as he spoke. 

"You'd have little enough to live upon, if you did," re- 
torted the uncle, eyeing him contemptuously. 

" Whatever it be," said Nicholas, flushed with anger, " I 
shall not look to you to make it more." 

"Nicholas, my dear, recollect yourself," remonstrated Mrs. 
Nickleby. 

" Dear Nicholas, pray," urged the young lady. 

" Hold your tongue, sir," said Ralph. " Upon my word ! 
Fine beginnings, Mrs. Nickleby — fine beginnings ! " 

Mrs. Nickleby made no other reply than entreating Nicho- 



3° 



NICFTOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



las by a gesture to keep silent ; and the uncle and nephew 
looked at each other for some seconds without speaking. The 
face of the old man was stern, hard-featured and forbidding ; 
that of the young one, open, handsome, and mgenuous. The 
old man's eye was keen with the twinklings of avarice and 
cunning ; the young man's, bright with the light of intelligence 
and spirit. His figure was somewhat slight, but manly and 
well-formed ; and, apart from all the grace of youth and come- 
liness, there was an emanation from the warm young heart in 
his look and bearing which kept the old man down. 

However striking such a contrast as this may be to look- 
ers-on, none ever feel it with half the keenness or acuteness 
of perfection with which it strikes to the ver}' soul of him 
: whose inferiority it marks. / It called Ralph to the heart's 
i coreTancT he hated Nicholas fToiri Lliat hour. . 

The mutual inspection was at length brought to a close by 
Ralph withdrawing his eyes, with a great show of disdain, 
and calling Nicholas " a boy." This word is much used as a 
term of reproach by elderly gentlemen towards their juniors : 
probably with the view of deluding society into the belief 
that if they could be young again, they wouldn't on any ac- 
count. 

"Well, ma'am," said Ralph, impatiently, "the creditors 
have administered, you tell me, and there's nothing left for 
you ? " 

" Nothing," replied Mrs. Nickleby. 

" And you spent what little money you had, in coming all 
the way to London, to see what I could do for you ? " pursued 
Ralph. 

"I hoped," faltered Mrs. Nickleby, " that you might have 
an opportunity of doing something for your brother's children. 
It was his dying wish that I should appeal to you in their be- 
half." 

" I don't know how it is," muttered Ralph, walking up and 

down the room, " but whenever a man dies without any prop- 

I erty of his own, he always seems to think he has a right t<7 

! dispose of other people's. What is your daughter fit for, 

ma'am .-' " 

" Kate has been well educated," sobbed Mrs. Nickleby. 
" Tell your uncle, my dear, how far you went in French and 
extras." 

Tiie poor girl was about to murmur something, when her 
uncle stopped her, very unceremoniously. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 31 

"We must try and get you apprenticed at some boarding- 
school," said Ralph. " You have not been brought up too 
delicately for that, I hope?" 

" No, indeed, uncle," replied the weeping girl. " I will 
try to do anything that will gain me a home and bread." 

"Well, well," said Ralph, a little softened, either by his 
niece's beauty or her distress (stretch a point, and say the 
latter). " You must try it, and if the life is too hard, perhaps 
dress-making or tambour-work will come lighter. Have yoii 
ever done anything, sir? " (turning to his nephew.) 

" No," replied Nicholas, bluntly. 

" No, I thought not ! " said Ralph. " This is the way my 
brother brought up his children, ma'am." 

" Nicholas has not long completed such education as his 
poor father could give him," rejoined Mrs. Nickleby, "and 
he was thinking of — " 

"Of making something of him some day," said Ralph. 
"The old story; al ways thinkin g, and never doing. If my 
brother had been a m aii "oF""a' c'tT\' i t vai -i d prudence, he might 
have left you a rich womlrT; ma am ; and if he had turned his 
son into the world, 'T-S my father turned me, when I wasn't as 
old as that boy by"Tryear"*aml a half, he would have been in a 
situation to help you, instead of being a burden upon you, 
and increasing your distress. CMy brother was a thoughtless, 
inconsiderate man, Mrs. Nickleby, and nobody, I am sure, 
can have better reason to feel that, than you." 

This appeal set the widow upon thinking that perhaps she 
might have made a more successful venture with her one 
thousand pounds, and then she began to reflect what a com- 
fortable sum it would have been just then ; which dismal 
thoughts made her tears flow faster, and in the excess of these 
griefs she (being a well-meaning woman enough, but weak 
withal) fell first to deploring her hard fate, and then to remark- 
ing, with many sobs, that to be sure she had been a slave to 
poor Nicholas, and had often told him she might have mar- 
ried better (as indeed she had, very often), and that she never 
knew in his lifetime how the money went, but that if he had 
confided in her they might all have been better off that day ; 
with other bitter recollections common to most married ladies, 
either during their coverture, or afterwards, or at both periods. 
Mrs. Nickleby concluded by lamenting that the dear departed 
had never deigned to profit by her advice, save on one occa- 
sion : which was a strictly veracious statement, inasmuch as 



32 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

he had only acted upon it once, and had ruined himself in 
consequence. 

Mr. Ralph Nickleby heard all this with a half smile ; and 
when the widow had finished, quietly took up the subject 
where it had been left before the above outbreak. 

" Are you willing to work, sir } " he inquired, frowning on 
his nephew. 

" Of course I am," replied Nicholas haughtily. 

"Then, see here, sir," said his uncle. "This caught my 
eye this morning, and you may thank your stars for it." 

With this exordium, Mr. Ralph Nickleby took a newspaper 
from his pocket, and after unfolding it, and looking for a 
short time among the advertisements, read as follows : 

" ' Education. — At Mr. Wackford Squeers's Academy, 
Dotheboys Hall, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near 
Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, Youth are boarded, clothed, 
booked, furnished with pocket-money, provided with all ne- 
cessaries, instructed in all languages living and dead, mathe- 
matics, orthography, geometry, astronomy, trigonometry, the 
use of the globes, algebra, single stick (if required), writing, 
arithmetic, fortification, and every other branch of classical 
literature. Terms, twenty guineas per annum. No extras, 
no vacations, and diet unparalleled. Mr. Squeers is in town, 
and attends daily, from one till four, at the Saracen's Head, 
Snow Hill. N. B. An able assistant wanted. Annual salary 
;^5. A Master of Arts would be preferred.' 

" There ! " said Ralph, folding the paper again. " Let him 
get that situation, and his fortune is made." 

" But he is not a Master of Arts " said Mrs. Nickleby. 

"That," replied Ralph, "that I think, can be got ovei." 

" But the salary is so small, and it is such a long way off,, 
uncle ! " faltered Kate. 

" Hush, Kate, my dear," interposed Mrs. Nickleby ; "your 
uncle must know best." 

"I say," repeated Ralph, tartly, "let him get that 
situation, and his fortune is made. If he don't like that, let 
him get one for himself. Witliout friends, money, recom- 
mendation, or knowledge of business of any kind, let him find 
honest employment in London which will keep him in shoe 
leather, and I'll gi\e him a thousand pounds. At least," said 
Mr. Ralph Nickleby, checking himself, "I would if I had it." 

" Poor fellow ! " said the young lady. "Oh ! uncle, must 
we be separated so soon ! " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 33 

" Don't tease your uncle with questions when he is think- 
ing only for our good, my love," said Mrs. Nickleby. " Nich- 
olas, my dear, 1 wish you would say something." 

" Yes, mother, yes," said Nicholas, who had hitherto 
remained silent and absorbed in thought. " If I am fortunate 
enough to be appointed to this post, sir, for which I am so 
imperfectly qualified, what will become of those I leave be- 
hind ? " 

" Your mother and sister, sir," replied Ralph, " will be 
provided for, in that case (not otherwise), by me, and placed 
in some sphere of life in which they will be able to be indepen- ■ 
dent. That will be my immediate care ; they will not remain 
as they are, one week after your departure, I will undertake." 

" Then," said Nicholas, starting gayly up, and wringing his 
uncle's hand, " I am ready to do anything you wish me. Let 
us try our fortune with Mr. Squeers at once; he can but 
refuse." 

" He won't do that," said Ralph. " He will be glad to 
have you on my recommendation. Make yourself of use to 
him, and you'll rise to be a partner in the establishment in no 
time. Bless me, only think ! if he were to die, why your 
fortune's made at once." 

" To be sure, I see it all," said poor Nicholas, delighted 
with a thousand visionar}' ideas, that his good spirits and his 
inexperience were conjuring up before him. " Or suppose 
some young nobleman who is being educated at the Hall, 
were to take a fancy to me, and get his father to appoint me 
his travelling tutor when he left, and when we come back from 
the continent, procured me some handsome appointment. 
Eh ! uncle ? " 

" Ah, to be sure ! " snarled Ralph. 

" And who knows, but when he came to see me when I 
was settled (as he would of course), he might fall in love with 
Kate, who would be keeping my house, and — and — marry her, 
eh ! uncle ? Who knows ? " 

"Who, indeed ! " snarled Ralph. 

" How happy we should be ! " cried Nicholas with en- 
thusiasm. "The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of 
meeting again. Kate will be a beautiful woman, and I so 
proud to hear them say so, and mother so happy to be with 

us once again, and all these sad times forgotten, and " 

The picture was too bright a one to bear, and Nicholas, fairly 
overpowered by it, smiled faintly, and burst into tears. 

3 



\ 



34 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y 



This simple family, born and bred in retirement, and 
wholly unacquainted with what is called the world — a con- 
ventional phrase which, being interpreted, often signifieth all 
the rascals in it — mingled their tears together at the thought 
of their first separation ; and, this first gush of feeling over, 
were proceeding to dilate with all the buoyancy of untried 
hope on the bright prospects before them, when Mr. Ralph 
Nickleby suggested, that if they lost time, some more fortunate 
candidate might deprive Nicholas of the stepping-stone to 
fortune which the advertisement pointed out, and so under- 
mine all their air-built castles. This timely reminder effectually 
stopped the conversation. Nicholas, having carefully copied 
the address of Mr. Squeers, the uncle and nephew issued 
forth together in quest of that accomplished gentleman : 
Nicholas firmly persuading himself that he had done his 
relative great injustice in disliking him at first sight ; and Mrs. 
Nickleby being at some pains to inform her daughter that she 
was sure he was a much more kindly disposed person than he 
seemed ; which, Miss Nickleby dutifully remarked, he might 
very easily be. 

To tell the truth, the good lady's opinion had been not a 
little influenced by her brother-in-law's appeal to her better 
understanding, and his implied compliment to her high deserts ; 
and although she had dearly loved her husband, and still 
doted on her children, he had struck so successfully on one 
of those little jarring chords in the human heart (Ralph was 
well acquainted with its worst weaknesses, though he knew 
nothing of its best), that she had already begun seriously to 
consider herself the amiable and suffering victim of her late 
husband's imprudence. 



CHAPTER IV. 

NICHOLAS AND HIS UNCLE (tO SECURE THE FORTUNE WITHOUT 
LOSS OF time) wait UPON MR. WACKFORD SQUEERS, THE 
YORKSHIRE SCHOOLMASTER. 

Snow Hill ! What kind of place can the quiet town's- 
people who see the words emblazoned, in all the legibility of 
gilt letters and dark shading, on the north-country coaches, 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 35 

take Snow Hill to be ? All people have some undefined and 
shadowy notion of a place whose name is frequently before 
their eyes, or often in their ears. What a vast number of 
random ideas there must be perpetually floating about, regard- 
ing this same Snow Hill. The name is such a good one. 
Snow Hill — Snow Hill too, coupled with a Saracen's Head : 
picturing to us by a double association of ideas, something 
stern and rugged ! A bleak desolate tract of country, open 
to piercing blasts and fierce wintry storms — a dark, cold, 
gloomy heath, lonely by day, and scarcely to be thought of by 
honest folks at night — a place which solitary wayfarers shun, 
and where desperate robbers congregate ; — this, or something 
like this, should be the prevalent notion of Snow Hill, in those 
remote and rustic parts, through which the Saracen's Head, 
like some grim apparition, rushes each day and ni^h^ with 
mysterious and ghost-like punctuality ; holding its swift and 
headlong course in all weathers, and seeming to bid defiance 
to the very elements themselves. 

The reality is rather different, but by no means to be de- 
spised notwithstanding. There, at the very core of London, 
in the heart of its business and animation, in the midst of a 
whirl of noise and motion : stemming as it were the giant 
currents of life that flow ceaselessly on from different quarters, 
and meet beneath its walls : stands Newgate ; and in that 
crowded street on which it frowns so darkly — -within a few feet 
of the squalid tottering houses — upon the very spot on which 
the venders of soup and fish and damaged fruit are now 
plying their trades — scores of human beings, amidst a roar of 
sounds to which even tl-^e tumult of a great city is as nothing, 
four, six, or eight strong men at a time, have been hurried 
violently and swiftly from the world, when the scene has been 
rendered frightful with excess of human life \ when curious 
eyes have glared from casement, and house-top, and wall and 
pillar ; and when, in the mass of white and upturned faces, 
the dying wretch, in his all-comprehensive look of agony, has 
met not one — not one — that bore the impress of pity or com- 
passion. 

Near to the jail, and by consequence near to Smithfield 
also, and the Compter, and the bustle and noise of the city ; 
and just on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus 
horses going eastward seriously think of falling down on pur- 
pose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westward 
not unfrequently fall by accident, is the coach yard of the 



»6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

Saracen's Head Inn ; its portal guarded by two Saracens' 
heads and shoulders, which it was once the pride and glory 
of the choice spirits of this metropolis to pull down at night, 
but which have for some time remained in undisturbed tran- 
quillity ; possibly because this species of humor is now con- 
fined to Saint James's parish, where door knockers are preferred 
as being more portable, and bell-wires esteemed as convenient 
tooth-picks. Whether this be the reason or not, there they 
are, frowning upon you from each side of the gateway. The 
inn itself, garnished with another Saracen's Head, frowns 
upon you from the top of the yard ; while from the door of 
the hind boot of all the red coaches that are standing therein, 
there glares a small Saracen's Head, with a twin expression 
to the large Saracens' Heads below, so that the general ap- 
pearance of the pile is decidedly of the Saracenic order. 

When you walk up this yard, you will see the booking- 
ofifice on your left, and the tow^er of St. Sepulchre's church, 
darting abruptly up into the sky, on your right, and a gallery 
of bed-rooms on both sides. Just before you, you will observe 
a long window with the words " coffee-room " legibly painted 
above it ; and looking out of that window, you would have 
seen in addition, if you had gone at the right time, Mr. Wack- 
ford Squeers with his hands in his pockets. 

Mr. Squeers's appearance was not prepossessing. He 
had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favor of 
two. The eye he had, was unquestionably useful, but de- 
cidedly not ornamental : being of a greenish gray, and in 
shape resembling the fan-light of a street door. The blank 
side of his face was much wrinkled . and puckered up, which 
gave him a very sinister appearance, especially when he smiled, 
at which times his expression bordered closely on the villainous. 
His hair was very flat and shiny, save at the ends, where it 
was brushed stilifly up from a low protruding forehead, which 
assorted well with his harsh voice and coarse manner. He 
was about two or three and fifty, and a trifle below the mid- 
dle size ; he wore a white neckerchief with long ends, and a 
suit of scholastic black ; but his coat sleeves being a great 
deal too long, and his trousers a great deal too short, he ap- 
peared ill at ease in his clothes, and as if he were in a per- 
petual state of astonishment at finding himself so respectable. 

Mr. Squeers was standing in a box by one of the coffee- 
room fire-places, fitted with one such table as is usually seen 
in coffee-rooms, and two of extraordinar}- shapes and dimen- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 37 

sions made to suit the angles of the partition. In a corner of 
the seat, was a very small deal trunk, tied round with a scanty 
piece of cord ; and on the trunk was perched — his lace-up 
half-boots and corduroy trousers dangling in the air — a dimin- 
utive boy, with his shoulders drawn up to his ears, and his 
hands planted on his knees, who glanced timidly at the 
schoolmaster, from time to time, with evident dread and ap- 
prehension. 

" Half-past three," muttered Mr. Squeers, turning from 
the window, and looking sulkily at the coffee-room clock. 
" There will be nobody here to-day." 

Much vexed by this reflection, Mr. Squeers looked at the 
little boy to see whether he was doing anything he could beat 
him for. As he happened not to be doing anything at all, he 
merely boxed his ears, and told him not to do it again. 

" At Midsummer," muttered Mr. Squeers, resuming his 
complaint, " I took down ten boys ; ten twentys is two hun- 
dred pound. I go back at eight o'clock to-morrow morning, 
and have got only three — three oughts is an ought — three 
twos is six — sixty pound. What's come of all the boys ? 
what's parents got in their heads ? what does it all mean ? " 

Here the little boy on the top of the trunk gave a violent 
sneeze. 

" Halloa, sir ! " growled the schoolmaster, turning round. 
" What's that, sir .? " 

" Nothing, please sir," said the little boy. 

"Nothing, sir !" exclaimed Mr. Squeers. 

" Please, sir, I sneezed," rejoined the boy, trembling till 
the little trunk shook under him. 

" Oh ! sneezed, did you ? " retorted Mr. Squeers. " Then 
what did you say ' nothing ' for, sir ? " 

In default of a better answer to this question, the little 
boy screwed a couple of knuckles into each of his eyes and 
began to cry, wherefore Mr. Squeers knocked him off the 
trunk with a blow on one side of his face, and knocked him 
on again with a blow on the other. 

" Wait till I get you down into Yorkshire, my young 
gentleman," said Mr. Squeers, " and then I'll give you the 
rest. Will you hold that noise, sir ? " 

"Ye — ye — yes," sobbed the little boy, rubbing his face 
very hard with the Beggar's Petition in printed calico. 

"Then do so at once, sir," said Squeers. "Do you 
hear?" 



38 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

As this admonition was accompanied with a threatening 
gesture, and uttered with a savage aspect, the httle boy 
rubbed his face harder, as if to keep the tears back ; and, 
beyond alternately snitfing and choking, gave no further vent 
to his emotions. 

" Mr. Squeers," said the waiter, loolcing in at this junc- 
ture ; "here's a gentleman asking for you at the bar." 

" Show the gentleman in, Richard," replied Mr. Squeers, in 
a soft voice. " Put your handkerchief in your pocket, you little 
scoundrel, or I'll murder you when the gentleman goes." 

The schoolmaster had scarcely uttered these words in a 
fierce whisper, when the stranger entered. Affecting not to 
see him, Mr. Squeers feigned to be intent upon mending a 
pen, and offering benevolent advice to his youthful pupil. 

" My dear child," said Mr. Squeers, " all people have their 
trials. This early trial of yours that is fit to make your little 
heart burst, and your very eyes come out of your head with 
crying, what is it ? Nothing-; less than nothing. You are 
leaving your friends, but you will have a father in me, my 
dear, and a mother in Mrs. Squeers. At the delightful village 
of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire, where youth 
are boarded, clothed, booked, washed, furnished with pocket 
money, provided with all necessaries — " 

" It is the gentleman," observed the stranger, stopping 
the schoolmaster in the rehearsal of his advertisement. " Mr. 
Squeers, I believe, sir ? " 

" The same, sir," said Mr. Squeers, with an assumption of 
extreme surprise. 

" The gentleman," said the stranger, " that advertised in 
the Times newspaper .'' " 

— " Morning Post, Chronicle, Herald, and Advertiser, re- 
garding the Academy called Dotheboys Hall at the delightful 
village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire," added 
Mr. Squeers. " You come on business, sir. I see by my 
young friends. How do you do, my little gentleman } and 
how do you do sir t " With this salutation Mr. Squeers pat- 
ted the heads of two hollow-eyed, small-boned little boys, 
whom the applicant had brought with him, and waited for fur- 
ther communications. 

" I am in the oil and color way. My name is Snawley, 
sir," said the stranger. 

Squeers inclined his head as much as to say, "And a re* 
markably pretty name, too." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 3^ 

The stranger continued. " I have been thinking, Mr. 
Squeers, of placing my two boys at your school." 

" It is not for me to say so, sir," replied Mr. Squeers, 
"but I don't think you could possibly do a better thing." 

" Hem ! " said the other. " Twenty pounds per annewum, 
I believe, Mr. Squeers ? " 

" Guineas," rejoined the schoolmaster, with a persuasive 
smile. 

" Pounds for two, I think, Mr. Squeers," said Mr. Snaw- 
ley, solemnly. 

" I don't think it could be done, sir," replied Squeers, as if 
he had never considered the proposition before. " Let me see ; 
four fives is twenty, double that, and deduct the — well, a 
pound either way shall not stand betwixt us. You must rec- 
ommend me to your connection, sir, and make it up that 
way." 

" They are not great eaters," said Mr. Snawley. 

" Oh! that doesn't matter at all," replied Squeers. "We 
don't consider the boys' appetites at our establishment." This 
was strictly true ; they did not. 

" Every wholesome luxury, sir, that Yorkshire can afford," 
continued Squeers : " every beautiful moral that Mrs. Squeers 
can instil \ every — in short, every comfort of a home that a 
boy could wish for, will be theirs, Mr. Snawley." 

" I should wish their morals to be particularly attended 
to," said Mr. Snawley. 

" I am glad of that, sir," replied the schoolmaster, draw- 
ing himself up. " They have come to the right shop for mor- 
als, sir." 

" You are a moral man yourself," said Mr. Snawley. 

"I rather believe I am, sir," replied Squeers. 

" I have the satisfaction to know you are, sir," said Mr. 
Snawley. " I asked one of your references, and he said 3'ou 
were pious." 

" Well, sir, I hope I am a little in that line," replied 
Squeers. 

" I hope I am also," rejoined the other. " Could I say a 
few words with you in the next box } " 

" By all means," rejoined Squeers with a grin. " My dears, 
will you speak to your new playfellow a minute or two ? That 
is one of my boys, sir. Belling his name is, — a Taunton boy 
that, sir." 

" Is he, indeed ? " rejoined Mr. Snawley, looking at the 



40 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

poor little urchin as if he were some extraordinary natural 
curiosity. 

" He goes clown with me to-morrow, sir," said Squeers. 
" That's his luggage that he is a sitting upon now. Each boy 
is required to bring, sir, two suits of clothes, six shirts, six 
pair of stockings, two nightcaps, two pocket-handkerchiefs, 
two pair of shoes, two hats, and a razor." 

" A razor ! " exclaimed Mr. Snawley, as they walked into 
the next box. " What for ? " 

"To shave with," replied Squeers, in a slow and measured 
tone. 

There was not much in these three words, but there must 
have been something in the manner in which they were said, 
to attract attention ; for the schoolmaster and his companion 
looked steadily at each other for a few seconds, and then ex- 
changed a very meaning smile.,, Snawley was a sleek, flat- 
nosed man, clad in sombre garments, and long black gaiters, 
and bearing in his countenance an expression of much morti- 
fication and sanctity ; so, his smiling without any obvious rea- 
son was the more remarkable. 

" Up to what age do you keep boys at your school then ? " 
he asked at length. 

"Just as long as their friends make the quarterly payments 
to my agent in town, or until such time as they run away," re- 
plied Squeers. " Let us understand each other ; I see we may 
safely do so. What are these boys ; — natural children ? " 

" No," rejoined Snawley, meeting the gaze of the school- 
master's one eye. "They ain't." 

" I thought they might be," said Squeers, coolly. " We 
have a good many of them ; that boy's one." 

" Him in the next box ? " said Snawley. 

Squeers nodded in the affirmative ; his companion took 
another peep at the little boy on the trunk, and turning round 
again, looked as if he were quite disappointed to see him so 
much like other boys, and said he should hardly have thought it. 

" He is," cried Squeers. " But about these boys of yours ; 
you wanted to speak to me ? " 

" Yes," replied Snawley. " The fact is, I am not their 
father, Mr. Squeers. I'm only their father-in-law." 

" Oh ! Is that it ? " said the schoolmaster. " That ex- 
plains it at once. I was wondering what the devil you were 
going to send them to Yorkshire for. Ha ! ha ! Oh, I under- 
stand now." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 41 

" You see I have married the mother," pursued Snawley ; 
" it's expensive keeping boys at home, and as she has a Uttle 
money in her own right, I am afraid (women are so very fool- 
ish, Mr. Squeers) that she might be led to squander it on them, 
which would be their ruin, you know." 

" / see," returned Squeers, throwing himself back in his 
chair, and waving his hand. 

" And this," resumed Snawley, "has made me anxious to 
put them to some school a good distance olT, where there are 
no holidays — none of those ill-judged comings home twice a 
year that unsettles children's minds so — and where they may 
rough it a little — you comprehend ? " 

^" The payments regular, and no questions asked," said 
Squeers, nodding his head. 

" That's it exactly," rejoined the other. " Morals strictly 
attended to, though." 

"Strictly," said Squeers. 

" Not too much writing home allowed, I suppose ? " said 
the father-in-law, hesitating. 

" None, except a circular at Christmas, to say they never 
were so happy, and hope they may never be sent for," rejoined 
Squeers. 

" Nothing could be better," said the father-in-law, rubbing 
his hands.- 

"Then, as we understand each other," said Squeers, "will 
you allow me to ask you whether you consider me a highly 
virtuous, exemplary, and well-conducted man in private life ; 
and whether, as a person whose business it is to take charge 
of youth, you place the strongest confidence in my unim- 
peachable integrity, liberality, religious principles, and 
ability ? " 

" Certainly I do," replied the father-in-law, reciprocating 
the schoolmaster's grin. 

" Perhaps you won't object to say that, if I make you a 
reference ? " 

" Not the least in the world." 

" That's your sort ! " said Squeers, taking up a pen ; " this 
is doing business, and that's what I like." 

Having entered Mr. Snawley's address, the schoolmaster 
had next to perform the still more agreeable office of entering 
the receipt of the first quarter's payment in advance, which 
he had scarcely completed, when another voice was heard in- 
quiring for Mr. Squeers. 



42 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Here he is," replied the schoolmaster; " what is it ? " 

" Only a matter of business, sir," said Ralph Nickleby, 
presenting himself, closely followed by Nicholas. " There 
was an advertisement of yours in the papers this morn- 
ing?" 

*' There was, sir. This way, if you please," said Squeers, 
who had by this time got back to the box by the fire-place. 
"Won't you be seated?" 

" Why, I think I will," replied Ralph, suiting the action to 
the word, and placing his hat on the table before him. " This 
is my nephew, sir, Mr. Nicholas Nickleby." 

" How do you do, sir ? " said Squeers. 

Nicholas bowed, said he was very well, and seemed very 
much astonished at the outward appearance of the proprietor 
of Dotheboys Hall : as indeed he was. 

" Perhaps you recollect me ? " said Ralph, looking nar- 
rowly at the school master. 

" You paid me a small account at each of my half-yearly 
visits to town, for some years, I think, sir," replied Squeers. 

"I did," rejoined Ralph. 

" For the parents of a boy named Dorker, who unfortu- 
nately — " 

" — unfortunately died at Dotheboys Hall," said Ralph, fin- 
ishing the sentence. 

"I remember very well, sir," rejoined Squeers. "Ah! 
Mrs. Squeers, sir, was as partial to that lad as if he had been 
her own ; the attention, sir, that was bestowed upon that boy in 
his illness ! Dry toast and warm tea offered him every night 
and morning when he couldn't swallow anything — a candle in 
his bed-room on the very night he died — the best dictionary 
sent up for him to lay his head upon — I don't regret it though. 
It is a pleasant thing to reflect that one did one's duty by 
him." 

Ralph smiled, as if he meant anything but smiling, and 
looked round at the strangers present. 

" These are only some pupils of mine," said Wackford 
Squeers, pointing to the little boy on the trunk and the two 
little boys on the floor, who had been staring at each other 
without uttering a word, and writhing their bodies into most 
remarkable contortions, according to the custom of little boys 
when they first become acquainted. " This gentleman, sir, is 
a parent who is kind enough to compliment me upon the course 
of education adopted at Dotheboys Hall, which is situated, 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 43 

sir, at the delightful village of Dotheboys, near Greta Bridge 
in Yorkshire, where youth are boarded, clothed, booked, 
washed, furnished with pocket-money — " 

" Yes, we know all about that, sir," interrupted Ralph, 
testily. " It's in the advertisement." 

" You are very right, sir ; it is in the advertisement," re- 
plied Squeers. 

"And in the matter of fact besides," interrupted Mr. 
Snawley. " I feel bound to assure you, sir, and I am proud 
to have this opportunity <?/■ assuring you, that I consider Mr. 
Squeers a gentleman highly virtuous, exemplary, well-con- 
ducted, and — " 

" I make no doubt of it, sir," said Ralph, checking the 
torrent of recommendation ; " no doubt of it at all. Suppose 
we come to business ? " 

" With all my heart, sir," rejoined Squeers. _ '_' ' Never 
postpone business,' is the very first lesson we instil into our 
commercial pupils. Master Belling, my dear, always remem- 
ber that ; do you hear? " 

"Yes, sir," repeated Master Belling. 

" He recollects what it is, does he ? " said Ralph. 

"Tell the gentleman," said Squeers. 

" ' Never,' " repeated Master Belling. 

" Very good," said Squeers ; " go on." 

" Never," repeated Master Belling again. 

*' Very good indeed," said Squeers. " Yes." 

" P," suggested Nicholas, good-naturedly. 

" Perform— business ! " said Master Belling. " Never— 
perform — business ! " 

" Very well, sir," said Squeers, darting a withering look at 
the culprit. " You and I will perform a little business on our 
private account by and by." 

"And just now," said Ralph, " we had better transact our 
own, perhaps." 

" If you please," said Squeers. 

" Well," resumed Ralph, " it's brief enough ; soon broach- 
ed ; and I hope easily concluded. You have advertised for 
an able assistant, sir t " 

"Precisely so," said Squeers. 

" And you really want one ? " 

"Certainly," answered Squeers. 

" Here he is ! " said Ralph. " My nephew Nicholas, hot 
from school, with everything he learnt there, fermenting in his 



44 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



head, and nothing fermenting in his pocket, is just the man 
you want." 

" I am afraid," said Squeers, perplexed with such an appli- 
cation from a youth of Nicholas's figure, " I am afraid the 
young man won't suit me." 

" Yes, he will," said Ralph ; " I know better. Don't be 
cast down, sir ; you will be teaching all the young noblemen in 
Dotheboys Hall in less than a week's time, unless this gentle- 
man is more obstinate than I take him to be." 

" I fear, sir," said Nicholas, addressing Mr. Squeers, " that 
you object to my youth, and to my not being a Master of 
Arts .? " 

"The absence of a college degree is an objection," replied 
Squeers, looking as grave as he could, and considerably puz- 
zled, no less by the contrast between the simplicity of the 
nephew and the worldly manner of his uncle, than by the in- 
comprehensible allusion to the young noblemen under his 
tuition. 

" Look here, sir," said Ralph ; " I'll put this matter in its 
true light in two seconds." 

" If you'll have the goodness," rejoined Squeers. 

"This is a boy, or a youth, or a lad, or a young man, or a 
hobbledehoy, or whatever you like to call him, of eighteen or 
nineteen, or thereabouts," said Ralph. 

" That I see," observed the schoolmaster. 

"So do I," said Mr. Snawley, thinking it as well to back 
his new friend occasionally. 

" His father is dead, he is wholly ignorant of the world, 
has no resources whatever, and wants something to do," said 
Ralph. " I recommend him to this splendid establishment of 
yours, as an opening which will lead him to fortune if he turns 
it to proper account. Do you see that ? " 

" Everybody must see that," replied Squeers, half imita- 
ting the sneer with which the old gentleman was regarding his 
unconscious relative. 

" I do, of course," said Nicholas, eagerly. 

" He does, of course, you observe," said Ralph, in the 
same dry, hard manner. " If any caprice of temper should 
induce him to cast aside this golden opportunity before he has 
brought it to perfection, I consider myself absoh'ed from ex- 
tending any assistance to his mother and sister. Look at him, 
and think of the use he may be to you in half a dozen ways ! 
Now, the question is, whether, for some time to come at all 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



45 



events, he won't serve your purpose better than twenty of the 
kind of people you would get under ordinary circumstances. 
Isn't that a question for consideration ? " 

" Yes, it is," said Squeers, answering a nod of Ralph's 
head with a nod of his own. 

" Good," rejoined Ralph. " Let me have two words with 
you." 

The two words were had apart ; in a couple of minutes 
Mr. Wackford Squeers announced that Mr. Nicholas Nickleby 
was, from that moment, thoroughly nominated to, and in- 
stalled in, the office of first assistant master at Dotheboys 
Hall. 

" Your uncle's recommendation has done it, Mr, Nickleby," 
said Wackford Squeers. 

Nicholas, overjc^-ed at his success, shook his uncle's hand 
warmly, and could almost have worshipped Squeers upon the 
spot. 

" He is an odd-looking man," thought Nicholas. " What 
of that ? Porson was an odd-looking man, and so was Dr. 
Johnson ; all these bookworms are." 

" At eight o'clock to-morrow morning, Mr. Nickleby," said 
Squeers, " the coach starts. You must be here at a quarter 
before, as we take these boys with us." 

"Certainly, sir," said Nicholas. 

"And your fare down, I have paid," growled Ralph. 
" So, you'll have nothing to do but keep yourself warm." 

Here was another instance of his uncle's generosit}'^ ! 
Nicholas felt his unexpected kindness so much, that he could 
scarcely tind words to thank him ; indeed, he had not found 
half enough, when they took leave of the schoolmaster, and 
emerged from the Saracen's Head gateway. 

" I shall be here in the morning to see you fairly off," said 
Ralph. "No skulking!" 

" Thank you, sir," replied Nicholas ; " I never shall forget 
this kindness." 

" Take care you don't," replied his uncle. " You had 
better go home now, and pack up what you have got to pack. 
Do you think you could find your way to Golden Square 
first?" 

"Certainly," said Nicholas. " I can easily inquire." 

" Leave these papers with my clerk, then," said Ralph, 
producing a small parcel, " and tell him to wait till I come 
home." 



46 NICHOLAS mCKLEBY. 

Nicholas cheerfully undertook the errand, and bidding his 
worthy uncle an affectionate farewell, which that warm-hearted 
old gentleman acknowledged by a growl, hastened away to 
execute his commission. 

He found Golden Square in due course ; Mr. Noggs, who 
had stepped out for a minute or so to the public-house, was 
opening the door with a latch-key as he reached the steps. 

" What's that ? " inquired Noggs, pointing to the parcel. 

" Papers from my uncle," replied Nicholas ; " and you're 
to have the goodness to wait till he comes home, if you 
please." 

" Uncle ! " cried Noggs. 

"Mr. Nickleby," said Nicholas in explanation. 

" Come in," said Newman. 

Without another word he led Nicholas into the passage, 
and thence into the official pantry at the end of it, where he 
thrust him into a chair, and mounting upon his high stool, 
with his arms hanging straight down by his sides, gazing 
fixedly upon him, as from a tower of observation. 

" There is no answer," said Nicholas, laying the parcel on 
a table beside him. 

Newman said nothing, but folding his arms, and thrusting 
his head forward so as to obtain a nearer view of Nicholas's 
face, scanned his features closely. 

"No answer," said Nicholas, speaking very loud, under 
the impression that Newman Noggs was deaf. 

Newman placed his hands upon his knees, and, without 
uttering a syllable, continued the same close scrutiny of his 
companion's face. 

This was such a very singular proceeding on the part of an 
utter stranger, and his appearance was so extremely peculiar, 
that Nicholas, who had a sufficiently keen sense of the ridic- 
ulous, could not refrain from breaking into a smile as he in- 
quired whether Mr. Noggs had any commands for him. 

Noggs shook his head and sighed ; upon which Nicholas 
rose, and remarking that he required no rest, bade him good- 
morning. 

It was a great exertion for Newman Noggs, and nobody 
knows to this day how he ever came to make it, the other 
party being wholly unknown to him, but he drew a long breath 
and actually said, out loud, without once stopping, that if the 
young gentleman did not object to tell, he should like to know 
what his uncle was going to do for him. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 47 

Nicholas had not the least objection in the world, but on 
the contrary was rather pleased to have an opportunity of 
talking on the subject which occupied his thoughts ; so, he 
sat down again, and (his sanguine imagination warming as 
he spoke) entered into a fervent and glowing description of 
all the honors and advantages to be derived from his ap- 
pointment at that seat of learning, Dotheboys Hall. 

" But, what's the matter — are you ill ? " said Nicholas, 
suddenly breaking off, as his companion, after throwing him- 
self into a variety of uncouth attitudes, thrust his hands under 
the stool, and cracked his finger-joints as if he were snapping 
all the bones in his hands. 

Newman Noggs made no reply, but went on shrugging his 
shoulders and cracking his finger-joints ; smiling horribly all 
the time, and looking steadfastly at nothing, out of the tops 
of his eyes, in a most ghastly manner. 

At first, Nicholas thought the mysterious man was in a fit, 
but, on further consideration, decided that he was in liquor, 
under which circumstances he deemed it prudent to make off 
at once. He looked back when he had got the street-door 
open. Newman Noggs was still indulging in the same extra- 
ordinary gestures, and the cracking of his lingers sounded 
louder than ever. 



CHAPTER V. 

NICHOLAS STARTS FOR YORKSHIRE. OF HIS LEAVE-TAKING AND 
HIS FELLOW-TRAVELLERS, AND WHAT BEFELL THEM ON THE 
ROAD. 

If tears dropped into a trunk were charms to preserve its 
owner from sorrow and misfortune, Nicholas Nickleby would 
have commenced his expedition under most happy auspices. 
There was so much to be done, and so little time to do it in ; 
so many kind words to be spoken, and such bitter pain in the 
hearts in which they rose to impede their utterance ; that the 
little preparations for his journey were made mournfully in- 
deed. x\ hundred things which the anxious care of his mother 
and sister deemed indispensable' for his comfort, Nicholas in- 
sisted on leaving behind, as they might prove of some after 



48 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

use, or might be convertible into money if occasion required. 
A hundred affectionate contests on such points as these, took 
place on the sad night which preceded his departure ; and, as 
the termination of every angerless dispute brought them nearer 
and nearer to the close of their slight preparations, Kate grew 
busier and busier, and wept more silently. 

The box was packed at last, and then there came supper, 
with some little delicacy provided for the occasion, and as a 
set-off against the expense of which, Kate and her mother had 
feigned to dine when Nicholas was out. The poor lad nearly 
choked himself by attempting to partake of it, and almost suf- 
focated himself in affecting a jest or two, and forcing a melan- 
choly laugh. Thus they lingered on till the hour of separa- 
ting for the night was long past ; and then they found that they 
might as well have given vent to their real feelings before, for 
they could not suppress them, do what they would. So, they 
let them have their way, and even that was a relief. 

Nicholas slept well till six next morning ; dreamed of home, 
or of what was home once — no matter which, for things that 
are changed or gone will come back as they used to be, thank 
God ! in sleep — and rose quite brisk and gay. He wrote a 
few lines in pencil, to say the good-by which he was afraid to 
pronounce himself, and laying them, with half his scanty stock 
of money, at his sister's door, shouldered his box and crept 
softly down stairs. 

" Is that you, Hannah ? " cried a voice from Miss La 
Greevy's sitting-room, whence shone the light of a feeble candle. 

"It is I, Miss La Greevy," said Nicholas, putting down the 
box and looking in. 

" Bless us ! " exclaimed Miss La Greevy, starting and put- 
ting her hand to her curl-papers ; " You're up very early, Mr. 
Nickleby." 

" So are you," replied Nicholas. 

" It's the fine arts that bring me out of bed, Mr. Nickle- 
by," returned the lady. " I'm waiting for the light to carry 
out an idea." 

Miss La Greevy had got up early to put a fancy nose into 
a miniature of an ugly little boy, destined for his grandmother 
in the country, who was expected to bequeath him property if 
he was like the family. 

" To carry out an idea," repeated Miss La Greevy ; " and 
that's the great convenience of living in a thoroughfare like 
the Strand. When I want a nose or an eye for any particular 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 4g 

sitter, I have only to look out of window and wait till I get 
one." 

" Does it take long to get a nose, now ? " inquired Nicholas. 

"Why, that depends in a great measure on the pattern," 
replied Miss La Greevy. " Snubs and romans are plentiful 
enough, and there are flats of all sorts and sizes- when there's 
a meeting at Exeter Hall ; but perfect aquilines, I am soriy to 
say, are scarce, and we generally use them for uniforms or 
public characters." 

" Indeed ! " said Nicholas. " If I should meet with any in 
my travels, I'll endeavor to sketch them for you." 

" You don't mean to say that you are really going all the way 
down into Yorkshire this cold winter's weather, Mr. Nickleby 1 " 
said Miss La Greevy. " I heard something of it last night." 

" I do indeed," replied Nicholas. " Needs must, you 
know, when somebody drives. Necessity is my driver, and 
that is only another name for the same gentleman." 

"Well, I am very sorry for it; that's all I can say," said 
Miss La Greevy ; " as much on your mother's and sister's ac- 
count as on yours. Your sister is a very pretty young lady, 
Mr. Nickleby, and that is an additional reason why she should 
have somebody to protect her. I persuaded her to give me a 
sitting or two, for the street door case. Ah ! she'll make a 
sweet miniature." As Miss La Greevy spoke, she held up an 
ivory countenance intersected with very perceptible sky-blue 
veins, and regarded it with so much complacency, that 
Nicholas quite envied her. 

" If you ever have an opportunity of showing Kate some 
little kindness," said Nicholas, presenting his hand, " I think 
you will." 

" Depend upon that," said the good natured miniature 
painter ; " and God bless you, Mr. Nickleby ; and I wish you 
well." 

" It was very little that Nicholas knew of the world, but he 
guessed enough about its ways to think, that if he gave Miss 
La Greevy one little kiss, perhaps she might not be the less 
kindly disposed towards those he was leaving behind. So he 
gave her three or four with a kind of jocose gallantry, and Miss 
La Greevy evinced no greater symptoms of displeasure than 
declaring, as she adjusted her yellow turban, that she had 
never heard of such a thing, and couldn't have believed it 
possible. 

Having terminated the unexpected interview in this satis- 

4 



2 o NIC HO L A S NICKLEB Y. 

factory manner, Nicholas hastily withdrew himself from the 
house. By the time he had found a man to carry his box it 
was only seven o'clock, so he walked slowly ,on, a little in ad- 
vance of the porter, and very probably with not half as light 
a heart in his breast as the man had, although he had no waist- 
coat to cover it with, and had evidently, from the appearance 
of his other garments, been spending the night in a stable, 
and taking his breakfast at a pump. 

Regarding, with no small curiosity and interest, all the 
busy preparations for the coming day which every street and 
almost every house displayed ; and thinking, now and then, 
that it seemed rather hard that so many people of all ranks 
and stations could earn a livelihood in London, and that he 
should be compelled to journey so far in search of one ; Nich- 
olas speedily arrived at the Saracen's Head, Snow Hill. Hav- 
ing dismissed his attendant, and seen the box safely deposited 
in the coach-office, he looked into the coffee-room in search of 
Mr. Squeers. 

He found that learned gentleman sitting at breakfast, with 
the three little boys before noticed, and two others who had 
turned up by some lucky chance since the interview of the 
previous day, ranged in a row on the opposite seat. Mr. 
Squeers had before him a small measure of coffee, a plate of 
hot toast, and a cold round of beef ; but he was at that mo- 
ment intent on preparing breakfast for the little boys. 

"This is twopenn'orth of milk, is it waiter? "said Mr. 
Squeers, looking down into a large blue, mug, and slanting it 
gently, so as to get an accurate view of the quantity of liquid 
contained in it. 

" That's twopenn'orth, sir," replied the waiter. 

" What a rare article milk is, to be sure, in London ! " said 
Mr. Squeers with a sigh. " Just fill that mug up with luke- 
warm water, William, will you ? " 

" To the wery top, sir ? " inquired the waiter. " Why the 
milk will be drownded." 

" Never you mind that," replied Mr. Squeers. " Serve it 
risfht for being so dear. You ordered that thick bread and 
butter for three, did you ? " 

" Coming directly, sir." 

" You needn't hurry yourself," said Squeers ; " there's 
plenty of time. Conquer your passions, boys, and don't be 
eager after vittles." As he uttered this moral precept, Mr. 
Squeers took a large bite out of the cold beef, and recognized 
Nicholas. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



SI 



" Sit down, Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers. " Here we are, 
a breakfasting you see ! " 

Nicholas did not see that anybody was breakfasting, except 
Mr. Squeers ; but he bowed with all becoming reverence, and 
looked as cheerful as he could. 

" Oh ! that's the milk and water, is it, William t " said 
Squeers. " Very good ; don't forget the bread and butter 
presently." 

At this fresh mention of the bread and butter, the five 
little boys looked very eager, and followed the waiter out, 
with their eyes ; meanwhile Mr. Squeers tasted the milk and 
water. 

" Ah ! " said that gentleman, smacking his lips, " here's 
richness ! Think of the many beggars and orphans in the 
streets that would be glad of this, little boys. A shocking 
thing hunger is, isn't it, Mr. Nickleby ? " 

"Very shocking, sir,'' said Nicholas. 

" When I say number one," pursued Mr. Squeers, putting 
the mug before the children, " the boy on the left hand near- 
est the window may take a drink ; and when I say number 
two, the boy next him will go in, and so till we come to 
number five, which is the last boy. Are you ready .'' " 

"Yes, sir," cried all the little boys with great eagerness. 

" That's right," said Squeers, calmly getting on with his 
breakfast ; keep ready till I tell you to begin. Subdue your 
appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human natur. This 
is the way we inculcate strength of mind, Mr. Nickleby," said 
the schoohii aster, turning to Nicholas, and speaking with his 
mouth very full of beef and toast. 

Nicholas murmured something — he knew not what — in 
reply ; and the little boys, dividing their gaze between the 
mug, the bread and butter (which had by this time arrived), 
and every morsel which Mr. Squeers took into his mouth, re- 
mained with strained eyes in torments of expectation. 

" Thank God for a good breakfast," said Squeers when he 
had finished. " Number one may take a drink." 

Number one seized the mug ravenously, and had just drunk 
enough to make him wish for more, when Mr. Squeers gave 
the signal for number two, who gave up at the same interest- 
ing moment to number three ; and the process was repeated 
until the milk and water terminated with number five. 

"And now," said the schoolmaster, dividing the bread and 
butter for three into as many portions as there were children, 



C2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 

" you had better look sharp with your breakfast, for the horn 
will blow in a minute or two, and then every boy leaves off." 

Permission being thus given to fall to, the boys began to 
eat voraciously, and in desperate haste : while the school- 
master (who was in high good humor after his meal) picked 
his teeth with a fork, and looked smilingly on. In a very 
short time, the horn was heard. 

" I thought it wouldn't be long," said Squeers, jumping up 
and producing a little basket from under the seat ; " put what 
you haven't had time to eat, in here, boys ! You'll want it on 
the road ! " 

Nicholas was considerably startled by these very eco- 
nomical arrangements ; but he had no time to reflect upon 
them, for the little boys had to be got up to the top of the 
coach, and their boxes had to be brought out and put in, and 
Mr. Squeers's luggage was to be seen carefully deposited in 
the boot, and all these offices were in his department. He 
was in the full heat and bustle of concluding these operations, 
when his uncle, Mr. Ralph Nickleby, accosted him. 

" Oh ! here you are, sir ! " said Ralph. " Here are your 
mother and sister, sir." 

" Where ! " cried Nicholas, looking hastily round. 
" Here ! " replied his uncle. " Having too much money 
and nothing at all to do with it, they were paying a hackney 
coach as I came up, sir." 

'• We were afraid of being too late to see him before he 
went away from us," said Mrs. Nickleby, embracing her son, 
heedless of the unconcerned lookers-on in the coach-yard. 

"Very good, ma'am," returned Ralph, "you're the best 
judge of course, I merely said that you were paying a hack- 
ney coach. / never pay a hackney coach, ma'am, I never 
hire one. I haven't been in a hackney coach of my own hir- 
ing for thirty years, and I hope I shan't be for thirty more, if 
I live as long." 

" I should never have forgiven myself if I had not seen 
him," said Mrs. Nickleby. " Poor dear boy — going away 
without his breakfast too, because he feared to distress us ! " 
" Mighty fine certainly," said Ralph, with great testiness. 
"When I first went to business, ma'am, I took a penny loaf 
and a ha'porth of milk for my breakfast as I walked to the 
city every morning \ what do you say to that, ma'am ? Break- 
fast ! Bah ! " 

"Now, Nickleby," said Squeers, coming up at the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



S3 



moment buttoning his greatcoat ; " I think you'd better get 
up behind. I'm afraid of one of them boys falUng off, and 
then there's twenty pound a year gone." 

"Dear Nicholas," whispered Kate, touching her brother's 
arm, " who is that vulgar man ? " 

•' Eh ! " growled Ralph, whose quick ears had caught the 
inquiry. " Do you wish to be introduced to Mr. Squeers, my 
dear.?" 

" That the schoolmaster ! No, uncle. Oh no ! " replied 
Kate, shrinking back. 

" I'm sure I heard you say as much, my dear," retorted 
Ralph in his cold sarcastic manner. " Mr. Squeers, here's 
my niece : Nicholas's sister ! " 

"Very glad to make your acquaintance, miss," said 
Squeers, raising his hat an inch or two. "I wish Mrs. 
Squeers took gals, and we had you for a teacher. I don't 
know, though, whether she mightn't grow jealous if we had. 
Ha ! ha ! ha ! " 

If the proprietor of Dotheboys Hall could have known 
what was passing in his assistant's breast at that moment, he 
would have discovered, with some surprise, that he was as 
near being soundly pummelled as he had ever been in his life. 
Kate Nickleby, having a quicker perception of her brother's 
emotions, led him gently aside, and thus prevented Mr. 
Squeers from being impressed with the fact in a peculiarly 
disagreeable manner. 

"My dear Nicholas," said the young lady, "who is this 
man ? What kind of place can it be that you are going 
to?" 

" I hardly know, Kate," replied Nicholas, pressing his 
sister's hand. " I suppose the Yorkshire folks are ra^their- 
rough and uncultivated ; that's all." 

" But this person," urged Kate. 

" Is my employer, or master, or whatever the proper name 
may be," replied Nicholas quickly, " and I was an ass to take 
his coarseness ill. They are looking this way, and it is time I 
was in my place. Bless you love, and good-by ! Mother ; 
look forward to our meeting again some day ! Uncle, fare- 
well ! Thank you heartily for all you have done and all you 
mean to do. Quite ready, sir ! " 

With these hasty adieux, Nicholas mounted nimbly to his 
seat, and waved his hand as gallantly as if his heart went 
with it. 



54 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



At this moment, when the coachman and guard were com- 
paring notes for the last time before starting, on the subject 
of the way-bill ; when porters were screwing out the last re- 
luctant sixpences, itinerant newsmen making the last offer of 
a morning paper, and the horses giving the last impatient 
rattle to their harness ; Nicholas felt somebody softly pulling 
at his leg. He looked down, and there stood Newman Noggs, 
who pushed up into his hand a dirty letter. 

" What's this ? " inquired Nicholas. 

" Hush ! " rejoined Noggs, pointing to Mr. Ralph Nickleby, 
who was saying a few earnest words to Squeers, a short dis- 
tance off. " Take it. Read it. Nobody knows. That's 
all." 

" Stop ! " cried Nicholas. 

" No," replied Noggs. 

Nicholas cried stop, again, but Newman Noggs was gone. 

A minute's bustle, a banging of the coach doors, a swaying 
of the vehicle to one side, as the heavy coachman, and 
still heavier guard, climbed into their seats ; a cry of all right, 
a few notes from the horn, a hasty glance of two sorrowful 
faces below, and the hard features of Mr. Ralph Nickleby — 
and the coach was gone too, and rattling over the stones of 
Smithfield. 

The little boys' legs being too short to admit of their feet 
resting upon anything as they sat, and the little boys' bodies 
being consequently in imminent hazard of being jerked off 
the coach, Nicholas had enough to do, over the stones, to 
hold them on. Between the manual exertion and the mental 
anxiety attendant upon this task, he was not a little relieved 
when the coach stopped at the Peacock at Islington. He 
was still more relieved when a hearty-looking gentleman, with 
a very good-humored face, and a very fresh color, got up 
behind, and proposed to take the other corner of the seat. 

^* If we put some of these youngsters in the middle," said 
the new comer, " they'll be safer in case of their going to 
sleep ; eh? " 

"If you'll have the goodness, sir," replied Squeers, 
" that'll be the very thing. Mr. Nickleby, take three of them 
boys between you and the gentleman. Helling and the 
youngest Snawley can sit between me and the guard. Three 
children, said Squeers, explaining to the stranger, " books as 
two." 

"I have not the least objection, I am sure," said the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. ee 

fresh-colored gentleman ; " I have a brother who wouldn't 
object to book his six children as two at any butcher's or 
baker's in the kingdom, I dare say. Far from it." 

" Six children, sir ? " exclaimed Squeers. 

"Yes, and all boys," replied the stranger, 

" Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers, in great haste, " catch 
hold of that basket. Let me give you a card, sir, of an estab- 
lishment where those six boys can be brought up in an en- 
lightened, liberal and moral manner, with no mistake at all 
about it, for twenty guineas a year each — twenty guineas, sir, 
— or I'd take all the boys together upon an average right 
through, and say a hundred pound a year for the lot." 

" Oh ! " said the gentleman, glancing at the card, " you 
are the Mr. Squeers mentioned here, I presume ? " 

"Yes I am, sir," replied the worthy pedagogue; "Mr. 
Wackford Squeers is my name, and I'm very far from being 
ashamed of it. These are some of my boys, sir ; that's one 
of my assistants, sir — Mr. Nickleby, a gentleman's son, and 
a good scholar, mathematical, classical, and commercial, \^'e 
don't do things by halves at our shop. All manner of learn- 
ing my boys take down, sir ; the expense is never thought of ; 
and they get paternal treatment and washing in." 

" Upon my word," said the gentleman, glancing at Nicho- 
las with a half smile, and a more than half expression of 
surprise, " these are advantages indeed." 

"You may say that, sir," rejoined Squeers, thrusting his 
hands into his greatcoat pockets. " The most unexception- 
able references are given and required. I wouldn't take a 
reference with any boy, that wasn't responsible for the pay- 
ment of five pound five a quarter, no, not if you went down 
on your knees, and asked me with the tears running down 
your face, to do it." 

" Highly considerate," said the passenger. 

" It's my great aim and end to be considerate, sir," re- 
joined Squeers. " Snawley, junior, if you don't leave off 
chattering your teeth, and shaking with the cold, I'll warm 
you with a severe thrashing in about half a minute's time." 

" Sit fast here, genelmen," said theguard as he clambered 

" All right behind there, Dick ? " cried the coachman. 

" All right," was the reply. " Off she goes ! " And off she 
did go, — if coaches be feminine — amidst a loud flourish from 
the guard's horn, and the calm approval of all the judges of 



56 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



coaches and coach-horses congregated at the Peacock, but 
more especially of the helpers, who stood, with the cloths 
over their arms, watching the coach till it disappeared, and 
then lounged admiringly stablewards, bestowing various gruff 
encomiums on the beauty of the turn-out. 

When the guard (who was a stout old Yorkshireman) had 
blown himself quite out of breath, he put the horn into a 
little tunnel of a basket fastened to the coach side for the 
purpose, and giving himself a plentiful shower of blows on the 
chest and shoulders, observed it was uncommon cold ; after 
which, he demanded of every person separately whether he 
was going right through, and if not where he was going. 
Satisfactory replies being made to these queries, he surmised 
that the roads were pretty heavy arter that fall last night, and 
took the liberty of asking whether any of them gentlemen 
carried a snuff-box. It happening that nobody did, he re- 
marked with a mysterious air that he had heard a medical 
gentleman as went down to Grantham last week, say how that 
snuff-taking was bad for the eyes ; but for his part he had 
never found it so, and what he said was, that everybody 
should speak as they found. Nobody attempting to contro- 
vert this position, he took a small brown-paper parcel out of 
his hat, and putting on a pair of horn spectacles (the writing 
being crabbed) read the direction half-a-dozen times over ; 
having done which, he consigned the parcel to its old place, 
put up his spectacles again, and stared at everj^body in turn. 
After this, he took another blow at the horn by way of refresh- 
ment ; and, having now exhausted his usual topics of conver- 
sation, folded his arms as well as he could in so many coats, 
and falling into a solemn silence, looked carelessly at the 
familiar objects which met his eye on every side as the coach 
rolled on ; the only things he seemed to care for, being 
horses and droves of cattle, which he scrutinized with a criti- 
cal air as they were passed upon the road. 

The weather was intensely and bitterly cold ; a great deal 
of snow fell from time to time ; and the wind was intolerably 
keen. Mr. Squeers got down at almost every stage — to 
stretch his legs as he said — and as he always came back 
from such excursions with a very red nose, and composed 
himself to sleep directly, there is reason to suppose that he 
derived great benefit from the process. The little pupils 
having been stimulated with the remains of their breakfast, 
and further invigorated by sundry small cups of a curious 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 57 

Cordial carried by Mr. Squeers, which tasted very like toast- 
and-water put into a brandy bottle by mistake, went to sleep, 
woke, shivered, and cried, as their feelings prompted. Nich- 
olas and the good-tempered man found so many things to 
talk about, that between conversing together, and cheering up 
the boys, the time passed with them as rapidly as it could, 
under such adverse circumstances. 

So the day wore on. At Eton Slocomb there was a good 
coach dinner, of which the box, the four front outsides, the 
one inside, Nicholas, the good-tempered man, and Mr. 
Squeers, partook ; while the five little boys were put to thaw 
by the fire, and regaled with sandwiches. A stage or two 
further on, the lamps were lighted, and a great to-do occa- 
sioned by the taking up, at a road-side inn, of a very fastidious 
lady with an infinite variety of cloaks and small parcels, who 
loudly lamented, for the behoof of the outsides, the non-arri- 
val of her own carriage which was to have taken her on, and 
made the guard solemnly promise to stop every green chariot 
he saw coming ; which, as it was a dark night and he was 
sitting with his face the other way, that oificer undertook, with 
many fervent asseverations, to do. Lastly, the fastidious lady, 
finding there was a solitary gentleman inside, had a small 
lamp lighted which she carried in her reticule, and being after 
much trouble shut in, the horses were put into a brisk canter 
and the coach was once more in rapid motion. 

The night and the snow came on together, and dismal 
enough they were. There was no sound to be heard but the 
howling of the wind ; for the noise of the wheels, and the tread 
of the horses' feet, were rendered inaudible by the thick coat- 
ing of snow which covered the ground, and was fast increasing 
every moment. The streets of Stamford were deserted as 
they passed through the town ; and its old churches rose, 
frowning and dark, from the whitened ground. Twenty miles 
further on, two of the front outside passengers wisely availing 
themselves of their arrival at one of the best inns in England, 
turned in for the night, at the George at Grantham. The re- 
mainder wrapped themselves more closely in their coats and 
cloaks, and leaving the light and warmth of the town behind 
them, pillowed themselves against the luggage, and prepared, 
with many half-suppressed moans, again to encounter the 
piercing blast which swept across the open country. 

They were little more than a stage out of Grantham, or 
about half wly between it and Newark, when Nicholas, who 



^8 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

had been asleep for a short time, was suddenly roused by a 
violent jerk which nearly threw him from his seat. Grasping 
the rail, he found that the coach had sunk greatly on one side, 
though it was still dragged forward by the horses ; and while 
— confused by their plunging and the loud screams of the 
lady inside — he hesitated, for an instant, whether to jump off 
or not, the vehicle turned easily over, and relieved him from 
all further uncertainty by flinging him into the road. 



CHAPTER VI. 

IN WHICH THE OCCURRENCE OF THE ACCIDENT MENTIONED 
IN THE LAST CHAPTER, AFFORDS AN OPPORTUNITY TO A 
COUPLE OF GENTLEMEN TO TELL STORIES AGAINST EACH 
OTHER. 

" Wo ho ! " cried the guard, on his legs in a minute, and 
running to the leaders' heads. " Is there ony genelmen there 
as can len' a bond here ? Keep quiet, dang ye ! Wo ho ! " 

" What's the matter ? " asked Nicholas, looking sleepily 
up. 

" Matther mun, matther eneaf for one neight," replied the 
guard ; " dang the wall-eyed bay, he's gane mad wi' glory I 
think, carse t'coorch is over. Here, can't ye len' a hond ? 
Dom it, I'd ha' dean it if all my boans were brokken." 

" Here ! " cried Nicholas, staggering to his feet. " I'm 
ready. I'm only a little abroad, that's all." 

" Hoold 'em toight," cried the guard, " while ar coot 
treaces. Hang on tiv 'em sumhoo. Weel deane, my lod. 
That's it. Let 'em goa noo. Dang 'em, they'll gang whoam 
fast eneaf ! " 

In truth, the animals were no sooner released than they 
trotted back, with much deliberation, to the stable they had 
just left, which was distant not a mile behind. 

" Can you bio' a harn ? " asked the guard, disengaging 
one of the coach-lamps. 

^' I dare say I can," replied Nicholas. 

" Then just bio' away into that 'un as lies on the grund, 
fit to wakken the deead, will'ee," said the man, "while I stop 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



59 



sum o' this here squealing inside. Cumin', cumin'. Doan't 
make that noise, wooman." 

As the man spoke, he proceeded to wrench open the upper- 
most door of the coach, while Nicholas, seizing the horn, 
awoke the echoes far and wide with one of the most extraor- 
dinary performances on that instrument ever heard by mortal 
ears. It had its effect, however, not only in rousing such of 
the passengers as were recovering from the stunning effects of 
their fall, but in summoning assistance to their relief ; for 
lights gleamed in the distance, and people were already astir. 

In fact, a man on horseback galloped down, before the 
passengers were well collected together ; and a careful inves- 
tigation being instituted, it appeared that the lady inside had 
broken her lamp, and the gentleman his head ; that the two 
front outsides had escaped with black eyes ; the box with a 
bloody nose ; the coachman with a contusion on the temple ; 
Mr. Squeers with a portmanteau bruise on his back ; and the 
remaining passengers without any injury at all — thanks to the 
softness of the snow-drift in which they had been overturned. 
These facts were no sooner thoroughly ascertained, than the 
lady gave several indications of fainting, but being forewarned 
that if she did, she must be carried on some gentleman's 
shoulders to the nearest public house, she prudently thought 
better of it, and walked back with the rest. 

They found on reaching it, that it was a lonely place with 
no very great accommodation in the way of apartments — that 
portion of its resources being all comprised in one public 
room with a sanded floor, and a chair or two. However, a 
large faggot and a plentiful supply of coals being heaped upon 
the fire, the appearance of things was not long in mending ; 
and, by the time they had washed off all effaceable marks of the 
late accident, the room was warm and light, which was a most 
agreeable exchange for the cold and darkness out of doors. 

"Well, Mr. Nickleby," said Squeers, insinuating himself 
into the warmest corner, "you did very right to catch hold of 
them horses. I should have done it myself if I had come to in 
time, but I am very glad you did it. You did it very well ; 
very well." 

" So well," said the merry-faced gentleman, who did not 
seem to approve very much of the patronizing tone adopted 
by Squeers, " that if they had not been firmly checked when 
they were, you would most probably have had no brains left 
to teach with." 



6o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

This remark called up a discourse relative to the prompti- 
tude Nicholas had displayed, and he was overwhelmed with 
compliments and commendations. 

" I am very glad to have escaped, of course," obser\-ed 
Squeers ; " every man is glad when he escapes from danger ; 
but if any one of my charges had been hurt — if I had been 
prevented from restoring any one of these little boys to his 
parents whole and sound as I received him — what would have 
been my feelings ? Why the wheel a-top of my head would 
have been far preferable to it." 

" Are they all brothers, sir ? " inquired the lady who had 
carried the " Davy " or safety-lamp. 

" In one sense they are, ma'am," replied Squeers, diving 
into his greatcoat pocket for cards. " They are all under the 
same parental and affec'tionate treatment. Mrs. Squeers and 
myself are a mother and father to every one of 'em. Mr. 
Nickleby, hand the lady them cards, and offer these to the 
gentlemen. Perhaps they might know of some parents that 
would be glad to avail themselves of the establishment." 

Expressing himself to this effect, Mr. Squeers, who lost 
no opportunity of advertising gratuitously, placed his hands 
upon his knees, and looked at the pupils with as much benignity 
as he could possibly affect, while Nicholas, blushing with 
shame, handed round the cards as directed. 

" I hope you suffer no inconvenience from the overturn, 
ma'am ? " said the merry-faced gentleman, addressing the fas- 
tidious lady, as though he were charitably desirous to change 
the subject. 

" No bodily inconvenience," replied the lady. 
" No mental inconvenience, I hope ? " 
"The subject is a very painful one to my feelings, sir," 
replied the lady with strong emotion ; " and I beg you as a 
gentleman, not to refer to it." 

" Dear me," said the merry-faced gentleman, looking mer- 
rier still, " I merely intended to inquire " 

"I hope no inquiries will be made," said the lady, "or I 
shall be compelled to throw myself on the protection of the 
other gentlemen. Landlord, pray direct a boy to keep watch 
outside the door — and if a green chariot passes in the direc- 
tion of Grantham, to stop it instantly." 

The people of the house were evidently overcome by this 
request, and when the lady charged the boy to remember, as 
a means of identifying the expected green chariot, that it 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 6i 

would have a coachman with a gold-laced hat on the box, and 
a footman, most probably in silk stockings, behind, the atten- 
tions of the good woman of the inn were redoubled. Even 
the box-passenger caught the infection, and growing wonder- 
fully deferential, immediately inquired whether there was not 
very good society in that neighborhood, to which the lady re- 
plied yes, there was : in a manner which sufficiently implied 
that she moved at the very tiptop and summit of it all. 

"As the guard has gone on horseback to Grantham to get 
another coach," said the good-tempered gentleman when they 
had all been sitting round the fire, for some time in silence, 
" and as he must be gone a couple of hours at the very least, 
I propose a bowl of hot punch. What say you, sir ? " 

This question was addressed to the broken-headed inside, 
who was a man of very genteel appearance, dressed in mourn- 
ing. He was not past the middle age, but his hair was gray ; 
it seemed to have been prematurely turned by care or sorrow. 
He readily acceded to the proposal, and appeared to be pre- 
possessed by the frank good-nature of the individual from 
whom it emanated. 

This latter personage took upon himself the office of tap- 
ster when the punch was ready, and after dispensing it all 
round, led the conversation to the antiquities of York, with 
which both he and the gray-haired gentleman appeared to be 
well acquainted. When this topic flagged, he turned with a 
smile to the gray-headed gentleman, and asked if he could sing. 

" I cannot indeed," replied the gentleman, smiling in his 
turn. 

"That's a pity," said the owner of the good-humored 
countenance. " Is there nobody here who can sing a song to 
lighten the time ? " 

The passengers, one and all, protested that they could not ; 
that they wished they could ; that they couldn't remember the 
words of anything without the book ; and so forth. 

"Perhaps the lady would not object," said the president 
with great respect, and a merry twinkle in his eye. " Some 
little Italian thing out of the last opera brought out in town, 
would be most acceptable I am sure." 

As the lady condescended to make no reply, but tossed 
her head contemptuously, and murmured some further expres- 
sion of surprise regarding the absence of the green chariot, 
one or two voices urged upon the president himself, the pro- 
priety of making an attempt for the general benefit. 



6 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" I would if I could," said he of the good-tempered race ; 
" for I hold that in this, as in all other cases where people 
who are strangers to each other are thrown unexpectedly to- 
gether, they should endeavor to render themselves as pleasant, 
for the joint sake of the little community, as possible." 

" I wish the maxim were more generally acted on, in all 
cases," said the gray-headed gentleman. 

"I'm glad to hear it," returned the other. " Perhaps, as 
you can't sing you'll tell us a story ? " 

"Nay. I should ask you." 

" After you, I will, with pleasure." 

" Indeed ! " said the gray-haired gentleman, smiling. 
" Well, let it be so. I fear the turn of my thoughts is not 
calculated to lighten the time you must pass here ; but you 
have brought this upon yourselves, and shall judge. We were 
speaking of York Minster just now. My story shall have some 
reference to it. Let us call it 



THE FIVE SISTERS OF YORK. 

After a murmur of approbation from the other passengers, 
during which the fastidious lady drank a glass of punch unob- 
served, the gray-headed gentleman thus went on : 

" A great many years ago — for the fifteenth century was 
scarce two years old at the time, and King Henry the Fourth 
sat upon the throne of England — there dwelt, in the ancient 
city of York, five maiden sisters, the subjects of my tale. 

" These five sisters were all of surpassing beauty. The 
eldest was in her twenty-third year, the second a year younger, 
the third a year younger than the second, and the fourth a 
year younger than the third. They were tall, stately figures, 
with dark flashing eyes and hair of jet ; dignity and grace 
were in their every movement ; and the fame of their great 
beauty had spread through all the country round. 

" But if the four elder sisters were lovely, how beautiful 
was the youngest, a fair creature of sixteen ! The blushing 
tints in the soft bloom on the fruit, or the delicate painting on 
the flower, are not more exquisite than was the blending of 
the rose and the lily in her gentle face, or the deep blue of 
her eye. The vine, in all its elegant luxuriance, is not more 
graceful than were the clusters of rich brown hair that 
sported round her brow. 

" If we all had hearts like those which beat so lightly in 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 63 

the bosoms of the young and beautiful, what a heaven this 
earth would be ! If, while our bodies grow old and withered, 
our hearts could but retain their early youth and freshness, of 
what avail would be our sorrows and sufferings ! But, the 
faint image of Eden which is stamped upon them in childhood, 
chafes and rubs in our rough struggles with the world, and 
soon wears away : too often to leave nothing but a mournful 
blank remaining. 

" The heart of this fair girl bounded with joy and gladness. 
Devoted attachment to her sisters, and a fervent love of all 
beautiful things in natura, were its pure affections. Her glee- 
some voice and merry laugh were the sweetest music of their 
home. She was its very light and life. The brightest flowers 
in the garden were reared by her ; the caged birds sang when 
they heard her voice, and pined when they missed its sweet- 
ness. Alice, dear Alice ; what living thing within the sphere 
of her gentle witchery could fail to love her ! 

" You may seek in vain, now, for the spot on which these 
sisters lived, for their ver}' names have passed away, and dusty 
antiquaries tell of them as of a fable. But they dwelt in an 
old wooden house — old even in those days — with overhanging 
gables and balconies of rudely-carved oak, which stood within 
a pleasant orchard, and was surrounded by a rough stone wall, 
whence a stout archer might have winged an arrow to Saint 
Mary's abbey. The old abbey flourished then ; and the five 
sisters, living on its fair domains, paid yearly dues to the black 
monks of Saint Benedict, to which fraternity it belonged. 

" It was a bright and sunny morning in the pleasant time 
of summer, when one of those black monks emerged from the 
abbey portal, and bents his steps towards the house of the 
fair sisters. Heaven above was blue, and earth beneath was 
green ; the river glistened like a path of diamonds in the sun ; 
the birds poured "forth their songs from the shady trees ; the 
lark soared high above the waving corn ; and the deep buzz 
of insects filled the air. Everything looked gay and smiling ; 
but the holy man walked gloomily on, with his eyes bent upon 
the ground. The beauty of the earth is but a breath, and 
man is but a shadow. What sympathy should a holy preacher 
have with either ? 

" With eyes bent upon the ground, then, or only raised 
enough to prevent his stumbling over such obstacles as lay in 
his way, the religious man moved slowly forward until he 
reached a small postern in the wall of the sisters' orchard, 



64 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



through which he passed, closing it behind him. The noise 
of soft voices in conversation, and of merry laughter, fell upon 
his ears ere he had advanced many paces ; and raising his 
eyes higher than was his humble wont, he descried, at no great 
distance, the five sisters seated on the grass, with Alice in the 
centre : all busily plying their customary task of embroidering. 

" ' Save you, fair daughters ! ' said the friar ; and fair in 
truth they were. Even a monk might have loved them as 
choice master-pieces of his Maker's hand. 

" The sisters saluted the holy man with becoming rever- 
ence, and the eldest motioned him, to a mossy seat beside 
them. But the good friar shook his head, and bumped him- 
self down on a very hard stone, — at which, no doubt, approv- 
ing angels were gratified. 

" ' Ye were merry, daughters,' said the monk. 

" ' You know how light of heart sweet Alice is," replied the 
eldest sister, passing her fingers through the tresses of the 
smiling girl. 

" ' And what joy and cheerfulness it wakes up within us, 
to see all nature beaming in brightness and sunshine, father,' 
added Alice, blushing beneath the stern look of the recluse. 

" The monk answered not, save by a grave inclination of 
the head, and the sisters pursued their task in silence. 

" ' Still wasting the precious hours,' said the monk at 
length, turning to the eldest sister as he spoke, ' still wasting 
the precious hours on this vain trifling. Alas, alas ! that the 
few bubbles on the surface of eternity — all that Heaven wills 
we should see of that dark deep stream — should be so lightly 
scattered ! ' 

" ' Father,' urged the maiden, pausing, as did each of the 
others, in her busy task, ' we have prayed at matins, our daily 
alms have been distributed at the gate, the sick peasants have 
been tended, — all our morning tasks have been performed. 
I hope our occupation is a blameless one ? ' 

" ' See here,' said the friar, taking the frame from her 
hand, ' an intricate winding of gaudy colors, without purpose 
or object, unless it be that one day it is destined for some 
vain ornament, to minister to the pride of your frail and giddy 
sex. Day after day has been employed upon this senseless 
task, and yet it is not half accomplished. The shade of each 
departed day falls upon our graves, and the worm exults as 
he beholds it, to know that we are hastening thither. Daugh- 
ters, is there no better way to pass the fleeting hours ? ' 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 65 

" The four elder sisters cast down their eyes as if abashed 
by the holy man's reproof, but Alice raised hers, and bent 
them mildly on the friar. 

" 'Our dear motlier,' said the maiden ; ' Heaven rest her 
soul ! ' 

" ' Amen ! ' cried the friar in a deep voice. 

"'Our dear mother,' faltered the fair Alice, 'was living 
when these long tasks began, and bade us, when she should 
be no more, ply them in all discretion and cheerfulness, in our 
leisure hours ; she said that if in harmless mirth and maidenly 
pursuits we passed those hours together, they would prove the 
happiest and most peaceful of our lives, and that if, in later 
times, we went forth into the world, and mingled with its 
cares and trials — if, allured by its temptations and dazzled by 
its glitter, we ever forgot that love and duty which should 
bind, in holy ties, the children of one loved parent — a glance 
at the old work of our common girlhood would awaken good 
thoughts of by-gone days, and soften our hearts to affection 
and love.' 

" ' Alice speaks truly, father,' said the elder sister, some- 
what proudly. And so saying she resumed her work, as did 
the others. 

" It was a kind of sampler of large size, that each sister 
had before her \ the device was of a complex and intricate 
description, and the pattern and colors of all five were the 
same. The sisters bent gracefully over their work ; the monk, 
resting his chin upon his hands, looked from one to the other 
in silence. 

" ' How much better,' he said at length, ' to shun all such 
thoughts and chances, and, in the peaceful shelter of the 
church, devote your lives to Heaven ! Infancy, childhood, 
the prime of life, and old age, wither as rapidly as they crowd 
upon each other. Think how human dust rolls onward to the 
tomb, and turning your faces steadily towards that goal, avoid 
the cloud which takes its rise among the pleasures of the 
world, and cheats the senses of their votaries. The veil, 
daughters, the veil ! ' 

" ' Never, sisters,' cried Alice. ' Barter not the light and 
air of heaven, and the freshness of earth and all the beautiful 
things which breathe upon it, for the cold cloister and the cell. 
Nature's own blessings are the proper goods of life, and we 
may share them sinlessly together. To die is our heavy por- 
tion, but, oh, let us die with life about us ; when our cold 

5 



66 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

hearts cease to beat, let warm hearts be beating near ; let our 
last look be upon the bounds which God has set to his own 
bright skies, and not on stone walls and bars of iron ! Dear 
sisters, let us live and die, if you list, in this green garden's 
compass ; only shun the gloom and sadness of a cloister, and 
we shall be happy.' 

" The tears fell fast from the maiden's eyes as she closed 
her impassioned appeal, and hid her face in the bosom of her 
sister. 

'"Take comfort, Alice,' said the eldest, kissing her fair 
forehead. ' The veil shall never cast its shadow on thy young 
brow. How say you, sisters .'' For yourselves you speak, and 
not for Alice, or for me.' 

" The sisters, as with one accord, cried that their lot was 
cast together, and that there were dwellings for peace and vir- 
tue beyond the convent's walls. 

"'Father,' said the eldest lady, rising with dignity, 'you 
hear our final resolve. The same pious care which enriched 
the abbey of Saint Mary, and left us, orphans, to its holy 
guardianship, directed that no constraint should be imposed 
upon our inclinations, but that we should be free to live ac- 
cording to our choice. Let us hear no more of this, we pray 
you. Sisters, it is nearly noon. Let us take shelter until 
evening ! ' With a reverence to the friar, the lady rose and 
walked towards the house, hand in hand with Alice ; the other 
sisters followed. 

" The holy man, who had often urged the same point be- 
fore, but had never met with so direct a repulse, walked some 
little distance behind, with his eyes bent upon the earth, and 
his lips moving as if in prayer. As the sisters reached the 
porch, he quickened his pace, and called upon them to stop. 

" ' Stay ! ' said the monk, raising his right hand in the air, 
and directing an angry glance by turns at Alice and the elder 
sister, ' Stay, and hear from me what these recollections are, 
which you would cherish above eternity, and awaken — if in 
mercy they slumbered — by means of idle toys. The memory 
of earthly things is charged, in after life, with bitter disap- 
pointment, affliction, death ; with dreary change and wasting 
sorrow. The time will one day come, when a glance at those 
unmeaning baubles will tear open deep wounds in the hearts 
of some among you, and strike to your inmost souls. When 
that hour arrives — and, mark me, come it will — -turn from the 
world to which you clung, to the refuge which you spurned. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



67 



Find me the cell which shall be colder than tlie fire of mor- 
tals grows, when dimmed by calamity and trial, and there 
weep for the dreams of youth. These things are Heaven's 
will, not mine,' said the friar, subduing his voice as he looked 
round upon the shrinking girls. ' The Virgin's blessing be 
upon you, daughters ! ' ~ 

" With these words he disappeared through the postern ; 
and the sisters hastening into the house were seen no more 
that day. 

" But nature will smile though priests may frown, and 
next day the sun shone brightly, and on the next, and the 
next again. And in the morning's glare, and the evening's 
soft repose, the five sisters still walked, or worked, or beguiled 
the time by cheerful conversation, in their quiet orchard. 

'' Time passed away as a tale that is told ; faster indeed 
than many tales that are told, of which number I fear that 
this may be one. The house of the five sisters stood where 
it did, and the same trees cast their pleasant shade upon the 
orchard grass. The sisters too were there, and lovely as at 
first, but a change had come over their dwelling. Sometimes, 
there was the clash of armor, and the gleaming of the moon 
on caps of steel ; and, at others, jaded coursers were spurred 
up to the gate, and a female form glided hurriedly forth, as if 
eager to demand tidings of the weary messenger. A goodly 
train of knights and ladies lodged one night within the abbey 
walls, and next day rode away, with two of the fair sisters 
among them. Then, horsemen began to come less frequently, 
and seemed to bring bad tidings when they did, and at length 
they ceased to come at all, and footsore peasants slunk to the 
gate after sunset, and did their errand there, by stealth. 
Once, a vassal was despatched in haste to the abbey at dead 
of night, and when morning came, there were sounds of woe 
and wailing in the sisters' house ; and after this, a mournful 
silence fell upon it, and knight or lady, horse or armor, was 
seen about it no more. 

"There was a sullen darkness in the sky, and the sun had 
gone angrily down, tinting the dull clouds with the last traces 
of his wrath, when the same black monk walked slowly on, 
with folded arms, within a stones-'throw of the abbey. A 
blight had fallen on the trees and shrubs ; and the wind, at 
length becinnin"; to break the unnatural stillness that had 
prevailed all day, sighed heavily from time to time, as though 
foretelling in grief the ravages of the coming storm. The bat 



68 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

skimmed in fantastic flights through the heavy air, and the 
ground was aUve with crawling things, whose instinct brought 
them forth to swell and fatten in the rain. 

" No longer were the friar's eyes directed to the earth ; 
they were cast abroad, and roamed from point to point, as if 
the gloom and desolation of the scene found a quick response 
in his own bosom. Again he paused near the sisters' house, 
and again he entered by the postern. 

" But not again did his ear encounter the sound of laughter, 
or his eyes rest upon the beautiful figures of the five sisters. 
All was silent and deserted. The boughs of the trees were 
bent and broken, and the grass had grown long and rank. 
No light feet had pressed it for many, many, a day. 

"With the indifl:erence or abstraction of one well accus- 
tomed to the change, the monk glided into the house, and 
entered a low, dark room. Four sisters sat there. Their 
black garments made their pale faces whiter still, and time 
and sorrow had worked deep ravages. They were stately yet, 
but the flush and pride of beauty were gone. 

" And Alice — where was she ? In Heaven. 

" The monk — even the monk — could bear with some grief 
here ; for it was long since these sisters had met, and there 
were furrows in their blanched faces which years could never 
plough. He took his seat in silence, and motioned them to 
continue their speech. 

" ' They are here, sisters,' said the elder lady in a trem- 
bling voice. ' I have never borne to look upon them since, 
and now I blame myself for my weakness. What is there in 
her memory that we should dread ? To call up our old days, 
shall be a solemn pleasure yet.' 

" She glanced at the monk as she spoke, and, opening a 
cabinet, brought forth the five frames of work, completed 
long before. Her step was firm, but her hand trembled as 
she produced the last one ; and, when the feelings of the 
other sisters gushed forth at sight of it, her pent-up tears 
made way, and she sobbed ' Gob bless her ! ' 

"The monk rose and advanced towards them. 'It was 
almost the last thing she touched in health,' he said in a low 
voice. 

" ' It was,' cried the elder lady, weeping bitterly. 

" The monk turned to the second sister. 

" ' The gallant youth who looked into thine eyes, and hung 
upon thy very breath when first he saw thee intent upon this 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



69 



pastime, lies buried on a plain whereof the turf is red with 
blood. Rusty fragments of armor, once brightly burnished, 
lie rotting on the ground, and are as little distinguishable for 
his, as are the bones that crumble in the mould ! ' 

" The lady groaned, and wrung her hands. 

" ' The policy of courts,' he continued, turning to the two 
other sisters, ' drew ye from your peaceful home to scenes of 
revelry and splendor. The same policy, and the restless am- 
bition of proud and fiery men, have sent ye back, widowed 
maidens, and humbled outcasts. Do I speak truly ? ' 

" The sobs of the two sisters were their only reply. 

" ' There is little need,' said the monk, with a meaning 
look, ' to fritter away the time in gewgaws which shall raise 
up the pale ghosts of hopes of early years. Bury them, heap 
penance and mortification on their heads, keep them down, 
and let the convent be their grave ! ' 

" The sisters asked for three days to deliberate ; and felt, 
that night, as though the veil were indeed the fitting shroud 
for their dead joys. But, morning came again, and though 
the boughs of the orchard trees drooped and ran wild upon 
the ground, it was the same orchard still. The grass was 
coarse and high, but there was yet the spot on which they 
had so often sat together, when change and sorrow were but 
names. There was ever}^ walk and nook which Alice had 
made glad ; and in the minster nave was one flat stone be- 
neath which she slept in peace. 

" And could they, remembering how her young heart had 
sickened at the thought of cloistered walls, look upon her 
grave, in garbs which would chill the very ashes within it ? 
Could they bow down in prayer, and when all Heaven turned 
to hear them, bring the dark shade of sadness on one angel's 
face ? No. 

" They sent abroad, to artists of great celebrity in those 
times, and having obtained the church's sanction to their work 
of piety, caused to be executed, in five large compartments of 
richly stained glass, a faithful copy of their old embroidery 
work. These were fitted into a large window until that time 
bare of ornament ; and when the sun shone brightly, as she 
had so well loved to see it, the familiar patterns were reflected 
in their original colors, and throwing a stream of brilliant 
light upon the pavement, fell warmly on the name of SlUcc. 

" For many hours in every day, the sisters paced slowly 
up and down the nave, or knelt by the side of the flat broad 



7° 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



Stone. Only three were seen in the customary place, after 
many years ; then but two, and, for a long time afterwards, 
but one solitary female bent with age. At length she came 
no more, and the stone bore five plain Christian names. 

" That stone has worn away and been replaced by others, 
and many generations have come and gone since then. Time 
has softened down the colors, but the same stream of light 
still falls upon the forgotten tomb, of which no trace remains j 
and, to this day, the stranger is shown in York cathedral, an 
old window called the Five Sisters." 



" That's a melancholy tale," said the merry-faced gentle- 
man, emptying his glass. 

" It is a tale of life, and life is made up of such sorrows," 
returned the other, courteously, but in a grave and sad tone 
of voice. 

" There are shades in all good pictures, but there are lights 
too, if we choose to contemplate them," said the gentleman 
with the merry face. " The youngest sister in your tale was 
always light-hearted." 

" And died early," said the other gently. 

" She would have died earlier, perhaps, had she been less 
happy," said the first speaker, with much feeling. " Do you 
think the sisters who loved her so well, would have grieved 
the less if her life had been one of gloom and sadness .'' If any- 
thing could soothe the first sharp pain of a heavy loss, it would 
be — with me — the reflection, that those I mourned, by being 
innocently happy here, and loving all about them, had pre- 
pared themselves for a purer and happier world. The sun 
does not shine upon this fair earth to meet frowning eyes, de- 
pend upon it." 

" I believe you are right," said the gentleman who had 
told the story. 

" Believe ! " retorted the other, " can anybody doubt it ? 
Take any subject of sorrowful regret, and see with how much 
pleasure it is associated. The recollection of past pleasure 

may become pain " 

r-— It does," interposed the other. 

/"Well; it does. To remember happiness which cannot 
be"fesfored, is pain, but of a softened kind. Our recollec- 
tions are unfortunately mingled with ihuch that we deplore, 
and with many actions which we bitterly repent ; still in the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 71 

most chequered life I firmly think there are so many little 
rays of sunshine to look back upon, that I do not believe , 
any mortal (unless he had put himself without the pale of 
hope) would deliberately drain a goblet of the waters of Lethe, 
if he had it in his power." 

" Possibly you are correct in that belief," said the gray- 
haired aentleman after a short reflection. " I am inclined to 
think you are." 

"Why, then," replied the other, "the good in this state of 
existence preponderates over the bad, let miscalled philoso- 
phers tell us what they will. If our affections be tried, our 
affections are our consolation and comfort ; and memory, 
however sad, is the best and purest link between this world 
and a better. But come ! I'll tell you a story of another kind." 

After a very brief silence, the merry-faced gentleman sent 
round the punch, and glancing slily at the fastidious lady, who 
seemed desperately apprehensive that he was going to relate 
sometliing improper, began 

THE BARON OF GROGZWIG. 

" The Baron Von Koeldwethout, of Grogzwig in Germany, 
was as likely a young baron as you would wish to see. I 
needn't say that he lived in a castle, because that's of course ; 
neither need I say that he lived in an old castle ; for what 
German baron ever lived in a new one t There were many 
strange circumstances connected with this venerable building, 
among which, not the least startling and mysterious were, 
that when the wind blew, it rumbled in the chimneys, or even 
howled among the trees in the neighboring forest ; and that 
when the moon shone, she found her way through certain small 
loopholes in the wall, and actually made some parts of the 
wide halls and galleries quite light, while she left others in 
gloomy shadow. I believe that one of the baron's ancestors, 
being short of money, had inserted a dagger in a gentleman 
who called one night to ask his way, and it was supposed that 
these miraculous occurrences took place in consequence. 
And yet I hardly know how that could have been, either, be- 
cause the baron's ancestor, who was an amiable man, felt very 
sorry afterwards for having been so rash, and laying violent 
hands upon a quantity of stone and timber which belonged to 
a weaker baron, built a chapel as an apology, and so took a 
receipt from Heaven, in full of all demands. 



^2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Talking of the baron's ancestor puts me ni mind of the 
baron's great claims to respect, on the score of lais pedigree, 
I am afraid to say, I am sure, how many ancestors the baron 
had ; but I know that he had a great many more than any 
other man of his time ; and I only wished that he had hved 
in these latter days, that he might have had more. It is a 
very hard thing upon the great men of the past centuries, that 
they should have come into the world so soon, because a man 
who was born three or four hundred years ago, cannot reason- 
ably be expected to have had as many relations before him, 
as a man who is born now. The last man, whoever he is — 
and he may be a cobbler or some low vulgar dog for aught we 
ki-iow — will have a longer pedigree than the greatest nobleman 
now alive ] and I contend that this is not fair. 

" Well, but the Baron Von Koeldwethout of Grogzwig 1 
He was a fine swarthy fellow, with dark hair and large mous- 
tachios, who rode a-hunting in clothes of Lincoln green, with 
russet boots on his feet, and a bugle slung over his shoulder, 
like the guard of a. long stage. When he blew this bugle, four- 
and-twenty other gentlemen of inferior rank, in Lincoln green a 
little coarser, and russet boots with a little thicker soles, turned 
out directly ; and away galloped the whole train with spears 
in their hands like lackered area railings, to hunt down the 
boars, or perhaps encounter a bear : in which latter case the 
baron killed him first, and greased his whiskers with him after- 
wards. 

" This was a merry life for the Baron of Grogzwig, and a 
merrier still for the baron's retainers, who drank Rhine wine 
every night till they fell under the table, and then had the 
bottles on the floor, and called for pipes. Never were ^ such 
jolly, roystering, rollicking, merry-making blades, as the jovial 
crew of Grogzwig. 

" But the pleasures of the table, or the pleasures of under 
the table, require a little variety ; especially when the same 
live-and-twenty people sit daily down to the same board, to 
discuss the same subjects, and tell the same stories. The 
baron grew weary, and wanted excitement. He took to quar- 
relling with his gentlemen, and tried kicking two or three of 
them every day after dinner. This was a pleasant change at 
first ; but it became monotonous after a week or so, and the 
baron felt quite out of sorts, and cast about, in despair, for 
some new amusement. 

" One night, after a day's sport in which he had outdone 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. j-^ 

Nimrod or Gillingwater, and slaughtered ' another fine bear,' 
and brought him home in triumph, the Baron Von Koeldwe- 
thout sat moodily at the head of his table, eyeing the smoky 
roof of the hall with a discontented aspect. He swallowed 
huge bumpers of wine, but the more he swallowed, the more 
he frowned. The gentlemen who had been honored with the 
dangerous distinction of sitting on his right and left, imitated 
him to a miracle in the drinking, and frowned at each other 

" ' I will ! ' cried the baron suddenly, smiting the table with 
his right hand, and twirling his moustache with his left. ' Fill 
to the Lady of Grogzwig ! ' 

"The four-and-twenty Lincoln greens turned pale, with 
the exception of their four-and-twenty noses, which were un- 
changeable. 

" ' I said to the Lady of Grogzwig,' repeated the baron, 
looking round the board. 

" ' To the Lady of Grogzwig ! ' shouted the Lincoln greens ; 
and down their four-and-twenty throats went four-and-twenty 
imperial pints of such rare old hock, that they smacked their 
eight-and-forty lips, and winked again. 

" ' The fair daughter of the Baron Von Swillenhausen,' 
said Koeldwethout, condescending to explain. ' We will de- 
mand her in marriage of her father, ere the sun goes down to- 
morrow. If he refuse our suit, we will cut off his nose.' 

" A hoarse murmur arose from the company ; every man 
touched, first the hilt of his sword, and then the tip of his nose, 
with appalling significance. 

'' What a pleasant thing filial piety is, to contemplate ! If 
the daughter of the Baron Von Swillenhausen had pleaded a 
pre-occupied heart, or fallen at her father's feet and corned 
them in salt tears, or only fainted away, and complimented the 
old gentleman in frantic ejaculations, the odds are a hundred 
to one, but Swillenhausen castle would have been turned out 
at window, or rather the baron turned out at window, and the 
castle demolished. The damsel held her peace, howe\er, 
when an early messenger bore the request of Von Koeldwe- 
thout next morning, and modestly retired to her chamber, from 
the casement of which she watched the coming of the suitor 
and his retinue. She was no sooner assured that the horse- 
man with the large moustachios was her proffered husband, 
than she hastened to her father's presence, and expressed her 
readiness to sacrifice herself to secure his peace. The vener- 
able baron caught his child to his arms and shed a wink of joy. 



j^ NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" There was great feasting at the castle, that clay. The 
four-and-twenty Lincoln greens of Von Koeldwethout ex- 
changed vows of eternal friendship with twelve Lincoln greens 
of Von Swillenhausen, and promised the old baron that they 
would drink his wine 'Till all was blue' — meaning probably 
until their whole countenances had acquired the same tint as 
their noses. Everybody slapped everybody else's back, when 
the time for parting came ; and the Baron Von Koeldwethout 
and his followers rode gayly home. 

" For six mortal weeks, the bears and boars had a holiday. 
The houses of Koeldwethout and Swillenhausen were united ; 
the spears rusted ; and the baron's bugle grew hoarse for 
lack of blowing. 

" Those were great times for the four-and-twenty ; but, 
alas ! their high and palmy days had taken boots to them- 
selves, and were already walking off. 

" ' My dear,' said the baroness. 

" ' My love,' said the baron. 

" ' Those coarse, noisy men •' 

"'Which, ma'am .? " said the baron starting. 

" The baroness pointed, from the window at which they 
stood, to the court-yard beneath, where the unconscious Lin- 
coln greens were taking a copious stirrup-cup, preparatory to 
issuinof forth after a boar or two. 

" ' My hunting train, ma'am,' said the baron. 

" ' Disband them, love,' murmured the baroness. 

" ' Disband them ! ' cried the baron, in amazement. 

" ' To please me, love,' replied the baroness. 

" ' To please the devil, ma'am,' answered the baron. 

" Whereupon the baroness uttered a great cry, and swooned 
away at the baron's feet. 

"What could the baron do ? He called for the lady's maid, 
and roared for the doctor ; and then, rushing into the yard, 
kicked the two Lincoln greens who were the most used to it, 

and cursing the others all round, bade them go but 

never mind where. I don't know the German for it, or I 
would put it delicately that way. 

" It is not for me to say by what means or by what degrees, 
some wives manage to keep down some husbands as they do, 
although I may have my private opinion on the subject, and 
may think that no Member of Parliament ought to be married, 
inasmuch as three married members out of every four, must 
vote according to their wives' consciences (if there be such 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



75 



things), and not according to their own. All I need say, just 
now, is, that the Baroness Von Koeldwethout somehow or 
other acquired great control over the Baron Von Koeldwe- 
thout, and that, little by little, and bit by bit, and day by day, 
and year by year, the baron got the worst of some disputed 
question, or was slyly unhorsed from some old hobby ; and 
that by the time he was a fat hearty fellow of forty-eight or 
thereabouts, he had no feasting, no revelr}^, no hunting train, 
and no hunting — nothing in short that he liked, or used to 
have ; and that, although he was as fierce as a lion and as 
bold as brass, he was decidedly snubbed and put down, by his 
own lady, in his own castle of Grogzwig. 

" Nor was this the whole extent of the baron's misfortunes. 
About a year after his nuptials, there came into the world a 
lusty young baron, in whose honor a great many fireworks 
were let off, and a great many dozens of wine drunk ; but 
next year there came a young baroness, and next year another 
)^oung baron, and so on, every year, either a baron or bar- 
oness (and one year both together), until the baron found him- 
self the father of a small family of twelve. Upon every one of 
these anniversaries, the venerable Baroness Von Swillenhausen 
was nervously sensitive for the well-being of her child, the 
Baroness Von Koeldwethout ; and although it was not found 
that the good lady ever did anything material towards contrib- 
uting to her child's recovery, still she made it a point of duty 
to be as nervous as possible at the castle at Grogzwig, and to 
divide her time between moral observations on the baron's 
housekeeping, and bewailing the hard lot of her unhappy 
daughter. And if the Baron of Grogzwig, a little hurt and 
irritated at this, took heart, and ventured to suggest that his 
was at least no worse off than the wives of other barons, the 
Baroness Von Swillenhausen begged all persons to take no- 
tice, that nobody but she sympathized with her dear daugh- 
ter's sufferings ; upon which, her relations and friends re- 
marked, that to be sure she did cry a great deal more than her 
son-in-law, and that if there were a hard-hearted brute alive, 
it was that Baron of Grogzwig. 

" The poor baron bore it all, as long as he could, and 
when he could bear it no longer lost his appetite and his 
spirits, and sat himself gloomily and dejectedly down. But 
there were worse troubles yet in store for him, and as they 
came on, his melancholy and sadness increased. Times 
changed. He got into debt. The Grogzwig coffers ran low, 



J 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

though the Swillenhausen family had looked upon them as in- 
exhaustible ; and just when the baroness was on the point of 
making a thirteenth addition to the family pedigree, Von 
Koeldwethout discovered that he had no means of replenish- 
ing them. 

" ' I don't see what is to be done,' said the baron. ' I 
think I'll kill myself.' 

" This was a bright idea. The baron took an old hunting- 
knife from a cupboard hard by, and having sharpened it on 
his boot, made what boys call ' an offer ' at his throat. 

" ' Hem ! ' said the baron, stopping short. ' Perhaps it's 
not sliarp enough.' 

" The baron sharpened it again, and made another offer, 
when his hand was arrested by a loud screaming among the 
young barons and baronesses, who had a nursery in an up 
stairs tower with iron bars outside the window, to prevent 
their tumbling out into the moat. 

" ' If I had been a bachelor,' said the baron sighing, ' I 
might have done it fifty times over, without being interrupted. 
Hallo ! Put a flask of wine and the largest pipe, in the little 
vaulted room behind the hall.' 

" One of the domestics, in a very kind manner, executed 
the baron's order in the course of half an hour or so, and Von 
Koeldwethout being apprised thereof, strode to the vaulted 
room, the walls of which, being of dark shining wood, gleamed 
in the light of the blazing logs which were piled upon the 
hearth. The bottle and pipe were ready, and, upon the whole, 
the place looked very comfortable. 

" 'Leave the lamp,' said the baron. 

" ' Anything else, my lord ? ' inquired the domestic. 

" 'The room,' replied the baron. The domestic obeyed, 
and the baron locked the door. 

" ' Til smoke a last pipe,' said the baron, ' and then I'll be 
off.' So, putting the knife upon the table till he wanted it, 
and tossing off a goodly measure of wine, the Lord of Grogz- 
wig threw himself back in his chair, stretched his legs out 
before the fire, and puffed away. 

" He thought about a great many things — about his pres- 
ent troubles and past days of bachelorship, and about the Lin- 
coln greens, long since dispersed up and down the country, 
no one knew whither : with the exception of two who had 
been unfortunately beheaded, and four who had killed them- 
selves with drinking. His mind was running upon bears and 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 77 

boars, when, in the process of draining his glass to the bot- 
tom, he raised his eyes, and saw, for the first time and with 
unbounded astonishment, that he was not alone. 

" No, he was not ; for, on the opposite side of the fire, 
there sat with folded arms a wrinkled hideous figure, with 
deeply sunk and bloodshot eyes, and an immensely long cadav- 
erous face, shadowed by jagged and matted locks of coarse 
black hair. He wore a kind of tunic of a dull bluish color, 
which, the baron observed, on regarding it attentively, was 
clasped or ornamented down the front with coffin handles. 
His legs, too, were encased in coffin plates as though in arm- 
or ; and over his left shoulder he wore a short dusky cloak, 
which seemed made of a remnant of some pall. He took no 
notice of the baron, but was intently eyeing the fire. 

" ' Halloa ! ' said the baron, stamping his foot to attract 
attention. 

*' ' Halloa ! ' replied the stranger, moving his eyes towards 
the baron, but not his face or himself. ' What now ? ' 

" ' What now ! ' replied the baron, nothing daunted by his 
hollow voice and lustreless eyes, ' / should ask that question. 
How did you get here ? ' 

" ' Through the door,' replied the figure 

" ' What are you .'' ' says the baron. 

" 'A man,' replied the figure. 

"' I don't believe it,' says the baron, 

"'Disbelieve it then," says the figure. 

*' ' I will,' rejoined the baron. 

" The figure looked at the bold Baron of Grogzwig for 
some time, and then said familiarly, 

" ' There's no coming over you, I see. I'm not a man ! ' 

" ' What are you then ? ' asked the baron. 

" ' A genius,' replied the figure. 

*' ' You don't look much like one,' returned the baron. 

" ' I am the Genius of Despair and Suicide,' said the ap- 
parition. ' Now you know me.' 

'" With these words the apparition turned towards the baron, 
as if composing himself for a talk — and, what was very remark- 
able, was, that he threw his cloak aside, and displaying a 
stake, which was run through the centre of his body, pulled it 
out with a jerk, and laid it on the table, as composedly as if 
it had been a walking-stick. 

" ' Now,' said the figure, glancing at the hunting-knife, 
* are you ready for me ? ' 



^8 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" ' Not quite,' rejoined the baron ; ' I must finish this pipe 
first.' 

" ' Look sharp then,' said the figure. 

"'You seem in a hurry,' said the baron. 

" 'Why, yes, I am,' answered the figure ; 'they're doing a 
pretty brisk business in my way, over in England and France 
just now, and my time is a good deal taken up.' 

" ' Do you drink ? ' said the baron, touching the bottle with 
the bowl of his pipe. 

" ' Nine times out of ten, and then very hard,' rejoined the 
figure, drily. 

'• ' Never in moderation ? ' asked the baron. 

" ' Never,' repUed the figure, with a shudder, ' that breeds 
cheerfulness.' 

" The baron took another look at his new friend, whom he 
thought an uncommonly queer customer, and at length in- 
quired whether he took any active part in such little pro- 
ceedings as that which he had in contemplation. 

" ' No,' replied the figure evasively ; ' but I am always 
present.' 

" ' Just to see fair, I suppose ? ' said the baron. 

" 'Just that,' replied the figure, playing with the stake, and 
examining the ferule. 

" ' Be as quick as you can, will you, for there's a young 
gentleman who is afflicted with too much money and leisure 
wanting me now, I find.' 

" ' Going to kill himself because he has too much money ! ' 
exclaimed the baron, quite tickled ; ' Ha ! ha ! that's a good 
one.' (This was the first time the baron had laughed for 
many a long day.) 

"'I say,' expostulated the figure, looking very much 
scared ; ' don't do that again.' 

" ' Why not .'' ' demanded the baron. 

" ' Because it gives me pain all over,' replied the figure. 
' Sigh as much as you please ; that does me good.' 

" The baron sighed mechanically, at the mention of the 
word ; the figure, brightening up again, handed him the hunt- 
ing-knife with the most winning politeness. 

" ' It's not a bad idea though,' said the baron, feeling the 
edge of the weapon ; ' a man killing himself because he has 
too much money.' 

" ' Pooh ! ' said the apparition, petulantly, ' no better than 
a man's killing himself because he has none or little." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



79 



" Whether the genius unintentionally committed himself in 
saying this, or whether he thought the baron's mind was so 
thoroughly made up that it didn't matter what he said, I have 
no means of knowing. I only know that the baron stopped 
his hand, all of a sudden, opened his eyes wide, and looked as 
if quite a new light had come upon him for the first time. 

" ' Why, certainly,' said Von Koeldwethout, ' nothing is 
too bad to be retrieved.' 

" ' Except empty coffers,' cried the genius. 

"'Well; but they may be one day filled again,' said the 
baron. 

" ' Scolding wives,' snarled the genius. 

" ' Oh ! They may be made quiet,' said the baron. 

" ' Thirteen children,' shouted the genius. 

" ' Can't all go wrong, surely,' said the baron. 

" The genius was evidently growing very savage with the 
baron, for holding these opmions all at once ; but he tried to 
laugh it off, and said if he would let him know when he had 
left off joking, he should feel obliged to him. 

" ' But I am not joking ; I was never farther from it,' 
remonstrated the baron. 

" ' Well, I am glad to hear that,' said the genius, looking 
very grim, 'because a joke, without any figure of speech, is 
the death of me. Come ! Quit this dreary world at once.' 

" ' I don't know,' said the baron, playing with the knife ; 
' it's a dreary one certainly, but I don't think yours is much 
better, for you have not the appearance of being particularly 
comfortable. That puts me in mind — what security have 1, 
that I shall be any the better for going out of the world after 
all ! ' he cried, starting up ; 'I never thought of that.' 

" ' Dispatch,' cried the figure, gnashing its teeth. 

" ' Keep off ! ' said the baron. ' I'll brood over miseries 
no longer, but put a good face on the matter and try the fresh 
air and the bears again ; and if that don't do, I'll talk to the 
baroness soundly, and cut the Von Swillenhausens dead.' 
With this the baron fell into his chair, and laughed so loud 
and boisterously, that the room rang with it. 

" The figure fell back a pace or two, regarding the baron 
meanwhile with a look of intense terror, and when he had 
ceased, caught up the stake, plunged it violently into its body, 
• uttered a frightful howl, and disappeared. 

" Von Koeldwethout never saw it again. Having once 
made up his mind to action, he soon brought the baroness 



3o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

and the Von Swillenhausens to reason, and died many years 
afterwards : not a rich man that I am aware of, but certainly 
a happy one : leaving behind him a numerous family, who had 
been carefully educated in bear and boar-hunting under his 
own personal eye. And my advice to all men is, that if ever 
they become hipped and melancholy from similar causes (as 
very many men do), they look at both sides of the question, 
applying a magnifying glass to the best one • and if they still 
feel tempted to retire without leave, that they smoke a large 
pipe and drink a full bottle first, and profit by the laudable 
example of the Baron of Grogzwig." 

" The fresh coach is ready, ladies and gentlemen, if you 
please," said a new driver, looking in. 

This intelligence caused the punch to be finished in a great 
hurry, and prevented any discussion relative to the last story. 
Mr. Squeers was observed to draw the gray-headed gentle- 
man on one side, and to ask a question with great apparent 
interest ; it bore reference to the Five Sisters of York, and 
was, in fact, an inquiry whether he could inform him how 
much per annum the Yorkshire convents got in those days 
with their boarders. 

The journey was then resumed. Nicholas fell asleep 
towards morning, and, when he awoke, found, with great 
regret, that, during his nap, both the Baron of Grogzwig and 
the gray-haired gentleman had got down and were gone. The 
day dragged on uncomfortably enough. At about six o'clock 
that night, he and Mr. Squeers, and the little boys, and their 
united luggage, were all put down together at the George and 
New Inn, Greta Bridge. 



CHAPTER VII. 

MR. AND MRS. SQUEERS AT HOME. 

Mr. Squeers, being safely landed, left Nicholas and the 
boys standing with the luggage in the road, to amuse them- 
selves by looking at the coach as it changed horses, while he 
ran into the tavern and went through the leg-stretching pro- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 8 1 

cess at the bar. After some minutes, he returned, with his 
legs thoroughly stretched, if the hue of his nose and a short 
hiccup afforded any criterion ; and at the same time there 
came out of the yard a rusty pony-chaise, and a cart, driven 
by two laboring men. 

" Put the boys and the boxes into the cart," said Squeers, 
rubbing his hands ; " and this young man and me will go on 
in the chaise. Get in, Nickleby." 

Nicholas obeyed. Mr. Squeers with some difficulty in- 
ducing the pony to obey also, they started off, leaving the 
cart-load of infant misery to follow at leisure. 

" Are you cold, Nickleby ? " inquired Squeers, after they 
had travelled some distance in silence. 

" Rather, sir, I must say." 

"Well, I don't find fault with that," said Squeers ; " it's a 
long journey this weather." 

" Is it much farther to Dothebovs Hall, sir ? " asked 
Nicholas. 

" About three mile from here," replied Squeers. " But 
you needn't call it a Hall down here." 

Nicholas coughed, as if he would like to know why. 

"The fact is, it ain't a Hall," observed Squeers drily. 

" Oh, indeed ! " said Nicholas, whom this piece of intelli- 
gence much astonished. 

" No," replied Squeers. " We call it a Hall up in London, 
because it sounds better, but they don't know it by that name 
in these parts. A man may call his house an island if he 
likes ; there's no act of Parliament against that, I believe } " 

"I believe not, sir," rejoined Nicholas. 

Squeers eyed his companion slily, at the conclusion of this 
little dialogue, and finding that he had grown thoughtful and 
appeared in nowise disposed to volunteer any obser\-ations, 
contented himself with lashing the pony until they reached 
their journey's end. 

" Jump out," said Squeers. " " Hallo there ! come and put 
this horse up. Be quick, will you ! " 

While the schoolmaster was uttering these and other im- 
patient cries, Nicholas had time to observe that the school 
was a long, cold-looking house, one story high, with a few 
straggling outbuildings behind, and a barn and stable adjoin- 
ing. After the lapse of a minute or two, the noise of some- 
body unlocking the yard-gate was heard, and presently a tall 
lean boy, with a lantern in his hand, issued forth. 

6 



82 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Is that you, Smike ? " cried Squeers. 

"Yes, sir," replied the boy. 

" Then why the devil didn't you come before ? " 

" Please, sir, I fell asleep over the lire," answered Smike, 
with humility. 

" Fire ! what fire ? Where's there a fire ? " demanded 
the schoolmaster, sharply. 

" Only in the kitchen, sir," replied the boy. " Missus 
said as I was sitting up, I might go in there for a warm." 

" Your Missus is a fool," retorted Squeers. " You'd have 
been a deuced deal more wakeful in the cold, I'll engage." 

By this time Mr. Squeers had dismounted; and after 
ordering the boy to see to the pony, and to take care that he 
hadn't any more corn that night, he told Nicholas to wait at 
the front door a minute while he went round and let him in. 

A host of unpleasant misgivings, which had been crowd- 
ing upon Nicholas during the whole journey, thronged into 
his mind with redoubled force when he was left alone. His 
great distance from home and the impossibility of reaching it, 
except on foot, should he feel ever so anxious to return, pre- 
sented itself to him in most alarming colors ; and as he looked 
up at the dreary house and dark windows, and upon the wild 
country round, covered with snow, he felt a depression of 
heart and spirit which he never had experienced before. 

" Now then ! " cried Squeers, poking his head out at the 
front door. " Where are you, Nickleby ? " 

" Here, sir," replied Nicholas. 

"Come in, then," said Squeers, " the wind blows in, at 
this door, fit to knock a man off his legs." 

Nicholas sighed, and hurried in. Mr. Squeers, having bolt- 
ed the door to keep it shut, ushered him into a small parlor 
scantily furnished with a few chairs, a yellow map hung 
against the wall, and a couple of tables ; one of which bore 
some preparations for supper ; while, on the other, a tutor's 
assistant, a Murray's grammar, half a dozen cards of terms, 
and a worn letter directed to Wackford Squeers, Esquire, 
were arranged in picturesque confusion. 

They had not been in this apartment a couple of minutes, 
when a female bounced into the room, and, seizing Mr. 
Squeers by the throat, gave him two loud kisses : one close 
after the other, like a postman's knock. The lady, who was 
of a large raw-boned figure, \vas about half a head taller than 
Mr. Squeers, and was dressed in a dimity night-jacket ; with 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. g, 

her hair in papers; she had also a dirty nightcap on, relieved 
by a yellow cotton handkerchief which 'tied it under the chin. 

" How is my Squeerj- ? " said this lady in a playful man- 
ner, and a ver\^ hoarse voice. 

"Quite well, my love," replied Squeers. "How's the 
cows } " 

" All right, every one of 'em," answered the lady. 

" And the pigs ? " said Squeers. 

" As well as they were when you went away." 

"Come; that's a blessing," said Squeers,'pulling off his 
great-coat. " The boys are all as they were, I suppose ? " 

"Oh, yes, they're well enough,"' replied Mrs. Squeers, 
snappishly. " That young Pitcher's had a fever." 

" No ! " exclaimed Squeers. " Damn that boy, he's al- 
ways at something of that sort." 

" Never was such a boy, I do believe," said Mrs. Squeers ; 
" whatever he has is always catching too. I say it's obstinacy, 
and nothing shall ever convince me that it isn't. I'd beat It 
out of him ; and I told you that, six months ago." 

"So you did, my love," rejoined Squeers. "We'll Xxy 
what can be done." 

Pending these little endearments, Nicholas had stood, 
awkwardly enough, in the middle of the room, not \&xy well 
knowing whether he was expected to retire into the passage, 
or to remain where he was. He was now relieved from his 
perplexity by Mr. Squeers. 

" This is the new young man, my dear," said that gentle- 
man. 

"Oh," replied Mrs. Squeers, nodding her head at Nicho- 
las, and eyeing him coldly from top to toe. " 

" He'll take a meal with us to-night," said Squeers, "and 
go among the boys to-morrow morning. You can give him a 
shake down here, to-night, can't you ?'" 

" We must manage it somehow," replied the lady. " You 
don't much mind how you sleep, I suppose, sir ? " 

"No, indeed," replied Nicholas, "I am not particular." 

"That's lucky," said Mrs. Squeers. And as the lady's 
humor was considered to lie chiefly in retort, Mr. Squeers 
laughed heartily, and seemed to expect that Nicholas should 
do the same. 

After some further conversation between the master and 
mistress relative to the success of Mr. Squeers's trip, and the 
people who had paid, and the people who had made default 



84 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

in payment, a young servant girl brought in a Yorkshire pie 
and some cold beef, which being set upon the table, the boy 
Smike appeared with a jug of ale. 

Mr. Squeers was emptying his great-coat pockets of let- 
ters to different boys, and other small documents, which he 
had brought down in them. The boy glanced, with an anx- 
ious and timid expression, at the papers, as if with a sickly 
hope that one among them might relate to him. The look 
was a very painful one, and went to Nicholas's heart at once ; 
for it told a long and very sad history. 

It induced him to consider the boy more attentively, and 
he was surprised to observe the extraordinary mixture of gar- 
ments which formed his dress. Although he could not have 
been less than eighteen or nineteen years old, and was tall 
for that age, he wore a skeleton suit, such as is usually put 
upon veiy little boys, and which, though most absurdly short 
in the arms and legs, was quite wide enough for his atten- 
uated frame. In order that the lower part of his legs might 
be in perfect keeping with this singular dress, he had a very 
large pair of boots, originally made for tops, which might 
have been once worn by some stout farmer, but were now 
too patched and tattered for a beggar. Heaven knows how 
long he had been there, but he still wore the same linen which 
he had first taken down ; for, round his neck was a tattered 
child's frill, only half concealed by a coarse, man's necker- 
chief. He was lame ; and as he feigned to be busy in ar- 
ranging the table, glanced at the letters with a look so keen, 
and yet so dispirited and hopeless, that Nicholas could hardly 
bear to watch him. 

" What are you bothering about there, Smike ? " cried Mrs. 
Squeers ; " let the things alone, can't you." 

" Eh ! " said Squeers, looking up. " Oh ! it's you, is it ? " 

" Yes, sir," replied the youth, pressing his hands together, 
as though to control, by force, the nervous wandering of his 
fingers ; " is there " 



<( ' 



Well ! " said Squeers. 

" Have you — did anybody — has nothing been heard — 
about me ? " 

" Devil a bit," replied Squeers testily. 

The lad withdrew his eyes, and, putting his hand to his 
face, moved towards the door. 

"Not a word," resumed Squeers, " and never will be. 
Now, this is a pretty sort of thing, isn't it, that you should 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 85 

have been left here, all these years, and no money paid after 
the first six — nor no notice taken, nor no clue to be got who 
you belong to ? It's a pretty sort of thing that I should have 
to feed a great fellow like you, and never hope to get one 
penny for it, isn't it ? " 

The boy put his hand to his head as if he were making an 
effort to recollect something, and then, looking vacantly at 
his questioner, gradually broke into a smile, and limped away. 

"I'll tell you what, Squeers," remarked his wife as the 
door closed, " I think that young chap's turning silly." 

"I hope not," said the schoolmaster; "for he's a handy 
fellow out of doors, and worth his meat and drink, anyway. 
I should think he'd have wit enough for us though, if he was. 
But come ; let's us have supper, for I am hungry and tired, 
and want to get to bed." 

This reminder brought in an exclusive steak for Mr. 
Squeers, who speedily proceeded to do it ample justice. 
Nicholas drew up his chair, but his appetite was effectually 
taken away. 

" How's the steak, Squeers 1 " said Mrs. S. 

" Tender as a lamb," replied Squeers. " Have a bit." 

" I couldn't eat a morsel," replied his wife. " What'll the 
young man take, my dear ? " 

" Whatever he likes that's present," rejoined Squeers, in 
a most unusual burst of generosity. 

" What do you say, Mr. Knuckleboy > " inquired Mrs. 
Squeers. 

" I'll take a little of the pie, if you please," replied Nicho- 
las. " A very little, for I'm not hungry." 

" Well, it's a pity to cut the pie if you're not hungr)^, isn't 
it?" said Mrs. Squeers. " Will you try a bit of the beef ? " 

" Whatever you please," replied Nicholas, abstractedly : 
" it's all the same to me." 

Mrs. Squeers looked vastly gracious on receiving this 
reply ; and nodding to Squeers, as much as to say that she 
was glad to find the young man knew his station, assisted 
Nicholas to a slice of meat with her own fair hands. 

"Ale, Squeery ? " inquired the lady, winking and frowning 
to give him to understand that the question propounded, 
was, whether Nicholas should have ale, and not whether he 
(Squeers) would take any, 

" Certainly," said Squeers, re-telegraphing in the same 
manner. " A glassful." 



86 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

So Nicholas had a glassful, and, being occupied with his 
own reflections, drank it, in happy innocence of all the fore- 
gone proceedings. 

"Uncommon juicy steak that," said Squeers, as he laid 
down his knife and fork, after plying it, in silence, for some 
time. 

" It's prime meat,'' rejoined his lady. " I bought a good 
large piece of it myself on purpose for " 

" For what ! " exclaimed Squeers hastily. " Not for 
the " 

"No, no; not for them," rejoined Mrs. Squeers; "on 
purpose for you against you came home. Lor ! you didn't 
think I could have made such a mistake as that." 

"Upon my word, my dear, I didn't know what you were 
going to say," said Squeers, who had turned pale. 

" You needn't make vourself uncomfortable," remarked 
his wife, laughing heartily. " To think that I should be such 
a noddy ! Well ! " 

This part of the conversation was rather unintelligible ; 
but pojDular rumor in the neighborhood asserted that Mr. 
Squeers, being amiably opposed to cruelty to animals, not 
unfrequently purchased for boy consumption the bodies of 
horned cattle who had died a natural death ; possibly he was 
apprehensive of having unintentionally devoured some choice 
morsel intended for the young gentlemen. 

Supper being over, and removed by a small servant girl 
with a hungry eye, Mrs. Squeers retired to lock it up, and 
also to take into safe custody the clothes of the five boys who 
had just arrived, and who were half-way up the troublesome 
flight of steps which leads to death's door, in consequence of 
exposure to the cold. They were then regaled with a light 
supper of porridge, and stowed away, side by side, in a small 
bedstead, to warm each other, and dream of a substantial 
meal with something hot after it, if their fancies set that way : 
which it is not at all improbable they did. 

Mr. Squeers treated himself to a stifle tumbler of brandy 
and water, made on the liberal half-and-half principle, allowing 
for the dissolution of the sugar ; and his amiable helpmate 
mixed Nicliolas the ghost of a small glassful of the same com- 
pound. This done, Mr. and Mrs. Squeers drew close up to 
the fire, and sitting with their feet on the fender, talked con- 
fidentially in whispers ; while Nicholas, taking up the tutor's 
assistant, read the interesting legends in the miscellaneous 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 87 

questions, and all the figures into the bargain, with as much 
thought or consciousness of what he was doing, as if he had 
been in a magnetic slumber. 

At length, Mr. Squeers yawned fearfully, and opined that 
it was high time to go to bed ; upon which signal, Mrs. 
Squeers and the girl dragged in a small straw mattress and 
a couple of blankets, and arranged them into a couch for 
Nicholas. 

" We'll put you into your regular bed-rocm to-morrow, 
Nickleby," said Squeers. ''Let me see! Who sleeps in 
Brooks's bed, my dear? " 

" In Brooks's," said Mrs. Squeers, pondering. " There's 
Jennings, little Bolder, Graymarsh, and what's his name." 

"So there is," rejoined Squeers. " Yes ! Brooks is full." 
_ilFull ! " thought Nicholas. " I should think he was." 

"There's a place somewhere, I know," said Squeers; 
j" but I can't at this moment call to mind where it is. How- 
/ever, we'll have that all settled to-morrow. Gcod-i.ight, 
Nickleby. Seven o'clock in the morning, mind." 

"I shall be read}-, sir," replied Nicholas. "Good-night." 

" I'll come in myself and show you where the well is," 
said Squeers. " Youll always find a little bit of soap in the 
kitchen window ; that belongs to you." 

Nicholas opened his eyes, but not his mouth ; and Squeers 
was again going away, when he once more turned back. 

" I don't know, I am sure," he said, " whose towel to put 
you on ; but if you'll make shift with something to-morrow 
morning, Mrs. Squeers will arrange that, in the course of the 
day. My dear, don't forget." 

"I'll take care," replied Mrs. Squeers; "and mind yon 
take care, young man, and get first wash. The teacher ought 
always to have it ; but thev get the better of him if they can." 

" Mr. Squeers then nudged Mrs. Squeers to bring away 
the brandy bottle, lest Nicholas should help himself in the 
night ; and the lady having seized it with great precipitation, 
they retired together. 

Nicholas, being left alone, took half a dozen turns up and 
down the room in a condition of much agitation and excite- 
ment ; but, growing gradually calmer, sat himself down in a 
chair, and mentally resolved that, come what com^ niight, he 
would endeavor, for a time, to bear whatever wretchedness 
might be in store for him, and that remembering the helpless- 
of his mother and sister, he would give his uncle no plea for 



88 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

deserting them in their need. Good resolutions seldom fail 
of producing some good effect in the mind from which they 
spring. He grew less desponding, and — so sanguine and 
buoyant is youth — even hoped that affairs at Dotheboys Hall 
might yet prove better than they promised. 

He was preparing for bed, with something like renewed 
cheerfulness, when a sealed letter fell from his coat pocket. 
In the hurry of leaving London, it had escaped his attention, 
and had not occurred to him since, but it at once brought 
back to him the recollection of the mysterious behavior of 
Newman Noggs. 

" Dear me ! " said Nicholas ; " what an extraordinary 
hand ! " 

It was directed to himself, was written upon ver}^ dirty 
paper, and in such cramped and crippled writing as to be 
almost illegible. After great difficulty and much puzzling, he 
contrived to read as follows : — 

" My dear young Man. 

" I know the world. Your father did not, or 
he would not have done me a kindness when there was no 
hope of return. You do not, or you would not be bound on 
such a journey. 

" If ever you want a shelter in London (don't be angry at 
this, /once thought I never should), they know where I live, 
at the sign of the Crown, in Silver Street, Golden Square. It 
is at the corner of Silver Street and James Street, with a bar 
door both ways. You can come at night. Once, nobody was 
ashamed — never mind that. It's all over. 

" Excuse errors. I should forget how to wear a whole 
coat now. I have forgotten all my old ways. My spelling 
may have gone with them. 

"Newman Noggs. 

"P.S. If you should go near Barnard Castle, there is 
good ale at the King's Head. Say you know me, and I am 
sure they will not charge you for it. You may say Mr. Noggs 
there, for I was a gentleman then. I was indeed." 

It may be a very undignified circumstance to record, but 
after he had folded this letter and placed it in his pocket-book, 
Nicholas Nickleby's eyes were dimmed with a moisture that 
might have been taken for tears. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 89 



CHAPTER VIII. 

OF THE INTERNAL ECONOMY OF DOTHEBOYS HALL. 

A RIDE of two hundred and odd miles in severe weather, 
is one of the best softeners of a Iiard bed that ingenuity can 
devise. Perhaps it is even a sweetener of dreams, for those 
which hovered over the rough couch of Nicholas, and whispered 
their airy nothings in his ear, were of an agreeable and happy 
kind. He was making his fortune very fast indeed, when the 
faint glimmer of an expiring candle shone before his eyes, and 
a voice he had no difficulty in recognizing as part and parcel 
of Mr. Squeers, admonished him that it was time to rise. 

" Past seven, Nickleby," said Mr. Squeers. 

*' Has morning come already .■' " asked Nicholas, sitting up 
in bed. 

" Ah ! that has it," replied Squeers, " and ready iced too. 
Now, Nickleby, come ; tumble up, will you ? " 

Nicholas needed no futher admonition, but " tumbled up " 
at once, and proceeded to dress himself by the light of the 
taper, which Mr. Squeers carried in his hand. 

" Here's a pretty go," said that gentleman ; " the pump's 
froze." 

" Indeed ! " said Nicholas, not much interested in the intel- 
ligence. 

" Yes," replied Squeers. " You can't wash yourself this 
morning." 

" Not wash myself ! " exclaimed Nicholas. 

"No, not a bit if it," rejoined Squeers tartly. " So you 
must be content with giving yourself a dry polish till we break 
the ice in the well, and can get a bucketful out for the boys. 
Don't stand staring at me, but do look sharp, will you ? " 

Offering no further observation, Nicholas huddled on his 
clothes. Squeers, meanwhile, opened the shutters and blew 
the candle out ; when the voice of his amiable consort was 
heard in the passage, demanding admittance. 

" Come in, my love," said Squeers. 

Mrs. Squeers came in, still habited in the primitive night- 
jacket which had displayed the symmetry of her figure on the 



go NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

previous night, and futher ornamented with a beaver bonnet 
of some antiquity, which she wore with much ease and 
lightness, on the top of the nightcap before mentioned. 

" Drat the things," said the lady, opening the cupboard ; 
"I can't find the school spoon anywhere."' 

" Never mind it, my dear," observed Squeers in a soothing 
manner ; " it's of no consequence." 

"No consequence, why how you talk !" retorted Mrs. 
Squeers sharply ; " isn't it brimstone morning ? " 

" I forgot, my dear," rejoined Squeers ; "yes, it certainly 
is. We purify the boys' bloods now and then, Nickleby." 

"Purify fiddlesticks' ends," said his Indy. "Don't think, 
young man, that we go to the expense of flower of brimstone 
and molasses, just to purify them ; because if you think we 
carry on the business in that way, you'll find yourself mistaken, 
and so I tell you plainly." 

" My dear," said Squeers frowning. " Hem ! " 

" Oh ! nonsense," rejoined Mrs. Squeers. " If the young 
man comes to be a teacher here, let him understand, at once, 
that we don't want any foolery about the boys. They have 
the brimstone and treacle, partly because if they hadn't some- 
thing or other in the way of medicine they'd be always ailing 
and giving a world of trouble, and partly because i-t spoils 
their appetites and comes cheaper than breakfast and dinner. 
So, it does them good and us good at the same time, and 
that's fair enough, I'm sure." 

Having given this exclamation, Mrs. Squeers put her 
hand into the closet and instituted a stricter search after the 
spoon, in which Mr. Squeers assisted. A few words passed 
between them while they were thus engaged, but as their 
voices were partially stifled by the cupboard, all that Nicholas 
could distinguish was, that Mr. Squeers said what Mrs. 
Squeers had said, was injudicious, and that Mrs. Squeers said 
what Mr. Squeers said, was " stuff." 

A vast deal of searching and rummaging ensued, and it prov- 
ing fruitless, Smike was called in, and pushed by Mrs. Squeers 
and bo.xed by Mr. Squeers ; which course of treatment bright- 
ening his intellects, enabled him to suggest that possibly 
Mrs. Squeers night have the spoon in her pocket, as indeed 
turned out to be the case. As Mrs. Squeers had previously 
protested, however, that she was quite certain she had not got 
it, Smike received another box on the ear for presuming to 
contradict his mistress, together with a promise of a sound 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. gi 

thrashing if he were not more respectful in future ; so that he 
took nothing very advantageous by his motion. 

" A most invaluable woman, that, Nickleby," said Squeers 
when his consort had hurried away, pushing the drudge before 
her. 

" Indeed, sir ! " observed Nicholas. 

" I don't know her equal," said Squeers ; " I do not know 
her equal. That woman, Nickleby, is always the same — 
always the same bustling, lively, active, saving creetur that 
you see her now." 

Nicholas sighed involuntarily at the thought of the agreea- 
ble domestic prospect thus opened to \\\\\\ ; but Squeers was, 
fortunately, too much occupied with his own reflections to 
perceive it. 

" It's my way to say, when I am up in London," continued 
Squeers, " that to them boys she is a mother. But she is 
more than a mother to them ; ten times more. She does 
things for them boys, Nickleby, that I don't believe half the 
mothers going, would do for their own sons." 

"I should think they would not, sir," answered Nicholas. 

Now, the fact was, that both Mr. and Mrs. Squeers viewed 
the boys in the light of their proper and natural enemies ; or, 
in other- words, they held and considered that their business 
and profession was to get as much from every boy as could 
by possibility be screwed out of him. On this point they 
were both agreed, and behaved in unison accordingly. The 
only difference between them was, that Mrs. Squeers waged 
war against the enemy openly and fearlessly, and that Squeers 
covered his rascality, even at home, with a spice of his habit- 
ual deceit ; as if he really had a notion of some day or other 
being able to take himself in, and persuade bis own mind that 
he was a very good fellow. 

" But come," said Squeers, interrupting the progress of 
some thoughts to this effect in the mind of his usher, " let's 
go to the school-room ; and lend me a hand with my school 
coat, will vou .'' " 

Nicholas assisted his master to put on an old fustian shoot- 
ing-jacket, which he took down from a peg in the passage ; and 
Squeers, arming himself with his cain, led the way across a 
yard, to a door in the rear of the house. 

" There," said the schoolmaster as they stepped in together ; 
" this is our shop, Nickleby ! " 

It was such a crowded scene, and there were so many cb- 



92 



NICHOLAS NTCKLEBY. 



jects to attract attention, that, at first, Nicholas stared about 
him, really without seeing anything at all. By degrees, how- 
ever, the place resolved itself into a bare and dirty room, with 
a couple of windows, whereof a tenth part might be of glass, 
the remainder being stopped up with old copybooks and 
paper. There were a couple of long old rickety desks, cut 
and notched, and inked, and damaged, in every possible way ; 
two or three frames ; a detached desk for Squeers ; and 
another for his assistant. The ceiling was supported, like that 
of a barn, by cross beams and rafters ; and the walls were so 
stained and discolored, that it was impossible to tell whether 
they had ever been touched with paint or whitewash. 

But the pupils — the young noblemen ! How the last faint 
traces of hope, the remotest glimmering of any good to be 
derived from his efforts in this den, faded from the mind of 
Nicholas as he looked in dismay around ! Pale and haggard 
faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances 
of old men, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of 
stunted growth, and others whose long meagre legs would 
hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on the view 
together ; there w^ere the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the crooked 
foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural 
aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of young 
lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one 
horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little 
faces which should have been handsome, darkened with the 
scowl of sullen, dogged suffering ; there was childhood with 
the light of its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helpless- 
ness alone remaining ; there were vicious-faced boys, bloom- 
ing with leaden eyes, like malefactors in a jail ; and there 
were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents 
had descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they 
had known, and lonesome even in their loneliness. With 
every kindly sympathy and affection blasted in its birth, with 
every young and healthy feelings flogged and starved down, 
with every revengeful passion that can fester in swollen hearts, 
eating its evil way to their core ni silence, what an incipient 
HelLwas breedinir here ! 

And yet this scene, painful as it was, had its grotesque 
features, which, in a less interested observer than Nicholas, 
might have provoked a smile. Mrs. Squeers stood at one of 
the desks, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and 
treacle, of which delicious compound she administered a large 



NICHOLAS mCKLEBY. g, 

instalment to each boy in succession : using for the purpose a 
common wooden spoon, which might have been originally 
manufactured for some gigantic top, and which widened every 
young gentleman's mouth considerably : they being all obliged, 
under heavy corporal penalties, to take in the whole of the 
bowl at a gasp. In another corner, huddled together for com- 
panionship, were the little boys who had arrived on the pre- 
ceding night, three of them in very large leather breeches, and 
two in old trousers, a something tighter fit than drawers are 
usually worn ; at no great distance from these was seated the 
juvenile son and heir of Mr. Squeers — a striking likeness of 
his father — kicking, with great vigor, under the hands of 
Smike, who was fatting upon him a pair of new boots that 
bore a most suspicious resemblance to those which the least of 
the little boys had worn on the journey down — as the little 
boy himself seemed to think, for he was regarding the appro- 
priation with a look of most rueful amazement. Besides these, 
there was a long row of boys waiting, with countenances of no 
pleasant anticipation, to be treacled ; and another file, who 
had just escaped from the infliction, making a variety of wry 
mouths indicative of anything but satisfaction. The whole 
were attired in such motley, ill-sorted, extraordinary garments, 
as would have been irresistibly ridiculous, but for the foul ap- 
pearance of dirt, disorder, and disease, with which they were 
associated. 

"Now," said Squeers, giving the desk a great rap with his 
cane, which made half the little boys nearly jump out of their 
boots, " is that physicking over ? " 

•'Just over," said Mrs. Squeers, choking the last boy in 
her hurry, and tapping the crown of his head with the wooden 
spoon to restore him. " Here, you Smike ; take away now. 
Look sharp ! " 

Smike shuffled out with the basin, and Mrs. Squeers having 
called up a little boy with a curly head, and wiped her hands 
upon it, hurried out ofter him into a species of wash-house, 
where there was a small lire and a large kettle, together with 
a number of little wooden bowls which were arranged upon a 
board. 

Into these bowls, Mrs. Squeers, assisted by the hungry 
servant, poured a brown composition, which looked like diluted 
pincushions without the covers, and was called porridge. A 
minute wedge of brown bread was inserted in each bowl, and 
when they had eaten their porridge by means of the bread. 



c,4 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

the boys ate the bread itself, and had finished their break- 
fast ; whereupon Mr. Squeers said, in a solemn voice, '* For 
what we have received, may the Lord make us truly thank- 
ful ! " — and went away to his own. 

Nicholas distended his stomach with a bowl of porridge, 
for much the same reason which induces some savages to 
swallow earth — lest they should be inconveniently hungr)'- 
when there is nothing to eat. Having further disposed of a 
slice of bread and butter, allotted to him in virtue of his office, 
he sat himself down, to wait for school-time. 

He could not but observe how silent and sad the boys all 
seemed to be. There was none of the noise and clamor of a 
school-room ; none of its boisterous play, or hearty mirth. 
The children sat crouching and shivering together, and seemed 
to lack the spirit to move about. The only pupil who evinced 
the slightest tendency towards locomotion or playfulness was 
Master Squeers, and as his chief amusement was to tread upon 
the other boys' toes in his new boots, his flow of spirits was 
rather disgreeable than otherwise. 

After some half-hour's delay, Mr. Squeers reappeared, and 
the boys took their places and their books, of which latter 
commodity the average might be about one to eight learners. 
A few minutes having elapsed, during which Mr. Squeers 
looked very profound, as if he had a perfect apprehension 
of what was inside all the books, and could say ever}^ word of 
their contents by heart if he only chose to take the trouble, 
that gentleman called up the first class. 

Obedient to this summons there ranged themselves in front 
of the schoolmaster's desk, half-a-dozen scarecrows, out at 
knees and elbows, one of whom placed a torn and filthy book 
beneath his learned eye. 

" This is the class in English spelling and philosophy, 
Nickleby," said Squeers, beckoning Nicholas to stand beside 
him. " We'll get up a Latin one, and hand that over to you. 
Now, then, where's the first boy ? " 

" Please, sir, he's cleaning the back parlor window," said 
the temporary head of the philosophical class. 

" So he is, to be sure," rejoined Squeers. " We go upon the 
practical mode of teaching, Nickleby ; the regular education 
system. C-1-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour. 
W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der, winder, a casement. When the boy knows 
this out of book, he goes and does it. It's just the same 
principle as the use of the globes. Where's the second boy !" 



\ 



NICHOLAS mCKLEBY. K)^<)^ 

" Please, sir, he's weeding the garden," replied a small 
voice. 

" To be sure," said Squeers, by no means disconcerted. 
" So he is. B-o-t, bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney, , 
noun substantive, a knowledge of plants. When he has learned 7 
that bottiney means a knowledge of plants, he goes and knows 
'em. That our system, Nickleby ; what do you think of it? " 

" It's a very useful one, at any rate," answered Nicholas. . 

" I believe you," rejoined Squeers, not remarking the 
emphasis of his usher. " Third boy, what's a horse ? " 

" A beast, sir," replied the boy. 

," So it is," said Squeers. " Ain't it, Nickleby ? " 

" I believe there is no doubt of that, sir," answered 
Nicholas. 

" Of course there isn't," said Squeers. " A horse is a 
quadruped, and quadruped's Latin for beast, as every body 
that's gone through the grammar knows, or else where's the 
use of having grammars at all ? " 

" Where, indeed ! " said Nicholas abstractedly. 

" As you're perfect in that," resumed Squeers, turning to 
the boy, " go and look after viy horse, and rub him down well, 
or I'll rub you down. The rest of the class go and draw 
water up, till somebody tells you to leave ofT, for it's washing 
day to-morrow, and they want the coppers filled." 

So saying, he dismissed the first class to their experiments 
in practical philosophy, and eyed Nicholas with a look, half 
cunning and half doubtful, as if he were not altogether certain 
what he might think of him by this time. 

" That's the way we do it, Nickleby," he said, after a 
pause. 

Nicholas shrugged his shoulders in a manner that was 
scarcely perceptible, and said he saw it was. 

" And a very good way it is, too," said Squeers. " Now, 
just take them fourteen little boys and hear them some read- 
ing, because, you know, you must begin to be useful. Idling 
about here, won't do." 

Mr. Squeers said this, as if it had suddenly occurred to 
him, either that he must not say too much to his assistant, or 
that his assistant did not say enough to him in praise of the 
establishment. The children were arranged in a semicircle 
round the new master, and he was soon listening to their dull, 
drawling, hesitating recital of those stories of engrossing 
interest which are to be found in the more antiquated spelling 
books. 



g6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

In this exciting occupation, the morning lagged heavily on. 
At one o'clock, the boys, having previously had their appetites 
thoroughly taken away by stir-about and potatoes, sat down 
in the kitchen to some hard salt beef, of which Nicholas was 
graciously permitted to take his portion to his own solitary 
desk, to eat it there in peace. After this, there was another 
hour of crouching in the school-room and shivering with cold, 
and then school began again. 

It was Mr. Squeers's custom to call the boys together, and 
make a sort of report, after every half-yearly visit to the metro- 
polis, regarding the relations and friends he had seen, the 
news he had heard, the letters he had brought down, the bills 
which had been paid, the accounts which had been left unpaid, 
and so forth. This solemn proceeding always took place in 
the afternoon of the day succeeding his return ; perhaps, be- 
cause the boys acquired strength of mind from the suspense of 
the morning, or possibly, because Mr. Squeers himself acquired 
greater sternness and inflexibility from certain warm potations 
in which he was wont to indulge after his early dinner. Be 
this as it may, the boys were recalled from house-window, 
garden, stable, and cow-yard, and the school were assembled 
in full conclave, when Mr. Squeers, with a small bundle of 
papers in his hand, and Mrs. S. following with a pair of canes, 
entered the room and proclaimed silence. 

" Let any boy speak a word without leave," said Mr. 

Squeers mildly, " and I'll take the skin off his back." 

This special proclamation had the desired elTect, and a 
death-like silence nnmediately prevailed, in the midst of which 

Mr. Squeers went on to say : 

" Boys, I've been to London, and have returned to my 

family and you, as strong and well as ever." 

According to half-yearly custom, the boys gave three feeble 

cheers at this refreshing intelligence. Such cheers ! Sighs 

of e.xtra strength with the chill on. 

" I have seen the parents of some boys," continued 

Squeers, turning over his papers, " and they're so glad to hear 

how their sons are getting on, that there's no prospect at all 

of their going away, which of course is a very pleasant thing 

to reflect upon, for all parties." 

Two or three hands went to two or three eyes when Squeers 

said this, but the greater jDart of the young gentlemen having 

no particular parents to speak of, were wholly uninterested in 

the thing one way or other. 



NICHOLAS NJCKLEB Y 



97 



" I have had disappointments to contend against," said 
Squeers, looking very grim ; " Bolder's father was two pound 
ten short. Where is Bolder?" 

" Here he is, please sir," rejoined twenty officious voices. 
Boys are very like men to be sure. 

" Come here, Bolder," said Squeers. 

An unhealthy-looking boy, with warts all over his hands, 
stepped from his place to the master's desk, and raised his 
eyes imploringly to Squeers's face ; his own quite white from 
the rapid beating of his heart. 

" Bolder," said Squeers, speaking very slowly, for he was 
considering, as the saying goes, where to have him. " Bolder, 
if your father thinks that because — why, what's this, sir? " 

As Squeers spoke, he caught up the boy's hand by the cuff 
of his jacket, and surveyed it with an edifying aspect of horror 
and disgust. 

" What do you -call this, sir ? " demanded the school- 
master, administering a cut with the cane to expedite the 
reply. 

" I can't help it, indeed, sir," rejoined the boy, crying. 
" They will come ; it's the dirty work I think, sir — at least I 
don't know what it is, sir, but it's not my fault." 

" Bolder," said Squeers, tucking up his wristbands, and 
moistening the palm of his right hand to get a good grip of 
the cane, " you are an incorrigible young scoundrel, and as 
the last thrashing did you no good, we must see what another 
will do towards beating it out of you." 

W^ith this, and wholly disregarding a piteous cry for mercy, 
Mr. Squeers fell upon the boy and caned him soundly : not 
leaving off indeed, until his arm was tired out. 

" There," said Squeers, when he had quite done ; " rub 
away as hard as you like, you won't rub that off in a hurry. 
Oh ! you won't hold that noise, won't you ? Put him out, 
Smike.." 

The drudge knew better from long experience, than to 
hesitate about obeying, so he bundled the victim out by a side 
door, and Mr. Squeers perched himself again on his own stool, 
supported by Mrs. Squeers, who occupied another at his side. 
" Now let us see," said Squeers. " A letter for Cobbey. 
Stand up, Cobbey." 

Another boy stood up, and eyed the letter very hard while 
Squeers made a mental abstract of the same. 

" Oh ! " said Squeers : " Cobbey's grandmother is dead, 

7 



98 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



and his uncle John has took to drinking, which is all the news 
his sister sends, except eighteenpence, which will just pay for 
that broken square of glass. Mrs. Squeers, my dear, will you 
take the money ? " 

The worthy lady pocketed the eighteenpence with a most 
business-iike air, and Squeers passed on to the next boy, as 
coolly as possible. 

" Graymarsh,'' said Squeers, " he's the next. Stand up, 
Graymarsh." 

Another boy stood up, and the schoolmaster looked over 
the letter as before. 

" Graymarsh's maternal aunt," said Squeers, when he had 
possessed himself of the contents, " is very glad to hear he's 
so well and happy, and sends her respectful compliments to 
Mrs. Squeers, and thinks she must be an angel. She likewise 
thinks Mr. Squeers is too good for this world; but hopes he 
may long be spared to carry on the business. Would have 
sent the two pair of stockings as desired, but is short of 
money, so forwards a tract instead, and hopes Graymarsh will 
put his trust in Providence. Hopes, above all, that he will 
study in every thing to please Mr. and Mrs. Squeers, and look 
upon them as his only friends ; and that he will love Master 
Squeers ; and not object to sleeping five in a bed, which no 
Christian should. Ah!" said Squeers, folding it up, " a de- 
lightful letter. Very affecting indeed." 

It was affecting in one sense, for Graymarsh's maternal 
aunt was strongly supposed, by her more intimate friends, to 
be no other than his maternal parent ; Squeers, however, 
without alluding to this part of the story (which would have 
sounded immoral before boys), proceeded with the business 
by calling out " Mobbs," whereupon another boy rose, and 
Graymarsh resumed his seat. 

" Mobbs's mother-in-law," said Squeers, " took to her bed 
on hearing that he wouldn't eat fat, and has been very jll ever 
since. She wishes to know, by an early post, where he ex- 
pects to go to, if he quarrels with his vittles ; and with what 
feelings he could turn up his nose at the cow's liver broth, 
after iiis good master had asked a blessing on it. This was 
told her in the London newspapers — not by Mr. Squeers, for 
he is too kind and too good to set anybody against anybody 
— and it has vexed her so much, Mobbs can't think. She is 
sorry to find he is discontented, which is sinful and horrid, 
and hopes Mr. Squeers will flog him into a happier state of 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. gg 

mind ; with this view, she has also stopped liis halfpenny a 
week pocket-money, and given a double-bladed knife with a 
corkscrew in it to the Missionaries, which she had bought on 
purpose for him." 

" A sulky state of feeling," said Squeers, after a terrible 
pause, during which he had moistened the palm of his right 
hand again, " won't do. Cheerfulness and contentment must 
be kept up. Mobbs, come to me ! " 

Mobbs moved slowly towards the desk, rubbing his eyes 
in anticipation of good cause fordoing so ; and he soon after- 
wards retired by the side door, with as good a cause as a 
boy need have. 

Mr. Squeers then proceeded to open a miscellaneous col- 
lection of letters ; some enclosing money, which Mrs. Squeers 
" took care of ;" and others referring to small articles of ap- 
parel, as caps and so forth, all of which the same lady stated 
to be too large, or too small, and calculated for nobody but 
young Squeers, who would appear indeed to have had most 
accommodating limbs, since every thing that came into the 
school fitted him to a nicety. His head, in particular, must 
have been singularly elastic, for hats and caps of all dimen- 
sions were alike to him. 

This business despatched, a few slovenly lessons were per- 
formed, and Squeers retired to his fireside, leaving Nicholas 
to take care of the boys in the school-room, which was very 
cold, and where a meal of bread and cheese was served out 
shortly after dark. 

There was a small stove at that corner of the room which 
was nearest to the master's desk, and by it Nicholas sat down, 
so depressed and self-degraded by the consciousness of his 
position, that if death could have come upon him at that time, 
he would have been almost happy to meet it. The cruelty of 
which he had been an unwilling witness, the coarse and ruf- 
fianly behavior of Squeers even in his best mood?, the filthy 
place, the sights and sounds about him, all contributed to this 
state of feeling ; but when he recollected that, being there as 
as an assistant, he actually seemed— no matter what unhappy 
train of circumstances had brought him to that pass — to be 
the aider and abettor of a system which filled him with honest 
disgust and indignation, he loathed himself, and felt, for the 
moment, as though the mere consciousness of his present sit- 
uation must, through all time to come, pre\ent his raising his 
head again. 



loo NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

But, for the present, his resolve was taken, and the reso- 
lution he had formed on the preceding night remained undis- 
turbed. He had written to his mother and sister, announcing 
the safe conclusion of his journey, and saying as linle about 
Dotheboys Hall, and saying that little as cheerfully as he 
possibly could. He hoped that by remaining where he was, 
he might do some good, even there ; at all events, others de- 
pended too much on his uncle's favor, to admit of his awaken- 
ing his wrath just then. 

One reflection disturbed him far more than any selfish 
considerations arising out of his own position. This was the 
probable destination of his sister Kate. His uncle had de- 
ceived him, and might he not consign her to some miserable 
place where her youth and beauty would prove a far greater 
curse than ugliness and decrepitude ? To a caged man, 
bound hand and foot, this was a terrible idea ; — but no, he 
thought, his mother was by ; there was the portrait-painter, 
too — simple enough, but still living in the world, and of it. 
He was willing to believe that Ralph Nickleby had conceived 
a personal dislike to himself. Having pretty good reason, by 
this time, to reciprocate it, he had no great difificulty in arriv- 
ing at this conclusion, and tried to persuade himself that the 
feeling extended no farther than between them. 

As he was absorbed in these meditations, he all at once 
encountered the upturned face of Smike, who was on his 
knees before the stove, picking a few stray cinders from the 
hearth and planting them on the fire. He had paused to steal 
a look at Nicholas, and when he saw that he was obser\-ed, 
shrunk back, as if expecting a blow. 

" You need not fear me," said Nicholas kindly. " Are 
you cold? " 

"N-n-o." 

" You are shivering." 

" I am not cold," replied Smike quickly. " I am used 
to it." 

There was such an obvious fear of giving offence in his 
manner, and he was such a timid, broken-spirited creature, 
that Nicholas could not help exclaiming, " Poor fellow ! " 

If he had struck the drudge, he would have slunk away 
without a word. 15ut, now, he burst into tears. 

" Oh dear, oh dear ! " he cried, covering his face with his 
cracked and horny hands. " My heart will break. It will, it 
will." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. i o i 

" Hush ! " said Nicholas, laying his hand upon his shoul- 
der. " Be a man ; you are nearly one by years, God help 
you." 

" By years ! " cried Smike. " Oh dear, dear, how many of 
them ! How many of them since I was a liule child, younger 
than any that are here now ! Where are they all ! " 

" Whom do you speak of ? " inquired Nicholas, wishing 
tj rouse the poor half-witted creature to reason. "Tell 
me." 

"My friends," he replied, "myself — my — oh! what suf- 
ferinsrs mine have been ! " 

" There is always hope," said Nicholas ; he knew not what 
to say. 

" No," rejoined the other, " no ; none for me. Do you re- 
member the boy that died here t " 

" I was not here, you know," said Nicholas gently ; " but 
what of him ? " 

" Why," replied the youth, drawing closer to his questioner's 
side. " I was with him at night, and when it was all silent he 
cried no more for friends he wished to come and sit with him, 
but be^an to see faces round his bed that came from home ; 
he said they smiled and talked to him ; and he died at last lift- 
in r his head to kiss them. Do vou hear ? " 

" Yes, yes," rejoined Nicholas. 

" What faces will smile on me when I die ! " cried his 
companion, shivering. " Who will talk to me in those long 
nights ! They cannot come from home ; they would frighten 
me, if they did, for I don't know what it is, and shouldn't 
know them. Pain and fear, pain and fear for me, alive or 
dead. No hope, no hope ! " 

The bell rang to bed : and the boy, subsiding at the sound 
into his usual listless state, crept away as if anxious to avoid 
notice. It was with a heavy heart that Nicholas soon after- 
wards — no, not retired ; there was no retirement there — fol- 
lowed — to his dirty and crowded dormitory. 



I02 NICHOLAS XICKLEBY. 



CHAPTER IX. 

OF MISS SQUEERS, MRS. SQUEERS, MASTER SQUEERS, AND MR. 
SQUEERS ; AND OF VARIOUS MATTERS AND PERSONS CON- 
NECTED NO LESS WITH THE SQUEERSES THAN WITH NICH- 
OLAS NICKLEBY. 

When Mr. Squeers left the school-room for the night, he 
betook himself, as has been before remarked, to his own fire- 
side, which was situated — not in the room in which Nicholas 
had supped on the night of his arrival, but in a smaller depart- 
ment in the rear of the premises, where his lady wife, his ami- 
able son, and accomplislied daughter, were in the full enjoy- 
ment of each other's society ; Mrs. S queers being engaged in 
the matronly pursuit of stocking-dar ling ; and the young lady 
and gentleman being occupied in the adjustment of some 
youthful differences, by means of pugilistic contests across the 
table, which, on the approach of their honored parent, sub- 
sided into a noiseless exchange of kicks beneath it. 

And, in this place, it may be as well to apprise the reader, 
that Miss Fanny Squeers was in her three-and-twentieth year. 
If there be any one grace or loveliness inseparable from that 
particular period of life, Miss Squeers may be presumed to 
have been possessed of it, as there is no reason to suppose 
that she was a solitary exception to an universal rule. She 
was not tall like her mother, but short like her father ; from 
the former she inherited a voice of harsh quality ; from the 
latter a remarkable expression of the right eye, something 
akin to having none at all. 

Miss Squeers had been spending a few days with a neigh- 
boring friend, and had only just returned to the parental roof. 
To this circumstance may be referred, her having heard noth- 
ing of Nicholas, until Mr. Squeers himself now made him the 
subject of conversation. 

"Well, my dear," said Squeers, drawing up his chair, 
"what do you think of him by this time ?" 

"Think of who .'" inquired Mrs. Squeers; who (as she 
often remarked)\vas no grammarian, thank Heaven. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 103 

" Of the young man — the new teacher — who else could I 
mean." 

" Oh ! that Knuckleboy," said Mrs. Squeers impatiently. 
" I hate him." 

" What do you hate him for, my dear ? " asked Squeers. 

" What's that to you ? " retorted Mrs. Squeers. " If I hate 
him, that's enough ain't it." 

" Quite enough for him, my dear, and a great deal too much 
I dare say, if he knew it," replied Squeers in a pacific tone. " I 
only asked from curiosity, my dear." 

" Well, then, if you want to know," rejoined Mrs. Squeers, 
" I'll tell you. Because he's a proud, haughty consequential, 
turned-up-nosed peacock." 

Mrs. Squeers, when excited, was accustomed to use strong 
language, and, moreover, to make use of plurality of epithets, 
some of which was of a figurative kind, as the word peacock, 
and furthermore the allusion to Nicholas's nose, which was not 
intended to be taken in its literal sense, but rather to bear a 
latitude of construction according to the fancy of the hearers. 

Neither were they meant to bear reference to each other, 
so much as to the object on whom they were bestowed, as will 
be seen in the present case : a peacock with a turned-up-nose 
being a novelty in ornithology, and a thing not commonly 
seen. 

" Hem ! " said Squeers, as if in mild deprecation of this 
outbreak. " He is cheap, my dear ; the young man is very 
cheap." 

" Not a bit of it," retorted Mrs. Squeers. 

" Five pound a year," said Squeers. 

" What of that ; it's dear if you don't want him, isn't it ? " 
replied his wife. 

" But we do want him," urged Squeers. 

" I don't see that you want him any more than the dead," 
said Mrs. Squeers. " Don't tell me. You can put on the 
cards and in the advertisements, ' Education by Mr. Wack- 
ford Squeers and able assistants,' without having any assistants 
can't you ? Isn't it done every day by all the masters about .'' 
I've no patience with you." 

" Haven't you ! " said Squeers, sternly. " Now I'll tell you 
what Mrs. Squeers. In this matter of having a teacher, I'll 
take my own way, if you please. A slave driver in the West 
Indies is allowed a man under him, to see that his blacks 
don't run away, or get up a rebellion ; and I'll have a man 



I04 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

under me to do t4ie same with our blacks, till such time as 
little Wackford is able to take charge of the school." 

" Am I to lake care of the school when I grow up a man, 
father ? " said Wackford junior, suspending in the excess of 
his delight, a vicious kick which he was administering to his 
sister. 

" You are, my son," replied Mr. Squeers in a sentimental 
voice. 

" Oh my eye, won't I give it to the boys ! " exclaimed the 
interesting child, grasping his father's cane. " Oh, father, 
won't I make 'em squeak again ! " 

.It was a proud moment in Mr. Squeers's life, when he 
witnessed that burst of enthusiasm in his young child's mind, 
and saw in it a foreshadowing of his future eminence. He 
pressed a penny into his hand, and gave vent to his feelings 
(as did his exemplary wife also), in a shout of approving laugh- 
ter. The infantine appeal to their common sympathies, at 
once restored cheerfulness to the conversation and harmony 
to the company. 

" He's a nasty stuck-up monkey, that's what I consider 
him," said Mrs. Squeers reverting to Nicholas. 

" Supposing he is," said Squeers, " he is as well stuck up in 
our school-room as anywhere else, isn't he ? — ^especially as he 
don't like it." 

"Well," observed Mrs. Squeers, "there's something in 
that. I hope it'll bring his pride down, and it shall be no 
fault of mine if it don't." 

Now, a proud usher in a Yorkshire school was such a very 
extraordinary and unaccountable thing to hear of, — any usher 
at all being a novelty ; but a proud one, a being of whose ex- 
istence the wildest imagination could never have dreamed — 
that Miss Squeers, who seldom troubled herself with scholas- 
tic matters, inquired with much curiosity who this Knuckle- 
boy was, that gave himself such airs. 

"Nickleby," said Squeers, spelling the name according to 
some eccentric system which prevailed in his own mind ; " your 
motlier always calls things and people by their wrong names." 

" No matter for that," said Mrs. Squeers, " I see them 
with right eyes, and that's quite enough for me. I watched 
him when you were laying on to little Bolder this afternoon. 
He looked as black as thunder, all the while, and, one time 
started up as if he had more than made up his mind to make 
a rush at you. / saw him though he thought I didn't." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 1 05 

" Never mind that, father," said Miss Squeers, as the head 
of the family was about to reply. " Who is the man ? " 

" Wiiy, your father has got some nonsense in his head that 
he's the son of a poor gentleman that died the other day," 
said Mrs. Squeers. 

" The son of a gentleman ! " 

" Yes ; but I don't believe a word of it. If he's a gentle- 
man's son at all, he's a fondling, that's my opinion." 

Mrs. Squeers intended to say " foundling," but, as she fre- 
quently remarked when she made any such mistake, it would 
be all die same a hundred years hence ; with which axiom of 
philosophy, she was in the constant habit of consoling the 
boys when they labored under more than ordinary ill usage. 

" He's nothing of the kind," said Squeers, in answer to 
the above remark, " for his father was married to his mother 
years before he was born, and she is ali\ e now. If he was, it 
would be no business of ours, for we make a very good friend 
by having him here ; and if he likes to learn the boys any- 
thing besides minding them, I have no objection I am sure." 

" I say again, I hate him worse than poison," said Mrs 
Squeers, vehemently. 

" If you dislike him, my dear," returned Squeers, " I 
don't know anybody who can show dislike better than you, 
and of course there's no occasion, with him, to take the trou- 
ble to hide it." 

" I don't intend to, I assure you," interposed Mrs. S. 

" That's right," said Squeers ; " and if he has a touch of 
pride about him, as I think he has, I don't believe there's a 
woman in all England that can bring anybody's spirit down, 
as quick as you can, my love." 

Mrs. Squeers chuckled vastly on the receipt of these com- 
pliments, and said, she hoped she had tamed a high spirit or 
two, in her day. It is but due to her character to say, that in 
conjunction with her estimable husband, she had broken 
manv and many a one. 

Miss Fanny Squeers carefully treasured up this, and much 
more conversation on the same subject, until she retired for 
the ni'dit, when she questioned the hungry servant, minutely, 
regarding the outward appearance and demeanor of Nicholas ; 
toVhich queries the girl returned such enthusiastic replies, 
coupled with so many laudatory remarks touching his beauti- 
ful dark eyes, and his sweet smile, and his straight legs — upon 
which last-named articles she laid particular stress ; the gen- 



1 06 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

eral run of legs at Dotheboys Hall being crooked — that Miss 
Squeers was not long in arriving at the conclusion that the new 
usher must be a very remarkable person, or, as she herself 
significantly phrased it, " something quite out of the com- 
mon." And so Miss Squeers made up her mind that she 
would take a personal observation of Nicholas the very next 
day. 

In pursuance of this design, the young lady watched the 
opportunity of her mother being engaged, and her father ab- 
sent, and went accidentally into the school-room to get a pen 
mended : where, seeing nobody but Nicholas presiding over 
the boys, she blushed very deeply, and exhibited great con- 
fusion. 

" I beg your pardon," faltered Miss Squeers ; " I thought 
my father was — or might be — ^dear me, how very awkward ! " 

" Mr. Squeers is out," said Nicholas, by no means over- 
come by the apparition, unexpected though it was. 

'" Do you know will he be long, sir ? " asked Miss Squeers, 
with bashful hesitation. 

" He said about an hour," replied Nicholas — politely of 
course but without any indication of being stricken to the 
heart by Miss Squeers's charms. 

" I never knew anything happen so cross," exclaimed the 
young lady. " Thank you ! I am veiy sorry I intruded, I 
am sure. If I hadn't thought my father was here, I wouldn't 
upon any account have — it is very provoking — must look so 
very strange," murmured Miss Squeers, blushing once more, 
and glancing from the pen in her hand, to Nicholas at his 
desk, and back again. 

" If that is all you want," said Nicholas, pointing to the 
pen, and smiling, in spite of himself, at the affected embar- 
rassment of the schoolmaster's daughter, " perhaps I can 
supply his place." 

Miss Squeers glanced at the door, as if dubious of the 
propriety of advancing any nearer to an utter stranger ; then 
round the school-room, as though in some measure reassured 
by the presence of forty boys ; and finally sidled up to 
Nicholas and delivered the pen into his hand, with a most 
winning mixture of reserve and condescension. 

" Shall it be a hard or a soft nib ? " inquired Nicholas, 
smiling to prevent himself from laughing outright. 

" He /las a beautiful smile," thought Miss Squeers. 

" Which did you say .? " asked Nicholas. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y- 



107 



" Dear me, I was thinking of something else for the mo- 
ment, I declare," replied Miss Squeers — "Oh! as soft as 
possible, if you please." With which words Miss Squeers 
sighed. It might be to give Nicholas to understand that her 
heart was soft, and that the pen was wanted to match. 

Upon these instructions Nicholas made the pen ; when he 
gave it to Miss Squeers, Miss Squeers dropped it ; and when 
he stooped to pick it up Miss Squeers stooped also, and they 
knocked their heads together ; whereat five-and-twenty little 
boys laughed aloud ; being positively for the first and only 
time that half year. 

" Very awkward of me," said Nicholas, opening the door 
for the young lady's retreat. 

" Not at all, sir," replied Miss Squeers ; '' it was my fault. 
It was all my foolish — a — a — good-morning ! " 

"Good-by," said Nicholas. "The next I make for you 
I hope will be made less clumsily. Take care ! You are 
biting the nib off now." 

" Really," said Miss Squeers ; " so embarrassing that I 
scarcely know what I — very sorry to give you so much 
trouble." 

" Not the least trouble in the world," replied Nicholas, 
closing the school-room door. 

" I never saw such legs in the whole course of my life ! " 
said Miss Squeers, as she walked away. 

In fact. Miss Squeers was in love with Nicholas Nickleby. 

To account for the rapidity with which this young lady 
had conceived a passion for Nicholas, it may be necessary to 
state, that the friend from whom she had so recently returned 
was a milter's daughter of only eighteen, who had contracted 
herself unto the son of a small corn-factor, resident in the 
nearest market town. Miss Squeers and the miller's daugh- 
ter, being fast friends, had covenanted together some two 
years before, according to a custom prevalent among young 
ladies, that whoever was first engaged to be married, should 
straightway confide the mighty secret to the bosom of the 
other, before communicating it to any living soul, and bespeak 
her as bridesmaid without loss of time ; in fulfilment of which 
pledge the miller's daughter, when her engagement was 
formed, came out express, at eleven o'clock at night as the 
corn-factor's son made an offer of his hand and heart at 
twenty-five minutes past ten by the Dutch clock in the kitchen, 
and rushed into Miss Squeers's bed-room with the gratifying 



lo8 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

intelligence. Now, Miss Squeers being five years older, and 
out of her teens (which is also a great matterj, had, since, 
been more than commonly anxious to return the compliment, 
and possess her friend with a similar secret ; but, either in 
consequence of finding it hard to please herself, or harder 
still to please any body else, had never had an opportunity 
so to do, inasmuch as she had no such secret to disclose. 
The little interview with Nicholas had no sooner passed, as 
above described, however, than Miss Squeers, putting on 
her bonnet, made her way, with great precipitation, to her 
friend's house, and, upon a solemn renewal of divers old vows 
of secrecy, revealed how that she was — not exactly engaged, 
but going to be — to a gentleman's son — (none of your corn- 
factors, but a gentleman's son of high descent) — who had 
come down as teacher to Dotheboys Hall, under most myste- 
rious and remarkable circumstances — indeed, as Miss Squeers 
more than once hinted she had good reason to believe, in- 
duced, by the fame of her many charms, to seek her out, and 
woo and win her. 

" Isn't it an extraordinan,^ thing ? " said Miss Squeers, 
emphasizing the adjective stronply. 

" Most extraordinary," replied the friend. " But what 
has he said to you ? " 

"Don't ask me what he said, my dear," rejoined Miss 
Squeers. " If you had only seen his looks and smiles ! I 
never was so overcome in all my life." 

" Did he look in this way ? " inquired the miller's daugh- 
ter, counterfeiting, as nearly as she could, a favorite leer of 
the corn-factor. 

" Very like that — only more genteel," replied Miss 
Squeers. 

" Ah ! " said the friends, " then he means something, 
depend on it." 

Miss Squeers, having slight misgivings on the subject, 
was by no means ill pleased to be confirmed by a competent 
authority ; and, discovering, on further conversation and 
comparison of notes, a great many points of resemblance 
between the behavior of Nicholas, and that of the corn-factor, 
grew so exceedingly confidential, that she intrusted her friend 
with a vast number of things Nicholas had 7iot said, which 
were all so very complimentary as to be quite conclusi\e. 
Then, she dilated on tlie fearful hardship of having a father 
and mother strenuously opposed to her intended husband ; 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 109 

on which unhappy circumstances she dwelt at great length ; 
for the friend's father and mother were quite agreeable to her 
being married, and the whole courtship was in consequence 
as fiat and common-place an affair as it was possible to 
imagine. 

" How I should like to see him ! " exclaimed the friend. 

" So you shall, 'Tilda," replied Miss Squeers. " I should 
consider myself one of the most ungrateful creatures alive, if 
I denied you. I think mother's going away for two days to 
fetch some boys ; and when she does, I'll ask you and John 
up to tea, and have him to meet you." 

This was a charming idea, and having fully discussed it, 
the friends parted. 

It so fell out, that Mrs. Squeers's journey, to some dis- 
tance, to fetch three new boys, and dun the relations of two 
old ones for the balance of a small account, was fixed, that 
very afternoon, for the next day but one ; and on the next 
day but one, Mrs. Squeers got outside the coach, as it stopped 
to change at Greta Bridge, laking with her a small bundle 
containing something in a bottle, and some sandwiches, and 
carrying besides a large white top coat to wear in the night- 
time ; with which baggage she went her way. 

Whenever such opportunities as these occurred, it was 
Squeers's custom to drive over to the market town, e\ ery 
evening, on pretence of urgent business, and stop till ten or 
eleven'o'clock at a tavern he much affected. As the party 
was not in his way, therefore, but rather afforded a means of 
compromise with Miss Squeers, he readily yielded his full 
assent thereunto, and willingly communicated to Nicholas 
that he was expected to take his tea in the parlor that even- 
ing, at five o'clock. 

To be sure Miss Squeers was in a desperate flutter as the 
time approached, and to be sure she was dressed out to the 
best advantage : with her hair— it had more than a tinge of 
red, and she wore it in a crop— curled in five distinct rows, 
up to the very top of her head, and arranged dexterously over 
the doubtful eye ; to say nothing of the blue sash which floated 
down her back, or the worked apron, or the long gloves, or 
the green scarf, worn over one shoulder and under the other ; 
or any of the numerous devices which were to be as so many 
arrows to the heart of Nicholas. She had scarcely completed 
these arrangements to her entire satisfaction, when the 
friend arrived with a whitey-brown parcel — flat and three- 



1 1 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

cornered — containing sundry small adornments which were 
to be put on up stairs, and which the friend put on, talking 
incessantly. When Miss Squeers had " done" the friend's hair, 
the friend " did " Miss Squeers's hair,throwingin some striking 
improvements in the way of ringlets down the neck ; and then, 
when they were both touched up to their entire satisfaction, 
they went down stairs in full state with the long gloves on, 
all ready for company. 

" Where's John, 'Tilda ? " said Miss Squeers. 

" Only gone home to clean himself," replied the friend. 
" He will be here by the time the tea's drawn." 

" I do so palpitate," observed Miss Squeers. 

"Ah ! I know what it is," replied .the friend. 

" I have not been used to it, you know, 'Tilda," said Miss 
Squeers, applying her hand to the left side of her sash. 

" You'll soon get the better of it, dear," rejoined the 
friend. While they were talking thus, the hungr}' servant 
brought in the tea things, and, soon afterwards, somebody 
tapped at the room door. 

" There he is ! " cried Miss Squeers. " Oh 'Tilda ! " 

" Hush ! " said 'Tilda. " Hem ! Say, come in." 

" Come in," cried Miss Squeers faintly. And in walked 
Nicholas. 

"Good evening," said that young gentleman, all uncon- 
scious of Lis conquest. " I understood from Mr. Squeers 
that " 

" Oh yes ; it's all right," interposed Miss Squeers. " Father 
don't tea with us, but you won't mind that, I dare say." 
(This was said archly.) 

Nicholas opened his eyes at this, but he turned the matter 
off very coolly — not caring, particularly, about anything just 
then — and went through the ceremony of introduction to the 
miller's daughter, with so much grace, that that young lady 
was lost in admiration. 

" We are only waiting for one more gentleman," said 
Miss Squeers, taking off the tea-pot lid, and looking in, to see 
how the tea was getting on. 

It was matter of equal moment to Nicholas wliether the) 
were waiting for one gentleman or twenty, so he recei\ ed the 
intelligence with perfect unconcern ; and being out of spirits, 
and not seeing any especial reason, why he should make him- 
self agreeable, looked out of the window and sighed involun- 
tarily. 



NICHOLAS lYICKLEBY. m 

As luck would have it, Miss Squeers's friend was of a play- 
ful turn, and hearing Nicholas sigh, she took it into her head 
to rally the lovers on their lowness of spirits. 

" But if it's caused by my being here," said the young lady, 
" don't mind me a bit, for I'm quite as bad. You may go on 
just as you would if you were alone.'' 

" 'Tilda," said Miss Squeers, coloring up to the top row of 
curls, " I am ashamed of you ; " and here the two friends 
burst into a variety of giggles, and glanced, from time to time, 
over the tops of their pocket-handkerchiefs, at Nicholas, who 
from a state of unmixed astonishment, gradually fell into one 
of irrepressible laughter — occasioned, partly by the bare no- 
tion of his being in love with Miss Squeers, and partly by 
the preposterous appearance and behaviour of the two girls. 
These two causes of merriment, taken together, struck him as 
being so keenly ridiculous, that, despite his miserable con- 
dition, he laughed till he was thoroughly exhausted. 

" Well," thought Nicholas, " as I am here, and seem 
expected, for some reason or other, to be amiable, it's of no 
use looking like a goose. I may as well accommodate myself 
to the company." 

We blush to tell it ; but his youthful spirits and vivacity, 
getting, or a time, the better of his sad thoughts, he no sooner 
formed this resolution than he saluted Miss Squeers and 
the friend, with great gallantr)-, and drawing a chair to the 
tea-table, began to make himself more at home than in all 
probability an usher has ever done in his employer's house 
since ushers were first invented. 

The ladies were in the full delight of this altered behaviour 
on the part of Mr. Nickleby, when the expected swain arrived, 
with his hair x&xy damp from recent washing, and a clean 
shirt, whereof the collar might have belonged to some giant 
ancestor, forming, together with a white waistcoat of similar 
dimensions, the chief ornament of his person. 

"Well, John," said Miss Matilda Price (which, by the bye, 
was the name of the miller's daughter). 

"Week" said John with a grin that even the collar could 
not conceal. 

" I beg your pardon," interposed Miss Squeers, hastening 
to do the honors, " Mr. Nickleby — Mr. John Browdie." 

" Servant, sir," said John, who was something over six 
feet high, with a face and body rather above the due propor- 
tion than below it. 



1 1 2 NICHOLAS mCKLEB Y. 

" Yours to command, sir," replied Nicholas, making fear- 
ful ravages on the bread and butter. 

Mr. Browdie was not a gentleman of great conversational 
powers, so he grinned twice more, and having now bestowed 
his customary mark of recognition on every person in com- 
pany, grinned at nothing particular, and helped himself to 
food. 

" Old wooman awa', bean't she ? " said Mr, Browdie, with 
his mouth full. 

Miss Squeers nodded assent. 

Mr. Browdie gave a grin of special width, as if he thought 
that really was something to laugh at, and went to work at 
the bread and butter with increased vigor. It was quite a 
sight to behold how he and Nicholas emptied the plate be- 
tween them. 

" Ye wean't get bread and butther ev'ry neight, I expect, 
mun," said Mr. Browdie, after he had sat staring at Nicholas 
a long time over the empty plate. 

Nicholas bit his lip, and colored, but affected not to hear 
the remark. 

" Ecod," said Mr. Browdie, laughing boisterously. " they 
dean't put too much intiv'em. Ye'U be nowt but skeen and 
boans if you stop here long eneaf. Ho ! ho ! ho ! " 
" You are facetious, sir," said Nicholas, scornfully. 
" Na ; I dean't know," replied Mr. Browdie, "but t'oother 
teacher, 'cod he wur a lean 'un, he wur." The recollection of 
the last teacher's leanness seemed to afford Mr. Browdie the 
most exquisite delight, for he laughed until he found it neces- 
sary to apply his coat-cuffs to his eyes. 

" I don't know whether your perceptions are quite keen 
enough, Mr. Browdie, to enable you to understand that your 
remarks are offensive," said Nicholas in a towering passion, 
" but if they are, have the goodness to — " 

" If you say another word, John," shrieked Miss Price, 
stopping her admirer's mouth as he was about to interrupt, 
"only half a word, I'll never forgive you, or speak to you 
again." 

" Weel, my lass, I dean't care aboot 'un," said the corn- 
factor, bestowing a hearty kiss on Miss Matilda ; " let 'un 
gang on, let 'un gang on." 

It now became Miss Squeers's turn to intercede with Nich- 
olas, which she did with many symptoms of alarm and hor- 
ror ; the effect of the double intercession, was, that he and 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



"3 



John Browdie shook hands across the table with much grav- 
ity ; and such was the imposing nature of the ceremonial, 
thac Miss Squeers was overcome and shed tears. 

" What's the matter, P'anny ? " said Miss Price. 

" Nothing, 'Tilda," replied Miss Squeers, sobbing. 

" There never was any danger," said Miss Price, " was 
there, Mr. Nickleby .? " 

" None at all," replied Nicholas. " Absurd." 

" That's right," whispered Miss Price, " say something 
kind to her, and she'll soon come round. Here ! Shall John 
and I go into the little kitchen, and come back presently ? " 

" Not on any account," rejoined Nicholas, quite alarmed 
at the proposition. " 'V\^hat on earth should you do that 
for .? " 

" Well," said Miss Price, beckoning him aside, and speak- 
ing with some degree of contempt — " you are a one to keep 
company." 

" What do you mean ? " said Nicholas ; " I am not a one 
to keep company at all — here at all events. I can't make 
this out." 

"No, nor I neither," rejoined Miss Price; "but men are 
always fickle, and always were, and always will be ; that I can 
make out, very easily." 

" Fickle ! " cried Nicholas ; "what do you suppose ? You 
don't mean to say that you think — " 

"Oh no, I think nothing at all," retorted Miss Price, pet- 
tishly. " Look at her, dressed so beautiful and looking so 
well — really almost handsome. I am ashamed of you." 

" My dear girl, what have I got to do with her dressing 
beautifully or looking well ? " inquired Nicholas. 

" Come, don't call me a dear girl," said Miss Price — smil- 
ing a little though, for she was pretty, and a coquette too in 
her small way, and Nicholas was gooO-looking, and she sup- 
posed him the property of somebody else, which were all 
reasons why she should be gratified to think she had made 
an impression on him, — " or Fanny will be saying it's my 
fault. Come ; we're going to have a game at cards." Pro- 
nouncing these last words aloud, she tripped away and re- 
joined the big Yorkshireman. 

This was wholly unintelligible to Nicholas, who had no 
other distinct impression on his mind at the moment, than 
that Miss Squeers was an ordinary-looking girl, and her friend 
Miss Price a pretty one ; but he had not time to enlighten 

8 



1 1 4 NICHOLAS mCKLEB V. 

himself by reflection, for the hearth being by this time swept 
up, and the candle snuffed, they sat down to play speculation. 

"There are only four of us, 'Tilda," said Miss Squeers, 
looking slyly at Nicholas ; " so we had better go partners, two 
against two." 

"What do you say, Mr. Nickleby ? " inquired Miss Price. 

" With all the pleasure in life," replied Nicholas. And so 
saying, quite unconscious of his heinous offence, he amalga- 
mated into one common heap those portions of a Dotheboys 
Hall card of terms, which represented his own counters, and 
those allotted to Miss Price, respectively. 

" Mr. Browdie," said Miss Squeers hysterically, " shall 
we make a bank against them ? " 

The Yorkshireman assented — apparently quite over- 
whelmed by the new us'ier's impudence — and Miss Squeers 
darted a spiteful look at her friend, and giggled convulsively. 

The deal fell to Nicholas, and the hand prospered. 

"We intend to win everything," said he. 

" 'Tilda //<7S won something she didn't expect, I think, 
haven't you, dear ? " said Miss Squeers, maliciously. 

"Only a dozen and eight, love," rejDlied Miss Price, af- 
fecting to take the question in a literal sense. 

" How dull you are to-night ! " sneered Miss Squeers. 

"No, indeed," replied Miss Price, "I am in excellent 
spirits. I was thinking ji'^?^ seemed out of sorts." 

" Me ! " cried Miss Squeers, biting her lips, and trembling 
with very jealousy ; " oh no ! " 

" That's well," remarked Miss Price. " Your hair's coming 
out of curl, dear." 

"Never mind me," tittered Miss Squeers; "you had 
better attend to your partner." 

" Thank you for reminding her," said Nicholas. " So she 
had." 

The Yorkshireman flattened his nose, once or twice, with 
his clenched fist, as if to keep his hand in, till he had an 
opportunity of exercising it upon the features of some other 
gentleman ; and Miss Squeers tossed her head with such 
indignation, that the gust of wind raised by the multitudinous 
curls in motion, nearly blew the candle out. 

" I never had such luck, really," exclaimed coquettish 
Miss Price, after another hand or two. " It's all along of 
you, Mr. Nickleby, I think. I should like to have you for a 
partner always." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 115 

" I wish you had." 

" You'll have a bad wife, though, if you always win at 
cards," said Miss Price. 

"Not if your wish is gratified," replied Nicholas. "I am 
sure I shall have a good one in that case." 

To see how Miss Squeers tossed her head, and the corn 
factor flattened his nose, while this conversation was carrying 
on ! It would have been worth a small annuity to have 
beheld that ; let alone Miss Price's evident joy at making 
them jealous, and Nicholas Nickleby's happy unconscious- 
ness of making anybody uncomfortable. 

"We have all the talking to ourselves, it seems," said 
Nicholas, looking good-humoredly round the table as he took 
up the cards for a fresh deal. 

" You do it so well," tittered Miss Squeers, that it would 
be a pity to interrupt, wouldn't it, Mr. Browdie ? He ! he ! 
he ! " 

" Nay," said Nicholas, " we do it in default of having any- 
body else to talk to." 

" We'll talk to you, you know, if you'll say anything," said 
Miss Price. 

"Thank you, 'Tilda, dear," retorted Miss Squeers, majes- 
tically. 

" Or you can talk to each other, if you don't choose to 
talk to us," said Miss Price, rallying her dear friend. " John, 
why don't you say something ? " 

"Say summat?" repeated the Yorkshireman. 

" Ay, and not sit there so silent and glum." 

" Weel, then ! " said the Yorkshireman, striking the table 
heavily with his fist, " what I say's this — Dang my boans and 
boddy, if I stan' this ony longer. Do ye gang whoam wi' me, 
and do you loight an' t'oight young whipster, look sharp out 
for a brokken head, next time he cums under my bond." 

" Mercy on us, what's all this ? " cried Miss Price, in af- 
fected astonishment. 

" Cum whoam, tell'e, cum whoam," replied the Yorkshire- 
man, sternly. And as he delivered the reply. Miss Squeers 
burst into a shower of tears ; arising in part from desperate 
vexation, and in part from an impotent desire to lacerate 
somebody's countenance with her fair finger-nails. 

This state of things had been brought about by divers 
means and workings. Miss Squeers had brought it about, 
by aspiring to the high state and condition of being matrimo- 



1 1 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

nially engaged, without good grounds for so doing ; Miss 
Price had brought it about, by indulging in three motives of 
action ; first, a desire to punish her friend for laying claim to 
a rivalship in dignity, having no good title ; secondly, the 
gratification of her own vanity, in receiving the compliments 
of a smart young man ; and thirdly, a wish to convince the 
corn-factor of the great danger he ran, in deferring the cele- 
bration of their expected nuptials ; while Nicholas had brought 
it about, by half an hour's gayety and thoughtlessness, and a 
very sincere desire to avoid the imputation of inclining at all 
to Miss Squeers. So the means employed, and the end pro- 
duced, were alike the most natural in the world ; for young 
ladies will look forward to being married, and will jostle each 
other in. the race to the altar, and will avail themselves of all 
opportunities of displaying their own attractions to the best 
advantage, down to the very end of time, as they have done 
from its beginning. 

" Why, and here's Fanny in tears now ! " exclaimed Miss 
Price, as if in fresh amazement. " What can be the matter ? " 

'' Oh ! you don't know. Miss, of course you don't know 
Pray don't trouble yourself to inquire," said Miss Squeers, 
producing that change of countenance which children call, 
making a face. 

" Well, I'm sure ! " exclaimed Miss Price. 

" And who cares whether you are sure or not, ma'am .-' " 
retorted Miss Squeers making another face. 

" You are monstrous polite, ma'am," said Miss Price. 

" I shall not come to you to take lessons in the art, 
ma'am ! " retorted Miss Squeers. 

" You needn't take the trouble to make yourself plainer 
than you are, ma'am, however," rejoined Miss Price, "because 
that's quite unnecessary." 

Miss Squeers, in reply, turned very red, and thanked God 
that she hadn't got the bold faces of some people. Miss 
Price, in rejoinder, congratulated herself upon not being pos- 
sessed of the envious feeling of other people ; whereupon 
Miss Squeers made some general remark touching the daiiger 
of associating with low persons ; in which Miss Price entirely 
coincided : observing that it was very true indeed, and she 
had tliought so a long time. 

'"Tilda," exclaimed Miss Squeers with dignity, " I hate 
you." 

" Ah ! There's no love lost between us, I assure you," 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 117 

said Miss Price, tying her bonnet strings with a jerk. " You'll 
cry your eyes out, when I'm gone \ you know you will." 

" I scorn your words, Minx," said Miss Squeers. 

"You pay me a great compHment when you say so," 
answered the miller's daughter, curtseying very low. " Wish 
you a very good-night, ma'am, and pleasant dreams attend 
your sleep ! " 

With this parting benediction, Miss Price swept from the 
room, followed by the huge Yorkshireman, who exchanged 
with Nicholas, at parting, that peculiarly expressive scowl 
with which the cut-and-thrust counts, in melo-dramatic per- 
formances, inform each other they will meet again. 

They were no sooner gone, than Miss Squeers fulfilled 
the prediction of her quondam friend by giving vent to a 
most copious burst of tears, and uttering various dismal 
lamentations and incoherent words. Nicholas stood lookins: 
on for a few seconds, rather doubtful what to do, but feeling 
uncertain whether the fit would end in his being embraced, 
or scratched, and considering that either infliction would be 
equally agreeable, he walked off very quietly while Miss 
Squeers was moaning in her pocket-handkerchief. 

" This is one- consequence," thought Nicholas, when he 
had groped his way to this dark sleeping-room, "of my cursed 
readiness to adapt myself to any society in which chance 
carries me. If I had sat mute and motionless, as I miirht 
have done, this would not have happened." 

He listened for a few minutes, but all was quiet. 

" I was glad," he murmured, "to grasp at any relief from 
the sight of this dreadful place, or the presence of its vile 
master. I have set these people by the ears, and made two 
new enemies, where. Heaven knows, I needed none. Well, 
it is a just punishment for having forgotten, even for an hour, 
what is around me now ! " 

So saying, he felt his way among the throng of weary- 
hearted sleepers, and crept into his poor bed. 



^i8 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



CHAPTER X. 

HOW MR. RALPH NICKLEBY PROVIDED FOR HIS NIECE AND 

SISTER-IN-LAW. 

On the second morning after the departure of Nicholas 
for Yorkshire, Kate Nickleby sat in a very faded chair raised 
upon a very dusty throne in Miss La Creevy's room, giving 
that lady a sitting for the portrait upon wliich she was en- 
gaged ; and towards the full perfection of which. Miss La 
Creevy had had the street-door case brought up-stairs, in 
order that she might be the better able to infuse into the 
counterfeit countenance of Miss Nickleby, a bright salmon 
flesh-tint which she had originally hit upon while executing 
the miniature of a young officer therein contained, and which 
bright salmon flesh-tint was considered by Miss La Creevy's 
chief friends and patrons, to be quite a novelty in art : as 
indeed it was. 

" I think I have caught it now," said Miss La Creevy. 
" The \ery shade ! This will be the sweetest portrait I have 
ever done, certainly." 

"It will be your genius that makes it so, then, I am sure," 
replied Kate, smiling. 

"No, no, I won't allow that, my dear," rejoined Miss La 
Creevy. " It's a very nice subject — a very nice subject, in- 
deed — though of course, something depends upon the mode 
of treatment." 

" And not a little," observed Kate. 

" Why, my dear, you are right there," said Miss La Creevy, 
" in the main you are right there ; though I don't allow that 
it is of such very great importance in the present case. Ah ! 
The difficulties of Art, my dear, are great." 

"They must be, I have no doubt," said Kate, humoring 
her good-natured little friend. 

" They are beyond anything you can form the faintest 
conception of," replied Miss La Creevy. "What with bring- 
ing out eyes with all one's power, and keeping down noses 
with all one's force, and adding to heads, and taking away 
teeth altogether, you have no idea of the trouble one little 
miniature is." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 119 

" The remuneration can scarcely repay you," said Kate. 

"Why, it does not, and that's the truth," answered Miss 
La Creevy ; " and then people are so dissatisfied and unrea- 
sonable, that, nine times out of ten, there's no pleasure in 
painting them. Sometimes they say, ' Oh, how very serious 
you have made me look, Miss La Creevy ! ' and at others, 
' La, Miss La Creevy, how very smirking ! ' when the very 
essence of a good portrait is, that it niust be either serious or 
smirking, or it's no portrait at all." 

" Indeed ! " said Kate, laughing. 

"Certainly, my dear; because the sitters are always either 
the one or the other," replied Miss La Creevy. " Look at 
the Royal Academy ! All those beautiful shiny portraits of 
gentlemen in black velvet waistcoats, with their fists doubled 
up on round tables, or marble slabs, are serious, you know ; 
and all the ladies who are playing with little parasols, or little 
dogs, or little children — it's the same rule in art, only varj'ing 
the objects — are smirking. In fact," said Miss La Creevy, 
sinking her voice to a confidential whisper, " there are only 
two styles of portrait painting ; the serious and the smirk ; 
and we always use the serious for professional people (except 
actors sometimes), and the smirk for private ladies and gentle- 
men who don't care so much about looking clever." 

Kate seemed highly amused by this information, and Miss 
La Creevy went on painting and talking, with immovable 
complacency. 

" What a number of officers you seem to paint ! " said 
Kate, availing herself of a pause in the discourse, and glanc- 
ing round the room. 

"Number of what, child.?" inquired Miss La Creevy, 
looking up from her work. " Character portraits, oh yes — 
they're not real military men, you know." 

" No ! " 

" Bless your heart, of course not ; only clerks and that, 
who hire a uniform coat to be painted in and send it here in 
a carpet bag. Some artists," said Miss La Creevy, "keep a 
red coat, and charge seven-and-sixpence extra for hire and 
carmine ; but I don't do that myself, for I don't consider it 
legitimate." 

Drawing herself up, as though she plumed herself greatly 
upon not resorting to these lures to catch sitters. Miss La 
Creevy applied herself, more intently, to her task : only rais- 
ing her head occasionally, to look with unspeakable satisfac- 



1 2 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

tion at some touch she had just put in : and now and then 
giving Miss Nickleby to understand what particular features 
she was at work upon, at the moment ; " not," she expressly- 
observed, " that you should make it up for painting, my dear, 
but because it's our custom sometimes, to tell sitters what 
part we are upon, in order that if there's any particular ex- 
pression they want introduced, they may throw it in, at the 
time, you know." 

*' And when," said Miss La Creevy, after a long silence, 
to wit, an interval of full a minute and a half,' "when do you 
expect to see your uncle again ? " 

" I scarcely know ; I had expected to have seen him be- 
fore now," replied Kate. " Soon I hope, for this state of 
uncertainty is worse than anvthing." 

"I suppose he has moi.cy, hasn't he ?" inquired Miss La 
Cree\'y. 

" He is very rich, I have heard," rejoined Kate. " I don't 
know that he is, but I believe so." 

" Ah, you may depend upon it he is, or he wouldn't be so 
surly," remarked Miss La Creevy, who was an odd little mix- 
ture of shrewdness and simplicity. " When a man's a bear, 
he is generally pretty independent." 

" His manner is rough," said Kate. 

" Rough ! " cried Miss La Creevy, " a porcupine's a feather- 
bed to him ! I never met with such a cross-grained old sav- 
age." 

" It is only his manner, I believe," observed Kate, timidly : 
"he was disappointed in early life, I think I have heard, or 
has had his temper soured by some calamity. I should be 
sorry to think ill of him until I knew he deserved it." 

" Well ; that's very right and proper," observed the minia- 
ture painter, " and Heaven forbid that I should be the cause of 
your doing so ! But, now, mightn't he, without feeling it him- 
self, make you and your mama some nice little allowance 
that would keep you both comfortable until you were well 
married, and be a little fortune to her afterwards ? What 
would a hundred a year, for instance, be too him ? " 

" I don't know what it would be to him," said Kate, with 
energy, " but it would be that to me I would rather die than 
take/' 

" Heyday ! " cried Miss La Creevy. 

"A dependence upon him," said Kate, "would embitter 
my whole life. I should feel begging, a far less degradation." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 1 2 1 

" WelM " exclaimed Miss La Creevy. " This of a relation 
whom you will not hear an indifferent person speak ill of, my 
dear, sounds oddly enough, I confess." 

" I dare say it does," replied Kate, speaking more gently, 
" indeed I am sure it must. I — I — only mean that with the 
feelings and recollection of better times upon me, I could 
not bear to live on anybody's bounty — not his particularly, 
but anybody's." 

Miss La Creevy looked slyly at her companion, as if she 
doubted whether Ralph himself were not the subject of dis- 
like, but seeing that her young friend was distressed, made no 
remark. 

*' I only ask of him," continued Kate, whose tears fell 
while she spoke, " that he will move so little out of his way, 
in my behalf, as to enable me by his recommendation — only 
by his recommendation — to earn, literally, my bread and 
remain with my mother. Whether we shall ever taste happi- 
ness again, depends upon the fortunes of my dear brother \ 
but if he will do this, and Nicholas only tells us that he is 
well and cheerful, I shall be contented." 

As she ceased to speak, there was a rustling behind the 
screen which stood between her and the door, and some per- 
son knocked at the wainscot. 

" Come in, whoever it is ! " cried Miss La Creevy. 

The person complied, and, coming forward at once, gave 
to view the form and features of no less an individual than 
Mr. Ralph Nickleby himself. 

" Your ser\'ant, ladies," said Ralph, looking sharply at them 
by turns. " You were talking so loud, that I was unable to 
make you hear." 

When the man of business had a more than commonly 
vicious snarl lurking at his heart, he had a trick of almost 
concealing his eyes under their thick and protruding brows, 
for an instant, and then displaying them in their full keenness. 
As he did so now, and tried to keep down the smile which 
parted his thin compressed lips, and puckered up the bad 
lines about his mouth, they both felt certain that some part, 
if not the whole, of their recent conversation, had been over- 
heard. 

" I called in, on my way up stairs, more than half expect- 
ing to find you here," said Ralph, addressing his niece, and 
looking contemptuously at the portrait. " Is that my niece's 
portrait, ma'am .? " 



122 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Yes it is, Mr. Nickleby," said Miss La Creevy, with a 
very sprightly air, " and between you and me and the post, 
sir, it will be a very nice portrait too, though I say it who am 
the painter." 

" Don't trouble yourself to show it to me, ma'am," cried 
Ralph, moving away, " I have no eye for likenesses. Is it 
nearly finished .-" " 

" Why, yes," replied Miss La Creevy, considering with the 
pencil end of her brush in her mouth. " Two sittings more 
will " 

" Have them at once, ma'am," said Ralph. " She'll have 
no time to idle over fooleries after to-morrow. Work, ma'am, 
work ; we must all work. Have you let your lodgings, 
ma'am .'''** ' 

" I have not put a bill up yet, sir." 

" Put it up at once, ma'am ; they won't want the rooms 
after this week, or if they do, can't pay for them. Now, my 
dear, if you're ready, we'll lose no more time." 

With an assumption of kindness which sat worse upon 
him, even than his usual manner, Mr. Ralph Nickleby mo- 
tioned to the young lady to precede huii, and bowing gravely 
to Miss La Creevy, closed the door and followed up stairs, 
where Mrs. Nickleby received him with many expressions of 
regard. Stopping them somewhat abruptly, Ralph waived 
his hand with an impatient gesture, and proceeded to the ob- 
ject of his visit. 

" I have found a situation for your daughter, ma'am," said 
Ralph. ^ — ^-.^ --" 

" Well," replied Mrs. Nickleby. " Now, I will say that 
that is only just what I have expected of you. ' Depend upon 
it,' I said to Kate, only yesterday morning at breakfast, ' that 
after your uncle has provided, in that most ready manner, for 
Nicholas, he will not leave us until he has done at least the 
same for you.' These were my very words, as near as I re- 
member. Kate, my dear, why don't you thank your " 

"Let me proceed, ma'am, pray," said Ralph, interrupting 
his sister-in-law in the full torrent of her discourse. 

" Kate, my love, let your uncle proceed," said Mrs. Nick- 
leby. 

"I am most anxious that he should, mamma," rejoined 
Kate. 

" Well, my dear, if you are anxious that he should, you 
had better allow your uncle to say what he has to say, without 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



123 



interruption," observed Mrs. Nickleby, with many small nods 
and frowns. " Your uncle's time is very valuable, my dear ; 
and however desirous you may be — and naturally desirous, as 
1 am sure any affectionate relations who have seen so little of 
your uncle as we have, must naturally be — to protract the 
pleasure of having him among us, still, we are bound not to 
be selfish, but to take into consideration the important nature 
of his occupations in the city." 

" I am very much obliged to you, ma'am," said Ralph with 
a scarcely perceptible sneer. " An absence of business hab- 
its in this family leads, apparently, to a great waste of words 
before business — when it does come under consideration — is 
arrived at, at all." 

" I fear it is so indeed," replied Mrs. Nickleby with a sigh. 
*' Your poor brother " 

" My poor brother, ma'am," interposed Ralph tartly, " had 
no idea what business was — was unacquainted, I verily be- 
Ueve, with the very meaning of the word." 

" I fear he was," said Mrs. Nickleby, with her handker- 
chief to her eyes. "If it hadn't been for me, I don't know 
what would have become of him." 

What strange creatures we are ! The slight bait so skil- 
fully thrown out by Ralph, on their first interview, was dang- 
ling on the hook yet. At every small deprivation or discom- 
fort which presented itself in the course of the four-and- 
twenty hours to remind her of her straitened and altered cir- 
cumstances, peevish visions of her dower of one thousand 
pounds had arisen before Mrs. Nickleby's mind, until, at last, 
she had come to persuade herself that of all her late husband's 
creditors she was the worst used and the most to be pitied. 
And yet, she had loved him dearly for many years, and had 
no greater share of selfishness than is the usual lot of mortals. 
Such is the irritability of sudden poverty. A decent annuity 
would have restored her thoughts to their old train, at once. 

" Repining is of no use, ma'am," said Ralph. " Of all 
fruitless errands, sending a tear to look after a day that is 
gone, is the most fruitless.'' 

" So it is," sobbed Mrs. Nickleby. " So it is." 

" As you feel so keenly, in your own purse and person, the 
consequences of inattention to business, ma'am," said Ralph, 
" I am sure you will impress upon your children the necessity 
of attaching themselves to it, early in life." 

" Of course I must see that," rejoined Mrs. Nickleby. 



124 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 

" Sad experience, you know, brother-in-law — . Kate, my clear, 
put that clown in the next letter to Nicholas, or remind me to 
do it if I write." 

Ralph paused, for a few moments, and seeing that he had 
now made pretty sure of the mother, in case the daughter ob- 
jected to his proposition, went on to say : 

" The situation that I have made interest to procure, ma'am, 
is with — with a milliner and dress-maker, in short." 

" A milliner ! " cried Mrs. Nickieby. 

" A milliner and dress-maker, ma'am," replied Ralph. 
"Dress-makers in London, as I need not remind you, ma'am, 
who are so well acquainted with all matters in the ordinary 
routine of life, make large fortunes, keep equipages, and be- 
come persons of great wealth and fortune." 

Now, the first ideas called up in Mrs. Nickleby's mind by 
the words milliner and dress-maker were connected with cer- 
tain wicker baskets lined with black oil-skin, which she re- 
membered to have seen carried to and fro in the streets ; but, 
as Ralph proceeded, these disappeared, and were replaced by 
visions of large houses at the west end, neat private carriages, 
and a banker's book ; all of which images succeeded each 
other, with such rapidity, that he had no sooner finished speak- 
ing, than she nodded her head and said " Veiy true," with 
great appearance of satisfaction. 

" What your uncle says, is very true, Kate, my dear," said 
Mrs. Nickieby. " I recollect when your poor papa and I came 
to town after we were married, that a young lady brought me 
home a chip cottage-bonnet, with while and green trimming, 
and green persian lining, in her own carriage, which drove up 
to the door full gallop ; — at least, I am not quite certain 
whether it was her own carriage or a hacknev chariot, but I 
remember very well that the horse dropped down dead as he 
was turning round, and that your poor papa said he hadn't 
had any corn for a fortnight." 

This anecdote, so strikingly illustrative of the opulence of 
milliners, was not received with any great demonstration of 
feeling, inasmuch as Kate hung down her head while it was 
relating, and Ralph manifested very intelligible symptoms of 
extreme iinpatieficev 

" Th&'iady's name," said Ralph, hastily striking in, "is 
Mantalini — Madame Mantalini. I know her. She lives near 
Cavendish Square. If your daughter is disposed to try after 
the situation, I'll take her there, directly." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



125 



" Have you nothing to say to your uncle, my love ? " in- 
quired Mrs. Nickleby. 

"A great deal," replied Kate; "but not now. I would 
rather speak to him when we are alone ; — it will save his time 
if I thank him and say what I wish to say to him, as we walk 
along." 

With these words, Kate hurried away, to hide the traces 
of emotion that were stealing down her face, and to prepare 
herself for the walk, while Mrs. Nickleby amused her brother- 
in-law by giving him, with many tears, a detailed account of 
the dimensions of a rosewood cabinet piano they had pos- 
sessed in their days of affluence, together with a minute de- 
scription of eight drawing-room chairs, with turned legs and 
green chintz squabs to match the curtains, which had cost two 
pounds fifteen shillings apiece, and had gone at the sale for 
a mere nothing. 

These reminiscences were at length cut short by Kate's re- 
turn in her walking dress, when Ralph, who had been fretting 
and fuming during the whole time of her absence, lost no time, 
and used very little ceremony, in descending into the street. 

" Now," he said, taking her arm, " walk as fast as you can, 
and you'll get into the step that you'll have to wallv.,t;9Jpji5i.ue§s. 
with. e\^BTy-TrrOTTrtlir^r'''''"~^o^a^^^^^^^ at a good 

round pace, towards Cavendish Square. 

" I am very much obliged to you, uncle," said the young 
lady, after they had hurried on in silence for some time ; 
" very." 

" I'm glad to hear it," said Ralph. " I hope you'll do 
your duty." 

"I will try to please, uncle," replied Kate: "indeed 
I—" 

" Don't bedn^to cry-," growled Ralph ; " I hate crying." 

" ItTVerytooirsli,ilcnow, uncle;" began'poor Kate. " 

"It is," replied Ralph, stopping her short, "and very 
affected besides. Let me see no more of it." 

Perhaps this was not the best way to dry the tears of a 
young and sensitive female, about to make her first entry on 
an entirely new scene of life, among cold and uninterested 
strangers ; but it had its effect notwithstanding. Kate colored 
deeply, breathed quickly for a few moments, and then 
walked on with a firmer and more determined step. 

It was a curious contrast to see how the timid countn,'- girl 
shrunk through the crowd that hurried up and down the streets, 



1 2 6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

giving way to the press of people, and clinging closely to 
Ralph as though she feared to lose him in the throng ; and 
how the stern and hard-featured man of business went dog- 
gedly on7eTbowing the passengers aside, and how and then ex- 
changing a gruff salutation with some passing acquaintance, 
who turned to look back upon his pretty charge, with looks ex- 
pressive of surprise, and seemed to wonder at the ill-assorted 
companionship. But, it would have been a stranger contrast 
still, to have read the hearts that were beating side by side ; 
to have laid bare the gentle innocence of the one, and the 
ruggedLyjllainy of the other ; to have hung upon the guileless 
thoughts oF"tlie affectionate girl, and been amazed that, among 
all the wily plots and calculations of the old man, there should 
not be one word or figure denoting thought of death or of the 
grave. But so it was ; and stranger still — though this is a 
thing of every day — the warm young heart palpitated with a 
thousand anxieties and apprehensions, while that of the old 
worldly man lay rusting in its cell, beating only as a piece of 
cunning mechanism, and yielding no one throb of hope, or 
fear, or love, or care, for any living thing. 

" Uncle,'' said Kate, when she judged they must be near 
their destination. " I must ask one question of you. I am 
to live at home ? " 

" At home ! " replied Ralph ; " where's that .' " 

" I mean with my mother — Ihe widow" said Kate emphat- 
ically. 

"You will live, to all intents and purposes, here," rejoined 
Ralph ; " for here you will take your meals and here }'ou will be 
from morning till night — occasionally perhaps till morning 
again." 

"But at night, I mean," said Kate; " I cannot leave her, 
uncle. I must have some place that I can call a home ; it 
will be wherever she is, you know, and may be a very humble 
one." 

" May be ! " said Ralph, walking faster, in the impatience 
provoked by the remark, " must be, you mean. May be a 
humble one ! Is the girl mad ? " 

" The word slijoped from my lips, I did not mean it in- 
deed," urged Kate. 

" I hope not," said Ralph. 

" But my question, uncle ; you have not answered it." 

" Why, [ anticipated something of the kind," said Ralph ; 
" and — though I object very strongly, mind — have provided 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 127 

against it. I spoke of you as an out-of-door worker ; so you 
will go to this home that may be humble, every night." 

There was comfort in this. Kate poured forth many 
thanks for her uncle's consideration, which Ralph received as 
if he had deserved them all, and they arri\ed without any 
further conversation at the dress-maker's door, which dis- 
played a very large plate, with Madame Alantalini's name 
and occupation, and was approached by a handsome flight of 
steps. There was a shop to the house, but it was let off to 
an importer of otto of roses. Madame Mantalini's show-rooms 
were on the first floor : a fact which was notified to the no- 
bility and gentrv^, by the casual exhibition, near the hand- 
somely curtained windows, of two or three elegant bonnets of 
the newest fashion, and some costly garments in the most 
approved taste. 

A liveried footman opened the door, and in reply to 
Ralph's inquiry' whether Madame Mantalini was at home, 
ushered them, through a handsome hall and up a spacious 
staircase, into the show saloon, which comprised two spacious 
drawing-rooms, and exhibited an immense variety of superb 
dresses and materials for dresses : some arranged on stands, 
others laid carelessly on sofas, and others again, scattered 
over the carpet, hanging on the cheval glasses, or mingling, 
in some other way, with the rich furniture of various descrip- 
tions, which was profusely displayed. 

They waited here, a much longer time than was agreeable 
to Mr. Ralph Nickleby, who eyed the gaudy frippery about 
him with very little concern, and was at length about to pull 
the bell, when a gentleman suddenly popped his head into 
the room, and, seeing somebody there, as suddenly popped it 
out again. 

" Here. Hollo ! " cried Ralph. " Who's that t " 

At the sound of Ralph's voice, the head reappeared, and 
the mouth, displaying a veiy long row of very white teeth, 
uttered in a mincing tone the words, " Demmit. What, Nick- 
leby ! oh, demmit !" Having uttered which ejaculations, the 
gentleman advanced, and shook hands with Ralph, with great 
warmth. He was dressed in a gorgeous morning gown, with 
a waistcoat and Turkish trousers of the same pattern, a pink 
silk neckerchief, and bright green slippers, and had a \ ery 
copious watch-chain wound round his body. Moreover, he 
had whiskers and a moustache, both dyed black and grace- 
fully curled. 



128 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

*' Demmit, you don't mean to say you want me, do you, 
demmit ? " said this gentleman, smiting Ralph on the 
shoulder. 

" Not yet," said Ralph, sarcastically. 

" Ha ! ha ! demmit," cried the gentleman ; when, wheeling 
round to laugh with greater elegance, he encountered Kate 
Nickleby, who was standing near. 

" My niece," said Ralph. 

" I remember," said the gentleman, striking his nose with 
the knuckle of his forefinger as a chastening for his forgetful- 
ness. " Demmit, I remember what you come for. Step this 
way, Nickleby ; my dear, will you follow me .-' Ha ! ha ! 
They all follow me, Nickleby ; always did, demmit, always." 

Giving loose to the playfulness of his imagination, after 
this fashion, the gentleman led the way to a private sitting- 
room on the second floor, scarcely less elegantly furnished 
than the apartment below, where the presence of a silver 
coffee-pot, an egg-shell, and sloppy china for one, seemed to 
show that he had just breakfasted. 

" Sit down, my dear," said the gentleman : first staring 
Miss Nickleby out of countenance, and then grinning in 
de-light at the achievement. "This cursed high room takes 
one's breath away. These infernal sky parlors — I'm afraid I 
must move, Nickleby." 

" I would, by all means," replied Ralph, looking bitterly 
round. 

" What a demd rum fellow you are, Nickleby," said the 
gentleman, " the demdest, longest-headed, queerest-tempered 
old coiner of gold and silver ever was — demmit." 

Having complimented Ralph to this effect, the gentleman 
rang the bell, and stared at Miss Nickleby until it was 
answered, when he left off to bid the man desire his mistress 
to come directly ; after which, he began again, and left off no 
more until Madame Mantalini appeared. 

Tlie dress-maker was a buxom person, handsomely dressed 
and rather good looking, but much older than the gentleman 
in the Turkish trousers, whom she had w-edded some six 
months before. His name was originally Muntle ; but it had 
been converted, by an easy transition, into Mantalini : the 
lady rightly considering that an English appellation would be 
of serious injury to the business. He hatl married on his 
whiskers ; upon which property he had previously subsisted, 
in a genteel manner, for some years ; and which he had re- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



129 



cently improved, after patient cultivation, by the addition of a 
moustache, which promised to secure him an easy independ- 
ence ; his share in the labors of the business being at present 
confined to spending the money, and occasionally, when that 
ran short, driving to Mr. Ralph Nickleby to procure discount 
— at a percentage — for the customers' bills. 

" My life," said Mr. Mantalini, ' what a demd devil of a 
time you have been ! " 

" I didn't even know Mr. Nickleby was here, my love," 
said Madame Mantalini. 

" Then what a doubly demd infernal rascal that footman 
must be, my soul," remonstrated Mr. Mantalini. 

'■ My dear," said Madame, " that is entirely your fault." 

" My fault, my heart's joy ? " 

"Certainly," returned the lady; "what can you expect, 
dearest, if you will not correct the man .? " 

" Correct the man, my soul's delight ! " 

" Yes ; I am sure he wants speaking to, badly enough," 
said Madame, pouting. 

"Then do not vex itself," said Mr. Mantalini ; "he shall 
be horse-whipped till he cries out demnebly." With this 
promise Mr. Mantalini kissed Madame Mantalini, and, after 
that performance, Madame Mantalini pulled Mr. Mantalini 
playfully by the ear: which done, they descended to busi- 
ness. 

" Now, ma'am," said Ralph, who had looked on, at all 
this, with such scorn as few men can express in looks, " this 
is my niece." 

"Just so, Mr. Nickleby," replied Madame Mantalini, sur- 
veying Kate from head to foot, and back again. " Can you 
speak French, child 1 " 

"Yes, ma'am," replied Kate, not daring to look up; for 
she felt that the eyes of the odious man in the dressing-gown 
were directed towards her. 

" Like a demd native ? " asked the husband. 

Miss Nickleby offered no reply to this inquiry, but turned 
her back upon the questioner, as if addressing herself to make 
answer to what his wife might demand. 

"We keep twenty young women constantly employed in 
the establishment," said Madame. 

" Indeed, ma'am ! " replied Kate, timidly. 

" Yes ; and some of 'em demd handsome, too," said the 
master. 

9 



I20 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Mantalini ! " exclaimed his wife, in an awful voice. 
*'My senses' idol !" said Mantalini. 
*' Do you wish to break my heart ? " 

" Not for twenty thousand hemispheres populated with — 
with — with little ballet-dancers," replied Mantalini in a poeti- 
cal strain. 

" Then you will, if you persevere in that mode of speak- 
ing," said his wife. " What can Mr. Nickleby think when he 
hears you ? " 

"Oh! Nothing, ma'am, nothing," replied Ralph. "I 
know his amiable nature, and yours, — mere little remarks 
that give a zest to your daily intercourse — lovers' quarrels 
that add sweetness to those domestic joys which promise to 
last so long — that's all ; that's all." 

If an iron door could be supposed to quarrel with its 
hinges, and to make a firm resolution to open with slow obsti- 
nacy, and grind them to powder in the process, it would emit 
a pleasanter sound in so doing, then did these words in the 
rough and bitter voice in which they were uttered by Ralph. 
Eveii Mr. Mantalini felt their influence, and turning affright- 
ed round, exclaimed : " What a demd horrid croaking ! " 

" You will pay no attention, if you please, to what Mr. 
Mantalini says," observed his wife, addressing Miss Nickleby. 

"I do not, ma'am," said Kate, with quiet contempt. 

" Mr. Mantalini knows nothing whatever about any of the 
young women," continued Madame, looking at her husband, 
and speaking to Kate. " If he has seen any of them, he must 
have seen them in the street, going to, or returning from, their 
work, and not here. He was never even in the room. I do 
not allow it. What hours of work have you been accustomed 
to?" 

" I have never yet been accustomed to work at all, ma'am," 
replied Kate, in a low voice. 

" For which reason she'll work all the better now," said 
Ralph, putting in a word, lest this confession should injure the 
negotiation. 

" I hope so," returned Madame Mantalini ; " our hours 
are from nine to nine, with extra work when we're very full of 
business, for which I allow payment as over-time." 

Kate bowed her head, to intimate that she heard, and was 
satisfied. 

"Your meals," continued Madame Mantalini, "that is, 
dinner and tea, you will take here. I should think your-wages 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 131 

would average from five to seven shillings a week ; but I can't 
give you any certain information on that point, until I see 
what you can do." 

Kate bowed her head again. 

" If you're ready to come," said Madame Mantalini, " you 
had better begin on Monday morning at nine exactly, and 
Miss Knag the forewoman shall then have directions to try 
you with some easy work at first. Is there anything more, 
Mr. Nickleby t " 

" Nothing more, ma'am," replied Ralph, rising. 

" Then I believe that's all," said the lady. Having arrived 
at this natural conclusion, she looked at the door, as if she 
wished to be gone, but hesitated notwithstanding, as though 
unwillinGf to leave to Mr. Mantalini the sole honor of showing 
them down stairs. Ralph relieved her from her perplexity by 
taking his departure without delay : Madame Mantalini mak- 
ing many gracious inquiries why he never came to see them ; 
and Mr. Mantalini anathematizing the stairs with great volu- 
bility as he followed them down, in the hope of inducing 
Kate to look round, — a hope, however, which was destined to 
remain ungratified. 

"There!" said Ralph when they got into the street; 
" no w , yQu're pro vided for." Kate was about to thank him 
agam, but he slopped her. 

" I had some idea," he said, " of providing for your mother 
in a pleasant part of the country — (he had a presentation to 
some alms-houses on the borders of Cornwall, which had 
occurred to him more than once) — but as you want to be to- 
gether, I must do something else for her. She has a little 
money ? " 

"A very little," replied Kate. 

" A little will go a long way if it's used sparingly," said 
Ralph. " She must see how long she can make it last, living 
rent free. You leave your lodgings on Saturday ? " 

" You told us to do so, uncle." 

" Yes ; there is a house e mpty 1;hatb elQn2-s to me, which 
I can put you into, frtTTt isTet, and then, if nothing else turns 
up, perhaps I shall have another. You must live there." 

" Is it far from here, sir ? " inquired Kate. 

"Pretty well," said Ralph; "in another quarter of the 
town — at the East end, but I'll send my clerk down to you, at 
five o'clock on Saturday, to take you there. Good-by. You 
know your way? Straighten." 



1,2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Coldly shaking his niece's hand, Ralph left her at the top 
of Regent Street, and turned down a by-thoroughfare, intent 
on schemes of monev:getting. Kate walked sadly back to 
theirJo agings in tne Strand. 

•4 



CHAPTER XI. 



NEWMAN NOGGS INDUCTS MRS. AND MISS NICKLEBY INTO 
THEIR NEW DWELLING IN THE CITY, 

Miss Nickleby's reflections, as she wended her way home- 
wards, were of that desponding nature which the occurrences 
of the morning had been sufficiently calculated to awaken. 
Her uncle's was not a manner likely to dispel any doubts or 
apprehensions she might have formed, in the outset, neither 
was the glimpse she had had of Madame Mantalini's establish- 
ment, by any means encouraging. It was with many gloomy 
forebodings and misgivings, therefore, that she looked for- 
ward, with a heavy heart, to the opening of her new career. 

If her mother's consolations could have restored her to a 
pleasanter and more enviable state of mind, there were abun- 
dance of them to produce the effect. By the time Kate 
reached home, the good lady had called to mind, two authentic 
cases of milliners who had been possessed of considerable 
property, though whether they had acquired it all in business, 
or had had a capital to start with, or had been lucky and mar- 
ried to advantage, she could not exactly remember. How- 
ever, as she very logically remarked, there must have been 
some young person in that way of business who had made a 
fortune without having anything to begin with, and that being 
taken for granted, why should not Kate do the same ? Miss 
La Creevy, who was a member of the little council, ventured 
to insinuate some doubts relative to the probability of Miss 
Nickleby's arriving at this happy consummation in the com- 
pass of an ordinar}' lifetime ; but the good lady set that ques- 
tion entirely at rest, by informing them that she had a pre- 
sentiment on the subject — a species of second-sight with which 
she had been in the habit of clenching every argument with 
the deceased Mr. Nickleby, and, in nine cases and three quar- 
ters out of every ten, determining in the wrong way. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



^ZZ 



" I am afraid it is an unhealthy occupation," said Miss La 
Creevy. " I recollect getting three young milliners to sit to 
me, when I first began to paint, and I remember that they 
were all very pale and sickly." 

" Oh ! that's not a general rule by any means," observed 
Mrs. Nickleby ; " for I remember, as well as if it was only 
yesterday, employing one that I was particularly recom- 
mended to, to make me a scarlet cloak at the time when scar- 
let cloaks were fashionable, and she had a very red face — a- 
very red face, indeed." 

" Perhaps she drank," suggested Miss La Creevy. 

" I don't know how that may have been," returned Mrs. 
Nickleby : " but I know she had a very red face, so your argu- 
ment goes for nothing." 

In this manner, and with like powerful reasoning, did the 
worthy matron meet every little objection that presented itself 
to the new scheme of the morning. Happy Mrs. Nickleby ! 
A project had but to be new, and it came home to her mind, 
brightly varnished and gilded as a glittering toy. 

This question disposed of, Kate communicated her uncle's 
desire about the empty house, to which Mrs. Nickleby assented 
with equal readiness, characteristically remarking, that, on the 
fine evenings, it would be a pleasant amusement for her to walk 
to the West end to fetch her daughter home ; and no less 
characteristically forgetting, that there were such things as 
wet nights and bad weather to be encountered in almost every 
week of the year. 

" I shall be sorry — truly sorr}' to leave you, my kind friend," 
said Kate, on whom the good feeling of the poor miniature- 
painter had made a deep impression. 

" You shall not shake me off, for all that," replied Miss La 
Creevy, with as much spiightliness as she could assume. " I 
shall see you very often, and come and hear how you get on ; 
and if, in all London, or all the wide world besides, there is no 
other heart that takes an interest in your welfare, there will 
be one little lonely woman that prays for it night and day." 

With this, the poor soul, who had a heart big enough for 
Gog, the guardian genius of London, and enough to spare for 
Magog to boot, after making a great many extraordinary faces 
which would have secured her an ample fortune, could she 
have transferred them to ivo^ or canvass, sat down in a cor- 
ner, and had what she termed " a real good cr}-." 

But no crying, or talking, or hoping, or fearing, could keep 



134 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



off the dreaded Saturday afternoon, or Newman Noggs either ; 
who, punctual to his time, Hmped up to the door, and breathed 
a whiff of cordial gin through the keyhole, exactly as such of 
the church clocks in the ncicihborhood as ag^reed amonc: them- 
selves about the time, struck fiv'e. Newman waited for the 
last stroke, and then knocked. 

" From Mr. Ralph Nickleby," said Newman, announcing 
his errand, when he got up stairs, with all possible brevity. 

"We shall be ready directly," said Kate. "We have not 
much to carry, but I fear we must have a coach." 

" I'll get one," replied Newman. 

" Indeed you shall not trouble yourself," said Mrs. 
Nickleby. 

" I will," said Newman. 

" I can't suffer you to think of such a thing," said Mrs. 
Nickleby. 

" You can't help it," said Newman. 

"Not help it!" 

" No ; I thought of it as I came along ; but didn't get one, 
thinking you mightn't be ready. I think of a great many 
things. Nobody can prevent that." 

" O yes, I understand you, Mr. Noggs," said Mrs. Nickle- 
by. " Our thoughts are free, of course. Everybody's thoughts 
are their own, clearly." 

"They wouldn't be, if some people had their way," mut- 
tered Newman. 

" Well, no more they would, Mr. Noggs, and that's very 
true," rejoined Mrs. Nickleby. " Some people to be sure are 
such — how's your master ? " 

Newman darted a meaning glance at Kate, and replied 
with a strong emphasis on the last word of his answer, that 
Mr. Ralph Nickleby was well, and sent his love. 

" I am sure we are very much obliged to him," observed 
Mrs. Nickleby. 

" Very," said Newman. " I'll tell him so." 

It was no ver}' easy matter to mistake Newman Noggs, 
after having once seen him, and as Kate, attracted by the 
singularity of his manner (in which on this occasion, however, 
there was something respectful and even delicate, notwith- 
standing the abruptness of his speech), looked at him more 
r'osely, she recollected having caught a passing glimpse of 
that strange figure before. 

"Excuse my curiosity," she said, "but did I not see you in 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 135 

the coachyard, on the morning my brother went away to York- 
shire ? " 

Newman cast a wistful glance on Mrs. Nickleby, and said 
"No," most unblushingly. 

" No ! " exclaimed Kate, " I should have said so any- 
where." 

" You'd have said wrong," rejoined Newman. " It's the 
first time I've been out for three weeks. I've had the gout." 

Newman was ver)% very far from having the appearance of 
a gouty subject, and so Kate could not help thinking ; but the 
conference was cut short by Mrs. Nickleby's insisting on hav- 
ing the door shut, lest Mr. Noggs should take cold, and further 
persisting in sending the servant girl for a coach, for fear he 
should bring on another attack of his disorder. To both con- 
ditions, Newman was compelled to yield. Presently, the coach 
came ; and, after many sorrowful farewells, and a great deal 
of running backwards and forwards across the pavement on 
the part of Miss La Creevy, in the course of which the yellow 
turban came into violent contact with sundry foot passengers, 
it (that is to say the coach, not the turban) went away again, 
with the two ladies and their luggage inside ; and Newman, 
despite all Mrs. Nickleby's assurances that it would be his 
death — on the box beside the driver. 

They went into the City, turning down by the river side ; 
and, after a long and very slow drive, the streets being crowded 
at that hour with vehicles of every kind, stopped in front of a 
large old dingy house in Thames Street : the door and windows 
of which we're so bespattered with mud, that it would have 
appeared to have been uninhabited for years. 

The door of this deserted mansion Newman opened with 
a key which he took out of his hat — in which, by the bye, in 
consequence of the dilapidated state of his pockets, he de- 
posited ever>'thing, and would most likely have carried his 
money if he had had any — and the coach being discharged, 
he led the way into the interior of the mansion. 

Old, and gloomy, and black, in truth it was, and sullen and 
dark were the rooms, once so bustling with life and enterprise. 
There was a wharf behind, opening on the Thames. An 
empty dog-kennel, some bones of animals, fragments of iron 
hoops, and staves of old casks, lay strewn about, but no life 
was stirring there. It was a picture of cold, silent decay. 

" This house depresses and chills one," said Kate, '• and 
seems as if some blight had fallen on it. If I were supersti- 



136 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

tious, I should be almost inclined to believe that some dread- 
ful crime had been perpetrated within these old walls, and 
that the place had never prospered since. How frowning and 
how dark it looks ! " 

" Lord, my dear," replied Mrs. Nickleby, " don't talk in 
that way, or you'll frighten me to death." 

" It is only my foolish fancy, mama," said Kate, forcing a 
smile. 

" Well, then, my love, I wish you would keep your foolish 
fancy to yourself, and not wake up my foolish fancy to keep 
it company," retorted Mrs. Nickleby. " Why didn't you think 
of all this before — you are so careless — we might have asked 
Miss La Creevy to keep us company or borrowed a dog, or a 
thousand things — but it always was the way, and was just the 
same with your poor dear father. Unless I thought of every- 
thing " This was Mrs. Nickleby's usual commencement of 

a general lamentation, running through a dozen or so of com- 
plicated sentences addressed to nobody in particular, and into 
which she now launched until her breath was exhausted. 

Newman appeared not to hear these remarks, but preceded 
them to a couple of rooms on the first floor, which some kind 
of attempt had been made to render habitable. In one, were 
a few chairs, a table, an old hearth-rug, and some faded baize ; 
and a fire was ready laid in the grate. In the other, stood an 
old tent bedstead, and a few scanty articles of chamber furni- 
ture. 

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Nickleby, trying to be pleased, 
" now isn't this thoughtful and considerate of your uncle ? 
Why, we should not have had anything but the bed we bought 
yesterday, to lie down upon, if it hadn't been for his thought- 
fulness ! " 

" Veiy kind, indeed," replied Kate, looking round. 

Newman Noggs did not say that he had hunted up the old 
furniture they saw, from attic and celler ; or that he had taken 
in the halfpenny-worth of milk for tea that stood upon a 
shelf, or filled the rusty kettle on the hob, or collected the 
wood chips from the wharf, or begged the coals. But the no- 
tion of Ralph Nickleby having directed it to be done, tickled 
his fancy so much, that he could not refrain from cracking all 
his ten fingers in succession ; at which performance Mrs. 
Nickleby was rather startled at first, but supposing it to be in 
some remote manner connected with the gout, did not remark 
upon. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 137 

" We need detain you no longer, I think," said Kate. 

" Is there nothing 1 can do ? " asked Newman. 

" Nothing, thank you," rejoined Miss Nickleb3\ 

"Perhaps, my dear, Mr. Noggs would like to drink our 
healths," said Mrs. Nickleby, fumbling in her reticule for 
some small coin. 

" I think, mama," said Kate, hesitating and remarking 
Newman's averted face, " you would hurt his feelings if you 
offered it." 

Newman Noggs, bowing to the young lady more like a 
gentleman than the miserable wretch he seemed, placed his 
hand upon his breast, and, pausing for a moment, with the air 
of a man who struggles to speak but is uncertain what to say, 
quitted the room. 

As the jarring echoes of the heavy house-door, closing on 
its latch, reverberated dismally through the building, Kate felt 
half tempted to call him back, and beg him to remain a little 
while ; but she was ashamed to own her fears, and Newman 
Noggs was on his way homewards. 



CHAPTER XII. 

WHEREBY THE READER WILL BE ENABLED TO TRACE THE 
FURTHER COURSE OF MISS FANNY SQUEERS'S LOVE, AND 
TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER IT RAN SMOOTH OR OTHERWISE. 



It was 5 fortunate circumstance for Miss Fanny Squeers 
that when her worthy papa returned home on the night of the 
small tea-party, he was what the initiated term " too far gone " 
to observe the numerous tokens of extreme vexation of spirit 
which were plainly visible in her countenance. Being, how- 
ever, of a rather violent and quarrelsome mood in his cups, it 
is not impossible that he might have fallen out with her, either 
on this or some imaginary topic, if the young lady had not, 
with a foresight and prudence highly commendable, kept a 
boy up, on purpose, to bear the first brunt of the good gentle- 
man's anger; which, having vented itself in a variety of kicks 
and cuffs, subsided sufficiently to admit of his being per- 
suaded to go to bed. Which he did with his boots on, and an 
umbrella under his arm. 



I3S 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



The hungry serv^ant attended Miss Squeers in her own 
room according to custom, to curl her hair, perform the other 
little offices of her toilet, and administer as much flattery as 
she could get up, for the purpose \ for Miss Squeers was quite 
lazy enough (and sufficiently vain and frivolous withal) to 
have been a fine lady ; and it was only the arbitrary distinctions 
of rank and station which prevented her from being one. 

" How lovely your hair do curl to-night, miss ! " said the 
handmaiden. " I declare if it isn't a pity and a shame to 
brush it out ! " 

" Hold your tongue ! " replied Miss Squeers, wrathfully. 

Some considerable experience prevented the girl from be- 
ing at all surprised at any outbreak of ill-temper on the part 
of Miss Squeers. Having a half preception of what had oc- 
curred in the course of the evening, she changed her mode of 
making herself agreeable, and proceeded on the indirect tack. 

" Well, I couldn't help saying, miss, if you was to kill me 
for it," said the attendant, "that I never see nobody look so 
vulgar as Miss Price this night." 

Miss Squeers sighed, and composed herself to listen. 
*^" I know it's very wrong in me to say so, miss," continued 
the girl, delighted to see the impression" she was making, 
*' Miss Price being a friend of your'n, and all ; but she do 7 
dress herself out so, and go on in such a manner to get no- 
ticed, that — oh — well, if people only saw themselves ! 'T"" 

^"What do you mean, Phib ? " a<;].-pd_Mjt;q Sg^i^^pr'^ ^r^r.LM1■.fr 
iQj:tr own little glass, where, like most of uSiXhe._sa\it=-not 
herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image in her own 
brain. " How you talk ! " ^ 

"Talk, miss ! It's enough to make a Tom cat talk French 
grammar, only to see how she tosses her head," replied the 
handmaid. 

" She does toss her head," observed Miss Squeers, with an 
air of abstraction. 

" So vain, and so very — very plain," said the girl. 

" Poor 'Tilda ! " sighed Miss Squeers, compassionately. 

" And always laying herself out so, to get to be admired," 
pursued the servant. "Oh, dear! It's positive indelicate." 

" I can't al'ow you to talk in that way, Phib," said Miss 
Squeers. " Tilda's friends are low people, and if she don't 
know any better, it's their fault, and not hers." 

" Well, but you know, miss," said Phoebe, for which name 
" Phib " was used as a patronizing abbreviation, " if she was 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



139 



only to take copy by a friend — oh ! if she only knew how 
wrong she was, and would but set herself right by you, what a 
nice young woman she might be in time ! " 

"Phib," rejoined Miss Squeers, with a stately air, "it's 
not proper for me to hear these comparisons drawn ; they 
make 'I'ilda look a coarse improper sort of person, and it 
seems unfriendly in me to listen to them. I would rather you 
dropped the subject, Phib ; at the same time, I must say, that 
if 'Tilda Price would take pattern by somebody — not me par- 
ticularly " 

" O yes ; you, miss," interposed Phib. 
" Well, me, Phib, if you will have it so," said Miss Squeers. 
" I must say, that if she would, she would be all the better for 
it." 

" So somebody else thinks, or I am much mistaken," said 
the girl mysteriously. 

"What do you mean t " demanded Miss Squeers. 
"Never mind, miss," replied the girl; "/ know what I 
know ; that's all." 

" Phib," said Miss Squeers dramatically, " I insist upon 
your explaining yourself. What is this dark mystery .■' Speak." 
" Why, if you will have it, miss, it's this," said the servant 
girl. " Mr. John Browdie thinks as you think ; and if he 
wasn't too far gone to do it creditable, he'd be very glad to be 
off with Miss Price, and on with Miss Squeers." 

"Gracious Heavens !" exclaimed Miss Squeers, clasping 
her hands with great dignity. " What is this } " 

"Truth, ma'am, and nothing but truth," replied the artful 
Phib. 

" What a situation ! " cried Miss Squeers ; " on the brink 
of unconsciously destroying the peace and happiness of my 
own 'Tilda. What is the reason that men fall in love with 
me, whether I like it or not, and desert their chosen intendeds 
for my sake I " 

" Because they can't help it, miss," replied the girl ; " the 
reason's plain." (If Miss Squeers were the reason, it was 
very plain.) 

" Never let me hear of it again," retorted Miss Squeers. 
" Never ! Do you hear ? 'Tilda Price has faults — many 
faults — but I wish her well, and above all I wish her married ; 
for I think it highly desirable — most desirable from the very 
nature of her failings — that she should be married as soon as 
possible. No, Phib. Let her have Mr. Browdie. I may pity 



I40 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

hvn, poor fellow : but I have a great regard for 'Tilda, and 
only hope she may make a better wife than I think she will." 

With this effusion of feeling, Miss Squeers went to bed. 

Spite is a little word ; but it represents as strange a jumble 
of feelings, and compound of discords, as any polysyllable in 
the language. Miss Squeers knew as well in her heart of 
hearts, that what the miserable serving girl had said was sheer, 
coarse, lying flattery, as did the girl herself ; yet the mere 
opportunity of venting a little ill-nature against the offending 
Miss Price, and affecting to compassionate her weaknesses 
and foibles, though only in the presence of a solitary depen- 
dant, was almost as great a relief to her spleen as if the whole 
had been gospel truth. Nay, more. We have such extraor- 
dinary powers of persuasion when they are exerted over our- 
selves, that Miss Squeers felt quite high-minded and great 
after her noble renunciation of John Browdie's hand, and 
looked down upon her rival with a kind of holy calmness and 
tranquillity, that had a mighty effect in soothing her ruffled 
feelino^s. 

This happy state of mind had some influence in bringing 
about a reconciliation ; for, when a knock came at the front 
door next day, and the miller's daughter was announced, Miss 
Squeers betook herself to the parlor in a Christian frame of 
spirit, perfectly beautiful to behold. 

" Well, Fanny," said the miller's daughter, " you see I 
have come to see you, although we had some words last 
night." 

" I pity your bad passions, 'Tilda," replied Miss Squeers ; 
" but I bear no malice. I am above it." 

" Don't be cross, Fanny," said Miss Price. " I have come 
to tell you something that I know will please you." 

" What may that be, 'Tilda ? " demanded Miss Squeers ; 
screwing up her lips, and looking as if nothing in earth, air, 
fire, or water, could afford her the slightest gleam of satisfac- 
tion. 

" This," rejoined Miss Price. " After we left here last 
night, John and I had a dreadful quarrel." 

" That doesn't please me," said Miss Squeers — relaxing 
into a smile though. 

" Lor ! I wouldn't think so bad of you as to suppose it 
it did," rejoined her companion. "That's not it." 

" Oh ! " said Miss Squeers, relapsing into melancholy. 
" Go on." 



NICHOLAS NrCKLEBY. 141 

After a great deal of wrangling, and saying we would 
never see each other any more," continued Miss Price, "we 
made it up, and this morning John went and wrote our names 
down to be put up, for the first time, next Sunday, so we shall 
be married in three weeks, and I give you notice to get your 
frock made." 

There was mingled gall and honey in this intelligence. 
The prospect of the friend's being married so soon, was the 
gall, and the certainty of her not entertaining serious designs 
upon Nicholas was the honey. Upon the whole, the sweet 
greatly preponderated over the bitter, so Miss Squeers said 
she would get the frock made, and that she hoped 'Tilda might 
be happy, though at the same time she didn't know, and would 
not have her build too much upon it, for men were strange 
creatures, and a great many married women were very miser- 
able, and wished themselves single again with all their hearts ; 
to which condolences Miss Squeers added others equally cal- 
culated to raise her friend's spirits and promote her cheerful- 
ness of mind. 

" But come now, Fanny," said Miss Price. " I want to 
have a word or two with you about young Mr. Nickleby." 

" He is nothing to me," interrupted Miss Squeers, with 
hysterical symptoms. " I despise him too much 1 " 

" Oh, you don't mean that, I am sure ? " replied her friend. 
"Confess, Fanny; don't you like him now?" 

Without returning any direct reply. Miss Squeers, all at 
once, fell into a paroxysm of spiteful tears, and exclaimed that 
she was a wretched, neglected, miserable, castaway. 

" I hate everybody," said Miss Squeers, "and I wish that 
everybody was dead — that I do." 

"Dear, dear," said Miss Price, quite moved by this avowal 
of misanthropical sentiments. "You are not serious, I am 
sure." 

"Yes, I am," rejoined Miss Squeers, tying tight knots in 
her pocket-handkerchief, and clenching her teeth. " And I 
wish /was dead too. There ! " 

" Oh ! you'll think very differently in another five min- 
utes," said Matilda. " How much better to take him into 
favor again, than to hurt yourself by going on in that way. 
Wouldn't it be much nicer, now, to have him all to yourself 
on good terms, in a company-keeping, love-making, pleasant 
sort of manner .'"' 

" I don't know but what it wOuld," sobbed Miss Squeers. 



142 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



" Oh ! 'Tilda how could j^ou have acted so mean and dis- 
honorable ! I wouldn't have believed it of you, if anybody 
had told me." 

" Heyday ! " exclaimed Miss Price, giggling. " One would 
suppose I had been murdering somebody at least." 

" Very nigh as bad," said Miss Squeers passionately. 

" And all this, because I happen to have enough of good 
looks to make people civil to me," cried Miss Price. " Persons 
don't make their own faces, and it's no more my fault if mine 
is a good one than it is other people's fault if theirs is a bad 
one." 

" Hold your tongue," shrieked Miss Squeers, in her 
shrillest tone ; "or you'll make me slap you, 'Tilda, and after- 
wards I should be sorry for it ! " 

It is needless to say, that, by this time, the temper of each 
young lady was in some slight degree affected by the tone of 
her conversation, and that a dash of personality was infused 
into the altercation, in consequence. Ind^d, the quarrel, 
from slight beginnings, rose to a considerable height, and was 
assuming a very violent complexion, when both parties, fall- 
ing into a great passion of tears, exclaimed simultaneously, 
that they had never thought of being spoken to in that way : 
which explanation, leading to a remonstrance, gradually 
brought on an explanation ; and the upshot was, that they fell 
into each other's arms and vowed eternal friendship ; the 
oocasion in question, making the fifty-second time of repeating 
the same impressive ceremony within a twelvemonth. 

Perfect amicability being thus restored, a dialogue natur- 
ally ensued upon the number and nature of the garments 
which would be indispensable for Miss Price's entrance into 
the holy state of matrimony, when Miss Squeers clearly showed 
that a great many more than the miller could, or would, 
afford, were absolutely necessar)', and could not decently be 
dispensed with. The young lady then, by an easy digression, 
led the discourse to her own wardrobe, and after recounting 
its principal beauties, at some length, took her friend up stairs 
to make inspection thereof. The treasures of two drawers 
and a closet having been displayed, and all the smaller articles 
tried on, it was time for Miss Price to return home ; and as 
she had been in raptures with all the frocks, and had been 
stiicken quite dumb with admiration of a new pink scarf, Miss 
Squeers said in high good humor, that she would walk part of 
the way with her, for the pleasure of her company 3 and ofE 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



143 



they went together : Miss Squeers dilating, as they walked 
along, upon her father's accomplishments, and multiplying 
his income by ten, to give her friend some faint notion of the 
vast importance and superiority cf her family. 

It happened that that particular time, comprising the short 
daily interval which was suffered to ela]Dse between what was 
pleasantly called the dinner, of Mr. Squeers's pupils, and their 
return to the pursuit of useful knowledge, was precisely the 
hour when Nicholas was accustomed to issue forth for a 
melancholy walk, and to brood, as he sauntered listlessly 
through the village, upon his miserable lot. Miss Squeers 
knew this, perfectly well, but had perhaps forgotten it, for 
when she caught sight of that young gentleman advancing to- 
wards them, she evinced many symptoms of surprise and con- 
sternation, and assured her friend that she " felt fit to drop 
into the earth." 

" Shall we turn back, or run into a cottage ? " asked Miss 
Price. " He don't see us yet." 

" No, 'Tilda," replied Miss Squeers, " it is my duty to go 
through with it, and i will ! " 

As Miss Squeers said this, in the tone of one who has 
made a high moral resolution, and was, besides, taken with 
one or two chokes and catchings of breath, indicative of feel- 
ings at a high pressure, her friend made no farther remark, 
and they bore straight down upon Nicholas, who, walking with 
his eyes bent upon the ground, was not aware of their approach 
until they were close upon him, otherwise he might, perhaps, 
have taken shelter himself. 

"Good-morning," said Nicholas, bowing and passing by. 

" He is going," murmured Miss Squeers. " I shall choke, 
'Tilda." 

" Come back, Mr. Nickleby, do ! " cried Miss Price, affect- 
ing alarm at her friend's threat, but really actuated by a mali- 
cious wish to hear what Nicholas would say ; " come back, 
Mr. Nickleby ! " 

Mr. Nickleby came back, and looked as confused as might 
be, as he inquired whether the ladies had any commands for 
him. 

" Don't stop to talk," urged Miss Price, hastily, " but sup- 
port her on the other side. How do you feel now, dear ? " 

" Better," sighed Miss Squeers, laying a beaver bonnet of 
a reddish brown with a green veil attached, on Mr. Nickleby's 
shoulder. " This foolish faintness ! " 



144 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

"Don't call it foolish, dear," said Miss Price, her bright 
eye dancing with merriment as she saw the perplexity of 
Nicholas; "you have no reason to be ashamed of it. It's 
those who are too proud to come round again, without all this 
to-do, that ought to be ashamed." 

" You are resolved to fix it upon me, I see," said Nicholas, 
smiling, " although I told you, last night, it was not my fault." 

" There ; he says it was not his fault, my dear," remarked 
the wicked Miss Price. " Perhaps you were too jealous, or 
too hasty with him ? He says it was not his fault. You hear ; 
I think that's apology enough." 

"You will not understand me," said Nicholas. "Pray 
dispense with this jesting, for I have no time, and really no 
inclination, to be the subject or promoter of mirth just now." 

" What do you mean ? " asked Miss Price, affecting amaze- 
ment. 

" Don't ask him, 'Tilda," cried Miss Squeers ; " I forgive 
him." 

" Dear me," said Nicholas, as the brown bonnet went down 
on his shoulder again, " this is more serious than I supposed. 
Allow me ! Will you have the goodness to hear me speak ? " 

Here he raised up the brown bonnet, and regarding with^ 
most unfeigned astonishment a look of tender reproach from 
Miss Squeers, shrunk back a few paces to be out of the reach 
of the fair burden, and went on to say : 

" I am very sorry — truly and sincerely sorry — for having 
been the cause of any difference among you, last night. I 
reproach myself, most bitterly, for having been so unfortunate 
as to cause the dissension that occurred, although I did so, I 
assure you, most unwittingly and heedlessly." 

" Well ; that's not all you have got to say surely," ex- 
claimed Miss Price as Nicholas paused. 

" I fear there is something more," stammered Nicholas 
with a half smile, and looking towards Miss Squeers, "it is a 
most awkward thing to say — but — the — very mention of such 
a supposition makes one look like a pupjjy — still — may I ask 
if that lady supposes that I entertain any — in short, does she 
think that I am in love with her ? " 

"Delightful embarrassment," thought Miss Squeers,"! 
have brought him to it, at last. Answer for me, dear," she 
whispered to her friend. 

" Does she think so .' " rejoined Miss Price ; " of course 
she does." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. ^1457 

She does ! " exclaimed Nicholas with such energy of 
utterance as might have been, for the moment, mistaken for 
rapture. 

" Certainly," replied Miss Price. 

" If Mr. Nickleby has doubted that, 'Tilda," said the 
blushing Miss Squeers in soft accents, "he may set his mind 
at rest. His sentiments are recipro — " 

" Stop," cried Nicholas hurriedly ; "pray hear me. This 
is the grossest and wildest delusion, the completest and most 
signal mistake, that ever human being labored under, cr ccm- 
miited. I have scarcelv seen the young lady half a dozen 
times, but if I had seen her sixty times, or am destined to see 
her sixty thousand, it would be, and will be, precisely the 
same. I have not one thought, wish or hope, connected with 
her, unless it be— ; and I sa y this, not to hurt her_ feelings, but to 
impress her with tlie real staTe~of my own — unless^it' be the 
one object, dear to my heart as life itself, of being one day 
a,bl_e to turn my back upon this accursed place, never to set 
foot in it again, or think of it — even think of it — but with 
loathing and disgust." 

With this particularly plain and straight-forward declara- 
tion, which he made with all the vehemence that his indignant 
and excited feelings could bring to bear upon it, Nicholas, 
waiting to hear no more, retreated. 

But poor Miss Squeers ! Her anger, rage, and vexation ; 
the rapid succession of bitter and passionate feelings that 
whirled through her mind ; are not to be described. Refused ! 
refused by a teacher, picked up by advertisement, at an annual 
salary of five pounds payable at indefinite periods, and " found " 
in food and lodging like the very boys themselves ; and this 
too in the presence of a little chit of a miller's daughter of 
eighteen, who was going to be married, in three weeks' time, 
to a man who had gone down on his very knees to ask ! She 
could have choked in right good earnest, at the thought of 
being so humbled. 

But there was one thing clear in the midst of her mortifi- 
cation ; and that was, that she hated and detested Nicholas 
with all the narrowness of mind and littleness of purpose 
worthy a descendant of the house of Squeers. And there was 
one comfort too ; and that was, that every hour in every day 
she could wound his pride, and goad him with the infliction 
of some slight, or insult, or deprivation, which could not but 
have some effect on the most insensible person, and must be 

10 



146 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

acutely felt by one so sensitive as Nicholas. With these two 
reflections uppermost in her mind, Miss Squeers made the 
best of the matter to her friend, by observing that Mr. Nickleby 
was such an odd creature, and of such a violent temper, that 
she feared that she should be obliged to give him up ; and 
parted from her. 

And here it may be remarked, that Miss Squeers, having 
bestowed her affections (or whatever it might be that, in the 
absence of anything better, represented them) on Nicholas 
Nickleby, had never once seriously contemplated the possi- 
bility of his being of a different opinion from herself in the 
business. Miss Squeers reasoned that she was prepossessing 
and beautiful, and that her father was master, and Nicholas 
man, and that her father had saved money, and Nicholas had 
none, all of which seemed to her conclusive arguments why 
the young ijoap should feel only too much honored by her 
preference. | She had not failed to recollect, either, how much 
more agreeable she could render his situation if she were his 
friend, and how much more disagreeable if she were his enemy ; 
and, doubtless, many less scrupulous young gentlemen than 
Nicholas would have encouraged her extravagance had it been 
only for this very obvious and intelligible reason. However, 
he had thought proper to do otherwise, and Miss Squeers was 
outrageoua i 

"Let me see," said the irritated young lady, when she had 
regained her own room, and eased her mind by committing 
an assault on Phib, " if I don't set mother against him a 
little more when she comes back ! " 

It was scarcely necessary to do this, but Miss Squeers was 
as good as her word ; and poor Nicholas, in addition to bad 
foo:l, dirty lodging, and the being compelled to w-itness one 
dull unvarying round of squalid misery, was treated with 
every special indignity that malice could suggest, or the most 
grasping cupidity put upon him. 

Nor was this all. lliere was another and deeper system 
of annoyance which made his heart sink, and nearly drove 
him wild, by its injustice and cruelty. 

T.ie wretched creature, Smike, since the night Nicholas 
had spoken kindly to him in the school-room, had followed 
him to and fro, with an ever restless desire to serve or help 
him ; anticipating such little wants as his humble ability could 
supply, and content only to be near him. He would sit be- 
side him for hours, looking patiently into his face ; and a 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



»47 



word would brighten up his care-worn visage, and call into it 
a passing gleam, even of happiness. He was an altered being ; 
he had an object now ; and that object was, to show hi;i at- 
tachment to the only person — that person a stranger — who 
had treated him, not to say with kindness, but like a human 
creature. 

Upon this poor being, all the spleen and ill-humor that 
could not be vented on Nicholas were unceasingly bestowed. 
Drudgery would have been nothing — Smike was well used to 
that, Buffetings inflicted without cause, would have been 
equally a matter of course ; for to them also, he had served a 
long and weary apprenticeship ; but it was no sooner observed 
that he had become attached to Nicholas, than stripes and 
blows, stripes and blows, morning, noon, and night, were his 
only portion. Squeers was jealous of the influence which his 
man had so soon acquired, and his family hated him, and 
Smike paid for both. Nicholas saw it, and ground his teeth 
at every repetition of the savage and cowardly attack. 

He had arranged a few regular lessons for the boys ; and 
one night as he paced up and down the dismal school-room, 
his swollen heart almost bursting to think that his protection 
and countenance should have increased the misery of the 
wretched being whose peculiar destitution had awakened his 
pity, he paused mechanically in a dark corner where sat the 
object of his thoughts. 

The poor soul was poring hard over a tattered book with 
the traces of recent tears still upon his face ; vainly endeavor- 
ing to master some task which a child of nine years old, pos- 
sessed of ordinary powers, could have conquered with ease, 
but which, to the addled brain of the crushed^ boy of nine- 
teen, was a sealed and hopeless myster}^ Yet "there he sat, 
patiently conning the page again and again, stimulated by 
no boyish ambition, for he was the common jest and scoff 
even of the uncouth objects that congregated about him, 
but inspired by the one eager desire to please his solita-y 
friend. 

Nicholas laid his hand upon his shoulder. 

"I can't do it," said the dejected creature, looking up 
with bitter disappointment in every feature. " No, nc." 

" Do not try," replied Nicholas. 

The boy shook his head, and closing the book with a sigh, 
looked vacantly round, and laid his head upon his arm. Ha 
was weeping. 



1 48 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V- 

" Do not for God's sake," said Nicholas, in an agitated 
voice ; " I cannot bear to see you." 

"They are more hard with me than ever," sobbed the 
boy. 

" I know it," rejoined Nicholas, *' They are." 

" But for you," said the outcast, " I should die. They 
would kill me ; they would ; I know they would." 

" You will do better, poor fellow," replied Nicholas, shak- 
ing his head mournfully, "when I am gone." 

" Gone ! " cried the other, looking intently in his face. 

" Softly ! " rejoined Nicholas. "Yes." 

" Are you going } " demanded the boy, in an earnest 
whisper. 

"I cannot say," replied Nicholas. "I was speaking 
more to my own thoughts, than to you." 

" Tell me," said the boy imploringly, " Oh do tell me, wi// 
you go — w/// you ? " 

" I shall be driven to that at last ! " said Nicholas. " The 
world is before me, after all." 

"Tell me," urged Smike, " is the world as bad and dismal 
as this place ? " 

" Heaven forbid," replied Nicholas, pursuing the train of 
his own thoughts, " its hardest, coarsest toil, were happiness 
to this." 

" Should I ever meet you there ? " demanded the boy 
speaking with unusual wildness and volubility. 

"Yes," replied Nicholas, willing to soothe him. 

" No. no ! " said the other, clasping him by the hand. 
" Should I — should I — tell me that again. Say I should be 
sure to fin, I you." 

" You would,"' replied Nicholas, with the same humane in- 
tention, " antl I would help and aid you, and not bring fresh 
sorrow on you as I have done here." 

The boy caught both the young man's hands passionately 
i:i his, an !, hugging them to hi; breast, uttered ?. few broken 
sound ; which were unintelligible. Squeers entered, at the 
moment, and he shrunk back into his old corner. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 149 



CHAPTER XIII. 

NICHOLAS VARIES THE MONOTONY OF DOTHEBOYS HALL BY A 
MOST VIGOROUS AND REMARKABLE PROCEEDING, WHICH 
LEADS TO CONSEQUENCES OF SOME IMPORTANCE. 

The cold, feeble, dawn of a January morning was stealing 
in at the windows of the common sleeping-room, when Nich- 
olas, raising himself on his arm, looked among the prostrate 
forms which on every side surrounded him, as though in search 
of some particular object. 

It needed a quick eye to detect, from among the huddled 
mass of sleepers, the form of any given individual. As they 
lay closely packed together, covered, for warmth's sake, with 
their patched and ragged clothes, little could be distinguished 
but the sharp outlines of pale faces, over which the sombre 
light shed the same dull heavy color ; with, here and there, a 
gaunt arm thrust forth ; its thinness hidden by no covering, 
but fully exposed to view, in all its shrunken ugliness. There 
were some who, lying on their backs with upturned faces and 
clenched hands, just visible in the leaden light, bore more the 
aspect of dead bodies than of li\ing creatures ; and there were 
others coiled up into strange and fantastic postures, such as 
might have been taken for the uneasy efforts of pain to gain 
some temporary relief, rather than the freaks of slumber. A 
few — and these were among the youngest of the children — 
slept peacefully on, with smiles upon their faces, dreaming 
perhaps of home ; but ever and again a deep and heavy sigh, 
breaking the stillness of the room, announced that some new 
sleeper had awakened to the misery of another day ; and, as 
morning took the place of night, the smiles gradually faded 
away, with the friendly darkness which had given them birth. 

Dreams are the bright creatures of poem and legend, who 
sport on earth in the night season, and melt away in the first 
beam of the sun, which lights grim care and stern reality on 
their daily pilgrimage through the world. 

Nicholas looked upon the sleepers ; at first, with the air 
of one who gazes upon a scene which, though familiar to him, 
has lost none of its sorrowful effect in consequence ; and, 
afterwards, with a more intense and searching scrutiny, as a 



1 2 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

man would, who missed something his eye was accustomed to 
meet, and had expected to rest upon. He was still occupied 
in this search, and had half risen from his bed in the eager- 
ness of his quest, when the voice of Squeers was heard, call- 
ing from the bottom of the stairs. 

"Now then," cried that gentleman, "are you going to 
sleep all day, up there — " 

" You lazy hounds ? " added Mrs. Squeers, finishing the 
sentence, and producing at the same time, a sharp sound, like 
that which is occasioned by the lacing of stays. 

" We shall be down directly, sir," replied Nicholas. 

" Down directly ! " said Squeers. " Ah ! you had better 
be down directly, or I'll be down upon some of you in less. 
Where's that Smike .? " 

Nicholas looked hurriedly round again, but made no 
answer. 

" Smike ! " shouted Squeers. 

" Do you want your head broke in a fresh place, Smike "i " 
demanded his amiable lady in the same key. 

Still there was no reply, and still Nicholas stared about 
him, as did the greater part of the boys, who were by this time 
roused, 

" Confound his impudence ! " muttered Squeers, rapping 
the stair-rail impatiently with his cane. " Nickleby ! " 

"Well, sir." 

" Send that obstinate scoundrel down ; don't you hear me 
calling ? " 

" He is not here, sir," replied Nicholas. 

" Don't tell me a lie," retorted the schoolmaster. " He 
is." 

" He is not," retorted Nicholas angrily, " don't tell me 
one." 

" We shall soon see that," said Mr. Squeers, rushing up 
stairs. " I'll find him, I warrant you." 

With which assurance, Mr. Squeers bounced into the 
dormitory, and, swinging his cane in the air ready for a blow, 
darted into the corner where the lean body of the drudge was 
usually stretched at night. The cane descended harmlessly 
upon the ground. There was nobody there. 

" What does this mean ? " said Squeers, turning round 
with a very pale face " Where have you hid him ? " 

" I have seen nothing of him, since last night," replied 
Nicholas. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



151 



"Come," said Squeers, evidently frightened, though he 
endeavored to look otherwise, "you won't save him this way. 
Where is he ? " 

" At the bottom of the nearest pond for aught I know," re- 
joined Nicholas in a low voice, and fixing his eyes full on the 
master's face. 

'• D — n you, what do you mean by that ? " retorted Squeers 
in great perturbation. WiLhout waiting for a reply, he in- 
quired of the boys whether any one among them knew any 
thing of their missing schoolmate. 

There was a general hum of anxious denial, in the midst 
of which, one shrill voice was heard to say (as, indeed, every- 
body thought) : 

" Please, sir, I think Smike's run away, sir." 

" Ha ! " cried Squeers, turning sharp round ; " Who said 
that?" 

" Tomkins, please sir," rejoined a chorus of voices. Mr. 
Squeers made a plunge into the crowd, and at one dive, 
caught a very little boy, habited still in his night gear, and the 
perplexed expression of whose countenance as he was brought 
forward, seemed to intimate that he was as yet uncertain 
whether he was about to be punished or rewarded for the sug- 
gestion. He was not long in doubt. 

"You think he has run away, do you, sir?" demanded 
Squeers. 

" Yes, please sir," replied the little boy. 

"And what, sir," said Squeers, catching the little boy 
suddenly by the arms and whisking up his drapery in a most 
dexterous manner, " what reason have you to suppose that 
any boy would want to run away from this establishment ? 
Eh, sir?" 

The child raised a dismal cry, by way of answer, and Mr. 
Squeers, throwing himself into the most favorable attitude for 
exercising his strength, beat him until the little urchin in his 
writhings actually rolled out of his hands, when he mercifully 
allowed him to roll away as he best could. 

" There," said Squeers. " Now if any other boy thinks 
Smike has run away, I should be glad to ha\-e a talk with 
him." 

There was, of course, a profound silence during which 
Nicholas showed his disgust as plainly as looks could show it. 

"Well, Nickleby," said Squeers, eyeing him maliciously. 
" You think he has run away, I suppose ? " 



1^2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" I think it extremely likely," replied Nicholas, in a quiet 
manner. 

" Oh, you do, do you ? " sneered Squeers. " Maybe you 
know he has ? " • 

" I know nothins: of the kind." 

" He didn't tell you he was going, I suppose, did he } " 
sneered Squeers. 

'• He did not," replied Nicholas ; " I am very glad he did 
not, for it would then have been my duty to have warned you, 
in time." 

'• Which no doubt you would ha\-e been devilish soxvj to 
do," said Squeers in a taunting fashion. 

"I should indeed," replied Nicholas. "You interpret 
my feelings with great accuracy." 

Mrs. Squeers had listened to this conversation, from the 
bottom of the stairs ; but, now losing all patience, she hastily 
assumed her night-jacket, and made her way to the scene of 
action. 

" What's all this here to do? " said the lady, as the boys 
fell off right and left, to save her the trouble of clearing a 
passage with her brawny arms. " What on earth are you 
talking to him for, Squeery ! " 

" Why, my dear," said Squeers, " the fact is, that Smike 
is not to be found ! " 

"Well, I know that," said the lady, "and where's the 
wonder ? If you get a parcel of proud-stomached teachers 
that set the young dogs a rebelling, what else can you look 
for? Now, young man, you just have the kindness to take 
yourself off to the school-room, and take the boys off with 
you, and don't you stir out of there 'till you have leave given 
you, or you and I may fall out in a way that'll spoil your 
beauty, handsome as you think yourself, and so I tell you." 

" Indeed ! " said Nicholas. 

" Yes ; and indeed and indeed again. Mister Jackanapes," 
said the e.Kcited lady ; " and I wouldn't keep such as you in 
the house, another hour, if I had my way." 

" Nor would you if I had mine," replied Nicholas. " Now, 
bovs ! " 

"Ah! Now boys," said Mrs. Squeers, mimicking, as 
nearly as she could, the voice and manner of the usher. " Fol- 
low your leader, bovs, and take pattern by Smike if you dare. 
See what he'll get for himself, when he is brought back ; and, 
mind ! I tell you that you shall have as bad, and twice as bad, 
if you so much as open your mouths about him." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 153 

" If I catch him," said Squeers, "I'll only stop short of 
flaying him alive. I give you notice, boys." 

"^you catch him," retorted Mrs. Squeers, contemptu- 
ously, "you are sure to ; you can't help it, if you go the right 
way to work. Come ! Away with you ! " 

With these words, Mrs. Squeers dismissed the boys, and 
after a little light skirmishing with those in the rear who were 
pressing forward to get out of the way, but were detained for 
a few moments by the throng in front, succeeded in clearing 
the room, when she confronted her spouse alone. 

"He is off," said Mrs. Squeers. "The cow-house and 
the stable are locked up, so he can't be there ; and he's not 
down stairs anywhere, for the girl has looked. He must have 
gone York way, and by a public road too." 

" Why must he ? " inquired Squeers. 

" Stupid ! " said Mrs. Squeers angrily " He hadn't any 
money, had he ? " 

" Never had a penny of his own in his whole life, that I 
know of," replied Squeers. 

" To be sure," rejoined Mrs. Squeers, " and he didn't 
take anything to eat with him ; that I'll answer for. Ha ! ha ! 
ha ! " 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! " laughed Squeers, 

"Then, of course," said Mrs. S., "he must beg his way,* 
and he could do that nowhere, but on the public road." 

"That's true," exclaimed Squeers, clapping his hands. 

" True ! Yes ; but you would never have thought of it, 
for all that, if I hadn't said so," replied his wife. "Now, if 
you take the chaise and go one road, and I borrow Swallow's 
chaise, and go the other, what with keeping our eyes open 
and asking questions, one or the other of us is pretty certain 
to lay hold of him." 

The worthy lady's plan was adopted and put in execution 
without a moment's delay. After a very hasty breakfast, and 
the prosecution of some inquiries in the village, the result of 
which seemed to show that he was on the right track, Squeers 
started forth in the poney-chaise, intent upon discovery and 
vengeance. Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Squeers, arrayed in the 
white top-coat, and tied up in various shawls and handker- 
chiefs, issued forth in another chaise and another direction, 
taking with her a good-sized bludgeon, several odd. pieces of 
strong cord, and a stout laboring man : all provided and car- 
ried upon the expedition with the sole object of assisting in 



1 5 4 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

the capture, and (once caught) insuring the safe custody of 
the untortunate Smike. 

Nicholas remained behind, in a tumult of feeling, sensible 
that whatever might be the upshot of the boy's flight, nothing 
but painful and deplorable consequences were likely to ensue 
from it. Death, from want and exposure to the weather, was 
the best that could be expected from the protracted wander- 
ing of so poor and helpless a creature, alone and unfriended, 
through a country of which he was wholly ignorant. There 
was little, perhaps, to choose between this fate and a return 
to the tender mercies of the Yorkshire school ; but the un- 
happy being had established a hold upon his sympathy and 
compassion, which made his heart ache at the prospect of 
the suffering he was destined to undergo. He lingered on, 
in restless anxiety, picturing a thousand possibilities, until the 
evening of next day, when Squeers returned, alone, a.nd un- 
successful. 

" No news of the scamp ! " said the schoolmaster, who 
had evidently been stretching his legs, on the old principle, 
not a few times during the journey. " I'll have consolation 
for this out of somebody, Nickleby, if Mrs. Squeers don't hunt 
him down ; so I give you warning." 

"It is not in my power to console you, sir," said Nicholas. 
'"It is nothing to me." 

" Isn't it ? " said Squeers in a threatening manner. "We 
shall see ! " 

" We shall," rejoined Nicholas. 

" Here's the pony run right off his legs, and me obliged to 
come home with a hack cob, that'll cost fifteen shillings be- 
sides other expenses," said Squeers ; "who's to pay for that, 
do you hear ? " 

Nicholas shrugged his shoulders and remained silent. 
" I'll have it out of somebody, I tell you," said Squeers, 
his usual harsh crafty manner changed to open bullying. 
" None of your whining vaporings here, Mr. 1 uppy, but be 
off to your kennel, for its past your bed-time ! Come I Get 
out ! " 

Nicholas bit his lip and knit his hands involuntarily, for 
his finger ends tingled to avenge the insult ; but remembering 
that the man was drunk, and that it could come to little but 
a noisy brawl, he contented himself with darting a contemptu- 
ous look at the tyrant, and walked, as majestically as he 
could, up stairs ; not a little nettled, however, to observe that 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y 155 

Miss Squeers and Master Squeers, and the servant girl, were 
enjoying the scene from a snug corner ; the two former, in- 
dulging in many edifying remarks about the presumption of 
poor upstarts, which occasioned a vast deal of laughter, in 
which even the most miserable of all miserable servant girls 
joined ; while Nicholas, stung to the quick, drew over his 
head such bed-clothes as he had, and sternly resolved that the 
outstanding account between himself and Mr. Squeers should 
be settled rather more speedily than the latter anticipated. 

Another day came, and Nicholas was scarcely awake when 
he heard the wheels of a chaise approaching the house. It 
stopped. The voice of Mrs. Squeers was heard, and in exult- 
ation, ordering a glass of spirits for somebody, which was in 
itself sufficient sign that something extraordinary had hap- 
pened. Nicholas hardly dared to look out of the window ; 
but he did so, and the very first object that met his eyes was 
the wretched Smike : so bedabbled with mud and rain, so 
haggard and worn, and wild, that, but for his garments being 
such as no scarecrow was ever seen to wear, he might have 
been doubtful, even then, of his identity. 

" Lift him out," said Squeers, after he had literally feasted 
his eyes, in silence, upon the culprit, " Bring him in ; bring 
him in ! " 

" Take care," cried Mrs. Squeers, as her husband proffered 
his assistance. '' We tied his legs under the apron and made 
'em fast to the chaise, to prevent his giving us the slip again." 

With hands trembling with delight, Squeers unloosened 
the cord ; and Smike, to all appearance more dead than alive, 
was brought into the house and securely locked up in a cellar, 
until such time as Mr. Squeers should deem it expedient to 
operate upon him, in presence of the assembled school. 

Upon a hasty consideration of the circumstances, it may 
be matter of surprise to some persons, that Mr. and Mrs. 
Squeers should have taken so much trouble to repossess them- 
selves of an incumbrance of which it was their wont to 
complain so loudly ; but their sui prise will cease when they 
are informed that the manifQl d ser vices of the drudge, if per- 
formed by anybody else, would have cost the establishment 
some ten or twelve' shillings per week in the shape of wages ; 
and furthermore, that all runaways were, as a matter of policy, 
made severe examples of, at Dotheboys Hall, inasmuch as. 
in consequence of the limited extent of its attractions, there 
was but little inducement, beyond the powerful impulse of fear, 



156 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



I 



for any pupil, provided with the usual number of legs and the 
power of using them, to remain. 

The news that Smike had been caught and brought back 
in triumph, ran like wild-fire through the hungry community, 
and expectation was on tiptoe all the morning. On tiptoe it was 
destined to remain, however, until afternoon ; when Squeers hav- 
ing refreshed himself with his dinner, and further strengthened 
himself by an extra libation or so, made his appearance (accom- 
panied by his amiable partner) with a countenance of porten- 
tous import, and a fearful instrument of flagellation, strong, 
supple, wax-ended, and new — in short, purchased that morning, 
expressly for the occasion. 

"Is every boy here?" asked Squeers, in a tremendous 
voice. 

Every boy was there, but every boy was afraid to speak ; 
so, Squeers glared along the lines to assure himself ; and every 
eye drooped, and every head cowered down, as he did so. 

*• Each boy keep his place," said Squeers, administering 
his favorite blow to the desk, and regarding with gloomy satis- 
faction the universal start which it never failed to occasion. 
"Nickleby ! to your desk, sir." 

It was remarked by more than one small observer, that 
there was a very curious and unusual expression in the usher's 
face ; but he took his seat, without opening his lips in reply. 
Squeers, casting a triumphant glance at his assistant, and a 
look of most comprehensive despotism on the boys, left the 
room, and shortly afterwards returned, dragging Smike by the 
collar — or rather by that fragment of his jacket which was 
nearest the place where his collar would have been, had he 
boasted such a decoration. 

In any other place, the appearance of the wretched, jaded, 
spiritless object, would have occasioned a murmur of compas- 
sion and remonstrance. It had some effect, even there ; for 
the lookers-on moved uneasily in their seats, and a few of the 
boldest ventured to steal looks at each other, expressive of in- 
dignation and pity. 

They were lost on Squeers, however, whose gaze was 
fastened on the luckless Smike, as he inquired, according to 
custom in such cases, whether he had anvthing to say for him- 
self. 

" Nothing, I suppose ? " said Squeers, with a diabolical 
giin. 

Smike glanced round, and his .eye rested for an instant on 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



157 



Nicholas, as if he had expected him to intercede ; but his look 
was riveted on his desk. 

" Have you anything to say ? " demanded Squeers again \ 
giving his right arm two or three flourishes to try its power 
and suppleness. " Stand a little out of the way. Mrs. Squeers 
my dear ; I've hardly got room enough." 

" Spare me, sir ! " cried Smike. 

" Oh ! that's all, is it ? " said Squeers. " Yes, I'll flog you 
within an inch of your life, and spare you that." 

" Ha, ha, ha," laughed Mrs. Squeers, " that's a good 'un ! " 

"I was driven to do it," said Smike faintly; and casting 
another imploring look about him. 

" Driven to do it, were you," said Squeers. " Oh ! it wasn't 
your'~fa]3TrX'Trwas iriTne, I suppose — eh ? " 

'"'^A nasty, ungrateful, pig-headed, brutish, obstinate, sneak- 
ing dog," exclaimed Mrs. Squeers, taking Smike's head under 
her arm, and administering a cuff at every epithet ; what 
does he mean by that ? " 

" Stand aside, my dear," replied Squeers. " We'll try and 
find out." 

Mrs. Squeers being out of breath with her exertions, com- 
plied. Squeers caught the boy firmly in his grip ; one des- 
perate cut had fallen on his body — he was wincing from the 
lash, and uttering a scream of pain — it was raised again, and 
again about to fall — when Nicholas Nickleby suddenly start- 
ing up, cried " Stop ! " in a voice that made the rafters ring. 

"Who cried stop ? " said Squeers turning savagely round. 

" I," said Nicholas, stepping forward. " This must not go 

on." 

" Must not go on ! " cried Squeers, almost in a shriek. 

" No ! " thundered Nicholas. 

Aghast and stupefied by the boldness_pf lloe-iftterierence, 
Squeers released his hold of Smike, and falling back a pace 
or two, gazed upon Nicholas with looks that were positively 
frightful. 

" I say must not," repeated Nicholas, nothing daunted ; 
"shall n ot. I will prevent it." 

Squeers continued to gaze upon him, with his eyes starting 
out of his head ; but astonishment had actually, for the moment, 
bereft him of speech. 

" You have disregarded all my quiet interference in the 
miserable lad's behaff," said Nicholas; "you have returned 
no answer to the letter in which I begged forgiveness for him, 



158 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



and offered to be responsible that he would remain quietly 
here. Don't blame me for this public interference. You have 
brought it upon yourself; not I." 

" Sit down beggar ! " screamed Squeers, almost beside him- 
self with rage, and seizing Smike as he spoke. 

"Wretch," rejoined Nicholas fiercely, "touch him at your 
peril ! I will not stand by and see it done. My blood is up, 
and I have the strength of ten such men as you. Look to your- 
self, for by Heaven I will not spare you, if you drive me on ! " 

" Stand back," cried Squeers, brandishing his weapon. > 

" I have a long series of insults to avenge," said Nicholas, / 
flushed with passion ; " and my indignation is aggravated by r 
the dastardly cruelties practised on helpless infancy in this \ 
foul den. Have a care \ for if you do raise the devil within i 
me, the consequences shall fall heavily upon your own headii^ 

He had scarcely spoken, when Squeers, in a violent out- 
break of wrath, and with a cry like the howl of a wild beast, 
spat upon him, and struck him a blow across the face with his 
instrument of torture, which raised up a bar of livid flesh as it 
was inflicted. Smarting with the agony of the blow, and con- 
centrating into that one moment all his feelings of rage, scorn, 
and indignation, , Nicholas sprang upon him, wrested the 
weapon from his hand, and pinning him by the throat, beat 
the ruffian till he roared for mercy. 

The boys — with the exception of Master Squeers, who, 
coming to his father's assistance, harassed the enemy in the 
rear — moved not, hand or foot ; but Mrs. Squeers, with many 
shrieks for aid, hung on to the tail of her partner's coat, and 
endeavored to drag him from his infuriated adversary ; while 
Miss Squeers, who had been peeping through the key-hole in 
expectation of a very different scene, darted in at the very 
beginning of the attack, and after launching a shower of ink- 
stanks at the usher's head, beat Nicholas to her heart's con- 
tent : animating herself, at every blow, with the recollection 
of his having refused her proferred love, and thus imparting 
additional strength to an arm which (as she took after her 
mother in this respect) was, at no time, one of the weakest. 

Nicholas, in the full torrent of his violence, felt the blows 
no more than if they had been dealt with feathers ; but, be- 
coming tired of the noise and uproar, and feeling that his arm 
grew weak besides, he threw all his remaining strength into 
half-a-dozen finishing cuts, and flung Squeers from him, with 
all the force he could muster. The violence of his fall pre- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



159 



cipitated Mrs. Squeers completely over an adjacent form ; and 
Squeers striking his head against it in his descent, lay at his 
full length on the ground, stunned and motionless. 

Having brought affairs to this happy termination, and 
ascertained, to his thorough satisfaction, that Squeers was 
only stunned, and not dead (upon which point he had had 
some unpleasant doubts at first), Nicholas left his family to 
restore him, and retired to consider what course he had bet- 
ter adopt. He looked anxiously round for Smike, as he left 
the room, but he was nowhere to be seen. 

After a brief consideration, he packed up a few clothes in 
a small leathern valise, and, finding that nobody offered to 
oppose his progress, marched boldly out by the front door, 
and shortly afterwards, struck into the road which led to 
Greta Bridge. 

When he had cooled, sufficiently to be enabled to give his 
present circumstances some little reflection, they did not ap- 
pear in a very encouraging light; he had only four shillings 
and a few pence in his pocket, and was something more than 
two hundred and fifty miles from London, whither he resolved 
to direct his steps, that he might ascertain, among other 
things, what account of the morning's proceedings Mr. Squeers 
transmitted to his most affectionate uncle. 

Lifting up liis eyes, as he arrived at the conclusion that 
there was no remedy for this unfortunate state of things, he 
beheld a horseman coming towards him, whom, on nearer ap- 
proach, he discovered, to his infinite chagrin, to be no other 
than Mr. John Browdie, who, clad in cords and leather leggings, 
was urging his animal forward by means of a thick ash stick, 
which seemed to have been recently cut from some stout 
sapling. 

" I am in no mood for more noise and riot," thought 
Nicholas, " and yet, do what I will, I shall have an altercation 
with this honest blockhead, and perhaps a blow or two from 
yonder staff." 

In truth there appeared some reason to expect that such 
a result would follow from the encounter, for John Browdie 
no sooner saw Nicholas advancing, than he reined in his 
horse by the footpath, and waited until such time as he should 
come up ; looking meanwhile, very sternly between the horse's 
ears, at Nicholas, as he came on at his leisure. 

" Servant, young genelman," said John. 

"Yours," said Nicholas. 



1 60 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

" Weel ; we ha' met at last," observed John, making the 
stirrup ring under a smart touch of the ash stick. 

" Yes," repHed Nicholas, hesitating. " Come ! " he said, 
frankly, after a moment's pause, " we parted on no very good 
terms the last time we met ; it was my fault, I believe ; but I 
had no intention of offending you, and no idea that I was do- 
ing so. I was very sorry for it afterwards. Will vou shake 
hands ? " 

" Shake hands ! " cried the good-humored Yorkshireman ; 
" ah ! that I weel ; "" at the same time he bent down from the 
saddle, and gave Nicholas's fist a huge wrench ; " but wa'at 
be the matther wi' .thy feace, mun ? it be all brokken loike." 

" It is a cut," said Nicholas, turning scarlet as he spoke, 
— " a blow ; but I returned it to the giver, and with good 
interest too." ' 

" Noa, did'ee though ? " exclaimed John Browdie. " Well 
deane ! I loike 'un for thot." 

" The fact is," said Nicholas, not very well knowing how 
to make the avowal, " the fact is, that I have been ill-treated." 

" Noa ! " interposed John Browdie, in atone of compassion ; 
for he was a giant in strength and stature, and Nicholas, very 
likely, in his eyes, seemed a mere dwarf; " dean't say thot." 

"Yes, I have," replied Nicholas, "by that man Squeers, 
and I have beaten him soundly, and am leaving this place in 
consequence." 

"What! " cried John Browdie, with such an ecstatic shout, 
that the horse quite shied at it. " Beatten the schoolmeasther ! 
Ho ! ho ! ho ' Beatten the schoolmeasther ! who e\er heard 
o' the loike o' that noo ! Giv' us thee hond agean, yongster. 
Beatten the schoolmeasther! Dang it. Hoove thee for't." 

With these expressions of delight, John Browdie laughed 
and laughed again — so loud that the echoes, far and wide, 
sent back nothing but jovial peals of merriment — and shook 
Nicholas by the hand meanwhile, no less heartily. When his 
mirth had subsided, he inquired what Nicholas meant to do ; 
on his informing him, to go straight to London, he shook his 
head doubtfully, and inquired if he knew how much the 
coaches charged, to carry passengers so far. 

"No, I do not," said Nicholas; "but it is of no great 
consequence to me, for I intend walking." 

" Gang awa' to Lunnun afoot ! " cried John in amazement. 

" Every step of the way," replied Nicholas. " I should be 
many steps further on by this time, and so good-by ! " 



NIC HO L A S NICKLEB Y. 1 6 1 

" Nay n )o," replied the honest countryman, reining in his 
impatient horse, " stan' still, tellee. Hoo much cash hast 
thee gotten ? " 

" Not much," said Nicholas, coloring, " but I can make it 
enough. Where there's a will, there's a way, you know." 

John Browdie made no verbal answer to this remark, but 
putting his hand in his pocket, pulled out an old purse of 
soiled leather, and insisted that Nicholas should borrow from 
him whatever he required for his present necessities. 

" Dean't be afeard, mun," he said; " tak' eneaf to carry 
thee whoam. Thee'lt pay me yan da}', a' warrant." 

Nicholas could by no means be prevailed upon to borrow 
more than a sovereign, with which loan Mr. Browdie, after 
many entreaties that he would accept of more (observing, with 
a touch of Yorkshire caution, that if he didn't spend it all, he 
could put the surplus by, till he had an opportunity of remit- 
ting it carriage free), was fain to content himself. 

"Tak' that bit o' timber to help thee on wi' mun," he 
added, pressing his stick on Nicholas, and giving his hand an- 
other squeeze ; " keep a good heart, and bless thee. Beatten 
the schoolmeasther ! 'Cod it's the best thing a've heerd this 
twonty year ! " 

So saying, and indulging, with more delicacy than might 
have been expected from him, in another series of loud laughs, 
for the purpose of avoiding the thanks which Nicholas poured 
forth, John Browdie set spurs to his horse, and went off at a 
smart canter : looking back, from time to time, as Nicholas 
stood gazing after him, and waving his hand cheerily, as if to 
encourage him on his way. Nicholas watched the horse and 
rider until they disappeared over the brow of a distant hill, 
and then set forward on his journey. 

He did not travel far, that afternoon, for by this time it 
was nearly dark, and there had been a heavy fall of snow, 
which not only rendered the way toilsome, but the track uncer- 
tain and difficult to find, after daylight, save by experienced 
wayfarers. He lay, that night, at a cottage, where beds were 
let at a cheap rate to the more humble class of travellers ; 
and, rising betimes next morning, made his way before night 
to Boroughbridge. Passing through that town in search of 
some cheap resting-place, he stumbled upon an empty barn 
within a couple of hundred yards of the road side ; in a warm 
corner of which, he stretched his weary limbs, and soon fell 
asleep. ii 



1 62 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

When he awoke next morning, and tried to recollect his 
dreams, which had been all connected with his recent sojourn 
at Dotheboys Hall, he sat up, rubbed his eyes, and stared — 
not with the most composed countenance possible — at some 
motionless object which seemed to be stationed within a few 
yards in front of him. 

" Strange ! " cried Nicholas ; " can this be some lingering 
creation of the visions that have scarcely left me ! It cannot 
be real — and yet I — I am awake I Smike ! " 

The form moved, rose, advanced, and dropped upon its 
knees at his feet. It was Smike indeed. 

"Why do you kneel to me?" said Nicholas, hastily rais- 
ing him. 

" To go with you — anywhere — ever\^where — to the world's 
end — to the churchyard grave," replied Smike, clinging to his 
hand. " Let me, oh do let me. You are my home — my kind 
friend — take me with you, pray." 

" I am a friend who can do little for you," said Nicholas, 
kindly. " How came you here ? " 

He had followed him, it seemed ; had never lost sight of 
him all the way ; had watched while he slept, and when he 
halted for refreshment ; and had feared to appear, before, 
lest he should be sent back. He had not intended to appear 
now, but Nicholas had awakened more suddenly than he 
looked for, and he had had no time to conceal himself. 

" Poor fellow ! " said Nicholas, " your hard fate denies 
you any friend but one, and he is nearly as poor and helpless 
as yourself." 

" May I — may I go with you ? " asked Smike, timidly. 
" I will be your faithful hard-working servant, I will, indeed. 
I want no clothes," added the poor creature, drawing his rags 
together ; these will do verv well. I only want to be near 
you." 

"And you shall," cried Nicholas. "And the w^orld shall 
deal by you as it does by me, till one or both of us shall quit 
it for a better. Come ! " 

With these words, he strapped his burden on his shoulders, 
and, taking his stick in one hand, extended the other to his 
delighted charge ; and so they passed out of the old barn, 
together. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, 



163 



CHAPTER XIV. 

HAVING THE MISFORTUNE TO TREAT OF NONE BUT COMMON 
PEOPLE, IS NECESSARILY OF A MEAN AND VULGAR CHAR- 
ACTER. 

In that quarter of London in which Golden Square is sit- 
uated, there is a bygone faded, tumble-down street, with two 
irregular rows of tall meagre houses, which seem to have 
stared each other out of countenance, years ago. The very 
chimneys appear to have grown dismal and melancholy, from 
having had nothing better to look at, than the chimneys over 
the way. Their tops are battered, and broken, and blackened 
with smoke ; and, here and there, some taller stack than the 
rest, inclining heavily to one side, and toppling over the roof, 
seems to meditate taking revenge for half a centur}-"s neglect, 
by crushing the inhabitants of the garrets beneath. 

The fowls who peck about the kennels, jerking their bodies 
hither and thither with a gait which none but town fowls are 
ever seen to adopt, and which any country cock or hen would 
be puzzled to understand, are perfectly in keeping with the 
crazy habitations of their owners. Dingy, ill-plumed drowsy 
flutterers, sent, like many of the neighboring children, to get 
a livelihood in the streets, they hop, from stone to stone, in 
forlorn search of some hidden eatable in the mud, and can 
scarcely raise a crow among them. The only one w'ith any- 
thing approaching to a voice, is an aged bantam at the 
baker's ; and even he is hoarse, in consequence of bad living 
in his last place. 

To judge from the size of the houses, they have been, at 
one time, tenanted by persons of better condition than their 
present occupants.; but they are now let off, by the week, in 
floors or rooms, and every door has almost as many plates or 
bell-handles as there are apartments within. The windows 
are, for the same reason, sufticiently diversified in appearance, 
being ornamented with ever)- variety of common blind and 
curtain that can easily be imagined ; while every doonvay is 
blocked up, and rendered nearly impassible, by a motley 
collection of children and porter pots of all sizes, from the 



164 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

baby in arms and the half-pint pot, to the full-grown girl and 
half-gallon can. 

In the parlor of one of these houses, which was perhaps 
a thought dirtier than any of its neighbors ; which exhibited 
more bell-handles, children, and porter pots, and caught in all 
its freshness the first gust of the thick black smoke that poured 
forth, night and day, from a large brewery hard by ; hung a 
bill, announcing that there was yet one room to let within its 
walls, though on what story the vacant room could be — regard 
being had to the outward tokens of many lodgers which the 
whole front displayed, from the mangle in the kitchen window 
to the flower-pots on the parapet — it would have been beyond 
the power of a calculating boy to discover. 

The common stairs of this mansion were bare and carpet- 
less ; but a curious visitor who had to climb his way to the 
top, might have observed that there were not wanting indica- 
tions of the progressive poverty of the inmates, although their 
rooms were shut. Thus, the first-floor lodgers, being flush of 
furniture, kept an old mahogany table — real mahogany — on 
the landing-place outside, which was only taken in, when 
occasion required. On the second stor)', the spare furniture 
dwindled down to a couple of old deal chairs, of which one, 
belonging to the back room, was shorn of a leg, and bottom- 
less. The storv above, boasted no greater excess than a 
worm-eaten wash-tub ; and the garret landing-place displayed 
no costlier articles than two crippled pitchers, and some broken 
blacking-bottles. 

It was on this garret landing-place that a hard-featured 
square-faced man, elderly and shabby, stopped to unlock the 
door of the front attic, into which, having surmounted the task 
of turning the rusty key in its still more rusty wards, he walked 
with the air of legal owner. 

This person wore a wig of short, coarse, red hair, which 
he took off with his hat, and hung upon a nail. Having 
adopted in its place a dirty cotton nightcap, and groped about 
in the dark till he found a remnant of candle, he knocked at 
the partition which divided the two garrets, and inquired, in 
a loud voice, whether Mr. Noggs had a light. 

The sounds that came back, were stifled by the lath and 
plaster, and it seemed moreover as though the speaker had 
uttered them from the interior of a mug or other drinking 
vessel ; but they were in the voice of Newman, and conveyed 
a reply in the affirmative. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



^(>5 



" A nasty night, Mr. Noggs ! " said the man in the night- 
cap, stepping in to light his candle. 

" Does it rain ? " asked Newman. 

" Does it ? " replied the other pettishly. " I am wet 
through." 

" It dosen't take much to wet you and me through, Mr. 
Crowl," said Newman, laying his hand upon the lappel of his 
threadbare coat. 

"Well ; and that makes it the more vexatious," observed 
Mr. Crowl, in the same pettish tone. 

Uttering a low querulous growl, the speaker, whose harsh 
countenance was the very epitome of selfishness, raked the 
scanty fire nearly out of the grate, and, emptying the glass 
which Noggs had pushed towards him, inquired where he kept 
his coals. 

Newman Noggs pointed to the bottom of a cupboard, and 
Mr. Crowl, seizing the shovel, threw on half the stock : which 
Noggs very deliberately took off again, without saying a word. 

" You have not turned saving, at this time of day, I hope ? " 
said Crowl. 

Newman pointed to the empty glass, as though it were a 
sufficient refutation of the charge, and briefly said that he was 
going down stairs to supper. 

" To the Kenwigses ? " asked Crowl. 

Newman nodded assent. 

" Think of that now ! " said Crowl. " If I didn't— think- 
ing that you were certain not to go, because you said you 
wouldn't — tell Kenwigs I couldn't come, and make up my 
mind to spend the evening with you ! " 

" I was obliged to go," said Newman. " They would have 



me." 



" Well ; but what's to become of me ? " urged the selfish 
man, who never thought of anybody else. " It's all your 
fault. I'll tell you what — I'll sit by your fire till you come 
back again." 

Newman cast a despairing glance at his small store of fuel, 
but, not having the courage to say no — a word which in all 
his life he never had said at the right time, either to himself 
or any one else — gave way to the proposed arrangement. Mr. 
Crowl immediately went about making himself as comfortable, 
with Newman Noggs's means, as circumstances would admit 
of his being made. 

The lodgers to whom Crowl had made allusion under the 



1 66 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

designation of " the Kenwigses," were the wife and olive 
branches of one Mr. Kenwigs, a turner in ivor)^, who was 
looked upon as a person of some consideration on the prem- 
ises, inasmuch as he occupied the whole of the first floor, 
comprising a suite of two rooms. Mrs. Kenwigs, too, was 
quite a lady in her manners, and of a very genteel family, 
having an uncle who collected a water-rate ; besides which 
distinction, the two eldest of her little girls went twice a week 
to a dancing school in the neighborhood, and had flaxen hair, 
tied with blue ribands, hanging in luxuriant pigtails down 
their backs ; and wore little white trousers with frills round 
the ankles for all of which reasons, and many more equally 
valid but too numerous to mention, Mrs. Kenwigs was con- 
sidered a very desirable person to know, and was the constant 
theme of all the gossips in the street, and even three or four 
doors round the corner at both ends. 

It was the anniversary of that happy day on which the 
church of England as by law established, had bestowed Mrs. 
Kenwigs upon Mr. Kenwigs ; and in grateful commemoration 
of the same, Mrs. Kenwigs had invited a few select friends to 
cards and a supper in the first floor, and had put on a new 
gown to receive them in : which gown, being of a flaming 
color and made upon a juvenile principle, was so successful 
that Mr. Kenwigs said the eight years of matrimony and the 
five children seemed all a dream, and Mrs. Kenwigs younger 
and more blooming than on the very first Sunday he had kept 
CD.npany with her. 

Beautiful as Mrs. Kenwigs looked when she was dressed 
though, and so stately that you would have supposed she had 
a cook and housemaid at least, and nothing to do but order 
them about, she had a world of trouble with the preparations ; 
more, indeed, than she, being of a delicate and genteel con- 
stitution, could have sustained, had not the pride of housewifery 
upheld her. At last, however, all the things that had to be 
got together were got together, and all the things that had to 
be got out of the way were got out of the way, and everything 
was ready, and the collector himself having promised to come, 
fortune smiled upon the occasion. 

The party was admirably selected. There were, first of 
all, Mr. Kenwigs and Mrs. Kenwigs, and four olive Kenwigses 
who sat up to supper ; firstly, because it was but right that 
they should have a treat on such a day ; and secondly, because 
their going to bed, in presence of the company, would have 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 167 

been inconvenient, not to say improper. Then, there was a 
young- lady who had made Mrs. Kenwigs's dress, and who — 
it was the most convenient thing in the world — living in the 
two-pair back, gave up her bed to the baby, and got a little 
girl to watch it. Then, to match this young lady, was a young 
man, who had knows Mr. Kenwigs when he was a bachelor, 
and was much esteemed by the ladies, as bearing the reputa- 
tion of a rake. To these, were added a newly-married couple, 
who had visited Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs in their courtship ; 
and a sister of Mrs. Kenwigs's, who was quite a beauty; be- 
sides whom, there was another young man, supposed to enter- 
tain honorable designs upon the lady last mentioned ; and 
Mr. Noggs, who was a genteel person to ask, because he had 
been a gentleman once. There were also an elderly lady from 
the back parlor, and one more young lady, who, next to the 
collector, perhaps was the great lion of the party, being the 
daughter of a theatrical fireman, who "went on" in the pan- 
tomine, and had the greatest turn for the stage that was ever 
known, being able to sing and recite in a manner that brought 
the tears into Mrs. Kenwigs's eyes. There was only one draw- 
back upon the pleasure of seeing such friends, and that was, 
that the lady in the back parlor, who was very fat, and turned 
of sixt}', came in a low book-muslin dress and short kid gloves, 
which so exasperated Mrs. Kenwigs, that that lady assured her 
visitors, in private, that if it hadn't happened that the supper 
was cooking at the back-parlor grate at that moment, she 
certainly would have requested its representative to withdraw. 

"My dear," said Mr. Kenwigs, "wouldn't it be better to 
begin a round game ? " 

" Kenwigs, my dear," returned his wife, " I am surprised 
at you. Would you begin without my uncle ? " 

" I forgot the collector," said Kenwigs ; " oh no, that 
would never do." 

" He's so particular," said Mrs. Kenwigs, turning to the 
other married lady, " that if we began without him, I should 
be out of his will for ever." 

" Dear ! " cried the married lady. 

" You've no idea what he is," replied Mrs. Kenwigs ; " and 
yet as good a creature as ever breathed." 

" The kindest-hearted man as ever was," said Kenwigs. 

" It goes to his heart, I believe, to be forced to cut the 
water off, when the people don't pay," observed the bachelor 
friend, intending a joke. 



1 68 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

George," said Mr. Kenwigs, solemnly, "none of that, if 
you please." 

" It was only my joke," said the friend, abashed. 

"George," rejoined Mr. Kenwigs, " a joke is a wery good 
thing — a wery good thing — but when that joke is made at the 
expense of Mrs. Kenwigs's feelings, I set my face against it. 
A man in public life expects to be sneered at — it is the fault 
of his elewated sitiwation, and not of himself. Mrs. Kenwigs's 
relation is a public man, and that he knows, George, and that 
he can bear ; but putting Mrs. Kenwigs out of the question 
(if I could put Mrs. Kenwigs out of the question on such an 
occasion as this), I have the honor to be connected with the 
collector by marriage ; and I cannot allow these remarks in 
my — " Mr. Kenwigs was going to say "house," but he 
rounded the sentence with " apartments." 

At the conclusion of these observations, which drew forth 
evidences of acute feeling from Mrs. Kenwigs, and had the in- 
tended effect of impressing the company with a deep sense of 
the collector's dignity, a ring was heard at the bell. 

" That's him," whispered Mr. Kenwigs, greatly excited, 
" Morleena, my dear, run down and let your uncle in, and 
kiss him directly you get the door open. Hem ! Let's be 
talking." 

Adopting Mr. Kenwigs's suggestion, the company spoke 
very loudly, to look easy and unembarrassed ; and almost as 
soon as they had begun to do so, a short old gentleman in 
drabs and gaiters, with a face that might have been carved 
out of lignum vitce, for anything that appeared to the contrary, 
was led playfully in by Miss Morleena Kenwigs, regarding 
whose uncommon Christian name it may be here remarked 
that it had been invented and composed by Mrs. Kenwigs 
previous to her first lying-in, for the special distinction of her 
eldest child, in case it should prove a daughter. 

" Oh, uncle, I am so glad to see you," said Mrs. Kenwigs, 
kissing the collector affectionately on both cheeks. " So 
glad ! " 

" Many happy returns of the day, my dear," replied the 
collector, returning the compliment. 

Now, this was an interesting thing. Here w-as a collector 
of water-rates, without his book, without his pen and ink, 
without his double knock, without his intimidation, kissing — 
actually kissing — an agreeable female, and leaving taxes, sum- 
monses, notices that he had called, or announcements that he 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



169 



would never call again, for two quarters' due, wholly out of 
the question. It was pleasant to see how the company looked 
on, quite absorbed in the sight, and to behold the nods and 
winks with which they expressed their gratification at finding 
so much humanity in a tax-gatherer. 

" Where will you sit, uncle .' " said Mrs. Kenwigs, in the 
full glow of family pride, which the appearance of her distin- 
guished relation occasioned. 

" Anywheres, my dear," said the collector, " I am not par- 
ticular." 

Not particular ! What a meek collector. If he had been 
an author, who knew his place, he couldn't have been more 
humble. 

"Mr. Lillyvick," said Kenwigs, addressing the collector, 
" some friends here, sir, are very anxious for the honor of — 
thank you — Mr. and Mrs. Cutler, Mr. Lillyvick." 

" Proud to know you, sir," said Mr. Cutler, " I've heerd of 
you very often." These were not mere words of ceremony ; 
for, Mr. Cutler, having kept house in Mr. Lillyvick's parish, 
had heard of him very often indeed. His attention in calling 
had been quite extraordinar}-. 

" George, you know, I think, Mr. Lillyvick," said Ken- 
wigs ; " lady from down stairs — Mr. Lillyvick, Mr. Snewkes 
— Mr. Lillyvick. Miss Green — Mr. Lilly\ick. Mr. Lillyvick 
— Miss Petowker, of the Theatre Royal, Drur}' Lane. Veiy 
glad to make two public characters acquainted ! Mrs Ken- 
wigs, my dear, will you sort the counters ? " 

Mrs. Kenwigs, with the assistance of Newman Noggs, 
(who, as he performed sundry little acts of kindness for the 
children, at all times and seasons, was humored in his request 
to be taken no notice of, and was merely spoken about, in a 
whisper, as a decayed gentleman), did as she was desired ; 
and the greater part of the guests sat down to speculation, 
while Newman himself, Mrs. Kenwigs, and Miss Petowker of 
the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, looked after the supper-table. 

While the ladies were thus busjdng themselves, Mr. Lilly- 
vick was intent upon the game in progress, and as all should 
be fish that comes to a water collector's net, the dear old gen- 
tleman was by no means scrupulous in appropriating to him- 
self the property of his neighbors, which, on the contrary, he 
abstracted whenever an opportunity presented itself, smiling 
good-humoredly all the while, and making so many condescend- 
ing speeches to the owners, that they were delighted with his 



lyo 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



amiability, and thought in their hearts that he deserved to be 
Chancellor of the Exchequer at least. 

After a great deal of trouble, and the administration of 
many slaps on the head to the infant Kenwigses, whereof two 
of the most rebellious were summarily banished, the cloth was 
laid with much elegance, and a pair of boiled fowls, a large 
piece of pork, apple-pie, potatoes and greens, were served ; at 
sight of which, the worthy Mr. Lillyvick vented a great many 
witticisms, and plucked up amazingly : to the immense delight 
and satisfaction of the whole bodv of admirers. 

Very well and very fast the supper went off ; no more 
serious difficulties occurring, than those which arose from the 
incessant demand for clean knives and forks : which made 
poor Mrs. Ken wigs wish, more than once, that private society 
adopted the principle of schools, and required that ever)' guest 
should bring his own knife, fork and spoon ; which doubtless 
would be a great accommodation in many cases, and to no one 
more so than to the lady and gentleman of the house, espec- 
ially if the school principle were carried out to the full extent, 
and the articles were expected, as a matter of delicacy, not to 
be taken away again. 

Everybody having eaten everything, the table was cleared 
in a most alarming hurry, and with great noise ; and the 
'Spirits, whereat the eyes of Newman Noggs glistened, being 
arranged in order, with water both hot and cold, the party 
composed themselves for conviviality ; Mr. Lillyvick being 
stationed in a large arm-chair by the fire-side, and the four 
little Kenwigses disposed on a small form in front of the com- 
pany with their flaxen tails towards them, and their faces to 
the fire ; an arrangement which was no sooner perfected, than 
Mrs. Kenwigs was overpowered by the feelings of a mother, 
and fell upon the left shoulder of Mr. Kenwigs dissolved in 
tears. 

" They are so beautiful ! " said Mrs. Kenwigs, sobbing. 

" Oh, dear," said all the ladies, " so they are ! it's very nat- 
ural you should feel proud of that ; but don't give way, don't." 

" I can — not help it, and it don't signify," sobbed Mrs. 
Kenwigs ; " oh ! they're too beautiful to live, much too beau- 
tiful ! " 

On hearing this alarming presentiment of their being 
doomed to an early death in the flower of their infancy, all 
four little girls raised a hideous cry, and bur}'ing their heads 
in their mother's lap simultaneously, screamed until the eight 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 17 1 

flaxen tails vibrated again ; Mrs. Kenwigs meanwhile clasping 
them alternately to her bosom, with attitudes expressive of 
distraction, which Miss Petowker herself might have copied. 

At length, the anxious mother permitted herself to be 
soothed into a more tranquil state, and the little Kenwigses, 
being also composed, were distributed among the company, 
to prevent the possibility of Mrs. Kenwigs being again over- 
come by the blaze of their combined beauty. This done, the 
ladies and gentlemen united in prophesying that they would 
live for many, many years, and that there was no occasion at 
all for Mrs. Kenwigs to distress herself : which, in good truth, 
there did not appear to be : the loveliness of the children by 
no means justifying her apprehensions. 

"This day eight year," said Mr. Kenwigs after a pause. 
" Dear me — ah ! " 

This reflection was echoed by all present, who said " Ah ! " 
first, and " dear me," afterwards. 

" I was younger then," tittered Mrs. Kenwigs. 

"No," said the collector. 

"Certainly not," added everybody. 

"I remember my niece," said Mr. Lillyvick, surveying his 
audience with a grave air ; " I remember her, on that very 
afternoon, when she first acknowledged to her mother a par- 
tiality for Kenwigs. ' Mother.' she says, ' I love him.' " 

"'Adore him,' I said, uncle," interposed Mrs. Kenwigs. 

" ' Love him,' I" think, my dear," said the collector firmly. 

" Perhaps you are right, uncle," replied Mrs. Kenwigs, 
submissively. " I thought it was ' adore.' " 

" ' Love,' my dear," retorted Mr. Lillyvick. " ' Mother,' 
she says, ' I love him ! ' ' What do I hear ? ' cries her 
mother; and instantly falls into strong conwulsions." 

A general exclamation of astonishment burst from the 
company, 

" Into strong conwulsions," repeated Mr. Lilly^'ick, re- 
garding them with a rigid look. " Kenwigs will excuse my 
saying, in the presence of friends, that there was a very great 
objection to him, on the ground that he was beneath the 
family, and would disgrace it. You remember, Kenwigs ? " 

" Certainly," replied that gentleman, in no way displeased 
at the reminiscence, inasmuch as it proved, beyond all doubt, 
what a high family Mrs. Kenwigs came of. 

" I shared in that feeling," said Mr. Lillyvick : "perhaps 
it was natural : perhaps it wasn't." 



272 • NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

A gentle murmur seemed to say, that., in one of Mr. Lilly- 
vick's station, the objection was not only natural, but highly 
praiseworthy. 

" 1 came round to him in time," said Mr. Lilly vick. 
" After they were married, and there was no help for it, 1 was 
one of the first to say that Kenwigs must be taken notice of. 
The family did take notice of him, in consequence, and on my 
representation ; and I am bound to say — and proud to say — 
that I have always found him a very honest, well-behaved, 
upright, respectable sort of a man. Kenwigs, shake hands." 
" I am proud to do it, sir," said Mr. Kenwigs. 
"So am I, Kenwigs," rejoined Mr. Lillyvick. 
" A very happy life I have led with your niece, sir," said 
Kenwigs. 

" it would have been your own fault if you had not, sir," 
remarked Mr. Lillyvick. 

" Morleena Kenwigs," cried her mother, at this crisis, 
much affected, " kiss your dear uncle ! " 

The young lady did as she was requested, and the three 
other little girls were successively hoisted up to the collector's 
countenance, and subjected to the same process, which was 
afterwards repeated on them by the majority of those 
present. 

" Oh dear, Mrs. Kenwigs," said Miss Petowker, " while 
Mr. Noggs is making that punch to drink happy returns in, do 
let Morleena go through that figure dance before Mr. Lilly- 
vick." 

"No, no, my dear," replied Mrs. Kenwigs, "it will only 
worry my uncle." 

" It can't worry him, I'm sure," said Miss Petowker. 
" You will be very much pleased, won't you, sir t " 

"That I am sure I shall," replied the collector, glancing 
at the punch-mixer. 

"Well then, I'll tell you what," said Mrs. Kenwigs, 
" Morleena shall do the steps, if uncle can persuade Miss 
Petowker to recite us the Blood-Drinker's Burial, after- 
wards." 

There was a great clapping of hands and stamping of feet, 
at this proposition ; the subject whereof, gently inclined her 
head several times, in acknowledgment of the reception. 

"You know," said Miss Petowker, reproachfully, "that I 
dislike doing anything professional in pri\ate parties." 

"Oh, but not here!" said Mrs. Kenwigs. "We are all 



NICH®LAS NTCKLEB Y. 



iM 



so very friendly and pleasant, that you might as well be going 
through it in your own room , besides, the occasion " 

" I can't resist that," interrupted Miss Petowker ; "any- 
thing in my humble power I shall be delighted to do." 

Mrs. Kenwigs and Miss Petowker had arranged a small 
programme of the entertainments between them, of which this 
was the prescribed order, but they had settled to have a little 
pressmg on both sides, because it looked more natural. The 
company being all ready. Miss Petowker hummed a tune, and 
Morleena danced a dance ; having previously had the soles 
of her shoes chalked, with as much care as if she were going 
on the tight-rope. It was a very beautiful figure, comprising 
a great deal of work for the arms, and was received with 
unbounded applause. 

" If I was blessed with a — a child — " said Miss Petowker, 
blushing, " of such genius as that,.! would have her out at the 
Opera instantly." 

Mrs. Kenwigs sighed, and looked at Mr. Kenwigs, who 
shook his head, and observed that he was doubtful about it. 

" Kenwigs is afraid," said Mrs. K. 

"What of?" inquired Miss Petowker, "not of her fail- 
ing ? " 

" Oh no," replied Mrs. Kenwigs, " but if she grew up what 
she is now, — only think of the young dukes and marquises." 

" Verv right," said the collector. 

" Still," submitted Miss Petowker, " if she took a proper 
pride in herself, you know — " 

" There's a good deal in that," observed Mrs. Kenwigs, 
looking at her husband. 

" I only know — " faltered Miss Petowker, — " it may be 
no rule to be sure — but /have never found any inconvenience 
or unpleasantness of that sort." 

Mr. Kenwigs, with becoming gallantr)^, said that settled 
the question at once, and that he would take the subject into 
his serious consideration. This being resolved upon, Miss 
Petowker was entreated to begin the Blood-Drinker's Burial ; 
to which end, that young lady let down her back hair, and 
taking up her position at the other end of the room, with the 
bachelor friend posted in a corner, to rush out at the cue " in 
death expire," and catch her in his arms when she died raving 
mad, went through the performance with extraordinary spirit, 
and to the great terror of the little Kenwigses, who were all 
but frightened into fits. 



I y 4 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

The ecstasies consequent upon the effort had not yet sub- 
sided, and Newman (who had not been thoroughly sober at 
so late an hour for a long long time,) had not yet been able to 
put in a word of announcement, that the punch was ready, 
when a hasty knock was heard at the room-door, which 
elicited a shriek from Mrs. Kenwigs, who immediately divined 
that the baby had fallen out of bed. 

" Who is that ? " demanded Mr. Kenwigs, sharply. 

" Don't be alarmed, it's only me," said Crowl, looking in, 
in his nightcap. " The baby is very comfortable, for I peeped 
into the room as I came down, and it's fast asleep, and so is 
the girl ; and I don't think the candle will set fire to the bed- 
curtain, unless a draught was to get into the room — it's Mr. 
Noggs that's wanted." 

" Me ! " cried Newman, much astonished. 

" Why, it is a queer hour, isn't it .-' " replied Crowl, who 
was not best pleased at the prospect of losing his fire ; " and 
they are queer-looking people, too, all covered with rain and 
mud. Shall I tell them to go away ? " 

"No," said Newman, rising. "People? How many?" 

" Two," rejoined Crowl. 

" Want me ? By name ? " asked Newman. 

" By name," replied Crowl. " Mr. Newman Noggs, as pat 
as need be." 

Newman reflected for a few seconds, and then hurried 
away, muttering that he would be back directly. He was as 
good as his word ; for, in an exceedingly short time, he burst 
into the room, and seizing, without a word of apology or ex- 
planation, a lighted candle and tumbler of hot punch from the 
table, darted away like a madman. 

" What the deuce is the matter with him ? " exclaimed Crowl, 
throwing the door open. " Hark ! Is there any noise 
abo\'e ? " 

The guests rose in great confusion, and, looking in each 
other's faces with much perplexity and some fear, stretched 
their necks forward, and listened attentively. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB K 



175 



CHAPTER XV. 

ACQUAINTS THE READER WITH THE CAUSE AND ORIGIN OF 
THE INTERRUPTION DESCRIBED IN THE LAST CHAPTER, 
AND WITH SOME OTHER MATTERS NECESSARY TO BE 
KNOWN. 

Newman Noggs scrambled in violent haste up stairs with 
the steaming beverage, which he had so unceremoniously 
snatched from the table of Mr. Ken wigs, and indeed from the 
very grasp of the water-rate collector, who was eyehig the con- 
tents of the tumbler, at the moment of its unexpected abstrac- 
tion, with lively marks of pleasure visible in his countenance. 
He bore his prize straight to his own back garret, where, 
footsore and nearly shoeless, wet, dirty, jaded, and disfigured 
with every mark of fatiguing travel, sat Nicholas, and Smike, 
at once the cause and partner of his toil : both perfectly worn 
out, by their unwonted and protracted exertion. 

Newman's first act was to compel Nicholas, with gentle 
force, to swallow half of the punch at a breath, nearly boiling as 
it was ; and his next, to pour the remainder down the throat 
of Smike, who, never having tasted anything stronger than 
aperient medicine in his whole life, exhibited various odd 
manifestations of surprise and delight, during the passage of 
the liquor down his throat, and turned up his eyes most em- 
phatically when it was all gone. 

" You are wet through," said Newman, passing his hand 
hastily over the coat which Nicholas had thrown off ; " and I 
— I — haven't even a change," he added, with a wistful glance 
at the shabby clothes he wore himself. 

" I have dry clothes, or at least such as will serve my turn 
well, in my bundle," replied Nicholas. " If you look so dis- 
tressed to see me, you will add to the pain I feel already, at 
being compelled, for one night, to cast myself upon your slen- 
der means for aid and shelter." 

Newman did not look the less distressed to hear Nicholas 
talking in this strain ; but, upon his young friend grasping 
him heartily by the hand, and assuring him that nothing but 
iniplicit confidence in the sincerity of his professions, and 
kindness of feeling towards himself, would have induced him, 



176 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



on any consideration, even to have made him acquainted with 
his arrival in London, Mr. Noggs brightened up again, and 
went about making such arrangements as were in his power 
for the comfort of liis visitors, with extreme alacrity. 

These were simple enough ; poor Newman's means halt- 
ing at a very considerable distance short of his inclinations ; 
but, slight as they were, they were not made without much 
bustling and running about. As Nicholas liad husbanded his 
scanty stock of money so well that it was not yet quite ex- 
pended, a supper of bread and cheese, with some cold beef 
from the cook's shop, was soon placed upon the table ; and 
these viands being flanked by a bottle of spirits and a pot of 
porter, there was no ground for apprehension on the score of 
hunger or thirst, at all events. Such preparations as New- 
man had it in his power to make, for the accommodation of 
his guests during the night, occupied no ver}^ great time in 
completing ; and as he had insisted, as an express prelimi- 
nary, that Nicholas should change his clothes, and that Smike 
should invest himself in his solitary coat (which no entreaties 
would dissuade him from stripping off for the purpose), the 
travellers partook of their frugal fare, with more satisfaction 
than one of them at least had derived from many a better 
meal. 

They drew near the fire, which Newman Noggs had made 
up as well as he could, after the inroads of Crowl upon the 
fuel ; and Nicholas, who had hitherto been restrained by the 
extreme anxiety of his friend that he should refresh himself 
after his journey, now pressed him with earnest questions con- 
cerning his mother and sister. 

" Well ; " replied Newman, with his accustomed taciturnity ; 
" both well." 

" They are living in the city still t " inquired Nicholas. 

"They are," said Newman. 

" And my sister " — added Nicholas. " Is she still engaged 
in the business which she wrote to tell me she thought she 
should like so much t " 

Newman opened his eyes rather wider than usual, but 
merely replied by a gasp, which according to the action of the 
head that accompanied it, was interpreted by his friends as 
meaning yes or no. In the present instance, the pantomime 
consisted of a nod, and not a shake ; so Nicholas took the 
answer as a favorable one. 

" Now listen to me," said Nicholas, laying his hand on 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



177 



Newman's shoulder. " Before I would make an effort to see 
them, 1 deemed it expedient to come to you, lest, by gratifying 
my own selfish desire, I should inflict an injury upon tliem 
which 1 can never repair. What has my uncle heard from 
Yorkshire .' " 

Newman opened and shut his mouth, several times, as 
though he were trying his utmost to speak, but could make 
nothing of it, and finally fixed his eyes on Nicholas with a grim 
and ghastly stare. 

" What has he heard ? " urged Nicholas, coloring. " You 
see that 1 am prepared to hear the very worst that malice can 
have suggested. Why should you conceal it from me ? I 
must know it sooner or later ; and what purpose can be gained 
by trifling with the matter for a few minutes, when half the 
time would put me in possession of all that has occurred .'' 
Tell me at once, pray." 

"To-morrow morning," said Newman; "hear it to-mor- 
row." 

" What purpose would that answer ? " urged Nicholas. 

" You would sleep the better," replied Newman. 

" I should sleep the worse," answered Nicholas, impa- 
tiently. " Sleep ! Exhausted as I am, and standing in no 
common need of rest, I cannot hope to close my eyes all night, 
unless you tell me everything." 

"And if I should tell you everything," said Newman hesi- 
tating. 

" Why, then you may rouse my indignation or wound my 
pride," rejoined Nicholas ; " but you will not break my rest; 
for if the scene were acted over again, I could take no other 
part than I have taken ; and whatever consequences may ac- 
crue to myself from it, I shall never regret doing as I have 
done — never, if I starve or beg in consequence. What is a 
little poverty or suffering, to the disgrace of the basest and 
most inhuman cowardice ? I tell you, if I had stood by, tamely 
and passively, I should have hated myself, and merited the 
contempt of every man in existence. The black-hearted 
scoundrel ! " 

With this gentle allusion to the absent Mr. Squeers, 
Nicholas repressed his rising wrath, and relating to Newman 
exactly what had passed at Dotheboys Hall, entreated him to 
speak out without more pressing. Thus adjured, Mr. Noggs 
took, from an old trunk, a sheet of paper, which appeared to 
have been scrawled over in great haste ; and after sundry 

12 



1 7 8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

extraojdinary demonstrations of reluctance, delivered himself 
in the following terms. 

" My dear young man, you mustn't give way to — this sort 
of thing will never do, you know — -as to getting on in the 
world, if you take everybody's part that's ill-treated — Damn 
it, I am proud to hear of it ; and would have done it my- 
self ! " 

Newman accompanied this very unusual outbreak with a 
violent blow upon the table, as if, in the heat of the moment, 
he had mistaken it for the chest or ribs of Mr. Wackford 
Squeers. Having, by this open declaration of his feelings, 
quite precluded himself from offering Nicholas any cautious 
worldly advice (which had been his first intention), Mr. Noggs 
went straight to the point. 

" The day before yesterday," said Newman, " your uncle 
received this letter. I took a hasty copy of it, while he was 
out. Shall I read it ? " 

" If you please," replied Nicholas. Newman Noggs ac- 
cordingly read as follows : 

" Dotheboys Hall, 

" Thursday Alorning. 

" Sir. 

" My pa requests me to write to you, the doctors con- 
sidering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of 
his legs, which prevents his holding a pen. 

" We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa 
is one mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms 
are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him 
carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will 
judge from this that he has been brought very low. 

" When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher 
had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his 
feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with 
describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed 
her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into 
her head. A very little more and it must have entered her 
skull. We have a medical certihket that if it had, the torter- 
shell would have affected the brain. 

" Me and my brother were then the victims of liis feury 
since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the 
arrowing belief tiiatwe have received some injury in our insides, 
especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am 
screaming out loud all the 'time I write and so is my brother 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 1 79 

which takes off my attention rather and I hope will excuse 
mistakes. 

" The monster having sasiated his thirst for blood ran 
away, taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had 
excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, 
and not having been apprehended by the constables is sup- 
posed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs 
that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that 
you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him 
he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to 
be hung before long which will save us trouble and be much 
more satisfactory. Hoping to hear from you when conve- 
nient. 

" I remain 

" Yours and cetrer 

'* Fanny Squeers. 

" P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him." 

A profound silence succeeded to the reading of this choice 
epistle, during which Newman Noggs, as he folded it up, 
gazed with a kind of grotesque pity at the boy of desperate 
character therein referred to ; who, having no more distinct 
perception of the matter in hand, than that he had been the 
unfortunate cause of heaping trouble and falsehood upon Nich- 
olas, sat mute and dispirited, with a most woe-begone and 
heart-stricken look. 

" Mr. Noggs," said Nicholas, after a few moments' reflec- 
tion, " I must go out at once." 

" Go out ! " cried Newman. 

" Yes," said Nicholas, " to Golden Square. Nobody who 
knows me would believe this story of the ring ; but it may 
suit the purpose, or gratify the hatred of Mr. Ralph Nickleby 
to feign to attach credence to it. It is due — not to him, but 
to myself — that I should state the truth ; and moreover, I have 
a word or two to exchange with him, which will not keep cool." 

"They must," said Newman. 

"They must not, indeed," rejoined Nicholas firmly, as he 
prepared to leave the house. 

" Hear me speak," said Newman, planting himself before 
his impetuous young friend. " He is not there. He is away 
from town. He will not be back for three davs ; and I know 
that letter will not be answered before he returns." 



1 8o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" Are you sure of this ? " asked Nicholas, chafing violently, 
and pacing the narrow room with rapid strides. 

"Quite," rejoined Newman. "He had hardly read it 
when he was called away. Its contents are known to nobody 
but himself and us." 

"Are you certain?" demanded Nicholas, hastily; "not 
even to my mother or sister ? If I thought that they — I will go 
there — I must see them. Which is the way ? Where is it .•' " 

" Now, be advised by me," said Newman, speaking for the 
moment, in his earnestness, like any other man — " make no 
effort to see even them, till he comes home. I know the man. 
Do not seem to have been tampering with anybody. When 
he returns, go straight to him, and speak as boldly as you like. 
Guessing at the real truth, he knows it as well as you or I. 
Trust him for that." 

" You mean well to me, and should know him better than 
I can," replied Nicholas, after some consideration. " Well ; 
let it be so." 

Newman, who had stood during the foregoing conversation 
with his back planted against the door, ready to oppose any 
egress from the ajDartment by force, if necessary, resumed his 
seat with much satisfaction ; and as the water in the kettle 
was by this time boiling, made a glassful of spirits and water 
for Nicholas, and a cracked mug-full for the joint accom- 
modation of himself and Smike, of which the two partook 
in great harmony, while Nicholas, leaning his head upon his 
hand, remained buried in melancholy meditation. 

Meanwhile, the company below stairs, after listening atten- 
tively and not hearing any noise which would justify them in 
interfering for the gratification of their curiosity, returned to 
the chamber of the Kenwigses, and employed themselves in 
hazarding a great variety of conjectures relative to the cause 
of Mr. Noggs's sudden disappearance and detention. 

" Lor, I'll tell you what ; " said Mrs. Kenwigs. " Suppose 
it should be an express sent up to say that his property has all 
come back again .'' " 

"Dear me," said Mr. Kenwigs; "it's not impossible. 
Perhaps, in that case, we'd better send up and ask if he won't 
take a little more punch." 

" Kenwigs ! " said Mr. Lillyvick, in a loud voice, " I'm 
sur] r'sed at you." 

'■ What's the matter, sir ? " asked Mr. Kenwigs, with be- 
coming submission to the collector of water-rates. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y 1 8 1 

"Making such aremark as that, sir," replied Mr. Lillyvick, 
angrily. " He has had punch already, has he not, sir ? I 
consider the way in which that punch was cut off, if I may use 
the expression, highly disrespectful to this company ; scandal- 
ous, perfectly scandalous. It may be the custom to allow such 
things in this house, but it's not the kind of behavior that I've 
been used to see displayed, and so I don't mind telling you, 
Kenwigs. A gentleman has a glass of punch before him to 
which he is just about to set his lips, when another gentleman 
comes and collars that glass of punch, without a 'with your 
leave,' or 'by your leave,' and carries that glass of punch 
away. This may be good manners — I dare say it is — but I 
don't understand it, that's all ; and what's more, I don't care 
if I never do. It's my way to speak my mind, Kenwigs, and 
that is my mind ; and if you don't like it, it's past my regular 
time for going to bed, and I can find my way home without 
making it later." 

Here was an untoward event ! The collector had sat sw'el- 
ling and fuming in offended dignity for some minutes, and had 
now fairly burst out. The great man — the rich relation — the 
unmarried uncle— who had it in his power to make Morleena 
an heiress, and the very baby a legatee — was offended. Gra- 
cious Powers, where was this to end ! 

" I am very sorry, sir," said Mr. Kenwigs, humbly. 

" Don't tell me you're sorr}-," retorted Mr. Lillyvick, 
with much sharpness. "You should have prevented it, 
then." 

The company were quite paralyzed by this domestic crash. 
The back parlor sat with her mouth wide open, staring vacantly 
at the collector, in a stupor of dismay; the other guests were 
scarcely less overpowered by the great man's irritation. Mr. 
Kenwigs, not being skilful in such matters, only fanned the 
flame in attempting to extinguish it. 

" I didn't think of it, I am sure, sir," said that gentleman. 
" I didn't suppose that such a little thing as a glass of punch 
would have put you out of temper." 

" Out of temper ! What the devil do you mean bv that 
piece of impertinence, Mr. Kenwigs.-*" said the collector. 
"Morleena, child — give me my hat." 

" Oh, you're not going, Mr. Lillyvick, sir," interposed Miss 
Petowker, with her most bewitching smile. 

But still Mr. Lilly\-ick, regardless of the siren, cried ob- 
durately, " Morleena, my hat ! " upon the fourth repetition of 



1 82 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

which demand, Mrs. Kenwigs sunk back in her chair, with a 
cry that might have softened a water-butt, not to say a water- 
collector ; while the four little girls (privately instructed to 
that effect) clasped their uncle's drab shorts in their arms, and 
prayed him, in imperfect English, to remain. 

" Why should I stop here, my dears ? " said Mr. Lillyvick ; 
"I'm not wanted here." 

'' Oh do not speak so cruelly, uncle," sobbed Mrs. Ken- 
wigs, " unless you wish to kill me." 

" I shouldn't wonder if some people were to say I did," 
replied Mr. Lill}^'ick, glancing angrily at Kenwigs. " Out of 
temper ! " 

" Oh ! I cannot bear to see him look so at my husband," 
cried Mrs. Kenwigs. " It's so dreadful in families. Oh ! " 

" Mr. Lillyvick," said Kenwigs, " I hope, for the sake of 
your niece, that you won't object to be reconciled." 

The collector's features relaxed, as the company added 
their entreaties to those of his nephew-in-law. He gave up 
his hat, and held out his hand. 

" There, Kenwigs," said Mr. Lillyvick ; " and let me tell 
you, at the same time, to show you how much out of temper 
I was, that if I had gone away without another word, it would 
have made no difference respecting that pound or two which 
1 shall leave among your children when I die." 

" Morleena Kenwigs," cried her mother, in a torrent of 
affection. " Go down upon your knees to your dear uncle, 
and beg him to love you all his life through, for he's more a 
angel than a man, and I've always said so." 

Miss Morleena approaching to do homage, in compliance 
with this injunction, was summarily caught up and kissed by 
Mr. Lillyvick ; and thereupon Mrs. Kenwigs darted forward 
and kissed the collector, and an irrepressible murmur of ap- 
plause broke from the company who had witnessed his mag- 
nanimity. 

The worthy gentleman then became once more the life and 
soul of the society ; being again reinstated in his old post of 
lion from which high station the temporary distraction of their 
thoughts had for a moment dispossessed him. Quadruped 
lions are said to be savage, only when they are hungry ; biped 
lions are rarely sulky longer than when their appetite for dis- 
tinction remains unappeased. Mr. Lillyvick stood higher than 
ever ; for he had shown his power ; hinted at his property and 
testamentary intentions ; gained great credit for disinterested- 



JVICHOLAS JVICKLEB Y. 183 

ness and virtue ; and, in addition to all, was finally accom- 
modated with a much larger tumbler of punch than that which 
Newman Noggs had so feloniously made off with. 

"I say! I beg everybody's pardon for intruding again," 
said Crowl, looking in at this happy juncture ; "but what a 
queer business this is, isn't it ? Noggs has lived in this house, 
now going on for five years, and nobody has ever been to see 
him before, within the memory of the oldest inhabitant." 



" It's a strange time of night to be called away, sir, cer- j 
tainly," said the collector ; " and the behavior of Mr. NoggsJ 
himself, is, to say the least of it, mysterious." __ 

"Well, so it is," rejoined Crowl ; " and I'll tell you what's \ 
more^ think' thegfe"Tirrrggni t ist;s , - w ho exTrTtTey' aYeT'Tiave l^n, J 
away from somewhere." 

" What makes you think that, sir ? " demanded the collector, 
who seemed, by a tacit understanding, to have been chosen 
and elected mouthpiece to the company. " You have no 
reason to suppose that they have run away from anywhere 
without paying the rates and taxes due, I hope .'' " 

Mr. Crowl, with a look of some contempt, was about to 
enter a general protest against the payment of rates or taxes, 
under any circumstances, when he was checked by a timely 
whisper from Kenwigs, and several frowns and winks from 
Mrs. K., which providentially stopped him. 

"Why the fact is," said Crowl, who had been listening at 
Newman's door, with all his might and main ; " the fact is, 
that they have been talking so loud, that they quite disturbed 
me in my room, and so I couldn't help catching a word here, 
and a word there ; and all I heard, certainly seemed to refer 
to their having bolted from some place or other. I don't wish 
to alarm Mrs. Kenwigs ; but I hope they haven't come from 
any jail or hospital, and brought away a fever or some un- 
pleasantness of that sort, which might be catching for the 
children." 

Mrs. Kenwigs was so overpowered by this supposition, 
that it needed all the tender attentions of Miss Petowker, of 
the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to restore her to anything like 
a state of calmness ; not to mention the assiduity of Mr. Ken- 
wigs, who held a fat smelling-bottle to his lady's nose, until it 
became matter of some doubt whether the tears which coursed 
down her face, were the result of feelings or sal volatile. 

The ladies, having expressed their sympathy, sinsly and 
separately, fell, according to custom, into a little chorus of 



i84 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



soothing expressions, among which, such condolences as 
" Poor dear ! " — " I should feel just the same, if I was her " 
— " To be sure, it's a very trying thing " — and " Nobody but 
a mother knows what a mother's feelings is," were among the 
most prominent, and most frequently repeated. In short, the 
opinion of the company was so clearly manifested, that Mr. 
Kenwigs was on the point of repairing to Mr. Noggs's room, 
to demand an explanation, and had indeed swallowed a pre- 
paratory glass of punch, with great inflexibility and steadiness 
of purpose, when the attention of all present was diverted by 
a new and terrible surprise, 

This was nothing less than the sudden pouring forth of a 
rapid succession of the shrillest and most piercing screams, 
from an upper story ; and to all appearance from the very • 
two-pair back, in which the infant Kenwigs was at that moment 
enshrined. They were no sooner audible, than Mrs. Kenwigs, 
opining that a strange cat had come in, and sucked the baby's 
breath while the girl was asleep, made for the door, wringing 
her hands, and shrieking dismally ; to the great consternation 
and confusion of the company. 

" Mr. K-enwigs, see what it is ; make haste ! " cried the 
sister, laying violent hands upon Mrs. Kenwigs, and holding 
her back by force. " Oh don't twist about so, dear, or I can 
never hold you." 

" My baby, my blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed baby ! " 
screamed Mrs. Kenwigs, making every blessed louder than 
the last. " My own darling, sweet, innocent Lillyvick — Oh 
let me go to him. Let me go-o-o-o ! " 

Pending the utterance of these frantic cries, and the wails 
■and lamentations of the four little girls, Mr. Kenwigs rushed 
up stairs to the room whence the sounds proceeded ; at the 
door of which, he encountered Nicholas, with the child in his 
arms, who darted out with such violence, that the anxious 
father was thrown down six stairs, and alighted on the nearest 
landing-place, before he had found time to open his mouth to 
ask what was the matter. 

r -" Don't be alarmed," cried Nicholas, running down; 
/"here it is ; it's all out, it's all over ; pray compose yci. elves ; 
( there's no harm done ; " and with these, and a thousa. a other 
assurances, he delivered the baby (whom, in his hurry, he 
had carried upside down), to Mrs. Kenwigs, and ran back to 
assist Mr. Kenwigs, who was rubbing his head very hard, and 
looking much bewildered by his tumble. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 185 

Reassured by this cheering intelligence, the company in 
some degree recovered from their fears, which had been pro- 
ductiv'e of some most singular instances of a total want of 
presence of mind ; thus, the bachelor friend had, for a long 
time, supported in his arms Mrs. Kenwigs's sister, instead of 
Mrs. Kenwigs ; and the worthy Mr. Lillyvickhad been actually 
seen, in the perturbation of his spirits, to kiss Miss Petowker 
several times, behind the room door, as calmly as if nothing 
distressing were going forward. 

" It's a mere nothing," said Nicholas, returning to Mrs. 
Kenwigs ; " the little girl, who was watching the child, being 
tired I suppose, fell asleep, and set her hair on fire." ' 

" Oh you malicious little wretch ! " cried Mrs. Kenwigs, 
impressively shaking her forefinger at the small unfortunate, 
who might be thirteen years old, and was looking on with a 
singed head and a frightened face. 

" I heard her cries," continued Nicholas, " and ran down, 
in time to prevent her setting fire to anything else. You may 
depend upon it that the child is not hurt ; for I took it off the 
bed myself, and brought it here to convince you." 

This brief explanation over, the infant, who, as he was 
christened after the collector, rejoiced in the names of Lilly- 
vick Kenwigs, was partially suffocated under the caresses of 
the audience, and squeezed to his mother's bosom, until he 
roared again. The attention of the company was then directed, 
by a natural transition, to the little girl who had had the 
audacity to burn her hair off, and who, after receiving sundry 
small slaps and pushes from the more energetic of the ladies, 
was mercifully sent home ; the ninepence, with which she was to 
have been rewarded, being escheated to the Kenwigs family. 

" And whatever we are to say to you, sir," exclaimed Mrs. 
Kenwigs, addressing young Lillyvick's deliverer " I am sure 
I don't know." 

"You need say nothing at all," replied Nicholas, "I 
have done nothing to found any very strong claim upon your 
eloquence, I am sure." 

" He might have been burnt to death, if it hadn't been for 
you, sir," simpered Miss Petowker. 

"Not very likely, I think," replied Nicholas; "for there 
was abundance of assistance here, which must have reached 
him before he had been in any danger." 

" You will let us drink your health, anyvays, sir ! " said 
Mr. Kenwigs, motioning towards the table. 



1 86 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" — In my absence, by all means," rejoined Nicholas, with 
a smile. " I have had a very fatiguing journey, and should 
be most indifferent company — a far greater check upon your 
merriment, than a promoter, of it, even if I kept awake, which 
I think very doubtful. If you will allow me, I'll return to my 
friend, Mr. Noggs, who went up stairs again, when he found 
nothing serious had occurred. Good-night." 

Excusing himself, in these terms, from joining in the fes- 
tivities, Nicholas took a most winning farewell of Mrs. Ken- 
wigs and the other ladies, and retired, after making a very 
extraordinary impression upon the company. 

"What a delightful young man ! " cried Mrs. Kenwigs. 

" Uncommon gentlemanly, really," said Mr. Kenwigs. 
" Don't you think so, Mr. Lillyvick .?'" 

" Yes," said the collector, with a dubious shrug of his 
shoulders. '* He is gentlemanly, very gentlemanly — in appear- 
ance." 

" I hope you don't see anything against him, uncle ? " in- 
quired Mrs. Kenwigs. 

" No, my dear," replied the collector, "no. I trust he 
may not turn out — well — no matter — my love to you, my dear, 
and long life to the baby ! " 

" Your namesake," said Mrs. Kenwigs, with a sweet smile. 

" And I hope a worthy namesake," observed Mr. Kenwigs, 
willmg to propitiate the collector. "I hope a baby as will 
never disgrace his godfather, and as may be considered, in 
arter years, of a piece with the Lillyvicks whose name he bears. 
I do say — and Mrs. Kenwigs is of the same sentiment, and feels 
it as strong as I do— that I consider his being called Lillyvick 
one of the greatest blessings and honors of my existence." 

" 7%^ greatest blessing, Kenwigs," murmured his lady. 

" The greatest blessing," said Mr. Kenwigs, correcting 
himself. " A blessing that I hope, one of these days, I may 
be able to deserve." 

This was a politic stroke of the Kenwigses, because it 
made Mr. Lillyvick the great head and fountain of the baby's 
importance. The good gentleman felt the delicacv and dex- 
terity of the touch, and at once proposed the health of the 
gentleman, name unknown, who had signalized himself, that 
night, by his coolness and alacrity. 

"Who, I don't mind saying," observed Mr. Lillyvick, as a 
great concession, " is a good-looking young man enough, with 
manners that I hope his character may be equal to." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 187 

" He has a very nice face and style, really," said Mrs. 
Ken wigs. 

"lie certainly has," added Miss Petowker. "There's 
something in his appearance quite — dear, dear, what's that 
word again ? " 

" What word ? " inquired Mr. Lillyvick. 
"Why — dear me, how stupid I am," replied Miss Petow- 
ker, hesitating. " What do you call it, when Lords break off 
door-knockers and beat policemen, and play at coaches with 
other people's money, and all that sort of thing ? " 
" Aristocratic t " suggested the collector. 
" Ah ! aristocratic," replied Miss Petowker ; " something 
very aristocratic about him, isn't there ? " 

The gentlemen held their peace, and smiled at each other, 
as who should say, " Well ! there's no accounting for tastes ; " 
but the ladies resolved unanimously that Nicholas had an 
aristocratic air ; and nobody caring to dispute the position, it 
was established triumphantly. 

The punch being, by this time, drunk out, and the little 
Kenwigses (who had for some time previously held their little 
eyes open with their little fore-fingers) becoming fractious, 
and requesting rather urgently to be put to bed, the collector 
made a move by pulling out his watch, and acquainting the 
company that it was nigh two o'clock ; whereat some of the 
guests were surprised and others shocked, and hats and 
bonnets being groped for under the tables, and in course of 
time found, their owners went away, after a vast deal of 
shaking of hands, and many remarks how they had never 
spent such a delightful evening, and how they marvelled to 
find it so late, expecting to have heard that it was half-past 
ten at the very latest, and how they wished that Mr. and Mrs. 
Kenwigs had a wedding-day once a week, and how they 
wondered by what hidden agency Mrs. Kenwigs could 
possibly have managed so well ; and a great deal more of the 
same kind. To allof which flattering expressions, Mr. and 
Mrs. Kenwigs replied, by thanking every lady and gentleman, 
seriatim, for the favor of their company, and hoping they 
might have enjoyed themselves only half as well as they said 
they had. 

As to Nicholas, quite unconscious of the impression he 
had produced, he had long since fallen asleep, leaving Mr. 
Newman Noggs and Smike to empty the spirit bottle between 
them ; and this office they performed with such extreme good 



1 88 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

will, that Newman was equally at a loss to determine whether 
he himself was quite sober, and whether he had ever seen 
any gentleman so heavily, drowsily, and completely intoxi- 
cated, as his new acquaintance. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

NICHOLAS SEEKS TO EMPLOY HIMSELF IN A NEW CAPACITY, 
AND BEING UNSUCCESSFUL, ACCEPTS AN ENGAGEMENT AS 
TUTOR IN A PRIVATE FAMILY. 

The first care of Nicholas, next morning, was, to look 
after some room in which, until better times dawned upon 
him, he could contrive to exist, without trenching upon the 
hospitality of Newman Noggs, who would have slept upon the 
stairs with pleasure, so that his young friend was accom- 
modated. 

The vacant apartment to which the bill in the parlor 
window bore reference, appeared, on inquiry, to be a small 
back room on the second floor, reclaimed from the leads, and 
overlooking a soot-bespeckled prospect of tiles and chimney- 
pots. For the letting of this portion of the house from week 
to week, on reasonable terms, the parlor lodger was em- 
powered to treat ; he being deputed by the landlord to 
dispose of the rooms as they became vacant, and to keep a 
sharp look-out thai the lodgers didn't run away. As a means 
of securing the punctual discharge of which last service he 
was permitted to live rent-free, lest he should at any time be 
tempted to run away himself. 

Of this chamber, Nicholas became the tenant ; and having 
hired a few common articles of furniture from a neighboring 
broker, and paid the first week's hire in advance, out of a 
small fund raised by the conversion of some spare clothes into 
ready money, he sat himself down to ruminate upon his 
prospects, which, like the prospect outside his window, were 
sufficiently confined and dingy. As they by no means 
improved on better acquaintance, and as familiarity breeds 
contempt, he resolved to banish them from his thoughts by 
dint of hard walking. So, taking up his hat, and leaving poor 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 189 

Smike to arrange and re-arrange the room, with as much 
delight as if it had been the costhest palace, he betook him- 
self to the streets, and mingled with the crowd which thronged 
them. 

Although a man may lose a sense of his own importance 
when he is a mere unit among a busy throng, all utterly 
regardless of him, it by no means follows that he can dis- 
possess himself, with equal facility, of a very strong sense of 
the importance and magnitude of his cares. The unhappy 
state of his own affairs was the one idea which occupied the 
brain of Nicholas, walk as fast as he would ; and when he 
tried to dislodge it by speculating on the situation and pros- 
pects of the people who surrounded him, he caught himself, 
in a few seconds, contrasting their condition with his own, 
and gliding almost imperceptibly back into his old train of 
tlTought again. 

Occupied m these reflections, as he was making his way 
along one of the great public thoroughfares of London, he 
chanced to raise his eyes to a blue board, whereon was 
inscribed, in characters of gold, "General Agency Office ; for 
places and situations of all kinds inquire within." It was a 
shop-front, fitted up with a gauze blind and an inner door ; 
and in the window hung a long and tempting array of written 
placards, announcing vacant places of every grade, from a 
secretary's to a footboy's.'' 

Nicholas halted, instinctively, before this temple of 
promise, and ran his eye over the capital-text openings in life 
which were so profusely displayed. When he had completed 
his survey he walked on a little way, and then back, and then 
on again ; at length, after pausing irresolutely several times 
before the door of the General Agency Office, he made up his 
mind, and stepped in. 

He found himself in a little floor-clothed room, with a high 
desk railed of! in one corner, behind which sat a lean youth 
with cunning eyes and a protruding chin, whose performances 
in capital-text darkened the window. He had a thick ledger 
lying open before him, and with the fingers of his right hand 
inserted between the leaves, and his eyes fixed on a very fat 
old lady in a mob-cap — evidently the proprietress of the 
establishment — who was airing herself at the fire, seemed to 
be only waiting her directions to refer to some entries con- 
tained within its rusty clasps. 

As there was a board outside, which acquainted the public 



igo NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

that servants-of-all-work were perpetually in waiting to be hired 
from ten till four, Nicholas knew at once that some half-dozen 
strong young women, each with pattens and an umbrella, who 
were sitting upon a form in one corner, were in attendance 
for that purpose, especially as the poor things looked anxious 
and weary. He was not quite so certain of the callings and 
stations of two smart young ladies who were in conversation 
with the fat lady before the ,fire, until — having sat himself 
down in a corner, and remarked that he would wait until the 
other customers had been served — the fat lady resumed the 
dialogue which his entrance had interrupted. 

"Cook, Tom," said the fat lady, still airing herself as 
aforesaid. 

" Cook," said Tom, turning over some leaves of the ledger. 
"Well!" 

" Read out an easy place or two," said the fat lady. 

" Pick out very light ones, if you please, young man," 
interposed a genteel female, in shepherd's-plaid boots, who 
appeared to be the client. 

"'Mrs. Marker,'" said Tom, reading, "' Russell Place, 
Russell Square ; offers eighteen guineas ; tea and sugar found. 
Two in family and see very little company. Five servants 
kept. No man. No followers.' " 

"Oh Lor! " tittered the client. " That won't do. Read 
another, young man, will you } " 

"'Mrs. Wrymug,' " said Tom, "'Pleasant Place, Fins- 
bury. Wages, twelve guineas. No tea, no sugar. Serious 
family ' " 

"Ah! you needn't mind reading that," interrupted the 
client. 

"'Three serious footmen,' " said Tom, impressively. 

" Three ? did you say ? " asked the client in an altered 
tone. 

" Three serious footmen," replied Tom. " ' Cook, housemaid 
and nursemaid • each female servant required to join the Little 
Bethel Congregation three times every Sunday — with a serious 
footman. !f the cook is more serious than the footman, she will 
be expected to improve the footman ; if tlie footman is more 
serious than the cook, he will be expected to improve the 
cook.' " 

"I'll take the address of that place," said the client; " I 
don't know but what it mightn't suit me pretty well." 

" Here's another," remarked Tom, turning over the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 191 

leaves ; " ' Family of Mr. Gallanbile, M. P. Fifteen guineas, 
tea and sugar, and servants allowed to see male cousins, if 
godly. Note. Cold dinner in the kitchen on the Sabbath, 
Mr. Gallanbile being devoted to the Observance question. 
No victuals whatever, cooked on the Lord's day, with the ex- 
ception of dinner for Mr. and Mrs. Gallanbile, which, being a 
work of piety and necessity, is exempted. Mr. Gallanbile 
dines late on the day of resi, in order to prevent the sinful- 
ness of the cook's dressing herself.' " 

" I don't think that'll answer as well as the other," said 
the client, after a little whispering with her friend. " I'll take 
the other direction, if you please, young man. I can but 
come back again, if it don't do." 

Tom made out the address, as requested, and the genteel 
client, having satisfied the fat lady with a small fee, mean- 
jvhile, went away, accompanied by her friend. 

As Nicholas opened his mouth, to request the young man 
to turn to letter S, and let him know what secretaryships 
remained undisposed of, there came into the office an appli- 
cant, in whose favor he immediately retired, and whose ap- 
pearance both surprised and interested him. 

This was a young lady who could be scarcely eighteen, of 
very slight and delicate figure, but exquisitely shaped, who, 
walking timidly up to the desk, made an inquiry, in a very 
low tone of voice, relative to some situation as governess, or 
companion to a lady. She raised her veil, for an instant, 
while she p/eferred the inquiry, and disclosed a countenance 
of most uncommon beauty, though shaded by a cloud of sad- 
ness, which, in one so young, was doubly remarkable. Hav- 
ing received a card of reference to some person on the books, 
she made the usual acknowledgment, and glided away. 

She was neatly but very quietly attired ; so much so, 
indeed, that it seemed as though her dress, if it had been 
worn by one who imparted fewer graces of her own to it, 
might have looked poor and shabby. Her attendant — for 
she had one — was a red-faced, round-eyed, slovenly girl, who, 
from a certain roughness about the bare arms that peeped 
from under her draggled shawl, and the half-washed-out 
traces of smut and blacklead which tattoed her countenance, 
was clearly of a kin with the servants-of-all-work on the form ; 
between whom and herself there had passed various grins and 
glances, indicative of the freemasonry of the craft. 

This girl followed her mistress ; and, before Nicholas had 



I g2 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

recovered from the first effects of his surprise and admiration, 

the young lady was gone. It is not a matter of such complete 
and utter improbability as some sober people may think, that 
he would have followed them out, had he not been restrained 
by what passed between the fat lady and her bookkeeper. 

" When is she coming again, Tom ? " asked the fat lady. 

" To-morrow morning," replied Tom, mending his pen. 

" Where have you sent her to .'' " asked the fat lady. 

" Mrs. Clark's,'" replied Tom. 

" She'll have a nice life of it, if she goes there," obser\-ed 
the fat lady, taking a pinch of snuff from a tin box. 

Tom made no other reply than thrusting his tongue into 
his cheek, and pointing the feather of his pen towards Nicho- 
las — reminders which elicited from the fat lady an inquiry, of 
"Now, sir, what can we do iox you f" 

Nicholas briefly replied, that he wanted to know whether 
there was any such post to be had, as secretary or amanuen- 
sis to a gentleman. 

" Any such ! " rejoined the mistress ; " a dozen such. 
An't there, Tom ? " 

" /should think so," answered that young gentleman ; and 
as he said it, he winked towards Nicholas, with a degree of 
familiarity which he, no doubt, intended for a rather flattering 
compliment, but with which Nicholas was most ungratefully 
digusted. 

Upon reference to the book, it appeared that the dozen 
secretaryships had dwindled down to one. Mr. Gregsbury, 
the great member of Parliament, of Manchester Buildings, 
Westminster, wanted a young man, to keep his papers and 
correspondence in order ; and Nicholas was exactly the sort 
of young man that Mr. Gregsbury wanted. 

" I don't know what the terms are, as he said he'd settle 
them himself with the party," observed the fat lady ; " but 
they must be pretty good ones, because he's a member of 
parliament." 

Inexperienced as he was. Nicholas did not feel quite as- 
sured of the force of this reasoning, or the justice of this 
conclusion ; but without troubling himself to question it, he 
took down the address, and resolved to wait upon Mr. Gregs- 
bury, without delay. 

" I don't know what the number is," said Tom ; " but Man- 
chester Buildings isn't a large place ; and if the worst comes 
to the worst, it won't take you very long to knock at all the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



193 



doors on both sides of the way till you find him out. I say, 
what a good-looking gal that was, wasn't she ? " 

" What girl ? " demanded Nicholas, sternly. 

" Oh yes. I know — what gal, eh ? " whispered Tom, shut- 
ting one eye, and cocking his chin in the air. " You didn't 
see her, you didn't — I say, don't you wish you was me, when 
she comes to-morrow morning ? " 

Nicholas looked at the ugly clerk, as if he had a mind to 
reward his admiration of the young lady by beating the ledger 
about his ears, but he refrained, and strode haughtily out of 
the office ; setting at defiance, in his indignation, those 
ancient laws of chivalry, which not only made it proper and 
lawful for all good knights to hear the praise of the ladies to 
whom they were devoted, but rendered it incumbent upon 
them to roam about the world, and knock at head all such 
matter-of-fact and unpoetical characters, as declined to exalt, 
above all the earth, damsels whom they had never chanced to 
look upon or hear of — as if that were any excuse ! 

Thinking no longer of his own misfortunes, but wondering 
what could be those of the beautiful girl he had seen, Nicho- 
las, with many wrong turns, and many inquiries, and almost 
as many misdirections, bent his steps towards the place 
whither he had been directed. 

Within the precincts of the ancient city of Westminster, 
and within half a quarter of a mile of its ancient sanctuary, is 
a narrow and dirty region, the sanctuary of the smaller mem- 
bers of Parliament in modern days. It is all comprised in 
one street of gloomy lodging-houses, from whose windows, in 
vacation-time, there frown long melancholy rows of bills, 
which say, as plainly as did the countenances of their occupi- 
ers, ranged on ministerial and opposition benches in the ses- 
sion which slumbers with its fathers. " To Let," " To Let." 
In busier periods of the year these bills disappear, and the 
houses swarm with legislators. There are legislators in the 
parlors, in the first floor, in the second, in the third, in the 
garrets ; the small apartments reek with the breath of deputa- 
tions and delegates. In damp weather, the place is rendered 
close, by the steams of moist acts of Parliament and frowsy 
petitions ; general postmen grow faint as they entered its 
infected limits, and shabby figures in quest of franks, flit rest- 
lessly to and fro like the troubled ghosts of Complete Letter- 
writers departed. This is Manchester Buildings ; and here, 
at all hours of the night, may be heard the rattling of latch- 



194 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

keys in their respective keyholes : with now and then — when 
a gust of wind sweeping across the water which washes the 
Buildings' feet, impels the sound towards its entrance — the 
weak, shrill voice of some young member practising to-mor- 
row's speech. All the livelong day, there is a grinding of 
organs and clashing and clanging of little boxes of music ; 
for Manchester Buildings is an eel-pot, which has no outlet 
but its awkward mouth — a case-bottle which has no thorough- 
fare, and a short and narrow neck — and in this respect it 
may be typical of the fate of some few among its more adven- 
turous residents, who, after wriggling themselves into Parlia- 
ment by violent efforts and contortions, find that it, too, is no 
thoroughfare for them ; that, like Manchester Buildings, it 
leads to nothing beyond itself ; and that they are fain at last 
to back out, no wiser, no richer, not one whit more famous, 
than they went in. 

Into Manchester Buildings Nicholas turned, with the ad- 
dress of the great Mr. Gregsbury in his hand. As there was 
a stream of people pouring into a shabby house not far from 
the entrance, he waited until they had made their way in, and 
then making up to the servant, ventured to inquire if he knew 
where Mr. Gregsbury lived. 

The servant was a very pale, shabby boy, who looked as 
if he had slept underground from his infancy, as very likely 
he had. " Mr. Gregsbury ? " said he ; " Mr. Gregsbury 
lodges here. It's all right. Come in ! " 

Nicholas thought he might as well get in while he could, 
so in he walked ; and he had no sooner done so, than the boy 
shut the door, and made off. 

This was odd enough ; but what was more embarrassing 
was, that all along the passage, and all along the narrow stairs, 
blocking up the window, and making the dark entry darker 
still, was a confused crowd of persons with great importance 
depicted in their looks ; who were, to all appearance, waiting 
in silent expectation of some coming event. From time to 
time, one man would whisper his neighbor, or a little group 
would whisper together, and then the whisperers would nod 
fiercely to each other, or give their heads a relentless shake, 
as if they were bent upon doing something very desperate, and 
were determined not to be put off, whatever happened. 

As a few minutes elapsed without anything occurring to 
explain this phenomenon, and as he felt his own position a 
peculiarly uncomfortable one, Nicholas was on the point of 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



195 



seeking some information from the man next him, when a 
sudden move was visible on the stairs, and a voice was heard 
to cry, " Now, gentlemen, have the goodness to walk up ! " 

So far from walking up, the gentlemen on the stairs began 
to walk down with great alacrity, and to entreat, with extraor- 
dinary politeness, that the gentlemen nearest the street 
would go first ; the gentlemen nearest the street retorted, with 
equal courtesy, that they couldn't think of such a thing on any 
account ; but they did it, without thinking of it, inasmuch as 
the other gentlemen pressing some half-dozen (among whom 
was Nicholas) forward, and closing up behind, pushed them, 
not merely up the stairs, but into the very sitting-room of Mr. 
Gregsbury, which they were thus compelled to enter with most 
unseemly precipitation, and without the means of retreat ; the 
press behind them, more than filling the apartment. 

" Gentlemen," said Mr. Gregsbury, " you are welcome. 
I am rejoiced to see }'ou." 

^ For a gentleman who was rejoiced to see a body of visi- 
tors, Mr. Gregsbury looked as uncomfortable as might be ; 
but perhaps this was occasioned by senatorial gravity, and a 
statesmanlike habit of keeping his feelings under control. He 
was a tough, burly, thick-headed gentleman, with a loud voice, 
a pompous manner, a tolerable command of sentences with 
no meaning in them, and, in short, every requisite for a very 
good member indeed. 

" Now, gentlemen," said Mr. Gregsbury, tossing a great 
bundle of papers into a wicker basket at his feet, and throw- 
ing himself back in his chair with his arms over the elbows, 
" you are dissatisfied with my conduct, I see by the news- 
papers." 

" Yes, Mr. Gregsbury, we are," said a plump old gentle- 
man in a violent heat, bursting out of the throng, and jjlant- 
ing himself in the front. 

" Do my eyes deceive me," said Mr. Gregsbury, looking 
towards the speaker, "or is that my old friend Pugstyles .'' " 

" I am that man, and no other, sir," replied the plump old 
gentleman. 

" Give me your hand, my worthy friend," said Mr. Gregs- 
bury. " Pugstyles, my dear friend, I am very sorry to see you 
here." 

"I am very sorry to be here, sir," said Mr. Pugstyles; 
" but your conduct, Mr. Gregsbury, has rendered this deputa- 
tion from your constituents, imperatively necessary." 



196 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



" My conduct, Pugstyles," said Mr. Gregsbur}% looking 
round upon the deputation with gracious magnanimity — " My 
conduct has been, and ever will be, regulated by a sincere 
regard for the true and real interests of this great and happy 
country. Whether I look at home, or abroad ; whether I be- 
hold the peaceful industrious communities of our island home : 
her rivers covered with steamboats, her roads with locomo- 
tives, her streets with cabs, her skies with balloons of a power 
and magnitude hitherto unknown in the history of aeronautics 
in this or any other nation — I say, whether I look merely at 
home, or, stretching my eyes farther, contemplate the bound- 
less prospect of conquest and possession — achieved by British 
perseverance and British valor — which is outspread before 
me, I clasp my hands, and turning my eyes to the broad ex- 
panse above my head, exclaim, ' Thank Heaven, I am a 
Briton ! ' " 

The time had been, when this burst of enthusiasm would 
have been cheered to the very echo \ but now, the deputation 
received it with chilling coldness. The general impression 
seemed to be, that as an explanation of Mr. Gregsbury's po- 
litical conduct, it did not enter quite enough into detail ; and 
one gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud, 
that, for his purpose, it savored rather too much of a " gam- 
mon " tendency. 

" The meaning of that term — gammon," said Mr. Gregs- 
bury, " is unknown to me. If it means that I grow a little too 
fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native 
land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I am proud of this 
free and happy country. My form dilates, my eye glistens, 
my breast heaves, my heart swells, my bosom burns, when I 
call to mind her greatness and her glory." 

"We wish, sir," remarked Mr. Pugstyles, calmly, "to ask 
you a few questions." 

" If you please, gentlemen ; my time is yours — and my 
country's — and my country's — " said Mr. Gregsbury. 

This permission being conceded, Mr. Pugstyles put on his 
spectacles, and referred to a written paper which he drew 
from his pocket ; whereupon nearly every other member of 
the deputation pulled a written paper from his pocket, to 
check Mr. Pugstyles off, as he read the questions. 

This done, Mr. Pugstyles proceeded to business. 

" Question number one. — Whether, sir, you did not give a 
a voluntary pledge previous to your election, that in event of 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 197 

your being returned, you would immediately put down the 
practice of coughing and groaning in the House of Commons ? 
And whether you did not submit to be coughed and groaned 
down in the very first debate of the session, and have since 
made no effort to effect a reform in this respect ? Whether 
you did not also pledge yourself to astonish the government, 
and make them shrink in their shoes ? And whether you 
have astonished them, and made them shrink in their shoes, 
or not ? " 

" Go on to the next one, my dear Pugstyles," said Mr. 

Gregsbury. 

" Have you any explanation to offer with reference to that 
question, sir ? " asked Mr. Pugstyles. 

" Certainly not," said Mr. Gregsbury. 

The members of the deputation looked fiercely at each 
other, and afterwards at the member. "Dear Pugstyles" 
having taken a very long stare at Mr. Gregsbury over the tops 
of his spectacles, resumed his list of inquiries. 

" Question number two. — Whether, sir, you did not like- 
wise give a voluntary pledge that you would support your col- 
league on every occasion ; and whether you did not, the night 
before last, desert him and vote upon the other side, because 
the wife of a leader on that other side had invited Mrs. Gregs- 
bury to an evening party ? " 

"Go on," said Mr. Gregsbury 

" Nothing to say on that, either, sir ?" asked the spokes- 
man. 

" Nothing whatever," replied Mr. Gregsbury. The depu- 
tation, who had only seen him at canvassing or election time, 
were struck dumb by his coolness. He didn't appear like the 
same man ; then he was all milk and honey ; now he was all 
starch and vinegar. But men are so different at different 
times ! 

" Question number three — and last — " said Mr. Pugstyles, 
emphatically. " Whether, sir, you did not state upon the 
husthigs, that it was your firm and determined intention to 
oppose everything proposed ; to divide the house upon every 
question, to move for returns on every subject, to place a mo- 
tion on the books every day, and, in short, in your own mem- 
orable words, to play the very devil with everything and 
everybody ? " With this comprehensive inquiry, Mr. Pug- 
styles folded up his list of questions, as did all his backers. 

Mr. Gregsbury reflected, blew his nose, threw himself fur- 



I gS NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

ther back in his chair, came forward again, leaning his elbows 
on the table, made a triangle with his two thumbs and his two 
forefingers, and tapping his nose with the apex thereof, re- 
plied (smiling as he said it), " I deny everything." 

At this unexpected answer, a hoarse murmur arose from 
the deputation ; and the same gentleman who had expressed 
an opinion relative to the gammonnig nature of the introduc- 
tory speech, again made a monosyllabic demonstration, by 
growling out " Resign ! " Which growl being taken up by 
his fellows, swelled into a very earnest and general remon- 
strance. 

" I am requested, sir, to express a hope," said Mr. Pug- 
styles, with a distant bow, " that on receiving a requisition to 
that effect from a great majority of your constituents, you will 
not object at once to resign your seat in favor of some candi- 
date whom they think they can better trust." 

To this, Mr. Gregsbury read the following reply, which, 
anticipating the request, he had composed in the form of a 
letter, whereof copies had been made to send round to the 
newspapers. 

" My dear Mr. Pugstyles, 

" Next to the welfare of our beloved island — this great 
and free and happy country, whose powers and resources are, 
I sincerely believe, illimitable — I value that noble indepen- 
dence which is an Englishman's proudest boast, and which I 
fondly hope to bequeath to my children, untarnished and un- 
sullied. Actuated by no personal motives, but moved only by 
high and great constitutional considerations ; which I will not 
attempt to explain, for they are really beneath the compre- 
hension of those who have not made themselves masters, as I 
have, of the intricate and arduous study of politics ; I would 
rather keep my seat, and intend doing so. 

"Will you do me the favor to present my compliments to 
the constituent body, and acquaint them with this circum- 
stance ? 

" With great esteem, 

" My dear Mr. Pugstyles, 

" &c., &c." 

" Then you will not resign, under any circumstances .'' " 
asked the spokesman. 

Mr, Gregsbury smiled, and shook his head. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 199 

" Then, good-morning, sir," said Pugstyles, angrily. 
" Heaven bless you ! " said Mr. Gregsbury. And the dep- 
utation, with many growls and scowls, filed off as quickly as 
the narrowness of the staircase would allow of their getting 
down. 

The last man being gone, Mr. Gregsbury rubbed his 
hands and chuckled, as merry fellows will, when they think 
they have said or done a more than commonly good thing ; 
he was so engrossed in this self-congratulation, that he did 
not observe that Nicholas had been left behind in the 
shadow of the window-curtains, until that young gentleman, 
fearing he might otherwise overhear some soliloquy intended 
to have no listeners, coughed twice or thrice, to attract the 
member's notice, 

" What's that ? " said Mr. Gregsbury, in sharp accents. 

Nicholas stepped forward, and bowed. 

" What do you do here, sir? " asked Mr. Gregsbury ; " a 
spy upon my privacy ! A concealed voter ! You have heard 
my answer, sir. Pray follow the deputation." 

" I should have done so, if I had belonged to it, but I do 
not," said Nicholas. 

" Then how came you here, sir ? " was the natural inquiry 
of Mr. Gregsbury, M.P. "And where the devil have you 
come from, sir ? " was the question which followed it. 

" I brou ght this card fr om the General Agency Office, sir," 
said 'l^TclToTas7^''wTsHTngTo offer myself as your secretaiy, and 
understanding that you stood in need of one." 

" That's all you have come for, is it ? " said Mr. Gregs- 
bury, eyeing him in some doubt. 

Nicholas replied in the affirmative. 

" You have no connection with any of those rascally pa- 
pers, have you ? " said Mr. Gregsbur}^ " You didn't get into 
the room to hear what was going forward, and put it in print, 
eh ? " 

" I have no connection, I am sorry to say, with anything 
at present," rejoined Nicholas, — politely enough, but quite at 
his ease. 

" Oh ! " said Mr. Gregsbury. " How did you find your 
way up here, then ? " 

Nicholas related how he had been forced up by the depu- 
tation. 

" That was the way, was it ? " said Mr. Gregsbury. " Sit 
down." 



2 oo NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

Nicholas took a chair, and Mr. Gregsbury stared at him 
for a long time, as if to make certain, before he asked any 
further questions, that there were no objections to his out- 
ward appearance. 

" You want to be my secretary, do you ? " he said at 
length. 

" I wish to be employed in that capacity, sir," replied 
Nicholas. 

"Well," said Mr. Gregsbury ; "now what can you do ? " 

" I suppose," replied Nicholas, smiling, " that I can do 
what usually falls to the lot of other secretaries." 

" What's that } " inquired Mr. Gregsbury. 

" What is it ? " replied Nicholas. 

" Ah ! What is it 1 " retorted the member, looking shrewdly 
at him, with his head one side. 

" A secretary's duties are rather difficult to define, perhaps," 
said Nicholas, considering. " They include, I presume, cor- 
respondence ? " 

" Good," interposed Mr. Gregsbury. 

" The arrangement of papers and documents ? " 

" Very good." 

" Occasionally, perhaps the writing from your dictation ; 
and possibly, sir," — said Nicholas, with a half smile, " the 
copying of your speech for some public journal, when you 
have made one of more than usual importance." 

" Certainly," rejoined Mr. Gregsbury. " What else ? " 

" Really," said Nicholas, after a moment's reflection. " I 
am not able, at this instant, to recapitulate any other duty of 
a secretary, iDcyond the general one of making himself as agree- 
able and useful to his employer as he can, consistently with 
his own respectability, and without overstepping that line of 
duties which he undertakes to perform, and which the desig- 
nation of his office is usually understood to imply." 

Mr. Gregsbury looked fixedly at Nicholas for a short 
time, and then glancing warily round the room, said in a sup- 
pressed voice : 

" This is all very well, Mr. — what is your name ? " 

" Nickleby." 

" This is all very well, Mr. Nickleby, and very proper, so 
far as it goes — so far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. 
There are other duties, Mr. Nickleby, which a secretary to a 
parliamentary gentleman must never lose sight of. I should 
require to be crammed, sir." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 201 

*' I beg your pardon," interposed Nicholas, doubtful wheth- 
er he had heard aright. 

" — To be crammed, sir," repeated Mr. Gregsbury. 

" May I beg your pardon again, if I inquire what you 
mean, sir t " said Nicholas. 

" My meaning, sir, is perfectly plain," replied Mr. Gregs- 
bury, with a solemn aspect. " My secretary would have to 
make himself master of the foreign policy of the world, as it 
is mirrored in the newspapers ; to run his eye over all accounts 
of public meetings, all leading articles, and accounts of the 
proceedings of public bodies ; and to make notes of anything 
which it appeared to him might be made a point of, in any 
little speech upon the question of some petition lying on the 
table, or anything of that kind. Do you understand ? " 

"I think I do, sir," replied Nicholas. 

" Then," said Mr. Gregsbury, "it would be necessary for 
him to make himself acquainted, from day to day, with news- 
paper paragraphs on passing events ; such as ' Mysterious 
disappearance, and supposed suicide of a pot-boy,' or anything 
of that sort upon which I might found a question to the Secre- 
tary of State for the Home Department. Then, he would have 
to copy the question, and as much as I remembered of the an- 
swer (including a litde compliment about independence and 
good sense) ; and to send the manuscript in a frank to the 
local paper, with perhaps half a dozen lines of leader, to the 
effect, that I was always to be found in my place in Parliament, 
and never shrunk from the responsible and arduous duties, 
and so forth. You see ? " 

Nicholas bowed. 

" Besides which," continued Mr. Gregsbury, " I should ex- 
pect him, now and then, to go through a few figures in the 
printed tables, and to pick out a few results, so that I might 
come out pretty well on timber duty questions, and finance 
questions, and so on ; and I should like him to get up a few 
little arguments about the disastrous effects of a return to 
cash payments and a metallic currency, with a touch now and 
then about the exportation of bullion, and the Emperor of 
Russia, and bank notes, and all that kind of thing, which it's 
only necessary to talk fluently about, because nobody under- 
stands it. Do you take me ? " 

" I think I understand," said Nicholas. 

"With regard to such questions as are not political," con- 
tinued Mr. Gregsbury, warming; " and which one can't be ex- 



2 02 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

pected to care a curse about, beyond the natural care of not 
allowing inferior people to be as well off as ourselves — else 
where are our privileges ? — I should wish my s ecretar y to 
get together a few little flourishing speeches, "oF'^a patriotic cast. 
For instance, if any preposterous bill were brought forward, 
for giving poor grubbing devils of authors a right to their 
own property, I should like to say, that I for one would never 
consent to opposing an insurmountable bar to the diffusion of 
literature among the people, — you understand? — that the crea- 
tions of the pocket, being man's, might belong to one man, or 
one family ; but that the creations of the brain, being God's, 
ought as a matter of course to belong to the people at large — 
and if I v/as pleasantly disposed, I should like to make a joke 
about posterity, and say that those who wrote for posterity 
should be content to be rewarded by the approbation of pos- 
terity ; it might take with the house, and could never do 
me any harm, because posterity can't be expected to know 
anything about me or my jokes either — do you see ? " 

" I see that, sir," replied Nicholas. 

" You must always bear in mind, in such cases as this, 
where our interests are not affected," said Mr. Gregsbury, " to 
put it very strong about the people, because it comes out very 
well at election-time ; and you could be as funny as you liked 
about the authors ; because I believe the greater part of them 
live in lodgings, and are not voters. This is a hasty outline 
of the chief things you'd have to do, except waiting in the 
lobby every night, in case I forgot anything, and should want 
fresh cramming ; and, now and then, during great debates, 
sitting in the front row of the gallery, and saying to the people 
about — ' You see that gentleman, with his hand to his face, 
and his arm twisted round the pillar — that's Mr. Gregsbury — 
the celebrated Mr. Gregsbury- — ' with any other little eulogium 
that might strike you at the moment. And for salary," said 
Mr. Gregsbury, winding up with great rapidity ; for he was out 
of breath — " And for salary, I don't mind saying at once in 
round numbers, to prevent any dissatisfaction — though it's 
more than I've been accustomed to give — fifteen shillings a 
week, and find yourself. There? " 

With this handsome offer, Mr. Gregsbury once more threw 
himself back in his chair, and looked like a man who had been 
most profligately liberal, but is determined not to repent of it 
notwithstanding. 

" Fifteen shillings a week is not much," said Nicholas, 
mildly. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



203 



" Not much ? Fifteen shillings a week not much, young 
man ? " cried Mr. Gregsbury. " Fifteen shillings a " 

" Pray do not suppose that I quarrel with the sum, sir," 
replied Nicholas ; " for I am not ashamed to confess, that 
whatever it may be in itself, to me it is a great deal. But the 
duties and responsibilities make the recompense small, and 
they are so very heavy that I fear to undertake them." 

*' Do you decline to undertake them, sir ? " inquired Mr. 
Gregsbury, with his hand on the bell-rope. 

" I fear they are too great for my powers, however good 
my will may be, sir," replied Nicholas. 

" That is as much as to say that you had rather not accept 
the place, and that you consider fifteen shillings a week too 
little," said Mr. Gregsbury, ringing. " Do you decline it, 
sir ? " 

" I have no alternative but to do so," replied Nicholas. 

" Door, Matthews ! " said Mr. Gregsbury, as the boy ap- 
peared. 

" I am sorry I have troubled you unnecessarily, sir," said 
Nicholas. 

"I am sorry you have," rejoined Mr. Gregsbur}^, turning 
his back upon him. " Door, Matthews ! " 

" Good-morning, sir," said Nicholas. 

" Door, Matthews ! " cried Mr. Gregsbury. 

The boy beckoned Nicholas, and tumbling lazily down 
stairs before him, opened the door, and ushered him into the 
street. With a sad pensive air, he retraced his steps home- 
wards. 

Smike had scraped a meal together from the remnant of 
last night's supper, and was anxiously awaiting his return. 
The occurrences of the morning had not improved Nicholas's 
appetite, and, by him, the dinner remained untasted. He 
was sitting in a thoughtful attitude, with the plate which the 
poor fellow had assiduously filled with the choicest morsels, 
untouched, by his side, when Newman Noggs looked into the 
room. 

" Come back ? " asked Newman. 

" Yes," replied Nicholas, " tired to death ; and, what is 
worse, might have remained at home for all the good I have 
done." 

" Couldn't expect to do much in one morning," said New- 
man. 

" May be so, but I am sanguine, and did expect," said 



204 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Nicholas, " and am proportionately disappointed." Saying 
which, he gave Newman an account of his proceedings. 

"If I could do anything," said Nicholas, " anything how- 
ever slight, until Ralph Nickleby returns, and I have eased 
my mind by confronting him, I should feel happier. I should 
think it no disgrace to work. Heaven knows. Lying indo- 
lently here, like a half-tamed sullen beast, distracts me." 

" I don't know," said Newman ; " small things offer — they 
would pay the rent, and more — but you wouldn't like them ; 
no, you could hardly be expected to undergo it — no, no." 

"What could I hardly be expected to undergo.-'" asked 
Nicholas raising his eyes. " Show me, in this wide waste of 
London, any honest means by which I could even defray the 
weekly hire of this poor room, and see if I shrink from re- 
sorting to them ! Undergo ! I have undergone too much, 
my friend, to feel pride or squeamishness now. Except — " 
added Nicholas hastily, after a short silence, " except such 
squeamishness as is common honesty, and so much pride as 
constitutes self-respect. I see little to choose, between as- 
sistant to a brutal pedagogue, and toad-eater to a mean and 
ignorant upstart, be he member or no member." 

" I hardly know whether I should tell you what I heard 
this morning or not," said Newman. 

" Has it reference to what you said just now .'' " asked 
Nicholas. 

"It has." 

" Then in Heaven's name, my good friend, tell it me," 
said Nicholas. " For God's sake consider my deplorable con- 
dition ; and, while I promise to take no step without taking 
counsel with you, give me, at least, a vote in my. own behalf." 

Moved by this entreaty, Newman stammered forth a varie- 
ty of most unaccountable and entangled sentences, the up- 
shot of which, was, that Mrs. Kenwigs had examined him, at 
great length that morning, touching the origin of his acquaint- 
ance with, and the whole life, adventures, and pedigree of, 
Nicholas ; that Newman had parried these questions as long 
as he could, but being, at length, hard pressed and driven 
into a corner, had gone so far as to admit, that Nicholas was 
a tutor of great accomplishments, involved in some misfor- 
tunes which he was not at liberty to explain, and bearing the 
name of Johnson. That Mrs. Kenwigs, impelled by gratitude, 
or ambition, or maternal pride, or maternal love, or all four 
powerful motives conjointly, had taken secret conference 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



205 



with Mr. Kenwigs, and liad finally returned to propose that 
Mr. Johnson should instruct the four Miss Kenwigses in the 
French language as spoken by natives, at the weekly stipend 
of five shillings, current coin of the realm ; being at the rate 
of one shilling per week, per each Miss Kenwigs, and one 
shilling over, until such time as the baby might be able to 
take it out in grammar. 

"Which, unless I am very much mistaken," observed Mrs. 
Kenwigs in making the proposition, " will not be very long ; 
for such clever children, Mr. Noggs, never were born into this 
world, I do believe." 

"There," said Newman, "that's all. It's beneath you, I 
know ; but I thought that perhaps you might " 

" Might ! " cried Nicholas, with great alacrity ; " of course 
I shall. I accept the offer at once. Tell the worthy mother 
so, without delay, my dear fellow ; and that I am ready to be- 
gin whenever she pleases." 

Newman hastened, with joyful steps, to inform Mrs. Ken- 
wigs of his friend's acquiescence, and soon returning brought 
back word that they would be happy to see him in the first 
floor as soon as convenient ; that Mrs. Kenwigs had, upon 
the instant, sent out to secure a second-hand French gram- 
mar and dialogues, which had long been fluttering in the six- 
penny box at the book-stall round the corner ; and that the 
family, highly excited at the prospect ot this addition to their 
gentility, wished the initiatory lesson to come off immedi> 
ately. 

And here it may be observed, that Nicholas was not in the 
ordinary sense of the word, a young man of high spirit. He 
would resent an affront to himself, or interpose to redress a 
wrong offered to another, as boldly and freely as any knight 
that ever set lance in rest ; but he lacked that peculiar excess 
of coolness and great-minded selfishness, which invariably , 
distinguish gentlemen of high spirit. In truth, for our ownj 
part, we are disposed to look upon such gentlemen as being I 
rather incumbrances than otherwise in rising families : hap- 
pening to be acquainted with several whose spirit prevents 
their settling down to any grovelling occupation, and only dis- 
plays itself in a tendency to cultivate mustaches, and look 
fierce ; and although mustaches and ferocity are both very 
pretty things in their way, and very much to be commended, we 
confess to a desire to see them bred at the owner's proper 
cost, rather than at the expense of low-spirited people. 



2o6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Nicholas, therefore, not being a high-spirited young man 
according to common parlance, and deeming it a greater deg- 
radation to borrow, for the supply of his necessities, from 
Newman Noggs, than to teach French to the little Kenwigses 
for five shillings a week, accepted the offer, with the alacrity 
already described, and betook himself to the first floor with 
all convenient speed. 

Here, he was received by Mrs. Kenwigs with a genteel 
air, kindly intended to assure him of her protection and sup- 
port ; and here, too, he found Mr. Lillyvick and Miss Petow- 
ker ; the four Miss Kenwigses on their form of audience ; and 
the baby in a dwarf porter's chair with a deal tray before it, 
amusing himself with a toy horse without a head ; the said 
horse being composed of a small wooden cylinder, not unlike 
an Italian iron, supported on four crooked pegs and painted 
in ingenious resemblance of red wafers set in blacking. 

" How do you do, Mr. Johnson ? " said Mr. Kenwigs. 
" Uncle — Mr. Johnson." 

" How do you do, sir t " said Mr. Lillyvick — rather sharply ; 
for he Jiad not known what Nicholas was, on the previous 
night, and it was rather an aggravating circumstance if a tax 
collector had been too polite to a teacher. 

" Mr. Johnson is engaged as private master to the children, 
uncle,'' said Mrs. Kenwigs. 

" So you said just now, my dear," replied Mr. Lillyvick. 

" But I hope," said Mrs. Kenwigs, drawing herself up, 
" that that will not make them proud ; but that they will bless 
their own good fortune, which has born them superior to com- 
mon people's children. Do you hear, Morleena .'' " 

" Yes, ma," replied Miss Kenwigs. 

"And when you go out in the streets, or elsewhere, I desire 
that you don't boast of it to the other children," said Mrs. 
Kenwigs ; " and that if you must say anything about it, you 
don't say no more than ' We've got a private master comes to 
teach us at home, but we ain't proud, because ma says it's 
sinful.' Do you hear, Morleena .'' " 

" Yes, ma," replied Miss Kenwigs again. 

" Then mind you recollect, and do as I tell you," said 
Mrs. Kenwigs. " Shall Mr. Johnson begin, uncle .'' " 

" I am ready to hear, if Mr. Johnson is ready to com- 
mence, my dear," said the collector, assuming the air of a pro- 
found critic. " What sort of language do you consider French, 
sir .? " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 207 

" How do you mean ? " asked Nicholas. 

" Do you consider it a good language, sir ? " said the col- 
lector ; " a pretty language, a sensible language ? " 

" A pretty language, certainly," replied Nicholas ; " and as 
it has a name for everything, and admits of elegant conversa- 
tion about everything, I presume it is a sensible one." 

" I don't know," said Mr. Lillyvick, doubtfully. " Do you 
call it a cheerful language, now ? " 

" Yes," replied Nicholas, " I should say it was, certainly." 

" It's very much changed since my time, then," said the 
collector, " very much." 

" Was it a dismal one in your time ? " asked Nicholas, 
scarcely able to repress a smile. 

" Very," replied Mr. Lillyvick, with some vehemence of 
manner. " It's the war time that 1 speak of ; the last war. It 
may be a cheerful language. I should be sorry to contradict 
anybody ; but I can only say that I've heard the French pris- 
oners, who were natives, and ought to know how to speak it, 
talking in such a dismal manner, that it made one miserable 
to hear them. Ay, that I have, fifty times, sir — fifty times! " 

Mr. Lillyvick was waxing so cross, that Mrs. Kenwigs 
thought it expedient to motion to Nicholas not to say anything ; 
and it was not until Miss Petowker had practised several 
blandishments, to soften the excellent old gentleman, that he 
deigned to break silence, by asking, 

" What's the water in French, sir ? " 

*' L'Eaii," replied Nicholas. 

" Ah ! " saicl Mr. Lillyvick, shaking his head mournfully, 
" I thought as much. Lo, eh ? I don't think anything of that 
language — nothing at all." 

" I suppose the children may begin, uncle ? " said Mrs. 
Kenwigs. 

" Oh yes ; they may begin, my dear," replied the collector, 
discontentedly, "/have no wish to prevent them." 

This permission being conceded, the four Miss Kenwigses 
sat in a row with their tails all one way, and Morleena at the 
top : while Nicholas, taking the book, began his preliminary 
explanations. Miss Petowker and Mrs. Kenwigs looked on, in 
silent admiration, broken only by the whispered assurances of 
the latter, that Morleena would have it all by heart in no time ; 
and Mr. Lillyvick regarded the group with frowning and atten- 
tive eyes, lying in wait for something upon which he could 
open a fresh discussion on the language. 



2o8 mCHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

FOLLOWS THE FORTUNES OF MISS NICKLEBY. 

It was with a heavy heart, and many sad forebodings which 
no effort could banish, that Kate Nickleby, on the morning 
appointed for the commencement of her engagement with 
Madame MantaUni, left the city when its clocks yet wanted a 
quarter of an hour of eight, and threaded her way alone, amid 
the noise and bustle of the streets, towards the west end of 
London. 

At this early hour many sickly girls, whose business, like 
that of the poor worm, is to produce, with patient toil, the 
finery that bedecks the thoughtless and luxurious, traverse our 
sTfeets, making towards the scene of their daily labor, and 
catching, as if by stealth, in their hurried walk, the only gasp 
of wholesome air and glimpse of sunlight which cheers their 
rnohotonous existence during the long train of hours that 
make a working day. As she drew nigh to the more fashion- 
able quarter of the town, Kate marked many of this class as 
they passed by, hurrying like herself to their painful occupa- 
tion, and saw, in their unhealthy looks and feeble gait, but too 
clear an evidence that her misgivings were not wholly ground- 
less. . 

She arrived at Madame Mantalini's some minutes before 
the appointed hour, and after walking a few times up and 
down, in the hope that some other female might arrive and 
spare her embarrassment of stating her business to the servant, 
knocked timidly at the door : which, after some delay, was 
opened by the footman, who had been putting on his striped 
jacket as he came up stairs, and was now intent on fastening 
his apron. 

" Is Madame Mantalini in ? " faltered Kate. 

" Not often out at this time, Miss," replied the man in a 
tone which rendered ' Miss,' something more offensive than 
' My dear.' 

" Can I see her ? " asked Kate. 

" Eh ? " replied the man, holding the door in his hand, 
and honoring the inquirer with a stare and a broad grin, 
" Lord, no. " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 209 

" I came by her own appointment, " said Kate ; " I am— 
I am — to be employed here." 

" Oh ! you should have rung the worker's bell," said the 
footman, touching the handle of one in the door-post. " Let 
me see, though, I forgot — Miss Nickleby, is it ? " 

" Yes," replied Kate. 

" You're to walk up stairs then, please," said the man. 
" Madame Mantalini wants to see you — this way — take care 
of these things on the floor." 

Cautioning her, in these terms, not to trip over a heteroge- 
neous litter of pastry-cook's trays, lamps, waiters full of glasses, 
and piles of rout seats which were strewn about the hall, 
plainly bespeaking a late party on the previous night, the man 
led the way to the second story, and ushered Kate into a back 
room, communicating by folding-doors with the apartment in 
which she had first seen the mistress of the establishment. 

" If you'll wait here a minute," said the man, " I'll tell her 
presently." Having made this promise with much affability, 
he retired and left Kate alone. 

There was not much to amuse in the room ; of which the 
most attractive feature was, a half-length portrait in oil, of 
Mr. Mantalini, whom the artist had depicted scratching his 
head in an easy manner, and thus displaying to advantage a 
diamond ring, the gift of Madame Mantalini before her mar- 
riage. There was, however, the sound of voices in conversa- 
tion in the next room ; and as the conversation was loud and 
the partition thin, Kate could not help discovering that they 
belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Mantalini. 

" If you will be odiously, demnebly outr/geously jealous, 
my soul," said Mr. Mantalini, "j^ou will be very miserable — 
horrid miserable — demnition miserable." And then, there 
was a sound as though Mr. Mantalini were sipping his coffee. 

" I am miserable," returned Madame Mantalini. 

" Then you are an ungrateful, unworthy, demd unthankful 
little fairy," said Mr. Mantalini. 

" I am not," returned Madame, with a sob. 

" Do not put itself out of humor," said Mr. Mantalini, 
breaking an egg. " It is a pretty, bewitching little demd 
countenance, and it should not be out of humor, for it spoils 
its loveliness, and makes it cross and gloomy like a frightful, 
naughty, demd hobgoblin." 

" I am not to be brought round in that way, always," re^ 
joined Madame, sulkily. 

14 



2 1 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" It shall be brought round in any way it likes best, and 
not brought round at all if it likes better," retorted Mr. Man- 
talini, with his egg-spoon in his mouth. 

" It's very easy to talk," said Mrs. Mantalini. 

" Not so easy when one is eating a demnition egg," re-'7 
plied Mr. Mantalini ; " for the yolk runs down the waistcoat, p 
and yolk of egg does not' match any waistcoat but a yellow J 
waistcoat, demmit." 

" You were flirting with her during the whole night,'' said 
Madame Mantalini, apparently desirous to lead the conversa- 
tion back to the point from which it had strayed. 

" No. no, my life." 

" You were," said Madame ; " I had my eye upon you all 
the time." 

" Bless the little winking twinkling eye ; was it on me all 
the time ! " cried Mantalini, in a sort of lazy rapture. "Oh, 
demmit ! " 

"And I say once more," resumed Madame, "that you 
ought not to waltz with anybody but your own wife ; and I 
will not bear it, Mantalini, if I take poison first." 

" She will not take poison and have horried pains, will 
she ? " said Mantalini ; who, by the altered sound of his voice, 
seemed to have moved his chair, and taken up his position 
nearer to his wife. " She will not take poison, because she 
had a demd fine husband who might have married two count- 
esses and a dowager " 



"Two countesses," interposed Madame. "You told me 
one before ! " 

"Two !" cried Mantalini. "Two demd fine women, real 
countesses and splendid fortunes, demmit." 

" And why didn't you ? " asked Madame, playfully. 

" Why didn't I ! " replied her husband. " Had I not seen, 
at a morning concert, the demdest little fascinator in all the 
world, and while that little fascinator is my wife, may not all 
the countesses and dowagers in England be " 

Mr. Mantalini did not finish the sentence, but he gave 
Madame Mantalini a very loud kiss, which Madame Man- 
talini returned ; after which, there seemed to be some more 
kissing mixed up with the progress of the breakfast. 

" And what about the cash, my existence's jewel ? " said 
Mantalini, when these endearments ceased. " How much 
have we in hand ? " 

"Very little indeed," replied Madame. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 2 1 1 

"We must have some more," said Mantalini ; "we must 
have some discount out of old Nickleby to carry on the war 
with, demmit." 

"You can't want any more just now," said Madame coax- 
ingly. 

" My life and soul," returned her husband, " there is a 
horse for sale at Scrubbs's, which it would be a sin and a 
crime to lose — going, my senses' joy, for nothing." 

" For nothing," cried Madame, " I am glad of that." 

" For actually nothing," replied Mantalini. " A hundred 
guineas down will buy him ; mane, and crest, and legs, and 
tail, all of the demdest beauty. I will ride him in the park 
before the very chariots of the rejected countesses. The 
demd old dowager will faint with grief and rage ; the other 
two will say ' He is married, he has made away with himself, 
it is a demd thing, it is all up ! ' They will hate each other 
demnebly, and wish you dead and buried. Ha ! ha ! Dem- 
mit." 

Madame Mantalini's prudence, if she had any, was not 
proof against these triumphal pictures ; after a little jingling 
of keys, she observed that she would see what her desk con- 
tained, and rising for that purpose, opened the folding-door, 
and walked into the room where Kate was seated. 

" Dear me, child ! " exclaimed Madame Mantalini, recoil- 
ing in surprise. " How came you here ? " 

"Child!" cried Mantalini, hurrying in, "How came — 
eh ! — oh — demmit ; how d'ye do ? " 

" I have been waiting here some time, ma'am," said Kate, 
addressing Madame Mantalini. " The servant must have 
forgotten to let you know that I was here, I think." 

" You really must see to that man," said Madame, turning 
to her husband. " He forgets evervthing." 

" I will twist his demd nose off his countenance for leav- 
ing such a very pretty creature all alone by herself," said her 
husband. 

" Mantalini," cried Madame, "you forget yourself." 

" I don't forget jou, my soul, and never shall, and never 
can," said Mantalini, kissing his wife's hand, and grimacing 
aside, to Miss Nickleby, who turned away. 

Appeased by this compliment, the lady of the business 
took some papers from her desk which she handed over to 
Mr. Mantalini, who received them with great delight. She 
then requested Kate to follow her, and after several feints on 



2 1 2 NIC 110 L A S NICKLEB Y. 

the part of Mr. Mantalini to attract the young lady's atten- 
tion, they went away : leaving that gentleman extended at 
full length on the sofa, with his heels in the air and a news- 
paper in his hand. 

Madame Mantalini led the way down a flight of stairs, and 
through a passage, to a large room at the back of the prem- 
ises where were a number of young women employed in sew- 
ing, cutting out, making up, altering, and various other pro- 
cesses known only to those who are cunning in the arts of 
millinery and dress-making. It was a close room with a sky- 
light, and as dull and quiet as a room need be. 

On Madame Mantalini calling aloud for INIiss Knag, a 
short, bustling, over-dressed female, full of importance, pre- 
sented herself, and all the young ladies suspending their op- 
erations for the moment, whispered to each other sundry criti- 
cisms upon the make and texture of Miss Nickleby's dress, 
her complexion, cast of features, and personal appearance, 
with as much good-breeding as could have been displayed by 
the very best society in a crowded ball-room. 

"Oh, Miss Knag," said Madame Mantalini, "this is the 
young person I spoke to you about." 

Miss Knag bestowed a reverential smile upon Madame 
Mantalini, which she dexterously transformed into a gracious 
one for Kate, and said that certainly, although it was a great 
deal of trouble to have young people who were wholly unused 
to the business, still, she was sure the young person would 
try to do her best — impressed with which conviction she (Miss 
Knag) felt an interest in her, already. 

" I think that, for the present at all events, it will be better 
for Miss Nickleby to come into the show-room with you, and 
try things on for people," said Madame Mantalini. " She will 
not be able for the present to be of much use in any other 
way ; and her appearance will " 

" Suit very well with mine, Madame Mantalini," inter- 
rupted Miss Knag. " So it will ; and to be sure I might have 
known that you would not be long in finding that out ; for you 
have so much taste in all those matters, that really, as I often 
say, to the young ladies, I do not know how, when, or where, 
you possibly could have acquired all you know — hem — Miss 
Nickleby and I are quite a pair, Madame Mantalini, only I 
am a liule darker than Miss Nickleby, and — hem — I think 
my foot may be a little smaller. Miss Nickleby, I am sure, 
will not be offended at my saying that, when she hears that 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



213 



our family always have been celebrated for small feet ever 
since — hem — ever since our family had any feet at all, indeed, 
I think. I had an uncle once, Madame Mantalini, who lived 
in Cheltenham, and had a most excellent business as a tobac- 
conist — hem — who had such small feet, that they were no 
bigger than those which are usually joined to wooden legs — 
the most symmetrical feet, Madame Mantalini, that even you 



can imagnie." 



They must have had something the appearance of club 
feet, Miss Knag," said Madame. 

"Well now, that is so like you," returned Miss Knag. 
" Ha ! ha ! ha ! Of club feet ! Oh very good ! As I often 
remark to the young ladies, ' Well I must say, and I do not 
care who knows it, of all the ready humor — hem — I ever heard 
anywhere ' — and I have heard a good deal ; for when my dear 
brother was alive (I kept house for him. Miss Nickleby), we 
had to supper once a week two or three young men, highly 
celebrated in those days for their humor, Madame Mantalini 
— ' Of all the ready humor,' I say to the young ladies, ' /ever 
heard, Madame Mantalini's is the most remarkable — hem. It 
is so gentle, so sarcastic, and yet so good-natured (as I was 
observing to Miss Simmonds only this morning), that how, or 
when, or by what means she acquired it, is to me a mystery 
indeed. ' " 

Here Miss Knag paused to take breath, and while she 
pauses it may be observed — not that she was marvellously 
loquacious and marvellously deferential to Madame Mantalini, 
since these are facts which require no comment ; but that 
every now and then, she was accustomed, in the torrent of her 
discourse, to introduce a loud, shrill, clear, " hem ! " the im- 
port and meaning of which, was variously interpreted by her 
acquaintance ; some holding that Miss Knag dealt in exagger- 
ation, and introduced the monosyllable, when any fresh in- 
vention was in course of coinage in her brain ; others, that 
when she wanted a word, she threw it in to gain time, and 
prevent anybody else from striking into the conversation. It 
may be further remarked, that Miss Knag still aimed at youth, 
although she had shot beyond it, years ago ; and that she was 
weak and vain, and one of those people who are best described 
by the axiom, that you may trust them as far as you can see 
them, and no farther. 

" You'll take care that Miss Nickleby understands her 
hours, and so forth," said Madame Mantalini; "and so I'll 



14 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



leave her with you. You'll not forget my directions, Miss 
Knag ? " 

Miss Knag of course replied, that to forget anything 
Madame Mantalini had directed, was a moral impossibility ; 
and that lady, dispensing a general good-morning among her 
assistants, sailed away. 

" Charming creature, is'nt she, Miss Nickleby } " said Miss 
Knag, rubbing her hands together. 

" I have seen very little of her," said Kate. " I hardly 
know yet." 

" Have you seen Mr. Mantalini.^ " inquired Miss Knag. 

"Yes ; I have seen him twice." 

" Isn't hez. charming creature ? " 

" Indeed he does not strike me as being so, by any means," 
replied Kate. 

" No, my dear ! " cried Miss Knag, elevating her hands. 
" Why, goodness gracious mercy, where's your taste } Such 
a fine tall, full-whiskered dashing gentlemanly man, with such 
teeth and hair, and — hem — well now, you do astonish me." 

"I dare say I am very foolish," replied Kate, laying aside 
her bonnet ; " but as my opinion is of very little importance 
to him or any one else, I do not regret having formed it, and 
shall be slow to change it, I think." 

" He is a very fine man, don't you think so ? " asked one 
of the young ladies. 

" Indeed he may be, for anything I could say to the con- 
trary," replied Kate. 

" And drives ver)^ beautiful horses, doesn't he ? " inquired 
another. 

" I dare say he may, but I never saw them," answered 
Kate. 

" Never saw them ! " interposed Miss Knag. "Oh, well ! 
There it is at once you know ; how can you possibly pro- 
nounce an opinion about a gentleman — hem — if you don't see 
him as he turns out altogether ? " 

There was so much of the world — even of the little world 
of the country girl — in this idea of the old milliner, that Kate, 
who was anxious, for every reason, to change the subject, 
mjde no further remark, and left Miss Knag in possession of 
the field. 

After a short silence, during which most of the young 
people made a closer inspection of Kate's appearance, and 
compared notes respecting it, one of them offered to help her 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 21$ 

off with her shawl, and the offer being accepted, inquired 
whether she did not find black very uncomfortable wear. 

"I do indeed," replied Kate, with a bitter sigh. 

" So dusty and hot," observed the same speaker, adjust 
ing her dress for her. 

Kate might have said, that mourning is sometimes the 
coldest wear which mortals can assume ; that it not only 
chills the breasts of those it clothes, but extending its influ- 
ence to summer friends, freezes up their sources of good-will 
and kindness, and withering all the buds of promise they once 
so liberally put forth, leaves nothing but bared and rotten 
hearts exposed. There are few who have lost a friend or rel- 
ative constituting in life their sole dependence, who have not 
keenly felt this chilling influence of their sable garb. She 
had felt it acutely, and feeling it at the moment, could not 
quite restrain her tears. 

" I am very sorry to have wounded you by my thoughtless 
speech," said her companion. " I did not think of it. You 
are in mourning for some near relation ? " 

" For my father," answered Kate. 

" For what relation. Miss Simmonds ? " asked Miss Knag 
in an audible voice. 

"Her father," replied the other softly. 

" Her father, eh ? " said Miss Knag, without the slightest 
depression of her voice. " Ah ! A long illness, Miss Sim- 
monds ? " 

" Hush," replied the girl ; " I don't know." 

" Our misfortune was very sudden," said Kate, turning 
away, " or I might perhaps, at a time like this, be enabled to 
support it better." 

There had existed not a little desire in the room, accord- 
ing to invariable custom, when any new " young person " 
came, to know who Kate was, and what she was, and all about 
her ; but, although it might have been ver)^ naturally increased 
by her appearance and emotion, the knowledge that it pained 
her to be questioned, was sufficient to repress even this 
curiosity ; and Miss Knag, finding it hopeless to attempt ex- 
tracting any further particulars just then, reluctantly com- 
manded silence, and bade the work proceed. 

In silence, then, the tasks were plied until half-past one, 
when a baked leg of mutton, with potatoes to correspond, 
were served in the kitchen. The meal over, and the young 
ladies having enjoyed the additional relaxation of washing 



2i6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

their hands, the work began again, and was again performed 
in silence, until the noise of carriages rattling through the 
streets, and of loud double knocks at doors, gave token that 
the day's work of the more fortunate members of society was 

needing in its turn. 

One of these double knocks at Madame Mantalini's door, 

lounced the equipage of some great lady — or rather rich 
■' One - , -^QIthere is occasionally a distinction between riches and 

-who had come with her daughter to approve of 

some court-dresses which had been a long time preparing, 
and upon whom Kate was deputed to wait, accompanied by 
Miss Knag, and officered of course by Madame Mantalini. 

Kate's part in the pageant was humble enough, her duties 
being limited to holding articles of costume until Miss Knag 
was ready to try them on, and now and then tying a string, or 
fastening a hook-and-eye. She might, not unreasonably, have 
supposed herself beneath the reach of any arrogance, or bad 
humor ; but it happened that the lady and daughter were both 
out of temper that day, and the poor girl came in for her 
share of their revilings. She was awkward — her hands were 
cold — dirty — coarse — she could do nothing right ; they won- 
dered how Madame Mantalini could have such people about 
her \ requested that they might see some other young woman 
the next time they came ; and so forth. 

So common an occurrence would be hardly deserving of 
mention, but for its effect. Kate shed many bitter tears when 
these people were gone, and felt, for the first time, humbled by 
her occupation. She had, it is true, quailed at the prospect 
of drudgery and hard service ; but she had felt no degradation 
in working for her bread, until she found herself exposed to 
insolence_jind^piLcie, Philosophy would have taught her that 
the"3egradation was on the side of those who had sunk so low 
as to display such passions habitually, and without cause : but 
she was too young for such consolation, and her honest feel- 
ing was hurt. May not the complaint, that common people 
are above their station, often take its rise in the fact of tin- 
common people being below theirs .' 

In such scenes and occupations the time wore on, until 
nine o'clock, when Kate, jaded and dispirited with the occur- 
rences of the day, hastened from the confinement of the work- 
room, to join her mother at the street corner, and walk home : 
— the more sadly, from having to disguise her real feelings, 
and feign to participate in all the sanguine visions of her com- 
panion. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



217 



" Bless my soul, Kate," said Mrs. Nickleby ; " I've been 
thinking all day, what a delightful thing it would be for 
Madame Mantalini to take you into partnership — such a 
likely thing too, you know ! Why, your poor dear papa's 
cousin's sister-in-law — a Miss Browndock — was taken into 
partnership by a lady that kept a school at Hammersmith, 
and made her fortune in no time at all. I forget, by the bye, 
whether that Miss Browndock was the same lady that got the 
ten thousand pounds prize in the lotter}', but I think she was; 
indeed, now I come to think of it, I am sure she was. ' Man- 
talini and Nickleby,' how well it would sound ! — and if 
Nicholas has any good fortune, you might have Doctor 
Nickleby, the head-master of Westminster School, living in 
the same street." 

" Dear Nicholas ! " cried Kate, taking from her reticule 
her brother's letter from Dotheboys Hall. ^"Iji all our mis- 
fortunes, how happy it makes me, mama, to hear he is doing 
well, and to find him writing in such good spirits ! It con- 
soles me for all we may undergo, to think that he is comfort- 
able and happy3'^ 

Poor Kate' r she little thought how weak her consolation 
was, and how soon she would be undeceived. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

MISS KNAG, AFTER DOATING ON KATE NICKLEBY FOR THREE 
WHOLE DAYS, MAKES UP HER MIND TO HATE HER FOR 
EVERMORE. THE CAUSES WHICH LEAD MISS KNAG TO 

FORM THIS RESOLUTION. 

There are many lives of much pain, hardship, and sufTer- 
ing, which, having no stirring interest for any but those who 
lead them, are disregarded by persons who do not want 
thought or feeling, but who pamper their compassion and 
need high stimulants to rouse it. 

There are not a few among the disciples of charity who 
require, in their vocation, scarcely less excitement than the 
votaries of pleasure in theirs ; and hence it is that diseased 
sympathy and compassion are every day expended on out-of- 



2 1 8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

the-way objects, when only too many demands upon the le- 
gitimate exercise of the same virtues in a healthy state, are 
constantly within the sight and hearing of the most unobser- 
vant person alive. In short, charity must have its romance, 
as the novelist or playwright must have his. A thief in fustian 
is a vulgar character, scarcely to be thought of by persons of 
refinement ; but dress him in green velvet, with a high- 
crowned hat, and change the scene of his operations, from a 
thickly peopled city, to a mountain road, and you shall find in 
him the very soul of poetry and adventure. So it is with the 
one great cardinal virtue, which, properly nourished and exer- 
cised, leads to, if it does not necessarily include, all the others. 
It must have its romance ; and the less of real, hard, struggling 
work-a-day life there is in that romance, the better. 

The life to which poor Kate Nickleby was devoted, in 
consequence of the unforeseen train of circumstances already 
developed in this narrative, was a hard one ; but lest the very 
dulness, unhealthy confinement, and bodily fatigue, which 
made up its sum and substance, should deprive it of any in- 
terest with the mass of the charitable and sympathetic, I would 
rather keep Miss Nickleby herself in view just now, than chill 
them, in the outset, by a minute and lengthened description of 
the establishment presided over by Madame Mantalini. 

"Well, now, indeed Madame Mantalini," said Miss Knag, 
as Kate was taking her weary way homewards on the first 
night of her novitiate ; " that Miss Nickleby is a very credit- 
able young person— a very creditable young person indeed — 
hem — upon my word, Madame Mantalini, it does very extra- 
ordinary credit even to your discrimination that you should 
have found such a very excellent, very well behaved, very — 
hem — very unassuming young woman to assist in the fitting 
on. I have seen some young women when they had the 
opportunity of displaying before their betters, behave in such 
a — oh, dear— well — but you're always right, Madame Manta- 
lini, always \ and as I very often tell the young ladies, how 
you do contrive to be always right, when so many people are 
so often wrong, is to me a mystery indeed." 

" Beyond putting a very excellent client out of humor. 
Miss Nickleby has not done anything very remarkable to-day 
— that I am aware of, at least," said Madame Mantalini in 
reply. 

" Oh, dear ! " said Miss Knag ; " but you must allow a 
great deal for inexperience, you know." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 219 

" And youth ? " inquired Madame. 

" Oh, I say nothing about that, Madame Mantalini," re- 
plied Miss Knag, reddening ; " because if youth were any ex- 
cuse, you wouldn't have — " 

" Quite so good a forewoman as I have, I suppose," sug- 
gested Madame. 

" Well, I never did know anybody like you, Madame Man- 
talini," rejoined Miss Knag most complacently, "and that's 
the fact, for you know what one's going to say, before it has 
time to rise to one's lips. Oh, very good ! Ha, ha, ha ! " 

"For myself," observed Madame Mantalini, glancing with 
affected carelessness at her assistant, and laughing heartily in 
her sleeve, " I consider Miss Nickleby the most awkward girl 
I ever saw in my life." 

" Poor dear thing," said Miss Knag, " it's not her fault. 
If it was, we might hope to cure it ; but as it's her misfortune, 
Madame Mantalini, why really you know, as the man said 
about the blind horse, we ought to respect it." 

" Her uncle told me she had been considered pretty," re- 
marked Madame Mantalini. " I think her one of the most 
ordinary girls I ever met with." 

" Ordinary ! " cried Miss Knag with a countenance beam- 
ing delight ; " and awkward ! Well, all I can say is, Madame 
Mantalini, that I quite love the poor girl ; and that if she was 
twice as indifferent-looking, and twice as awkward as she is, 
I should be only so much the more her friend, and that's the 
truth of it." 

In fact. Miss Knag had conceived an incipient affection 
for Kate Nickleby, after witnessing her failure that morning, 
and this short conversation with her superior increased the 
favorable prepossession to a most surprising extent ; which 
was the more remarkable, as when she first scanned that 
young lady's face and figure, she had entertained certain in- 
ward misgivings that tliey would never agree. 

" But now," said Miss Knag, glancing at the reflection of 
herself in a mirror at no great distance, *' I love her — I quite 
love her — I declare I do ! " 

Of such a highly disinterested quality was this devoted 
friendship, and so superior was it to the little weaknesses of 
flattery or ill nature, that the kind-hearted Miss Knag candidly 
informed Kate Nickleby, next day, that she saw she would 
never do for the business, but that she need not give herself 
the slightest uneasiness on this account, for that she (Miss 



2 2 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

Knag) by increased exertions on her own part, would keep 
her as much as possible in the background, and that all she 
would have to do, would be to remain perfectly quiet before 
company, and to shrink from attracting notice by every means 
in her power. This last suggestion was so much in accord- 
ance with the timid girl's own feelings and wis^hes, that she 
readily promised implicit reliance on the excellent spinster's 
advice : without questioning, or indeed bestowing a moment's 
reflection upon, the motives that dictated it. 

" I take quite a lively interest in you, my dear soul, upon 
my word," said Miss Knag ; " a sister's interest, actually. It's 
the most singular circumstance I ever knew." 

Undoubtedly it was singular, that if Miss Knag did feel a 
strong interest in Kate Nickleby, it should not rather have 
been the interest of a maiden aunt or grandmother ; that be- 
ing the conclusion to which the difference in their respective 
ages would have naturally tended. But Miss Knag wore 
clothes of a very youthful pattern, and perhaps her feelings 
took the same shape. 

" Bless you ! " said Miss Knag, bestowing a kiss upon Kate 
at the conclusion of the second day's work, " how very awk- 
ward you have been all day." 

" I fear your kind and open communication, which has 
rendered me more painfully conscious of my own defects, has 
not improved me," sighed Kate. 

" No, no, I dare say not," rejoined Miss Knag, in a most 
uncommon flow of good humor. " But how much better that 
you should know it at first, and so be able to go on, straight 
and comfortable ! Which way are you walking, my love ? " 

"Towards the city," replied Kate. 

" The city ! " cried Miss Knag, regarding herself with 
great favor in the glass as she tied her bonnet. " Good- 
ness gracious me ! now do you really live in the city ? " 

" Is it so very unusual for anybody to live there ? " asked 
Kate, half smiling. 

" I couldn't have believed it possible that any young wo- 
man could have lived there, under any circumstances what- 
ever, for three days together," replied Miss Knag. 

" Reduced — I should say poor people," answered Kate, 
correcting herself hastily, for she was afraid of appearing 
proud, "must live where they can." 

" Ah ! very true, so they must ; very proper indeed ! " re- 
joined Miss Knag with that sort of half sigh, which, accom- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 221 

panied by two or three slight nods of the liead, is pity's small 
change in general society ; " and that's what I very often tell 
my brother, when our servants go away ill, one after another, 
and he thinks the back kitchen's rather too damp for 'em to 
sleep in. These sort of people, I tell him, are glad to sleep 
anywhere ! Heaven suits the back to the burden. What a 
nice thing it is to think that it should be so, isn't it .'' " 

"Ver}^," replied Kate. 

" I'll walk with you part of the w^ay, my clear," said Miss 
Knag, " for you must go very near our house ; and as it's quite 
dark, and our last servant went to the hospital a week ago, 
with Saint Anthony's fire in her face, I shall be glad of your 
company." 

Kate would willingly have excused herself from this flatter- 
ing companionship ; but Miss Knag having adjusted her bon- 
net to her entire satisfaction, took her arm with an air which 
plainly showed how much she felt the compliment she was 
conferring, and they were in the street before she could say 
another word. 

" I fear," said Kate, hesitating, "that mamma — my mother, 
I mean — is waiting for me." 

" You needn't make the least apology, my dear," said Miss 
Knag, smiling sweetly as she spoke ; " I dare say she is a very 
respectable old person, and I shall be quite — hem — quite 
pleased to know her." 

As poor Mrs. Nickleby was cooling — not her heels alone, 
but her limbs generally at the street corner, Kate had no 
alternative but to make her known to Miss Knag, who, doing 
the last new carriage customer at second-hand, acknowledsed 
the introduction with condescending politeness. The three 
then walked away, arm in arm : with Miss Knag in the middle, 
in a special state of amiability. 

" I have taken such a fancy to your daughter, Mrs. Nickle- 
by, 3'ou can't think," said Miss Knag, after she hadproceeded 
a little distance in dignified silence. 

" I am delighted to hear it," said Mrs. Nickleby ; " though 
it is nothing new to me, that even strangers should like Kate." 

" Hem ! " cried Miss Knag. 

" You will like her better when you know how good she 
is," said Mrs. Nickleby. " It is a great blessing to me, in my 
misfortunes, to have a child, who knows neither pride nor 
vanity, and whose bringing-up might very well have excused 
a little of both at first. You don't know w^hat it is to lose a 
husband, Miss Knag." 



22 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

As Miss Knag had never yet known what it was to gain 
one, it followed, very nearly as a matter of course, that she 
didn't know what it was to lose one ; so she said, in some 
haste, " No, indeed I don't," and said it with an air intending 
to signify that she should like to catch herself marrying any- 
body — no no, she knew better than that. 

" Kate has improved even in this little time, I have no 
doubt," said Mxs. Nickleby, glancing proudly at her daughter. 

" Oh ! of course," said Miss Knag. 

" And will improve still more," added Mrs. Nickleby. 

"That she will, I'll be bound," replied Miss Knag, squeez- 
ing Kate's arm in her own, to point the joke. 

" She always was clever," said poor Mrs. Nickleby, bright- 
ening up, " always, from a baby. I recollect when she was 
only two years and a half old, that a gentleman who used to 
visit very much at our house — Mr. Watkins, you know, Kate, 
my dear, that your poor papa went bail for, who afterwards 
ran away to the United States, and sent us a pair of snow 
shoes, with such an affectionate letter that it made your poor 
dear father cry for a week. You remember the letter .? In 
which he said that he was very sorry he couldn't repay the 
fifty pounds just then, because his capital was all out at in- 
terest, and he was very busy making his fortune, but that he 
didn't forget you were his god-daughter, and he should take 
it very unkind if we didn't buy you a silver coral and put it 
down to his old account ? Dear me, yes, my dear, how stupid 
you are ! and spoke so affectionately of the old port wine that 
he used to drink a bottle and a half of every time he came. 
You must remember, Kate ? " 

" Yes, yes, mama ; what of him ? " 

" Why, that Mr. Watkins, my dear," said Mrs. Nickleby 
slowly, as if she were making a tremendous effort to recollect 
something of paramount importance ; " that Mr. Watkins — he 
wasn't any relation, Miss Knag will understand, to the Wat- 
kins who kept the Old Boar in the village ; by the bye, I don't 
remember whether it was the Old Boar or the George the 
Third, but it was one of the two, I know, and it's much the same 
— that Mr. Watkins said, when you were only two years and a 
half old, that you were one of the most astonishing cliildren 
he ever saw. He did indeed. Miss Knag, and he wasn't at all 
fond of children, and couldn't have had the slightest moti\-e 
for doing it. 1 know it was he who said so, because I recol- 
lect, as well as if it was only yesterday, his borrowing twenty 
pounds of her poor dear papa the very moment afterwards." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



223 



Having quoted this extraordinary and most disinterested 
testimony to her daughter's excellence, Mrs. Nickleby stopped 
to breathe ; and Miss Knag, finding that the discourse was 
turning upon family greatness, lost no time in striking in, with 
a small reminiscence on her own account. 

" Don't talk of lending money, Mrs. Nickleby," said Miss 
Knag, " or you'll drive me crazy, perfectly crazy. My mama 
— hem — was the most lovely and beautiful creature, with the 
most striking and exquisite — hem — the most exquisite nose 
that ever was put upon a human face, I do believe, Mrs. 
Nickleby (here Miss Knag rubbed her own nose sympathetic- 
ally) ; the most delightful and accomplished woman, perhaps, 
that ever was seen ; but she had that one failing of lending 
money, and carried it to such an extent that she lent — hem — 
oh ! thousands of pounds, all our little fortunes, and what's 
more, Mrs. Nickleby, I don't think, if we were to live till — 
till — hem — till the very end of time, that we should ever get 
them back again. I don't indeed." 

After concluding this effort of invention without being 
interrupted. Miss Knag fell into many more recollections, no 
less interesting than true, the full tide of which, Mrs. Nick- 
leby in vain attempting to stem, at length sailed smoothly 
down, by adding an under-current of her own recollections ; 
and so both ladies went on talking together in perfect con- 
tentment ; the only difference between them, being, that 
whereas Miss Knag addressed herself to Kate, and talked 
very loud, Mrs. Nickleby kept on in one unbroken monoton- 
ous flow, perfectly satisfied to be talking, and caring very 
little whether anybody listened or not. 

In this manner they walked on, very amicably, until they 
arrived at Miss Knag's brother's, who was an ornamental 
stationer and small circulating librar}' keeper in a by-street 
off Tottenham Court Road ; and who let out by the day, 
week, month, or year, the newest old novels, whereof the titles 
were displayed in pen-and-ink characters on a sheet of paste- 
board, swinging at his door-post. As Miss Knag happened 
at tlie moment, to be in the middle of an account of her 
twenty-second offer from a gentleman of large property, she 
insisted upon their all going in to supper together ; and in 
they went. 

" Don't go away, Mortimer," said Miss Knag as they 
entered the shop. " It's only one of our young ladies and 
her mother. Mrs. and Miss Nickleby." 



224 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY- 

"Oh, indeed!" said Mr. Mortimer Knag. "Ah !" 

Having given utterance to these ejaculations, with a very 
profound and thoughtful air, Mr. Knag slowly snuffed two 
kitchen candles on the counter, and two more in the window, 
and then snuffed himself from a box in his waistcoat pocket. 

There was something very impressive in the ghostly air 
with which all this was done ; and as Mr. Knag was a tall 
lank gentleman of solemn features, wearing spectacles, and 
garnished with much less hair than a gentleman bordering on 
forty, or thereabouts, usually boasts, Mrs. Nickleby whispered 
her daughter that she thought he must be literary. 

"Past ten," said Mr. Knag, consulting his watch. 
" Thomas, close the warehouse." 

Thomas was a boy nearly half as tall as a shutter, and the 
warehouse was a shop about the size of three hackney coaches. 

" Ah 1 " said Mr. Knag once more, heaving a deep sigh as 
he restored to its parent shelf the book he had been reading. 
" Well — yes — I believe supper is ready, sister." 

With another sigh Mr. Knag took up the kitchen candles 
from the counter, and preceded the ladies with mournful 
steps to a back parlor, where a charwoman, employed in the 
absence of the sick servant, and remunerated with certain 
eighteenpences to be deducted from her wages due, was put- 
ting the supper out. 

" Mrs. Blockson," said Miss Knag, reproachfully, " how 
very often I have begged you not to come Vito the room with 
your bonnet on ! " 

"I can't help it. Miss Knag," said the char-woman, brid- 
ling up on the shortest notice. " There's been a deal o' clean- 
ing to do in this house, and if you don't like it, I must trouble 
you to look out for somebody else, for it don't hardly pay me, 
and that's the truth, if I was to be hung this minute." 

" I don't want any remarks if you please," said Miss 
Knag, with a strong emphasis on the personal pronoun. " Is 
there any fire down stairs for some hot water presently? " 

" No there is not, indeed. Miss Knag," replied the sub- 
stitute ; " and so I won't tell you no stories about it." 

"Then why isn't there? " said Miss Knag. 

" Because there an't no coals left out, and if I could make 
coals I would, but as I can't I won't, and so I make bold to 
tell you, Mem," replied Mrs. Blockson. 

" Will you hold your tongue — female ? " said Mr. Morti- 
mer Knag, plunging violently into this dialogue. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 225 

"By your leave, Mr. Knag," retorted the char-woman, 
turning sharp round. "I'm only too glad not to ^pjak in 
this house, excepting when and where I'm spoke to, sir ; and 
with regard to being a female, sir, I should wish to know what 
you considered yourself.'' " 

" A miserable wretch," exclaimed Mr. Knag, striking his 
forehead. " A miserable wretch." 

" I'm very glad to find that you don't call yourself out of 
your name, sir," said Mrs. Blockson ; " and as I had two twin 
children the day before yesterday was only seven weeks, and 
my little Charley fell down a air}- and put his elber out, last 
Monday, I shall take it as a favior if you'll send nine shil- 
lings, for one week's work, to my house, afore the clock 
strikes ten to-morrow." 

With these parting words, the good woman quitted the 
room with great ease of manner, leaving the door wide open ; 
Mr. Knag, at the same moment, flung himself into the " ware- 
house," and groaned aloud. 

" What is the matter with that gentleman, pray ? " inquired 
Mrs. Nickleby, greatly disturbed by the sound. 

" Is he ill ? " inquired Kate, really alarmed. 

" Hush ! " replied Miss Knag ; " a most melancholy his- 
tory. He was once most devotedly attached to — hem — to 
Madame Mantalini." 

" Bless me ! " exclaimed Mrs. Nickleby. 

" Yes," continued Miss Knag, " and received great en- 
couragement too, and confidently hoped to marry her. He 
has a most romantic heart, Mrs. Nickleby, as indeed — hem — 
as indeed all our family have, and the disappointment was a 
dreadful blow. He is a wonderfully accomplished man — most 
extraordinarily accomplished — reads — hem — reads ever}' novel 
that comes out ; I mean ever)' novel that — hem — that has any 
fashion in it, of course. The fact is, that he did find so much 
in the books he read, applicable to his own misfortunes, and 
did find himself in every respect so much like the heroes — 
because of course he is conscious of his own superiority, as 
we all are, and very naturally — that he took to scorning every- 
thing, and became a genius ; and I am quite sure that he is, 
at this very present moment, writing another book." 

" Another book ! " repeated Kate, finding that a pause 
was left for somebody to say something. 

" Yes," said Miss Knag, nodding in great triumph ; " an- 
other book, in three volumes post octavo. Of course it's a 

IS 



226 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

great advantage to him, in all his little fashionable descrip- 
tions, to have the benefit of my — hem — of my experience, 
because, of course, few authors who write about such things 
can have such opportunities of knowing them as I have. He's 
so wrapped up in high life, that the least allusion to business 
or worldly matters — like that woman just now, for instance — 
quite distracts him ; but, as I often say, I think his disappoint- 
ment a great thing for him, because if he hadn't been dis- 
appointed he couldn't have written about blighted hopes and 
all that ; and the fact is, if it hadn't happened as it has, I 
don't believe his genius would ever have come out at all." 

How much more communicative Miss Knag might have 
become under more favorable circumstances, it is impossible 
to divine, but as the gloomy one was within ear-shot, and the 
fire wanted making up, her disclosures stopped here. To 
judge from all appearances, and the difficulty of making the 
water warm, the last servant could not have been much accus- 
tomed to any other fire than St. Anthony's ; but a little brandy 
and water was made at last, and the guests, having been pre- 
viously regaled with cold leg of mutton and bread and cheese, 
soon afterwards took leave ; Kate amusing herself, all the 
way home, with the recollection of her last glimpse of Mr. 
Mortimer Knag deeply abstracted in the shop ; and Mrs. 
Nickleby by debating within herself whether the dress-making 
firm would ultimately become " Mantalini, Knag, and Nickle- 
by," or " Mantalini, Nickleby, and Knag." 

As this high point. Miss Knag's friendship remained, for 
three whole days, much to the wonderment of Madame Man- 
talini's young ladies, who had never beheld such constancy in 
that quarter before ; but on the fourth, it received a check no 
less violeat than sudden, which thus occurred. 

It happened that an old lord of great family, who was 
going to marry a young lady of no family in particular, came 
with the young lady, and the young lady's sister, to witness 
the ceremony of trying on two nuptial bonnets which had 
been ordered the day before, and Madame Mantalini announc- 
ing the fact, in a shrill treble, through the speaking-pipe, 
which communicated with the work-room. Miss Knag darted 
hastily up stairs with a bonnet in each hand, and presented 
herself in the show-room, in a charming state of palpitation, 
intended to demonstrate her enthusiasm in the cause. The 
bonnets were no sooner fairly on, than Miss Knag and 
Madame Mantalini fell into convulsions of admiration. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 227 

'•A most elegant appearance," said Madame Mantalini. 

" I never saw anything so exquisite in all my life," said 
Miss Knag. 

Now, the old lord, who was a very old lord, said nothing, 
but mumbled and chuckled in a state of great delight, no less 
with the nuptial bonnets and their wearers, than with his own 
address in getting such a fine woman for his wife ; and the 
young lady, who was a very lively young lady, seeing the old 
lord in this rapturous condition, chased the old lord behind a 
cheval-glass, and then and there kissed him, while Madame 
Mantalini and the other young lady looked, discreetly, another 
way. 

But, pending the salutation. Miss Knag, who was tinged 
with curiosity, stepped accidentally behind the glass^ and en- 
countered the lively young lady's eye just at the ver}' moment 
when she kissed the old lord ; upon which the young lady, in 
a pouting manner, murmured something about " an old thing," 
and ''great impertinence," and finished by darting a look of 
displeasure at Miss Knag, and smiling contemptuously. 

"Madame Mantalini," said the young lady. 

" Ma'am," said Madame Mantalini. 

" Pray have up that pretty young creature we saw yester- 
day." 

"Oh yes, do," said the sister. 

" Of all things in the world, Madame Mantalini," said the 
lord's intended, throwing herself languidly on a sofa, " I hate 
being waited upon by frights or elderly persons. Let me 
always see that young creature, I beg, whenever I come." 

"By all means," said the old lord; "the lovely young 
creature, by all means." 

" Everybody is talking about her," said the young lady, in 
the same careless manner ; " and my lord, being a great 
admirer of beauty, must positively see her." 

" She is universally admired," replied Madame Mantalini. 
" Miss Knag, send up Miss Nickleby. You needn't return." 

" I beg your pardon, Madame Mantalini, what did you 
^ay^ast ? " asked Miss Knag, trembling. ^^ 

"You needn't return," repeated the superior, sharply. 
Miss Knag vanished without another word, and in all reason- 
able time was replaced by Kate, who took off the new bonnets 
and put on the old ones : blushing very much to find that 
the old lord and the two young ladies were staring her out o^ 
countenance all the time. 



2 28 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" Why, how you color, child ! " said the lord's chosen 
bride. 

" She is not quite so accustomed to her business, as she 
will be in a week or two," interposed Madame Mantalini with 
a gracious smile. 

" I am afraid you have been giving her some of your wicked 
looks, my lord," said the intended. 

" No, no, no," replied the old lord, " no, no, I'm going to 
be married, and lead a new life. Ha, ha, ha ! a new life, a 
new life ! ha, ha, ha ! " 

It was a satisfactory thing to hear that the old gentleman 
was going to lead a new life, for it was pretty evident that his 
old one would not last him much longer. Thb mere exertion 
of protracted chuckling reduced him to a fearful ebb of cough- 
ing and gasping ; it was some minutes before he could find 
breath to remark that the girl was too prett)- for a milliner. 

" I hope you don't think good looks a disqualification for 
the business, my lord," said Madame Mantalini, simpering. 

" Not by any means," replied the old lord, " or you would 
have left it long ago. " 

"You naughty creature," said the lively lady, poking the 
peer with her parasol ; " I won't have you talk so. How 
dare you .'' " 

This playful inquiry was accompanied with another poke, 
and another, and then the old lord caught the parasol, and 
wouldn't give it up again, which induced the other lady to 
come to the rescue, and some very pretty sportiveness ensued. 

" You will see that those little alterations are made, 
Madame Mantalini," said the lady. " Nay, you bad man, you 
positivelv shall go first ; I wouldn't leave you behind with 
that pretty girl, not for half a second. I know you too well. 
Jane, my dear," let him go first, and we shall be quite sure of 
him." 

The old lord, evidently much flattered by this suspicion, 
bestowed a grotesque leer upon Kate as he passed ; and re- 
ceiving another tap with the parasol for his wickedness, 
tottered down stairs to the door, where his sprightly body 
was hoisted into the carriage by two stout footmen. 

" Foh ! " said Madame Mantalini, " how he ever gets into 
a carriage without thinking of a hearse, /can't think. There, 
take the things away, my dear, take them away." 

Kate, who had remained during the whole scene with her 
eyes modestly fixed upon the ground, was only too happy to 



> 



o 



■z - 



W73 



r 




NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 229 

avail herself of the permission to retire, and hasten joyfully 
down stairs to Miss Knag's dominion. 

The circumstances of the little kingdom had greatly 
changed, however, during the short period of her absence. 
In place of Miss Knag being stationed in her accustomed 
seat, preserving all the dignity and greatness of Madame 
Mantalini's representative, that worthy soul was reposing on a 
large box, bathed in tears, while three or four of the young 
ladies in close attendance upon her, together with the presence 
of hartshorn, vinegar, and other restoratives, would have 
borne ample testimony, even without the derangement of the 
head-dress and front row of curls, to her having fainted 
desperately. 

" Bless me ! " said Kate, stepping hastily forward, " What 
is the matter ? " 

This inquiry produced in Miss Knag violent symptoms uf 
a relapse \ and several young ladies, darting angry looks at 
Kate, applied more vinegar and hartshorn, and said it was " a 
shame." 

" What is a shame ? " demanded Kate. " What is the 
matter.-* What has happened .-' tell me." 

" Matter ! " cried Miss Knag, coming, all at once, bolt 
upright, to the great consternation of the assembled maidens \ 
" Matter ! Fie upon you, you nasty creature ! " 

" Gracious ! " cried Kate, almost paralyzed by the violence 
with which the adjective had been jerked out from between 
Miss Knag's closed teeth ; " have /offended you ? " 

" YoH offended me ! " retorted Miss Knag, " You ! a chit, 
a child, an upstart nobody ! Oh, indeed ! Ha, ha ! " 

Now, it was evident, as Miss Knag laughed, that some- 
thing struck her as being exceedingly funny ; and as the 
young ladies took their tone from Miss Knag — she being the 
chief — they all got up a laugh without a moment's delay, and 
nodded their heads a little, and smiled sarcastically to each 
other, as much as to say, how very good that was ! 

" Here she is," continued Miss Knag, getting off the box, 
and introducing Kate with much ceremony and many low 
curtseys to the delighted throng ; " here she is — everybody 
is talking about her — the belle, ladies — the beauty, the — oh, 
you bold-faced thing ! " 

Here Miss Knag was unable to repress a virtuous shud- 
der, which immediately communicated itself to all the young 
ladies j after which, Miss Knag laughed, and after that cried. 



230 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



" Foi* fifteen years," exclaimed Miss Knag, sobbing in a 
most affecting manner, " for fifteen years liave I been tlie 
credit and ornament of this room and the one up stairs. 
Tliank God," said Miss Knag, stamping first her right foot 
and then her left with remarkable energy, " I have never 
in all that time, till now, been exposed to the arts, the vile 
arts, of a creature, who disgraces us with all her proceedings, 
and makes proper people blush for themselves. But I feel it, 
I do feel it, although I am disgusted." 

Miss Knag here relapsed into softness, and the young 
ladies renewing their attentions, murmured that she ought to 
be superior to such things, and that for their part they despised 
them, and considered them beneath their notice ; in witness 
whereof, they called out, more emphatically than before, that 
it was a shame, and that they felt so angry, they did, they 
hardly knew what to do with themselves. 

" Have I lived to this day to be called a fright ! " cried 
Miss Knag, suddenly becoming convulsive, and making an 
effort to tear her front off. 

" Oh no, no," replied the chorus, " pray don't say so ; 
don't now ! " 

" Have I deserved to be called an elderly person ? " 
screamed Miss Knag, wrestling with the supernumeraries. 

"Don't think of such things, dear," answered the chorus. 

"I hate her," cried Miss Knag; " I detest and hate her. 
Never let her speak to me again ; never let anybody who is a 
friend of mine speak to her ; a slut, a hussy, an impudent art- 
ful hussy ! " Having denounced the object of her wrath, in 
these terms. Miss Knag screamed once, hiccupped thrice, 
gurgled in her throat several times, slumbered, shivered, woke, 
came to, composed her head-dress, and declared herself quite 
well again. 

Poor Kate had regarded these proceedings, at first, in 
perfect bewilderment. She had then turned red and pale 
by turns, and once or twice essayed to speak ; but, as the true 
motives of this altered behavior developed themselves, she 
retired a few paces, and looked calmly on without deigning 
a reply. Nevertheless, although she walked proudly to her 
seat, and turned her back upon the group of little satellites 
who clustered round their ruling planet in the remotest corner 
of the room, she gave way, in secret, to some such bitter tears 
as would have gladdened Miss Knag's inmost soul, if she 
could have seen them fall. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. „ , ^ 

231 



CHAPTER XIX. 



r'f 



DESCRIPTIVE OF A DINNER AT MR. RALPH NICKLEBY S AND 
OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE COMPANY ENTERTAINED 
THEMSELVES, BEFORE DINNER, AT DINNER, AND AFTER 
DINNER, 

The bile and rancor of the worthy Miss Knag undergoing 
no diminution during the remainder of the week, but rather 
augmenting with every successive hour ; and the honest ire of 
all the young ladies rising, or seeming to rise in exact propor- 
tion to the good spinster's indignation, and both waxing very 
hot every time Miss Nickleby was called up stairs ; it will be 
readily imagined that that young lady's daily life was none of 
the most cheerful or enviable kind. She hailed the arrival 
of Saturday night, as a prisoner would a few delicious hours' 
respite from slow and wearing torture, and felt that the poor 
pittance for the first week's labor would have been dearly and 
hardly earned, had its amount been trebled. 

When she joined her mother, as usual, at the street corner, 
she was not a little surprised to find her in conversation with 
Mr. Ralph Nickleby ; but her surprise was soon redoubled, 
no less by the matter of their conversation, than by the 
smoothed and altered manner of Mr. Nickleby himself. 

" Ah ! my dear ! " said Ralph ; " we were at that moment 
talking about you." 

Ci Indeed !" replied Kate, shrinking, tho ug h she scarc e 
knewwhy, trom her uncle's cold glistening eye. 
^~ " ThaT'TfTStant,'" said Ralpli. " I was coming to call for 
you, making sure to catch you before you left ; but your 
mother and I have been talking over family affairs, and the 
time has slipped away so rapidly " 

"Well, now, hasn't it?" interposed Mrs. Nickleby, quite 
insensible to the sarcastic tone of Ralph's last remark, 
"Upon my word, I couldn't have believed it possible, that 
such a — —Kate, my dear, you're to dine with your uncle at 
half-past six o'clock to-morrow." 

Triumphing in having been the first to communicate this 
extraordinary intelligence, Mrs. Nickleby nodded and smiled 



m 



232 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

a great many times, to impress its full magnificence on Kate's 
wondering mind, and then flew off, at an acute angle, to a 
committee of ways and means. 

" Let me see," said the good lady. " Your black silk 
frock will be quite dress enough, my dear, with that pretty 
little scarf, and a plain band in your hair, and a pair of black 

silk stock Dear, dear," cried Mrs. Nickleby, flying off at 

another angle, " if I had but those unfortunate amethysts of 
mine — you recollect them, Kate, my love — how they used to 
sparkle, you know — but your papa, your poor dear papa — 
ah ! there never was anything so cruelly sacrificed as those 
jewels were, never ! " Overpowered by this agonizing thought, 
Mrs. Nickleby shook her head in a melancholy manner, and 
applied her handkerchief to her eyes. 

" I don't want them, mama, indeed," said Kate. " Forget 
that you ever had them." 

"Lord, Kate, my dear," rejoined Mrs. Nickleby, pettishly, 
" how like a child you talk ! Four-and-twenty silver tea- 
spoons, brother-in-law, two gravies, four salts, all the ame- 
thysts — necklace, brooch, and ear-rings — all made away with, 
at the same time, and I saying, almost on my bended knees, 
to that poor good soul, ' Why don't you do something, 
Nicholas ? Why don't you make some arrangement ? ' I am 
sure that anybody who was about us at that time, will do me 
the justice to own, that if I said that once, I said it fifty times 
a-day. Didn't I, Kate, my dear .'' Did I ever lose an oppor- 
tunity of impressing it on your poor papa ? " 

" No, no, mama, never," replied Kate. And to do Mrs. 
Nickleby justice, she never had lost — and to do married ladies 
as a body justice, they seldom do lose — any occasion of in- 
culcating similar golden precepts, whose only blemish is, the 
slight degree of vagueness and uncertainty in which they are 
usually enveloped. 

" Ah ! " said Mrs. Nickleby, with great fervor, " if my 
advice had been taken at the begin.ning — Well, I have always 
done my duty, and that's some comfort." 

When she had arrived at this reflection, Mrs. Nickleby 
sighed, rubbed her hands, cast up her eyes, and finally 
assumed a look of meek composure ; thus importing that she 
was a persecuted saint, but that she wouldn't trouble h.er 
hearers by mentioning a circumstance which must be so 
obvious to everybody. 

" Now," said Ralph, with a smile, which, in common with 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 233 

all other tokens of emotion, seemed to skulk under his face, 
rather than play boldly over it — " to return to the point from 
which we have strayed. I have a little party of — of — gentle- 
men with whom I am connected in business just now, at my 
house to-morrow ; and your mother has promised that you 
shall keep house for me. I am not much used to parties ; 
but this is one of business, and such fooleries are an impor- 
tant part of it sometimes. You don't mind obliging me ? " 

" Mind ! " cried Mrs. Nickleby. " My dear Kate, why — " 

" Pray," interrupted Ralph, motioning lier to be silent. 
" I spoke to my niece." 

" I shall be very glad, of course, uncle," replied Kate ; 
" but I am afraid you will find me awkward and embar- 
rassed." 

" Oh no," said Ralph ; " come when you like, in a hack- 
ney coach — I'll pay for it. Good-night — a — a — God bless 
you." 

The blessing seemed to stick in Mr. Ralph Nickleby's 
throat, as if it were not used to the thoroughfare, and didn't 
know the way out. But it got out somehow, though awk- 
wardly enough ; and having disposed of it, he shook hands 
with his two relatives, and abruptly left them. 

" What a very strongly marked countenance your uncle 
has ! " said Mrs. Nickleby, quite struck with his parting look. 
" I don't see the slightest resemblance to his poor brother." 

" Mama ! " said'Kate reprovingly. " To think of such a 
thing ! " 

"No," said Mrs. Nickleby, musing. "There certainly is 
none. But it's a very honest face." 

The worthy matron made this remark with great emphasis 
and elocution, as if it comprised no small quantity of ingenuity 
and research ; and, in truth, it was not unworthy of being 
classed among the extraordinary discoveries of the age. Kate 
looked up hastily, and as hastily looked down again. 

" What has come over you, my dear, in the name of good- 
ness ? " asked Mrs. Nickleby, when they had walked on, for 
some time, in silence. 

"I was only thinking, mama," answered Kate. 

" Thinking ! " repea'ted Mrs. Nickleby. " Ay, and indeed 
plenty to think about, too. Your uncle has taken a strong 
fancy to you, that's quite clear ; and if some extraordinary 
good fortune doesn't come to you, after this, I shall be a little 
surprised, that's all." 



234 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

With this she launched out into sundry anecdotes of 
young Ladies, who had had thousand pound notes given them 
in reticules, by eccentric uncles ; and of young ladies who 
had accidentally met amiable gentlemen of enormous wealth 
at their uncles' houses, and married them, after short but 
ardent courtships ; and Kate, listening first in apathy, and 
afterwards in amusement, felt, as they walked home, some- 
thing of her mother's sanguine complexion gradually awaken- 
ing in her own bosom, and began to think that her prospects 
might be bri^tening, and that better days might be dawning 
upon themTSuch is hope, Heaven's own gift to struggling 
mortals ; pervading, like some subtle essence from the skies, 
all things, both good aod—bad ; as universal as death, and 
more in fectious than disease,! 
""^ Tlie feeble winter's sun-^and winter's suns in the city are 
very feeble indeed — might have brightened up, as he shone 
through the dim windows of the large old house, on witness- 
ing the unusual sight which one half-furnished room displayed. 
In a gloomy corner, where, for years, had stood a silent dusty 
pile of merchandise, sheltering its colony of mice, and frown- 
ing, a dull and lifeless mass, upon the panelled room, save 
when, responding to the roll of heavy wagons in the street 
without, it quaked with sturdy tremblings and caused the 
bright eyes of its tiny citizens to grow brighter still with fear, 
and struck them motionless, with attentive ear and palpitating 
heart, until the alarm had passed away — in this dark corner, 
was arranged, with scrupulous care, all Kate's little finery for 
the day ; each article of dress partaking of that indescribable 
air of jauntiness and individuality which empty garments — 
whether by association, or that they become moulded, as it 
were, to the owner's form — will take, in eyes accustomed to, 
or picturing, the wearer's smartness. In place of a bale of 
musty goods, there lay the black silk dress ; the neatest pos- 
sible figure in itself. The small shoes, with toes delicately 
turned out, stood upon the very pressure of some old iron 
weight ; and a pile of harsh discolored leather had uncon- 
sciously given place to the very same little pair of black silk 
stockings, which had been the objects of Mrs. Nickleby's 
peculiar care. Rats and mice, and such small gear, had long 
ago been starved, or had emigrated to better quarters : and, 
in their stead, appeared gloves, bands, scarfs, hair-pins, and 
many other little de\ices, almost as inirenious in their way as 
rats and mice themselves, for the tantalization of mankind. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



^35 



A.bout and among them all, moved Kate herself, not the least 
beautiful or unwonted relief to the stern, old, gloomy building. 

In good time, or in bad time, as the reader likes to take it 
• — for Mrs. Nickleby's impatience went a great deal faster 
than the clocks at that end of the town, and Kate was dressed 
to the very last hair-pin a full hour and a half before it was at 
all necessary to begin to think about it — in good time, or in 
bad time, the toilet was completed ; and it being at length the 
hour agreed upon for starting, the milkman fetched a coach 
from the nearest stand, and Kate, with many adieux to her 
mother, and many kind messages to Miss La Creevy, who 
was to come to tea, seated herself in it, and went away in 
state, if ever anybody went away in state in a hackney coach 
yet. And the coach, and the coachman, and the horses, rat- 
tled, and jangled, and whipped, and cursed, and swore, and 
tumbled on together, until they came to Golden Square. 

The coachman gave a tremendous double knock at the 
door, which was opened long before he had done, as quickly 
as if there had been a man behind it, with his hand tied to 
the latch. Kate, who had expected no more uncommon ap- 
pearance than Newman Noggs in a clean shirt, was not a lit- 
tle astonished to see that the opener was a man in handsome 
livery, and that there were two or three others in the hall. 
There was no doubt about its being the right house, however, 
for there was the name upon the door ; so she accepted the 
laced coat-sleeve which was tendered her, and entering the 
house, was ushered up stairs, into a back drawing-room, 
where she was left alone. 

If she had been surprised at the apparition of the foot- 
man, she was perfectly absorbed in amazement at the richness 
and splendor of the furniture. The softest and most elegant 
carpets, the most exquisite pictures, the costliest mirrors ; 
articles of richest ornament, quite dazzling from their beauty, 
and perplexing from the prodigality with which they were 
scattered around ; encountered her on every side. The very 
staircase nearly down to the hall door, was crammed with 
beautiful and luxurious things, as though the house were 
brim-full of riches, which, with a very trifling addition, would 
fairly run over into the street. 

Presently, she heard a series of loud double knocks at 
the street-door, and after every knock some new voice in the 
next room ; the tones of Mr. Ralph Nickleby were easilv dis- 
tinguishable at first, but by degrees they merged into the 



236 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

general buzz of conversation, and all she could ascertain was, 
that there were several gentlemen with no very musical voices, 
who talked very loud, laughed very heartily, and swore more 
than she would have thought quite necessary. But this was 
a question of taste. 

At length, the door opened, and Ralph himself, divested 
of his boots, and ceremoniously embellished with black silks 
and shoes, presented his crafty face. 

" I couldn't see you before, my dear," he said, in a low 
tone, and pointing, as he spoke, to the next room. " I was 
engaged in receiving them. Now — shall I take you in t " 

" Pray, uncle," said Kate, a little fiurried, as people 
much more conversant with society often are, when they are 
about to enter a room full of strangers, and have had time to 
think of it previously, " are there any ladies here ? " 

" No," said Ralph, shortly, " I don't know any." 

" Must I go in immediately ? " asked Kate, drawing back 
a little. 

" As you please," said Ralph, shrugging his shoulders. 
" They are all come, and dinner will be announced directly 
afterwards — that's all." 

Kate would have entreated a few minutes' respite, but 
reflecting that her uncle might consider the payment of the 
hackney-coach fare a sort of bargain for her punctuality, she 
suffered him to draw her arm through his, and to lead her 
away. 

Seven or eight gentlemen were standing round the fire 
when they went in, and, as they were talking very loud, were 
not aware of their entrance until Mr. Ralph Nickleby, touch- 
ing one on the coat-sleeve, said in a harsh emphatic voice, as 
if to attract general attention — 

" Lord Frederick Verisopht, my niece, Miss Nickleby." 

The group dispersed, as if in great surprise, and the gen- 
tleman addressed, turning round, exhibited, a suit of clothes 
of the most superlative cut, a pair of whiskers of similar 
quality, a moustache, a head of hair, and a young face. 

" Eh !" said the gentleman. "What — the — deyvle ! " 

With which broken ejaculations, he fixed his glass in his 
eye, and stared at Miss Nickleby in great surprise. 

" My niece, my lord," said Ralph. 

"Then my ears did not deceive me, and it's not wa-a-x 
works," said his lordship. " How de do? I'm very happy." 
And then his lordship turned to another superlative gentle- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



237 



man, something older, something stouter, something redder in 
the face, and something longer upon town, and said in a loud 
whisper that the girl was "deyvlish pitty." 

" Introduce me, Nickleby," said this second gentleman, 
who was lounging with his back to the fire, and both elbows 
on the chimney-piece. 

" Sir Mulberry Hawk," said Ralph. 

" Otherwise the most knowing card in the pa-ack. Miss 
Nickleby," said Lord Frederick Verisopht. 

" Don't leave me out, Nickleby," cried a sharp-faced 
gentleman, who was sitting on a low chair with a high back, 
reading the paper. 

" Mr. Pyke," said Ralph. 

" Nor me, Nickleby," cried a gentleman with a flushed 
face and a flash air, from the elbow of Sir Mulberry Hawk. 

" Mr. Pluck," said Ralph. Then wheeling about again, 
towards a gentleman with the neck of a stork and the legs of 
no animal in particular, Ralph introduced him as the Honor- 
able Mr. Snobb ; and a white-headed person at the table as 
Colonel Chowser. The colonel was in conversation with 
somebody, who appeared to be a make-weight, and was not 
introduced at all. 

There were two circumstances which, in this early stage of 
the party, struck hom e to Ka te's„ bosom,, and brought the« 
hlnnH^trn^in^IO.-hpr ^arp." <,)ne,, wn^; the flippant contempt 
wjtF jvhich the guests evidentl y regarded her uncle, and the 
other^the easy msolence ot tlieir' manner towards herself. 
TlTarflTe~frrstsyTrrptnm was ver}' likely to lead to the aggrava- 
tion'of the second, it needed no groat penetration to foresee. 
Ancl'hcrc ^Tr. RaTph'Xieklebv had reckoned without his'host ; 
for howe\er fresh from the count ly a young lady (by nature) 
may be, and however unacquainted with conventional be- 
havior, the chances are, that she will have quite as strong an 
innate sense of the decencies aud proprieties of life as if she 
had run the gauntlet of a dozen London seasons — possibly a 
stronger one, for such senses have been known to blunt in 
this improving process. 

When Ralph had completed the ceremonial of introduc- 
tion, he led his blushing niece to a seat. As he did so. he 
glanced warily round as though to assure himself of the im- 
pression which her unlooked-for appearance had created. 

" An unexpected playsure, Nickleby," said Lord Frederick 
Verisopht, taking his glass out of his right eye, where it had, 



238 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



until now, done duty on Kate, and fixing it in his left, to bring 
it to bear on Ralph. 

" Designed to surprise you. Lord Frederick," said Mr. 
Pluck. 

" Not a bad idea," said his lordship, " and one that would 
almost warrant the addition of an extra two and a half per 



cent." 



" Nickleby," said Sir Mulberrj' Hawk, in a thick coarse 
voice, " take the hint, and tack it on to the other five-and- 
twenty, or whatever it is, and give me half for the advice." 

Sir Mulberry garnished this speech with a hoarse laugh, 
and terminated it with a pleasant oath regarding Mr. 
Nickleby's limbs, whereat Messrs. Pyke and Pluck laughed 
consumedly. 

These gentlemen had not yet quite recovered the jest, 
when dinner was announced, and then they were thrown into 
fresh ecstacies by a similar cause ; for Sir Mulberry Hawk, in 
an excess of humor, shot dexterously past Lord Fredtrick 
Verisopht who was about to lead Kate down stairs, and drew 
her arm through his up to the elbow. 

"No, damn it, Verisopht," said Sir Mulberry, "fair play's 
a jewel, and Miss Nickleby and I settled the matter with our 
eyes, ten minutes ago." 

" Ha, ha, ha ! " laughed the Honorable Mr. Snobb, " very 
good, very good." 

Rendered additionally witty by this applause. Sir Mulberry 
Hawk leered upon his friends most facetiously, and led Kate 
down stairs with an air of familiarity, which roused in her 
gentle breast such burning indignation, as she felt it almost 
impossible to repress. Nor was the intensity of these feelings 
at all diminished, when she found herself placed at the top of 
the table, with Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Frederick 
Verisopht on either side. 

" Oh, you'\'e found your way into our neighborhood, have 
you? " said Sir Mulberry as his lordship sat down. 

"Of course," replied Lord Frederick, fixing his eyes on 
Miss Nickleby, " how can you a-ask me .'' " 

" Well, you attend to your dinner," said Sir Mulberr}', 
" and don't mind Miss Nickleby and me, for we shall prove 
very indifferent company, I dare say." 

" I wish you'd interfere here, Nickleby," said Lord Fred- 
erick. 

"What is the matter, my lord? " demanded Ralph from 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 239 

the bottom of the table, where he was supported by Messrs. 
Pyke and PUick. 

"This fellow, Hawk, is monopolizing your niece," said 
Lord Frederick. 

" He has a tolerable share of every thing that you lay claim 
to, my lord," said Ralph with a sneer. 

" 'Gad, so he has," replied the young man ; " deyvle take 
me if I know which is master in my house, he or I." 

"/know," muttered Ralph. 

"I think I shall cut him off with a shilling," said the young 
nobleman, jocosely. 

" No, no, curse it," said Sir Mulberry. " When you come 
to the shilling — the last shilling — I'll cut you fast enough ; but 
till then. Til never leave you — you may take your oath of it." 

This sally (which was strictly founded on fact), was 
received with a general roar, above which, was plainly distin- 
guishable the laughter of Mr. Pyke and Mr. Pluck, who were, 
evidently. Sir Mulberry's toads in ordinary. Indeed, it was 
not difficult to see, that the majority of the company preyed 
upon the unfortunate young lord, who, weak and silly as he 
was, appeared by far the least vicious of the party. Sir Mul- 
berry Hawk was remarkable for his tact in ruining, by himself 
and his creatures, young gentlemen of fortune — a genteel and 
elegant profession, of which he had undoubtedly gained the 
head. With all the boldness of an original genius, he had 
struck out an entirely new course of treatment quite opposed 
to the usual method ; his custom being, when he had gained 
the ascendancy over those he took in hand, rather to keep 
them down than to give them their own way ; and to exercise 
his vivacity upon them, openly, and without reserve. Thus, 
he made them butts, in a double sense, and while he emptied 
them with great address, caused them to ring with sundry 
well-administered taps, for the diversion of society. 

The dinner was as remarkable for the splendor and com- 
pleteness of its appointments as the mansion itself, and the 
company were remarkable for doing it ample justice, in which 
respect Messrs. Pyke and Pluck particularly signalized them- 
selves ; these two gentlemen eating of every dish, and drink- 
ing of every bottle, with a capacity and perseverance truly 
astonishing. They were remarkably fresh, too, notwithstand- 
ing their great exertions : for, on the appearance of the 
dessert, they broke out again, as if nothing serious had taken 
place since breakfast 



240 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Well," said Lord Frederick, sipping his first glass of 
port, " if this is a discounting dinner all I have to say is, 
deyvle take me, if it wouldn't be a good pla-an to get discount 
every day." 

" You'll have plenty of it, in your time," returned Sir Mul- 
berry Hawk ; " Nickleby will tell you that." 

"What do you say, Nickleby ? " inquired the young man ; 
" am I to be a good customer ? " 

•' It depends entirely on circumstances, my lord," replied 
Ralph. 

"On your lordship's circumstances," interposed Colonel 
Chowser of the Militia — and the race-courses. 

The gallant colonel glanced at Messrs. Pyke and Pluck 
as if he thought they ought to laugh at his joke ; but those 
gentlemen, being only engaged to laugh for Sir Mulberry 
Hawk, were, to his signal discomfiture, as grave as a pair of 
undertakers. To add to his defeat, Sir Mulberry, considering 
any such efforts an invasion of his peculiar privilege, eyed 
the offender steadily, through his glass, as if astonished at 
his presumption, and audibly stated his impression that it was 
an " infernal liberty," which being a hint to Lord Frederick, 
he put up his glass, and surveyed the object of censure as if 
he were some extraordinary wild animal then exhibiting for 
the first time. As a matter of course, Messrs. Pvke and Pluck 
stared at the individual whom Sir Mulberry Hawk stared at ; 
so, the poor colonel, to hide his confusion, was reduced to the 
necessity of holding his port before his right eye and affect- 
ing to scrutinize its color with the most lively interest. 

All this while, Kate had sat as silently as she could, 
scarcely daring to raise her eyes, lest they should encounter 
the admiring gaze of Lord Frederick Verisopht, or, what was 
still more embarrassing, the bold looks of his friend Sir Mul- 
berry. The latter gentleman was obliging enough to direct 
general attention towards her. 

" Here is Miss Nickleby," observed Sir Mulberrj-, "won- 
dering why the deuce somebody doesn't make love to her." 

" No, indeed,'' said Kate, looking hastily up, " I " and 

then she stopped, feeling it would have been better to have 
said nothing at all. 

" I'll hold any man fifty pounds," said Sir Mulberry, " that 
Miss Nickleby can't look in my face, and tell me she wasn't 
thinking so." 

" Done ! " cried the noble gull. " Within ten minutes." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 241 

" Done ! " responded Sir Mulberry. The money was pro- 
duced on both sides, and the Honorable Mr. Snobb was 
elected to the double office of stake-holder and time-keeper. 

'' Pray," said Kate, in great confusion, while these pre- 
liminaries were in course of completion. " Pray do not make 
me the subject of any bets. Uncle, I cannot really " 

"Why not my dear?" replied Ralph, in whose grating 
voice, however, there was an unusual huskiness, as though he 
sj^oke unwillingly, and would rather that the proposition had 
not been broached. " It is done in a moment ; there is noth- 
ing in it. If the gentlemen insist on it " 

/don't insist on it," said Sir Mulberry, with a loud laugh, 
" That is, I by no means insist upon Miss Nickleby's making 
the denial, for if she does, I lose ; but I shall be glad to see 
her bright eyes, especially as she favors the mahogany so 
much." 

" So she does, and it's too ba-a-d of you. Miss Nickleby," 
said the noble youth. 

" Quite cruel," said Mr. Pyke. 

" Horrid cruel," said Mr. Pluck. 

"I don't care if I do lose," said Sir Mulberry ; "for one 
tolerable look at Miss Nickleby's eyes is worth double the 
money." 

" More," said Mr. Pyke. 

" Far more," said Mr. Pluck. 

" How goes the enemy, Snobb ? " asked Sir Mulberry 
Hawk. 

" Four minutes gone." 

" Bravo ! " 

"Won't you ma-ake one effort for me. Miss Nickleby?" 
asked Lord Frederick, after a short interval. 

"You needn't trouble yourself to inquire, my buck," said 
Sir Mulberry ; " Miss Nickleby and I understand each other ; 
she declares on my side, and shows her taste. You haven't a 
chance, old fellow. Time, Snobb? " 



" Eight minutes gone." 



" Get the money ready," said Sir Mulberry j " You'll soon 
hand over." 

" Ha, ha, ha ! " laughed Mr. Pyke. 

Mr. Pluck, who always came second, and topped his com- 
panion if he could, screamed outright. 

The poor girl, who was so overwhelmed with confusion 
that she scarcely knew what she did, had determined to remain 

16 



242 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



perfectly quiet ; but fearing that by so doing she might seem 
to countenance Sir Mulberry's boast, which had been uttered 
with great coarseness and vulgarity of manner, raised her eyes, 
and looked him in the face. There was something so odious, 
so insolent, so repulsive in the look which met her, that, with- 
out the power to stammer forth a syllable, she rose and hurried 
from the room. She restrained her tears by a great effort 
until she was alone up stairs, and then gave them vent. 

" Capital ! " said Sir Mulberry Hawk, putting the stakes 
in his pocket. " That's a girl of spirit, and we'll drink her 
health." 

It is needless to say, that Pyke and Co. responded, with 
great warmth of manner, to this proposal, or that the toast was 
drunk with many little insinuations from the firm, relative to 
the completeness of Sir Mulberry's conquest. Ralph, who, 
while the attention of the other guests was attracted to the 
principals in the preceding scene, had eyed them like a wolf, 
appeared to breathe more freely now his niece was gone ; the 
decanters passing quickly round, he leaned back in his chair, 
and turned his eyes from speaker to speaker, as they warmed 
with wine, with looks that seemed to search their hearts, and 
lay bare, for his distempered sport, every idle thought within 
them. 

Meanwhile Kate, left wholly to herself, had in some degree, 
recovered her composure. She had learnt from a female at- 
tendant, that her uncle wished to see her before she left, and 
had also gleaned the satisfactory intelligence, that the gentle- 
men would take coffee at table. The prospect of seeing them 
no more, contributed greatly to calm her agitation, and, taking 
up a book, she composed herself to read. 

She started sometimes, when the sudden opening of the 
dining-room door let loose a wild shout of noisy revelry, and 
more than once rose in great alarm, as a fancied footstep on 
the staircase impressed her with the fear that some stray mem- 
ber of the party was returning alone. Nothing occurring, how- 
ever, to realize her apprehensions, she endeavored to fix her 
attention more closely on her book, in which by degrees she 
became so much interested, that she had read on through sev- 
eral chapters without heed of time or place, when she was teri- 
fied by suddenly hearing her name pronounced by a man's 
voice close at her ear. 

The book fell from her hand. Lounging on an ottoman 
close beside her, was Sir Mulberry Hawk, evidently the worse 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 243 

— if a man be a ruffian at heart, he is never the better — for 
wine. 

" What a deUghtful studiousness ! " said this accompHshed 
gentleman. " Was it real, now, or only to display the eye- 
lashes ? " 

Kate, looking anxiously towards the door, made no reply. 

"I have looked at 'em for five minutes," said Sir Mulberry, 
" Upon my soul, they're perfect. Why did I speak, and de- 
stroy such a pretty little picture ! " 

"Do me the favor to be silent now, sir," replied Kate. 

" No, don't," said Sir Mulberr)% folding his crush hat to 
lay his elbow on, and bringing himself still closer to the young 
lady ; " upon my life, you oughtn't to. Such a devoted slave 
of yours, Miss Nickleby — it's an infernal thing to treat him so 
harshly, upon my soul it is." 

" I wish you to understand, sir," said Kate, trembling in 
spite of herself, but speaking with great indignation, " that 
your behavior offends and disgusts me. If you have a spark 
of gentlemanly feeling remaining, you will leave me." 

""Now why," said Sir Mulberry, "why will you keep up 
this appearance of excessive rigor, my sweet creature ? Now, 
be more natural — My dear Miss Nickleby, be more natural — 
do." 

Kate hastily rose ; but as she rose, Sir Mulberry caught 
her dress, and forcibly detained her. 

" Let me go, sir,'" she cried, her heart swelling with anger. 
" Do you hear ? Instantly — this moment." 

" Sit down, sit down," said Sir Mulberry ; " I want to talk 
to you." 

" Unhand me, sir, this instant." cried Kate. 

" Not for the world," rejoined Sir Mulberry. Thus speak- 
ing, he leaned over, as if to replace her in her chair ; but the 
young lady, making a violent effort to disengage herself, he 
lost his balance, and measured his length upon the ground. 
As Kate sprang forward to lea\'e the room, Mr. Ralph Nickleby 
appeared in the door-way, and confronted her. 

" What is this ? " said Ralph. 

" It is this, sir," replied Kate, violently agitated ; " that 
beneath the roof where I, a helpless girl, your dead brother's 
child, should most have found protection, I have been exposed 
to insult which should make you shrink to look upon me. Let 
me pass you." 

Ralph did shrink, as the indignant girl fixed her kindling 



2 44 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

eye upon him ; but he did not comply with het injunction, 
nevertheless ; for he led her to a distant seat, and returning, 
and approaching Sir Mulberry Hawk, who had by this time 
risen, motioned towards the door. 

" Your way lies there, sir," said Ralph, in a suppressed 
voice, that some devil might have owned with pride. 

"What do you mean by that?" asked his friend, fiercely. 

The swollen veins stood out like sinews on Ralph's wrinkled 
forehead, and the nerves about his mouth worked as though 
some unendurable emotion wrung them ; but he smiled dis- 
dainfully, and again pointed to the door. 

" Do you know me, you old madman ? " asked Sir Mul- 
berry. 

"Well," said Ralph. The fashionable vagabond for the 
moment quite quailed under the steady look of the older sinner, 
and walked towards the door, muttering as he went. 

" You wanted the lord, did you ? " he said, stopping short 
when he reached the door, as if a new light had broken in 
upon him, and confronting Ralph again. " Damme, I was in 
the wav, was I ? " 

Ralph smiled again, but made no answer. 

^" Who brought him to you first ? " pursued Sir Mulberry ; 
" and how, without me, could you ever have wound him in 
your net as you have ? " 

" The net is a large one, and rather full," said Ralph. 
" Take care that it chokes nobody in the meshes." 

" You would sell your flesh and blood for money ; your- 
self, if you have not already made a bargain with the devil," 
retorted the other. " Do you mean to tell me that your pretty 
niece was not brought here, as a decoy for the drunken boy 
down stairs .'' " 

Although this hurried dialogue was carried on, in a sup- 
pressed tone on both sides, Ralph looked involuntarily round 
to ascertain that Kate had not moved her position so as to 
be within hearing. His adversary saw the advantage he had 
gained, and followed it up. 

" Do you mean to tell me," he asked again, " that it is not 
so ? Do' you mean to say that if he had found his way up 
here instead of me, you wouldn't have been a little more 
blind, and a little more deaf, and a little less flourishing, than 
you have l)een ? Come Nickleby, answer me that." 

'' I tell you this," replied Ralph, " t hat if I brought her 
here, as a matter of business " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 245 

" Ay, that's the word," interposed Sir Mulberry, with a 
laugh. " You're coming to yourself again now." 

" — As a matter of business," pursued Ralph, speaking 
slowly and firmly, as a man who has made up his mind to 
say no more, " l->praiise T thou ght she mig;ht make some im- 
pression on the silly youtTTyou have taken in Tiand alTd are 
leffding "good "heTp* to ruin, I knew — knowing him — that it 
would be long before he outraged her girl's feelings, and that 
unless he offended by mere puppyism and emptiness, he 
would, with a little management, respect the sex and conduct 
even of his usurer's niece. But if I thought to draw him on 
ifRrre^gently by this device, I did not think of subiecting the 
gir-Lto the licentiousness and brutality of so old a hand ~as 
you. And now we understand each other." 

" Especially as there was nothing to be got by it — eh ? " 
sneered Sir Mulberry. 

" Exactly so," said Ralph. He had turned away, and 
lookedl over his shoulder to make this last reply. The eyes 
of the two worthies met, with an expression as if each rascal 
felt that there was no disguising himself from the other ; and 
Sir Mulberry Hawk shrugged his shoulders and walked slowly 
out. 

His friend closed the door, and looked restlessly towards 
the spot where his niece still remained in the attitude in which 
he had left her. She had fiung herself heavily upon the 
couch, and with her head drooping over the cushion, and her 
face hidden in her hands, seemed to be still weeping in an 
agony of shame and grief. 

Ralph would have walked_Jnto any poverty- strick en 
debtor^s house. and j >nin^ f^d hm i'out to a barm^uTough in. 
att'enTIance" upon a young child's death-bed, without the 
si^nalk^tconcgiji, because it would have been a matter quite 
in The orSmary course ^ of b y^pess. and the man would have 
been a'n ott'ender ap -amst nis onb; code of morality. But, 
here was a young girl, who had done no wrong save that of 
coming into' the world alive ; who had patiently yielded to all 
his wishes ; who had tried hard to please him — above all, 
who didn't owe him money — and he felt awkward and ner- 
vous. 

Ralph took a chair at some distance ; then, another chair 
a little nearer ; then, moved a little nearer still ; then again, 
and finally sat himself on the same sofa, and laid his hand on 
Kate's arm. 



246 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" Hush, my clear! " he said, as she drew it back, and her 
sobs burst out afresh. " Hush, hush ! Dont mind it now ; 
don't think of it," 

" Oh, for pity's sake, let me go home," cried Kate. " Let 
me leave this house, and go home." 

" Yes, yes," said Ralph. " You shall. But you must dry 
your eyes first, and compose yourself. Let me raise your 
head. There — there." 

" Oh, uncle ! " exclaimed Kate, clasping her hands. 
" What have I done — what have I done — tliat you should 
subject me to this ? If I had wronged you in thought, 
or word, or deed, it would have been most cruel to me, and 
the memory of one you must have loved in some old time ; 
but " 

"Only listen to me for a moment," interrupted Ralph, 
seriously alarmed by the violence of her emotions. " I didn't 
know it would be so ; it was impossible for me to foresee it. 
I^d all I could. — Come, let us walk about. You are faint 
with the closeness of the room, and the heat of these lamps. 
You will be better now, if you make the slightest effort." 

" I will do anything," replied Kate, "if you will only send 
me home." 

"Well, well, I will," said Ralph ; "but you must get back 
your own looks ; for those you have, will frighten them, and 
nobodymust know of^Jijis-but yQu^ and L Now let us walk 
nTe'''otnerwSyr''~T1fiere. You look Better" even now." 

With such encouragements as these, Ralph Nickleby walked 
to and fro, with his niece leaning on his arm ; actually trem- 
bling beneath her touch. 

In the same manner, when he judged it prudent to allow 
her to depart, he supported her down stairs, after adjusting 
her shawl and performing such little offices, most probably 
for the first time in his life. Across the hall, and down the 
steps, Ralph led her too ; nor did he withdraw his hand, until 
she was seated in the coach. 

As the door of the vehicle was roughly closed, a comb fell 
from Kate's hair, close at her uncle's feet ; and as he picked 
it up, and returned it into her hand, the light from a neigh- 
boring lamp shone upon her face. The lock of hair that had 
escaped and curled loosely over her brow, the traces of tears 
yet scarcely dry, the flushed cheek, the look of sorrow, all 
fired some dormant train of recollection in the old man's 
breast ; and the face of his dead brother seemed present be 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 247 

fore him, willi the very look it bore on some occasion of boyish 
grief, of which every minutest circumstance flashed upon his 
mincl, with the distinctness of a scene of yesterday. 

Ralph Nickleby, who was proof against all appeals of 
blood .and kindrecl—who^was^ steeled agauisl ^yVyfy Wle" of 
sorrow~'an(r"3Istr¥sr-^staggered''^V^^^^ he looked, and went 

bacS"mTo"liTrTTouserirrX"ffimr\vhu had seen "a spirit from 
some worTdoeyond the grave. 



CHAPTER XX. 

WHEREIN NICHOLAS AT LENGTH ENCOUNTERS HIS UNCLE, TO 
WHOM HE EXPRESSES HIS SENTIMENTS WITH MUCH CAN- 
DOR. HIS RESOLUTION. 

LiTTTE Miss La Creevy trotted briskly through divers 
streets at the west end of the town, early on Monday morning 
— the day after the dinner — charged with the important com- 
mission of acquainting Madame Mantalini that Miss Nickleby 
was too unwell to attend that day, but hoped to be enabled 
to resume her duties on the morrow. And as Miss La Creevy 
walked along, revolving in her mind various genteel forms 
and elegant turns of expression, with a view to the selection 
of the very best in which to couch her communication, she 
cogitated a good deal upon the probable causes of her young 
friend's indisposition. 

" I don't know what to make of it," said Miss La Creex^. 
" Her eyes were decidedly red last night. She said she had 
a head-ache ; head-aches don't occasion red eyes. She must 
have been crying." 

Arriving at this conclusion, which, indeed, she had estab- 
lished to her perfect satisfaction on the previous evening. Miss 
La Creevy went on to consider — as she had done nearly all 
night — what new cause of unhappiness her young friend could 
possibly have had. 

" I can't think of anything," said the little portrait painter. 
" Nothing at all, unless it was the behavior of that old bear. 
Cross to her I suppose ? Unpleasant brute ! " 

Relieved by this expression of opinion, albeit it was vented 



248 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

upon empty air, Miss La Creevy trotted on to Madame Man- 
talini's ; and being informed that the governing power was not 
yet out of bed, requested an interview with the second in com- 
mand ; whereupon Miss Knag appeared. 

" So far as 1 am concerned," said Miss Knag, when the 
message had been deHvered, with many ornaments of speech \ 
" I could spare Miss Nickleby for evermore." 

" Oh, indeed, ma'am ! " rejoined Miss La Creevy, highly 
offended. " But, you see, you are not mistress of the busi- 
ness, and therefore it's of no great consequence." 

" Very good, ma'am," said Miss Knag. " Have you any 
further commands for me ? " 

" No, I have not, ma'am," rejoined Miss La Creevj'. 
" Then good morning, ma'am," said Miss Knag. 
" Good morning to you, ma'am ; and many obligations for 
your extreme politeness and good breeding," rejoined Miss 
La Creevy. 

Thus terminating the interview during which both ladies 
had trembled very much, and been marvellously polite — cer- 
tain indications that they were within an inch of a ver)' des- 
perate quarrel — Miss La Creevy bounced out of the room, and 
into the street. 

" I wonder who that is," said the queer little soul " A 
nice person to know, I should think ! I wish I had the paint- 
ing of her : Fd do her justice." So, feeling quite satisfied 
that she had said a very cutting thing at Miss Knag's expense, 
Miss La Creevy had a hearty laugh, and went home to break- 
fast, in great good humor. 

Here was one of the advantages of having lived alone so 
long ! The little bustling, active, cheerful creature,^ existed 
entirely within herself, talked to herself, made a confidant of 
herself, was as sarcastic as she could be, on people who of- 
fended her, by herself ; pleased herself, and did no harm. If 
she indulged in scandal, nobody's reputation suffered ; and if 
she enjoyed a little bit of revenge, no li\ ing soul was one 
atom the worse. One of the many to whom, from straitened 
circumstances, a consequent inability to form the associations 
they would wish, and a disinclination to mix with the society 
they could obtain London is as , complete a solitude as the 
plains nf .Sy ria, the; bumble. artist had pursued her lonely, but 
contented way for many years ; and, until the peculiar nilsj^r- 
tunes of the Nickleby family attracted her attention, had made 
no friends, though brimful of the friendliest feelings to all 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



249 



niankind. There are many warm Iiearts in the same solitary- 
guise as piHjr liulc }ili.^s La C'rcc\y's. 

Tin, \ ever, that's neitlier here nor there, just now. She 
went Jiume to breakfast, and had scarcely caught the full fla- 
vor of her first sip of tea, when the servant announced a gen- 
tleman, whereat Miss La Creevy, at once imagining a new 
sitter, transfixed by admiration at the street-door case, was in 
unspeakable consternation at the presence of the tea-things. 

" Here, take 'em away ; run with 'em into the bed-room ; 
anywhere," said Miss La Creevy. "Dear, dear; to think 
that I should be late on this particular morning, of all others, 
after being ready for three weeks by half-past eight o'clock, 
and not a soul coming near the place ! " 

" Don't let me put you out of the way," said a voice Miss 
La Creevy knew. " I told the servant not to mention my 
name, because I wished to surprise you." 

" Mr. Nicholas ! " cried Miss La Creevy, starting in great 
astonishment. 

" You have not forgotten me, I see," replied Nicholas, ex- 
tending his hand. 

" Whv, I think I should even have known vow if I had 
met you in the street," said Miss La Creevy, with a smile. 
" Hannah, another cup and saucer. Now, I'll tell you what, 
young man ; I'll trouble you not to repeat the impertinence 
you were guilty of, on the morning you went away." 

" You would not be very angiy, would you .'' " asked 
Nicholas. 

" Wouldn't I ! " said Miss La Creevy. " You had better 
try ; that's all ! " 

Nicholas, with becoming gallantry, immediately took Miss 
La Creevy at her word, who uttered a faint scream and slapped 
his face ; but it was not a very hard slap, and that's the truth. 

" I never saw such a rude creature ! " exclaimed Miss La 
Creevy. 

" You told me to trv," said Nicholas. 

" Well ; but I was speaking ironically," rejoined Miss La 
Creevy. 

"Oh! that's another thing," said Nicholas; " you should 
have told me that, too." 

" I dare say you didn't know, indeed ! " retorted Miss La 
Creevy. " But, now I look at you again, you seem thinner 
than when I saw you last, and your face is haggard and pale. 
And how come you to have left Yorkshire .'' " 



250 NICHOLAS AriCKLEBY. 

She stopped here ; for there was so much heart in her al- 
tered tone and manner, that Nicholas was quite moved. 

" I need look somewhat changed," he said, after a short 
silence ; " for I have undergone some suffering, both of mind 
and body, since I left London. I have been very poor, too, 
and have even suffered from want." 

" Good Heaven, Mr. Nicholas ! " exclaimed Miss La 
Creevy, " what are you telling me ? " 

" Nothing which need distress you quite so much," an- 
swered Nicholas, with a more sprightly air ; " neither did I 
come here, to bewail my lot, but on matter more to the pur- 
pose. I wish to meet my uncle face to face. I should tell 
you that first." 

" Then all I have to say about that is," interposed Miss La 
Creevy, " that I don't envy you your taste ; and that sitting 
\A the same room with his very boots, would put me out of 
humor for a fortnight." 

" In the main," said Nicholas, "there maybe no great 
difference of opinion between you and me, so far ; but you 
will understand, that I desire to confront him, to justify my- 
self, and to cast his duplicity and malice in his throat." 

" That's quite another matter," rejoined Miss La Creevy. 
" Heaven forgive me ; but I shouldn't cvj my eyes quite out 
of my head, if they choked him. Well 1 " 

" To this end, I called upon him this morning," said Nich- 
olas. " He only returned to town on Saturday, and I knew 
nothing of his arrival until late last night." 

" And did you see him ? " asked Miss La Creevy. 

" No," replied Nicholas. " He had gone out." 

" Hah ! " said Miss La Creevy ; "on some kind, charitable 
business, I dare say." 

" I have reason to believe," pursued Nicholas, "from what 
has been told me, by a friend of mine who is acquainted with 
his movements, that he intends seeing my mother and sister 
to-dav, and s-iving them his version of the occurrences that 
have befallen me. I will meet him there." 

' That's right," said Miss La Creevy, rubbing her hands. 
"And yet, I don't know," she added, "there is much to be 
thought of — others to be considered." 

" I have considered others," rejoined Nicholas : "but as 
honesty and honor are both at issue, nothing shall deter me." 

" You should know best," said Miss La Creevy. 

" In this case I hope so," answered Nicholas. "And all 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



251 



I want you to do for me, is, to prepare them for my coming. 
They think me a long way off, and if 1 went wholly unexpect- 
ed, I should frighten them. If you can spare time to tell them 
that you have seen me, and that I shall be with them in a quar- 
ter of an hour afterwards, you will do me a great service." 

" I wish I could do you, or any of you, a greater," said 
Miss La Creevy ; " but the_power to serve, is as seldom jo ined 



TalKmg on very fast and very much, Miss La Creevy 
finished her breakfast with great expedition, put away the tea- 
caddy and hid the key under the fender, resumed her bonnet, 
and, taking Nicholas's arm, sallied forth at once into the city. 
Nicholas left her near the door of his mother's house, and 
promised to return within a quarter of an hour. 

It so chanced that Ralph Nickleby, at length seeing fit, 
for his own purposes, to communicate the atrocities of which 
Nicholas had been guilty, had (instead of first proceeding to 
another quarter of the town on business, as Newman Noggs 
supposed he would) gone straight to his sister-in-law. Hence, 
when Miss La Creevy, admitted by a girl who was cleaning 
the house, made her wav to the sitting-room, she found Mrs. 
Nickleby and Kate in tears, and Ralph just concluding his 
statement of his nephew's misdemeanors. Kate beckoned 
her not to retire, and Miss La Creevy took a seat in silence. 

" You are here already, are you, my gentleman ? " thought 
the little woman. " Then he shall announce himself, and see 
what effect that has on you." 

" This is pretty," said Ralph, folding up Miss Squeers's 
note ; " very pretty. I recommended him — against all my 
jDrevious conviction, for I knew he would never do any good — 
to a man with whom, behaving himself properly, he might 
have remained, in comfort, for years. What is the result ? 
Conduct, for which he might hold up his hand at the Old 
Bailey." 

" I never will believe it," said Kate, indignantly ; " never. 
It is some base conspiracy, which carries its own falsehood 
with it." 

" My dear " said Ralph, " you wrong the worthy man. 
These are not inventions. The man is assaulted, your brother 
is not to be found ; this boy, of whom they speak, goes with 
him — remember, remember." 

" It is impossible," said Kate. " Nicholas ! — and a thief, 
too ! Mamma, how can you sit and hear such statements ? " 



252 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Poor Mrs. Nickleby, who had, at no time, been remarkable 
for the possession of a very clear understanding, and who had 
been reduced by the late changes in her aifairs to a most 
complicated state of perplexity, made no other reply to this 
earnest remonstrance than exclaiming from behind a mass of 
pocket-handkerchief, that she never could have believed it — 
thereby most ingeniously leaving her hearers to suppose that 
she did believe it. 

" It would be my duty, if he came in my way, to deliver 
him up to justice," said Ralph, " my bounden duty ; I should 
have no other course, as a man of the world and a man of 
business, to pursue. And yet," said Ralph, speaking in a 
very marked manner, and looking furtively, but fixedly, at 
Kate, " and yet I would not. I would spare the feelings of 
his — of his sister. And his mother of course," added Ralph, 
as though by afterthought, and with far less emphasis. 

Kate very well understood that this was held out as an 
additional inducement to her, to preserve the strictest silence 
regarding the events of the preceding night. She looked 
involuntarily towards Ralph as he ceased to speak, but he 
had turned his eyes another way, and seemed for the moment 
quite unconscious of her presence. 

" Everj'thing," said Ralph, after a long silence, broken 
only by Mrs. Nickleby's sobs, "everything combines to prove 
the truth of this letter, if indeed there were any possibility of 
disputing it. Do innocent men steal away from the sight of 
honest folks and skulk in hiding-places, like outlaws .-' Do 
innocent men inveigle nameless vagabonds, and prowl with 
them about the country as idle robbers do ? Assault, riot, 
theft, what do you call these .'' " 

"A lie ! " cried a voice, as the door was dashed open, and 
Nicholas came into the room. 

In the first moment of surprise, and possibly of alarm, 
Ralph rose from his seat, and fell back a few paces, quite 
taken off his guard by this unexpected apparition. In another 
moment, he stood, fixed and immovable with folded arms, 
regarding his nephew with a scowl ; while Kate and Miss 
La Creevy threw themselves between the two, to prevent the 
personal violence which the fierce excitement of Nicholas 
appeared to threaten. 

" Dear Nicholas," cried his sister, clinging to him. "Be 
calm, consider " 

" Consider, Kate ! " cried Nicholas, clasping her hand so 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 253 

tight, in the tumult of his anger, that she could scarcely bear 
the pain. " When I consider all, and think of what has 
passed, I need be made of iron to stand before him." 

" Or bronze," said Ralph quietly ■ '.' there is not hardihood 
enough in fiesh and blood to face it out." 

"Oh dear, dear ! " cried Mrs. Nickleby, " that things should 
have come to such a pass as this." 

"Who speaks in a tone, as if I had done wrong, and 
brought disgrace on them ? " said Nicholas, looking round. 

"Your mother, sir?" replied Ralph, motioning towards 
her. 

" Whose ears have been poisoned by you," said Nicholas ; 
" by you — who, under pretence of deserving the thanks she 
poured upon you, heaped every insult, wrong, and indignity, 
upon my head. You, who sent me to a den where sordid 
cruelty, worthy of yourself, runs wanton, and youthful misery 
stalks precocious ; where the hghtness of childhood shrinks 
into the heaviness of age, and its ever>' promise blights, and 
withers as it grows. I call Heaven to witness," said Nicholas, 
looking eagerly round, " that I have seen all this, and that he 
knows it." 

" Refute these calumnies," said Kate, " and be more 
patient, so that you may give them no advantage. Tell us 
what you really did, and show that they are untrue." 

" Of what do they — or of what does he — accuse me ? " said 
Nicholas. 

" First, of attacking your master, and being within an ace 
of qualifying yourself 'to be tried for murder," interposed 
Ralph, "I speak plainly, young man, bluster as you will." 

" I interfered," said Nicholas, " to save a miserable 
creature from the vilest cruelty. In so doing. I inflicted such 
punishment upon a wretch as he will not readily forget, though 
far less than he deserved from me. If the same scene were 
renewed before me now, I would take the same part ; but I 
would strike harder and heavier, and brand him with such 
marks as he should carry to his grave, go to it when he 
would." 

" You hear ? " said Ralph, turning to Mrs. Nickleby. 

" Penitence, this ! " 

" Oh dear me ! " cried Mrs. Nickleby, " I don't know what 
to think, I really don't." 

" Do not speak just now, mamma, I entreat you." said 
Kate. " Dear Nicholas, I only tell you, that you may know 



254 NICHOLAS NICKL EB Y. 

what wickedness can prompt, but they accuse you of — a ring 
is missing, and they dare to say that — " 

"The woman," said Nicholas, haughtily, "the wife of the 
fellow from whom these charges come, dropped — as I suppose 
— a worthless ring among some clothes of mine, early in the 
morning on which I left the house. At least I know that 
she was in the bedroom where they lay, struggling with an un- 
happy child, and that I found it when I opened my bun- 
dle on the road. I returned it, at once, by coach, and they 
have it now." 

" I knew, I knew," said Kate looking towards her uncle. 
" About this boy, love, in whose company they say you left ? " 

" The boy, a silly, helpless creature, from brutality and 
hard usage, is with me now," rejoined Nicholas. 

" You hear ? " said Ralph, appealing to the mother again, 
" everything proved even upon his own confession. Do you 
choose to restore that boy, sir ? " 

"No. I do not," replied Nicholas. 

" You do not .-* " sneered Ralph. 

"No," repeated Nicholas, " not to the man with whom I 
found him. I would that I knew on whom he has the claim of 
birth : I might wring something from his sense of shame, if 
he were dead to every tie of nature." 

" Indeed ! " said Ralph. " Now, sir, will you hear a word 
or two from me ? " 

" You can speak when, and what you please," replied Nich- 
olas, embracing his sister. " 1 take little heed of what you 
say or threaten." 

" Mighty well, sir," retorted Ralph ; " but perhaps it may 
concern others, who may think it worth their while to listen and 
consider what I tell them. I will address your mother, sir, 
who knows the world." 

" Ah ! and I only too dearly wish I didn't," sobbed Mrs. 
Nickleby. 

There really was no necessity for the good lady to be much 
distressed upon this particular head ; the extent of her worldly 
knowledge being, to say the least, very questionable ; and so 
Ralph seemed to think, for he smiled as she spoke. He then 
glanced steadily at her and Nicholas by turns, as he delivered 
himself in these words : 

"Of what I have done, or what I meant to do for you 
ma'am and my niece, I say not one syllable. 1 held out 
no promise, and leave you to judge for yourself. 1 hold out 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 255 

no threat now, but I say that this boy, headstrong, wilful, and 
disorderly as he is, should not have one penny of my money, 
or one crust of my bread, or one grasp of my hand to save 
him from the loftiest gallows in all Europe. I will not meet 
him, come where he comes, or hear his name. I will not help 
him, or those who help him. With a full knowledge of what 
he brought upon you by so doing, he has come back in his 
selfish sloth, to be an aggravation of your wants, and a burden 
upon his sister's scanty wages. I regret to leave you, and 
more to leave her, now, but I will not encourage this com- 
pound of meanness and cruelty, and, as 1 will not ask you to 
renounce him, I see you no more." 

If Ralph had not known and felt his power in wounding 
those he hated, his glance at Nicholas would have shown it 
hinV in all its force, as he proceeded in the above address. 
Innocent as the young man was, of all wrong, every artful in- 
sinuation stung, every well-considered sarcasm cut him to the 
quick ; and when Ralph noted his pale face and quivering 
lip, he hugged himself to mark how well he had chosen the 
taunts best calculated to strike deep into the young and ardent 
spirit. 

" I can't help it," cried Mrs. Nickleby, " I know you have 
been very good to us, and meant to do a good deal for my 
dear daughter. I am quite sure of that ; I know you did, 
and it was veiy kind of you, having her at your house and all 
— and of course it would have been a great thing for her and 
for me too. But I can't, you know, brother-in-law, I can't re- 
nounce my own son, even if he has done all you say he has — 
it's not possible ; I couldn't do it ; so we must go to rack and 
ruin, Kate, my dear. I can bear it, I dare say." Pouring forth 
these and a perfectly wonderful train of other disjointed ex- 
pressions of regret which no mortal power but Mrs. Nickleby's 
could ever have strung together, that lady wrung her hands, 
and her tears fell faster. 

"Why do you say ' //"Nicholas has done what they say he 
has,' mamma ? " asked Kate with honest anger. " You know 
he has not." 

" I don't know what to think, one way or other, my 
dear," said Mrs. Nickleby ; " Nicholas is so violent, and your 
uncle has so much composure, that I can only hear what he 
says, and not what Nicholas does. Never mind, don't let us 
talk any more about it. We can go to the \A'orkhouse, or the 
Refuge for the Destitute, or the Magdalen Hospital, I dare 



2^6 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

say : and the sooner we go the better." With this extraor- 
dinary jumble of charitable institutions, Mrs. Nickleby again 
gave way to her tears. 

" Stay," said Nicholas, as Ralph turned to go. " You 
need not leave this place sir, for it will be relieved of my pres- 
ence in one minute, and it will be long, very long before I 
darken these doors again." 

" Nicholas," cried Kate, throwing herself on her brother's 
shoulder, " do not say so. My dear brother, you will break 
my heart. Mamma, speak to him. Do not mind her, Nich- 
olas ; she does not mean it, you should know her better. Uncle, 
somebody, for Heaven's sake speak to him." 

" I never meant, Kate," said Nicholas tenderly, " I never 
meant to stay among you ; think better of me than to suppose 
it possible. I may turn my back on this town a few hours 
sooner than I intended, but what of that ? We shall not for- 
get each other apart, and better daj^s will come when we shall 
part no more. Be a woman Kate," he whispered, proudly, 
" and do not make me one while he looks on." 

"No, no, I will not," said Kate eagerly, "but you will not 
leave us. Oh ! think of all the happy days we have had to- 
gether, befcra these terrible misfortunes came upon us ; of all 
the comfort and happiness of home, and the trials we have to 
bear now ; of our having no protector under all the slights and 
wrongs that poverty so much favors, and you cannot leave us 
to bear them alone, without one hand to help us." 

" You will be helped when I am away," replied Nicholas, 
hurriedly. " I am no help to you, no protector ; \ should 
bring you nothing but sorrow, and want, and suffering. My 
own mother sees it, and her fondness and fears for you point 
to the course that I should take. And so all good angels 
bless you, Kate, till I can carry you to some home of mine, 
where we may revive the happiness denied to us now, and talk 
of these trials as of things gone by. Do not keep me here, 
but let me go at once. There. Dear girl — dear girl." 

The grasp which had detained him, relaxed, and Kate 
swooned in his arms. Nicholas stooped over her, for a few 
seconds, and placing her gently in a chair, confided her to 
their honest friend. 

" I need not entreat your symyathy," he said, wringing her 
hand, "for I know your nature. You will never forget 
them." 

He stepped up to Ralph, who remained in the same attitude 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 257 

which he had preserved throughout the interview, and moved 
not a finger. 

" Whatever step you take, sir," he said, in a voice inaudi- 
ble beyond themselves, " I shall keep a strict account of. I 
leave them to you at your desire. There will be a day of 
reckoning sooner or later, and it will be a heavy one for you if 
they are wronged." 

Ralph did not allow a muscle of his face to indicate that 
he heard one word of this parting address. He hardly 
knew that it was concluded, and Mrs. Nickleby had scarcely 
made up her mind to detain her son by force if necessary, 
when Nicholas was gone. 

As he hurried through the streets to his obscure lodging 
seeking to keep pace, as it were, with the rapidity of the 
thoughts which crowded upon him, many doubts and hesita- 
tions arose in his mind, and almost tempted him to return. 
But what would they gain by this .-• Supposing he were to put 
Ralph Nickleby at defiance, and were even fortunate enough 
to obtain some small employment, his being with them could 
only render their present condition worse, and might greatly 
impair their future prospects ; for his mother had spoken of 
some new kindnesses towards Kate which she had not denied. 
"No," thought Nicholas, " I have acted for the best." 

But, before he had gone five hundred yards, some other 
and different feeling would come upon him, and then he 
would lag again, and pulling his hat over his eyes, give way 
to the melancholy reflections which pressed thickly upon him. 
To have committed no fault, and yet to be so entirely alone 
in the world ; to be separated from the only persons he loved, 
and to be proscribed like a criminal, when six months ago he 
had been surrounded by every comfort, and looked up to, as 
the chief hope of his family — this was hard to bear. He had 
not deserved it either. Well, there was comfort in that ; 
and poor Nicholas would brighten up again, to be again de- 
pressed, as his quickly shifting thoughts jj resented every va- 
riety of light and shade before him. 

Undergoing these alternations of hope and misgiving, 
which no one, placed in a situation of ordinary trial, can fail 
to have experienced, Nicholas at length reached his poor 
room, where, no longer borne up by the excitement which 
had hitherto sustained him, but depressed by the revulsion of 
feeling it left behind, he threw himself on the bed, and turn- 

17 



258 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



ing his face to the wall, gave free vent to the emotions he had 
so long stifled. 

He. had not heard anybody enter, and was unconscious of 
the presence of Smike, until, happening to raise his head, he 
saw him, standing at the upper end of the room, looking 
wistfully towards him. He withdrew his eyes when he saw 
that he was observed, and affected to be busied with some 
scanty preparations for dinner. 

"Well, Smike," said Nicholas, as cheerfully as he could 
speak, " let me hear what new acquaintances you have made 
this morning, or what new wonder you have found out, in the 
compass of this street and the next one." 

" No," said Smike, shaking his head mournfully ; " I must 
talk of something else to-day." 

"Of what you like," replied Nicholas, good-humoredly. 

" Of this ; " said Smike. " I know you are unhappy, and 
have got into great trouble by bringing me away. I ought to 
have known that and stopped behind — I would, indeed, if I 
had thought it then. You — you — are not rich : you have not 
enough for yourself, and I should not be here. You grow," 
said the lad, laying his hand timidly on that of Nicholas, "you 
grow thinner every day; your cheek is paler, and your eye 
more sunk. Indeed I cannot bear to see you so, and think 
how I am burdening you. I tried to go away to-day, but the 
thought of your kind face drew me back. I could not leave 
you without a word." The poor fellow could say no more, 
for his eyes filled with tears, and his voice was gone. 

"The word which separates us," said Nicholas, grasping 
him heartily by the shoulder, " shall never be said by me, for 
you are my only comfort and stay. I would not lose you 
now, Smike, for all the world could give. The thought of 
you has upheld me through all I have endured to-day, and 
shall, through fifty times such trouble. Give me your hand. 
My heart is linked to yours. We will journey from this place 
together, before the week is out. What, if I am steeped in 
poverty ? You lighten it, and we will be poor together." 



NICHOLAS NJCKLEBY. 



259 



CHAPTER XXI. 

MADAME MANTALINI FINDS HERSELF IN A SITUATION OF 
SOME DIFFICULTY, AND MISS NICKLEBY FINDS HERSELF 
IN NO SITUATION AT ALL. 

The agitation she had undergone, rendered Kate Nickleby 
unable to resume her duties at the dress-maker's for three 
days, at the expiration of which interval she betook herself at 
the accustomed hour, and with languid steps, to the temple 
of fashion where Madame Mantalini reigned paramount and 
supreme. 

The ill will of Miss Knag had lost nothing of its virulence, 
in the interval. The young ladies still scrupulously shrunk 
from all companionship with their denounced associate ; and 
when that exemplary female arrived a few minutes afterwards, 
she was at no pains to conceal the displeasure with which she 
regarded Kate's return. 

'' Upon my word ! " said Miss Knag, as the satellites 
flocked round, to relieve her of her bonnet and shawl ; " I 
should have thought some people would have had spirit 
enough to stop away altogether, when they know what an in- 
cumbrance their presence is to right-minded persons. But it's 
a queer world ; oh ! it's a queer world ! " 

Miss Knag, having passed this comment on the world, in 
the tone in which most people do pass comments on the world 
when they are out of temper, that is to say, as if they by no 
means belonged to it, concluded by heaving a sigh, where- 
with she seemed meekly to compassionate the wickedness of 
mankind. 

The attendants were not slow to echo the sigh, and IVIiss 
Knag was apparently on the eve of favoring them with some 
further moral reflections, when the voice of Madame Manta- 
lini, conveyed through the speaking-tube, ordered Miss Nick- 
elby up stairs to assist in the arrangement of the show-room ; 
a distinction which caused Miss Knag to toss her head so 
much, and bite her lip so hard, that her powers of conversa- 
tion were, for the time, annihilated. 



26o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Well, Miss Nickleby, child," said Madame Mantalini, 
when Kate presented herself ; " are you quite well again ? " 

" A great deal better, thank you," replied Kate. 

"I wish I could say the same," remarked Madame Man- 
talini, seating herself with an air of weariness. 

" Are you ill .'' " asked Kate. " I am very sorry for that." 

"Not exactly ill, but worried, child — worried." 

" I am still more sorry to hear that," said Kate, gently. 
*' Bodily illness is more easy to bear, than mental." 

"Ah land it's much easier to talk than to bear either," 
said Madame, rubbing her nose with much irritability of man- 
ner. " There, get to your work, child, and put the things in 
order, do." 

While Kate was wondering within herself what these symp- 
toms of unusual vexation portended, Mr. Mantalini put the 
tips of his whiskers, and. by degrees, his head, through the 
half-opened door, and cried in a soft voice — 

" Is my life and soul there ? " 

" No," replied his wife. 

" How can it say so, when it is blooming in the front room 
like a little rose in a demnition flower-pot .'' " urged Mantalini, 
" May its poppet come in and talk ? " 

"Certainly not," replied Madame; "you know I never 
allow you here. Go along ! " 

The poppet, however, encouraged perhaps by the relenting 
tone of this reply, ventured to rebel, and stealing into the 
room, made towards Madame Mantalini on tiptoe, blowing her 
a kiss as he came along. 

" Why will it vex itself, and twist its little face into be- 
witching nutcrackers ? " said Mantalini, putting his left arm 
round the waist' of his life and- soul, and drawing her towards 
him with his right. 

"Oh ! I can't bear you," replied his wife. 

"Not — eh, not bear w^ .'' " exclaimed Mantalini. "Fibs, 
fibs. It couldn't be. There's not a woman alive, that could 
tell me such a thing to my face — to my own face." Mr. 
Mantalini stroked his chin as he said this, and glanced com- 
placently at an opposite mirror. 

" Such destructive extravagance," reasoned his wife, in a 
low tone. 

" All in its joy at having gained such a lovely creature, 
such a little Venus, such a demd enchanting, bewitching, 
engrossing, captivating little Venus," said Mantalini. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 261 

" See what a situation you have placed me in ! " urged 
Madame. 

" No harm will come, no harm shall come, to its own dar- 
ling," rejoined Mr. Mantalini. " It is all over; there will be 
nothing the matter ; money shall be got in ; and if it don't 
come in fast enough, old Nickleby shall stump up again, or 
have his jugular separated if he dares to vex and hurt the 
little " 

" Hush ! " interposed Madame. " Don't you see t " 

Mr. Mantalini,. who, in his eagerness to make up matters 
with his wife, had overlooked, or feigned to overlook. Miss 
Nickleby hitherto, took the hint, and laying his finger on his 
lip, sunk his voice still lower. There was, then, a great deal 
of whispering, during which Madame Mantalini appeared to 
make reference, more than once, to certain debts incurred by 
Mr. Mantalini previous to her coverture ; and also to an un- 
expected outlay of money in payment of the aforesaid debts ; 
and furthermore, to certain agreeable weaknesses on that 
gentleman's part, such as gaming, wasting, idling, and a 
tendency to horse-flesh ; each of which matters of accusation 
Mr. Mantalini disposed of, by one kiss or more, as its relative 
importance demanded. The upshot of it all, was, that Madame 
Mantalini was in raptures with him, and that they went up 
stairs to breakfast. 

Kate busied herself in what she had to do, and was silently 
arranging the various articles of decoration in the best taste 
she could display, when she started to hear a strange man's 
voice in the room, and started again, to observe, on looking 
round, that a white hat, and a red neckerchief, and a broad 
round face, and a large head, and part of a green coat were in 
the room too. 

" Don't alarm yourself, Miss," said the proprietor of these 
appearances. " I say ; this here's the mantie-making consarn, 
a'nt it ? " 

"Yes," rejoined Kate, greatly astonished. "What did 
you want .'' " 

The stranger answered not ; but, first looking back, as 
though to beckon to some unseen person outside, came, very 
deliberately, into the room and was closely followed by a 
little man in brown, very much the worse for wear, who 
brought with him a mingled fumigation of stale tobacco and 
fresh onions. The clothes of this gentleman were much be- 
speckled with flue : and his shoes, stockings, and nether 



262 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, 

garments, from his heels to the waist buttons of his coat in- 
clusive, were profusely embroidered with splashes of mud, 
caught a fortnight previously — before the setting-in of the fine 
weather. 

Kate's very natural impression was, that these engaging 
individuals had called with the view of possessing themselves, 
unlawfully, of any portable articles that chanced to strike their 
fancy. She did not attempt to disguise her apprehensions, 
and made a move towards the door. 

" Wait a minnit," said the man in the green coat, closing 
it softly, and standing with his back against it. " This is a 
unpleasant bisness. Vere's your govvernor ? " 

" My what — did you say ? " asked Kate, trembling ; for 
she thought " governor " might be slang for watch or money. 

" Mr. Muntlehiney," said the man. " Wot's come on him ? 
Is he at home ? " 

" He is above stairs, I believe," replied Kate, a little re- 
assured by this inquiry. " Do you Avant him ? " 

"No," replied the visitor. " I don't ezactly want him, if 
it's made a favor on. You can jist give him that 'ere card, 
and tell him if he wants to speak to me, and save trouble, here 
^ am ; that's all." 

With these words, the stranger put a thick square card into 
Kate's hand, and, turning to his friend, remarked, with an 
easy air, " that the rooms was a good high pitch ; " to which 
the friend assented, adding, by way of illustration, " that there 
was lots of room for a little boy to grow up a man in either on 
'em, vithout much fear of his ever bringing his head into con- 
tract vith the ceiling." 

After rinsfing: the bell which would summon Madame 
Mantalini, Kate glanced at the card, and saw that it displayed 
the name of " Scaley," together with some other information 
to which she had not had time to refer, when her attention 
was attracted by Mr. Scaley himself, who, walking up to one 
of the cheval glasses, gave it a hard poke in the centre with 
his stick, as coolly as if it had been made of cast iron. 

" Good plate this here, Tix," said Mr. Scaley to his friend. 

" Ah ! " rejoined Mr. Tix, placing the marks of his four 
fingers, and a duplicate impression of his thumb on a piece of 
sky-blue silk ; " and this here article warn't made for nothing, 
mind you." 

From the silk, Mr. Tix transferred his admiration to some 
elegant articles of wearing apparel, while Mr. Scaley adjusted 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



263 



his neckcloth, at leisure, before the glass, and afterwards, 
aided by its reflection, proceeded to the minute consideration 
of a pimple on his chin ; in which absorbing occupation he 
was yet engaged, when Madame Mantalini entering the room, 
uttered an exclamation of surprise which roused him. 

"Oh ! Is this the missis ? " inquired Scaley. 

" It is Madame Mantalini," said Kate. 

"Then,'.' said Mr. Scaley, producing a small document 
from his pocket and unfolding it very slowly, " this is a writ 
of execution, and if it's not conwenient to settle we'll go 
over the house at wunst, please, and take the inwentory." 

Poor Madame Mantalini wrung her hands for grief, and 
rung the b-?ll for her husband ; which done, she fell into a 
chair and a fainting fit, simultaneousl}'. The professional 
gentlemen, however, were not at all discomposed by this event, 
for Mr. Scaley, leaning upon a stand on which a handsome 
dress was displayed (so that his shoulders appeared above it, 
in nearly the same manner as the shoulders of the lady for 
whom it was designed would have done if she had had it on), 
pushed his hat on one side and scratched his head with per- 
fect unconcern, while his friend Mr. Tix, taking that oppor- 
tunity for a general survey of the apartment preparatoiy tg 
entering on business, stood with his inventory-book under his 
arm, and his hat in his hand, mentally occupied in putting a 
price upon every object within his range of vision. 

Such was the posture of affairs when Mr. Mantalini 
hurried in ; and as that distinguished specimen had had a 
pretty extensive intercourse with Mr. Scaley's fraternity in his 
bachelor days, and was, besides, very far from being taken 
by surprise on the present agitating occasion, he merely 
shrugged his shoulders, thrust his hands down to the bottom 
of his pockets, elevated his eyebrows, whistled a bar or two, 
swore an oath or two, and, sitting astride upon a chair, put 
the best face upon the matter with great composure and 
decency. 

" What's the demd total ? " was the first question he 
asked. 

" Fifteen hundred and twenty-seven pound, four and nine- 
pence ha'penny," replied Mr. Scaley, without moving a limb. 

" The halfpenny be demd," said Mr. Mantalini, impatiently. 

" By all means if you vish it," retorted Mr. Scaley ; " and 
the ninepence." 

" It don't matter to us if the fifteen hundred and twenty- 



264 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

seven pound went along with it, that I know on," observed 
Mr. Tix. 

" Not a button," said Scaley. 

"Well ;" said the same gentleman, after a pause, " Wot's 
to be done — anything ? Is it only a small crack, or a out- 
and-out smash ? A break-up of the constitootion is it — werry 
good. Then Mr. Tom Tix, esk-vire, you must inform your 
angel wife and lovely family as you won't sleep at home for 
three nights to come, along of being in possession here. 
Wot's the good of the lady a fretting herself ? " continued 
Mr. Scaley, as Madame Mantalini sobbed. " A good half of 
wot's here, isn't paid for, I des-say, and wot a consolation 
oughtn't that to be to her feelings ! " 

With these remarks, combining great pleasantry with sound 
moral encouragement under difficulties, Mr. Scaley proceeded 
to take the inventory, in which task he was materially assisted 
by the uncommon tact and experience of Mr. Tix, the broker. 
" My cup of happiness's sweetener," said Mantalini, ap- 
proaching his wife with a penitent air ; " will you listen to me 
for two minutes ? " 

" Oh ! don't speak to me," replied his wife, sobbing, 
"You have ruined me, and that's enough." 

Mr. Mantalini, who had doubtless well considered his part, 
no sooner heard these words pronounced in a tone of grief 
and severity, than he recoiled several paces, assumed an ex- 
pression of consuming mental agony, rushed headlong from 
the room, and was, soon afterwards, heard to slam the door 
of an up stairs dressing-room with great violence. 

" Miss Nickleby," cried Madame Mantalini, when this 
sound met her ear, "make haste for Heaven's sake, he will 
destroy himself ! I spoke unkindly to him, and he cannot 
bear it from me. Alfred, my darling Alfred." 

With such exclamations, she hurried up stairs, followed by 
Kate, who, although she did not quite participate in the fond 
wife's apprehensions, was a little flurried, nevertheless. The 
dressing-room door being hastily flung open, Mr. Mantalini 
was disclosed to view, with his shirt-collar symmetrically 
thrown back ; putting a line edge to a breakfast knife by 
means of his razor strop. 

" Ah ! " cried Mr. Mantalini, " Interrupted ! " and whisk 
went the breakfast knife into Mr. Mantalini's dressing-gown 
pocket, while Mr. Mantalini's eyes rolled wildly, and his hair 
floating in wild disorder, mingled with his whiskers. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



265 



" Alfred," cried his wife, flinging her arms about him, " I 
didn't mean to say it, I didn't mean to say it ! " 

" Ruined ! " cried Mr. Mantalini. " Have I brought ruin 
upon the best and purest creature that ever blessed a demni- 
tion vagabond ! Demmit, let me go." At this crisis of his 
ravings Mr. Mantalini made a pluck at the breakfast knife, 
and being restrained by his wife's grasp, attempted to dash 
his head against the wall — taking very good care to be at 
least six feet from it. 

"Compose yourself, my own angel," said Madame. "It 
was nobody's fault ; it was mine as much as yours, we shall 
do very well yet. Come, Alfred, come." 

Mr. Mantalini did not think proper to come to, all at 
once ; but, after calling several times for poison, and request- 
ing some lady or gentleman to blow his brains out, gentler 
feelings came upon him, and he wept pathetically. In this 
softened frame of mind he did not oppose the capture of the 
knife — which, to tell the truth, he was rather glad to be rid 
of, as an inconvenient and dangerous article for a skirt pocket 
— and finally he suffered »himself to be led away, by his affec- 
tionate partner. 

After a delay of two or three hours, the young ladies were 
informed that their ser\'ices would be dispensed with, until 
further notice, and at the expiration of two days, the name 
of Mantalini appeared in the list of bankrupts : Miss Nickleby 
received an intimation per post, the same morning, that the 
business would be, in future, carried on under the name of 
Miss Knag, and that her assistance would no longer be re- 
quired — a piece of intelligence with which Mrs. Nickleby was 
no sooner made acquainted, than that good lady declared she 
had expected it all along, and cited divers unknown occasions 
on which she had prophesied to that precise effect, 

"And I say again," remarked Mrs. Nickleby (who, it is 
scarcely necessary to obsen-e, had never said so before), " I 
say again, that a milliner's and dress-maker's is the \ ery last 
description of business, Kate, that you should have thought 
of attaching yourself to. I don't make it a reproach to you, 
my love ; but still I will say, that if you had consulted your 
mother " 

"Well, well, mama," said Kate, mildly ; "what would you 
recommend now ? " 

" Recommend ! " cried Mrs. Nickleby, " isn't it obvious, 
my dear, that of all occupations in this world for a young lady 



266 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

situated as you are, that of companion to some amiable lady 
is the very thing for which your education, and manners, and 
personal appearance, and everything else, exactly qualify you ? 
Did you never hear your poor dear papa speak of the young 
lady who was the daughter of the old lady who boarded in the 
same house that he boarded in once, when he was a bachelor 
— what was her name again ? I know it began with a B, and 
ended with a g, but whether it was Waters or — no it couldn't 
have been that, either ; but whatever her name was, don't you 
know that that young lady went as companion to a married 
lady who died soon afterwards, and that she married the hus- 
band, and had one of the finest little boys that the medical 
man had ever seen — all within eighteen months. 

Kate knew, perfectly well, that this torrent of favorable 
recollection was occasioned by some opening, real or imagin- 
ar}', which her mother had discovered, in the companionship 
walk of life. She therefore waited, very patiently, until all 
reminiscences and anecdotes, bearing or not bearing upon the 
subject, had been exhausted, and at last ventured to inquire 
what discovery had been made. The truth then came out. 
Mrs. Nickleby had, that morning, had a yesterday newspaper 
of the very first respectability from the public-house where the 
porter came from ; and in this yesterday's newspaper was an 
advertisement, couched in the purest and most grammatical 
English, announcing that a married lady was in want of a gen- 
teel young person as companion, and that the married lady's 
name and address were to be known, on application at a cer- 
tain library at the west end of the town, therein mentioned. 

"And I say," exclaimed Mrs. Nickleby, laying the paper 
down in triumph, " that if your uncle don't object, it's well 
worth the trial." 

Kate was too sick at heart, after the rough jostling she 
had already had with the world, and really cared too little at 
the moment what fate was reserved for her, to make any ob- 
jection. Mr. Ralph Nickleby offered none, but, on the contrary, 
highly approved of the suggestion ; neither did he express any 
great surprise at Madame Mantalini's sudden failure, indeed 
it would have been strange if he had, inasmuch as it had been 
procured and brought about, chiefly by himself. So, the name 
and address were obtained without loss of time, and Miss 
Nickleby and her mama went off in quest of Mrs. Wititterly, 
of Cadogan Place, Sloane Street, that same forenoon. 

Cadogan Place is the one slight bond that joins two great 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



267 



extremes ; it is the connecting- linl< between the aristocratic 
piil IljIIIL'IIIs uf"-B e^-graTr-^'qTtare, niul tin: liailiarism of Clielbca. 
It~i> ill ^l.-ant: StiY-ct, Irmt not of it. Tlic people ia Cad(iL;'an 
FTace look down upon Sloane Street, and think Brompton low. 
They affect fashion too, and wonder where the New Road is. 
Not that they claim to be on precisely the same footing as the 
high folks of Belgrave Square and Grosvenor Place, but that 
they stand, with reference to them, rather in the light of those 
illegitimate children of the great who are content to boast of 
their connections, although their connections disavow them. 
Wearing as much as they can of the airs and semblances of 
loftiest rank, the people of Cadogan Place have the realities 
of middle station. It is the conductor which communicates to 
the inhabitants of regions beyond its limit, the shock of pride 
of birth and rank, which it has not within itself, but derives 
from a fountain-head beyond ; or, like the ligament which 
unites the Siamese twins, it contains something of the life and 
essence of two distinct bodies, and yet belongs to neither. 

Upon this doubtful ground, li\-ed Mrs. Wititterly, and at 
Mrs. Wititterly's door Kate Nickleby knocked with trembling 
hand. The door was opened by a big footman with his head 
floured, or chalked, or painted in some way (it didn't look 
genuine powder), and the big footman, receiving the card of 
introduction, gave it to a little page ; so little, indeed, that his 
body would not hold, in ordinary array, the number of small 
buttons which are indispensable to a page's costume, and they 
were consequently obliged to be stuck on four abreast. This 
young gentleman took the card up stairs on a salver, and 
pending his return, Kate and her mother were shown into a 
dining-room of rather dirty and shabby aspect, and so com- 
fortably arranged as to be adapted to almost any purpose 
rather than eating and drinking. 

Now, in the ordinary course of things, and according to 
all authentic descriptions of high life, as set forth in books, 
Mrs. Wititterly ought to have been in her boudoir ; but 
whether it was that Mr. Wititterly was at that moment shav- 
ing himself in the boudoir or what not, certain it is that Mrs. 
Wititterly gave audience in the drawing-room, where was ever)-- 
thing proper and necSssar)^, including curtains and furniture 
coverings of a roseate hue, to shed a delicate bloom on Mrs. 
Wititterly's complexion, and a little dog to snap at strangers' 
legs for Mrs. \\''ititterly's amusement, and the afore-mentioned" 
page, to hand chocolate for Mrs. Wititterly's refreshment. 



268 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

pfhe lady had an air of sweet insipidity, and a face of 
engi^ing paleness ; there was a faded look about her, and 
about the furnitur e, an d about the hoTis^ She was reclining 
T)li A"bofa in sugl'i a '-' V ' b 'i'y uiislucliecl attitude, that she might 
have been taken for an actress all ready for the first scene in 
a ballet, and only waiting for the drop curtain to go up. 
" Place chairs." 
The page placed them. 
" Leave the room, Alphonse." 

The page left it ; but if ever an Alphonse carried plain 
Bill in his face and figure, that page was the boy. 

" I have ventured to call, ma'am," said Kate, after a few 
seconds of awkward silence, " from having seen your adver- 
tisement." 

" Yes," replied Mrs. Wititterly, " one of my people put it 
in the paper. — Yes." 

" I thought, perhaps," said Kate, modestly, " that if you 
had not already made a final choice, you would forgive my 
troubling you with an application." 

" Yes," drawled Mrs. Wititterly again. 

" If you have already made a selection " 

" Oh dear no," interrupted the lady, " I am not so easily 
suited. I really don't know what to say. You have never 
been a companion before, have you ? " 

Mrs. Nickleby, who had been eagerly watching her oppor- 
tunity, came dexterously in, before Kate could reply. " Not 
to any stranger, ma'am," said the good lady ; "but she has 
been a companion to me for some years. I am her mother, 
ma'am." 

" Oh ! " said Mrs. Wititterly, " I apprehend you." 
" I assure you, ma'am," said Mrs. Nickleby, " that I very 
little thought, at one time, that it would be necessary for my 
daughter to go out into the world at all, for her poor dear 
papa was an independent gentleman, and would have been at 
this moment if he had but listened in time to my constant 

entreaties and " 

" Dear mama," said Kate, in a low voice. 
" My dear Kate, if you will allow me to speak," said Mrs. 
Nickleby, "I shall take the liberty of explaining to this 

lady " 

" I think it is almost unnecessar)', mama." 
And notwithstanding all the frowns and winks with which 
Mrs. Nickleby intimated that she was going to say something 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 269 

which would clench the business at once, Kate maintained 
her point by an expressive look, and for once Mrs. Nickleby 
was stopped upon the very brink of an oration. 

" What are your accomplishments ? " asked Mrs. Wititterly, 
with her eyes shut. 

Kate blushed as she mentioned her principal acquirements, 
and Mrs. Nickleby checked them all off, one by one, on her 
flingers ; having calculated the number before she came out. 
Luckily the two calculations agreed, so Mrs. Nickleby had no 
excuse for talking. 

" You are a good temper ? " asked Mrs. Wititterly, open- 
ing her eyes for an instant, and shutting them again. 

" I hope so," rejoined Kate. 

" And have a highly respectable reference for everything, 
have you ? " 

Kate replied that she had, and laid her uncle's card upon 
the table. 

" Have the goodness to draw your chair a little nearer, 
and let me look at you," said Mrs. Wititterly ; " I am so very 
near-sighted that I can't quite discern your features." 

Kate complied, though not without some embarrassment, 
with this request, and Mrs. Wititterly took a languid survey 
of her countenance, which lasted some two or three minutes. 

" I like your appearance," said that lady, ringing a little 
bell. " Alphonse, request your master to come here." 

The page disappeared on this errand, and after a short 
interval, during which not a word was spoken on either side, 
opened the door for an important gentleman of about eight- 
and-thirty, of rather plebeian countenance, and with a very light 
head of hair, who leant over Mrs. Wititterly for a little time, 
and conversed with her in whispers. 

" Oh ! " he said, turning round, "yes. This is a most im- 
portant matter. Mrs. Wititterly is of a very excitable nature ; 
very delicate, very fragile ; a hothouse plant, an exotic," 

" Oh ! Henry, my dear," interposed Mrs. Wititterly. 

" You are, my love, you know you are ; one breath — " said 
Mr. W., blowing an imaginary feather away. " Pho ! you're 
gone ! " 

The lady sighed. 

" Your soul is too large for your body," said Mr. Wititterly. 
" Your intellect wears you out ; all the medical men say so ; 
you know that there is not a physician who is not proud of 
being called in to you. What is their unanimous declaration ? 



270 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

' My dear doctor,' said I to Sir Tumley Snuffim, in this very 
room, the very last time he came. ' My dear doctor, what is 
my wife's complaint ? Tell me all. I can bear it. Is it nerves ? ' 
' My dear fellow,' he said, ' be proud of that woman ; make 
much of her ; she is an ornament to the fashionable world, 
and to you. Her complaint is soul. It swells, expands, dilates — 
the blood fires, the pulse quickens, the excitement increases — 
Whew ! ' " Here Mr. Wititterly, who in the ardor of his de- 
scription, had flourished his right hand to within something 
less than an inch of Mrs. Nickleby's bonnet, drew it hastily 
back again, and blew his nose as fiercely as if it had been 
done by some violent machinery. 

" You make me out worse than I am, Henry," said Mrs. 
Wititterly, with a faint smile. 

" I do not, Julia, I do not," said Mr. W. " The society 
in which you move — necessarily move, from your station, con- 
nection, and endowments — is one vortex and whirlpool of the 
most frightful excitement. Bless my heart and body, can I 
ever forget the night you danced with the baronet's nephew 
at the election ball, at Exeter ! It was tremendous." 

" I always suffer for these triumphs afterwards," said Mrs. 
Wititterly. 

" And for that very reason," rejoined her husband, "you 
must have a companion, in whom there is great gentleness, 
great sweetness, excessive sympathy, and perfect repose." \ 

Here, both Mr. and Mrs. Wititterly, who had talked rather 
at the Nicklebys than to each other, left off speaking, and 
looked at their two hearers, with an expression of countenance 
which seemed to say " What do you think of all this ! " 

" Mrs. Wititterly," said her husband, addressing himself 
to Mrs. Nickleby, " is sought after and courted by glittering 
crowds and brilliant circles. She is excited by the opera, the 
drama, the fine arts, the — the — the " 

"The nobility, my love," interposed Mrs. Wititterly. 

" The nobility, of course," said Mr. Wititterly. " And the 
military. She forms and expresses an immense variety of 
opinions on an immense variety of subjects. If some people 
in public life were acquainted with Mrs. Wititterly's real opin- 
ion of them, they would not hold their heads, perhaps, quite 
as high as they do." 

" Hush, Henry," said the lady ; "this is scarcely fair." 

" I mention no names, Julia," replied Mr. Wititterly; 
" and nobody is injured. I merely mention the circumstance 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 271 

to show that you are no ordinary person, that there is a con- 
stant friction perpetually going on between your mind and 
your body ; and that you must be soothed and tended. Now 
let me hear, dispassionately and calmly, what are this young 
lady's qualifications for the office." 

In obedience to this request, the qualifications w^ere all 
gone through again, with the addition of many interruptions 
and cross-questionings from Mr. Wititterly. It was finally 
arranged that inquiries should be made, and a decisive answer 
addressed to Miss Nickleby under cover to her uncle, within 
two days. These conditions agreed upon, the page showed 
them down as far as the staircase window ; and the big foot- 
man, relieving guard at that point, piloted them in perfect 
safety to the street-door. 

" They are very distinginshed people, evidently," said Mrs. 
Nickleby, as she took her daughter's arm. " What a superior 
person Mrs. Wititterly is ! " 

" Do you think so, mama ? " was all Kate's reply. 
" Why, who can help thinking so, Kate, my love ? " 
rejoined her mother. " She is pale though, and looks much 
exhausted. I hope she may not be wearing herself out, but 
I am very much afraid." 

These considerations led the deep-sighted lady into a cal- 
culation of the probable duration of Mrs. Wititterly's life, and 
the chances of the disconsolate widower bestowing his hand 
on her daughter. Before reaching home, she had freed Mrs. 
Wititterly's soul from all bodily restraint ; married Kate with 
great splendor at St. George's, Hanover Square ; and only 
left undecided the minor question, whether a splendid French- 
polished mahogany bedstead should be erected for herself in 
the two-pair back of the house in Cadogan Place, or in the 
three-pair front, between which apartments she could not 
quite balance the advantages, and therefore adjusted the ques- 
tion at last, by determining to leave it to the decision of her 
son-in-law. 

The inquiries were ma de. The ans wer — not to Kate's 
v pry- ^rWf JAT^— wis m^JfJl K^ • and"at'" TneT^in-atimi oF a 
week she betook herself, with all her movables and valuables, 
to Mrs. Wititterly's mansion, where for the present we_ will 
leave her. --.-.,,»...,.-..- .■. 



JUL 



<::yuA4iuyVi 



272 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

NICHOLAS, ACCOMPANIED BY SMIKE, SALLIES FORTH TO SEEK 
HIS FORTUNE ; HE ENCOUNTERS MR. VINCENT CRUMMLES ; 
AND WHO HE WAS, IS HEREIN MADE MANIFEST. 

The whole capital which Nicholas found himself entitled 
to, either in possession, reversion, remainder, or expectancy, 
after paying his rent and settling with the broker from whom 
he had hired his poor furniture, did not exceed, by more than 
a fevv half-pence, the sum of twenty shillings. And yet he 
hailed the morning on which he had resolved to quit London, 
with a light heart, and sprang from his bed with an elasticity 
of spirit which is happily the lot of young persons, or the world 
would never be stocked with old ones. 

It was a cold, dry, foggy morning in early spring. A few 
meagre shadows flitted to and fro in the misty streets, and oc- 
casionally there loomed through the dull vapor, the heavy 
outline of some hackney-coach wending homewards, which, 
drawing slowly nearer, rolled jangling by, scattering the thin 
crust of frost from its whitened roof and soon was lost again in 
the cloud. At intervals were heard the tread of slipshod feet, 
and the chilly cry of the poor sweep as he crept, shivering, to 
his early toil ; the heavy footfall of the official watcher of 
the night, pacing slowly up and down and cursing the tardy 
hours that still intervened between him and sleep ; the rum- 
bling of ponderous carts and wagons ; the roll of the lighter vehi- 
cles which carried buyers and sellers to the different markets ; 
the sound of ineffectual knocking at the doors of heavy sleepers 
— all these noises fell upon the ear from time to time, but all 
seemed muffied by the fog, and to be rendered almost as in- 
distinct to the ear as was every object to the sight. The 
sluggish darkness thickened as the day came on ; and those 
who had the courage to rise and peep at the gloomy street 
from their curtained windows, crept back to bed again, and 
coiled themselves up to sleep. 

Before even these indications of approaching morning 
were rife in busy London, Nicholas had made his way alone 
to the city, and stood beneath the windows of his mother's 
house. It was dull and bare to see, but it had light and life 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 273 

for him ; for there was at least one heart within its old walls 
to which insult or dishonor would brinfr the same blood rush- 
ing, that flowed in his own veins. 

He crossed the road, and raised his e3'^es to the window of 
the room where he knew his sister slept. It was closed and 
dark. " Poor girl," thought Nicholas, " she little thinks who 
lingers here ! " 

He looked again, and felt, for the moment, almost vexed 
that Kate was not there to exchange one word at parting. 
" Good God ! " he thought, suddenly correcting himself, 
" what a boy I am ! " 

" It is better as it is," said Nicholas, after he had lounged 
on, a few paces, and returned to the same spot. "When I 
left them before, and could have said good-by a thousand 
times if I had chosen, I spared them the pain of leave-taking, 
and why not now .'' " As he spoke, some fancied motion of 
the curtain almost persuaded him, for the instant, that Kate 
was at the window, and by one of those strange contradictions 
of feeling which are common to us all, he shrunk involun- 
tarily into a door-way, that she might not see him. He smiled 
at his own weakness ; said " God bless them ! " and walked 
away with a lighter step. 

Smike was anxiously expecting him when he reached his 
old lodgings, and so was Newman, who had expended a day's 
income in a can of rum and milk to prepare them for the 
journey. They had tied up the luggage, Smike shouldered it, 
and away they went, with Newman Noggs in company ; for he 
had insisted on walkins; as far as he could with them, overniirht. 

" Which way ? " asked Newman, wistfully. 

"To Kingston first," replied Nicholas. 

" And where afterwards ? " asked Newman. " Why won't 
you tell me .'' " 

" Because I scarcely know myself, good friend," rejoined 
Nicholas, laying his hand upon his shoulder ; "and if I did, 
I have neither plan nor prospect yet, and might shift my 
quarters a hundred times before you could possibly communi- 
cate with me." 

" I am afraid you have some deep scheme in your head," 
said Newman, doubtfully. 

" So deep," replied his young friend, " that even I can't 
fathom it. Whatever I resolve upon, depend upon it I will 
write you soon." 

18 



274 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



You won't forget ? " said Newman. 



" I am not very likely to," rejoined Nicholas. " I have 
not so many friends that I shall grow confused among the 
number, and forget my best one." 

Occupied in such discourse, they walked on for a couple 
of hours, as they might have done for a couple of days if 
Nicholas had not sat himself down on a stone by the way- 
side, and resolutely declared his intention of not moving 
another step until Newman Noggs turned back. Having 
pleaded ineffectually first for another half-mile, and afterwards 
for another quarter, Newman was fain to comply, and to 
shape his course towards Golden Square, after interchanging 
many hearty and affectionate farewells, and many times turn- 
ing back to wave his hat to the two wayfarers when they had 
become mere specks in the distance. 

" Now listen to me, Smike," said Nicholas, as they trudged 
with stout hearts onwards. " We are bound for Ports- 
mouth." 

Smike nodded his head and smiled, but expressed no 
other emotion ; for whether they had been bound for Ports- 
mouth or Port Royal would have been alike to him, so they 
had been bound together. 

" I don't know much of these matters," resumed Nicholas ; 
" but Portsmouth is a sea-port town, and if no other employ- 
ment is to be obtained, I should think we might get on board 
some ship. I am young and • active, and could be useful in 
many ways. So could you." 

" I hope so," replied Smike. " When I was at that — you 
know where I mean ? " 

" Yes, I know," said Nicholas. " You needn't name the 
place." 

" Well, when I was there," resumed Smike ; his eyes 
sparkling at the prospect of displaying his abilities ; " I could 
milk a cow, and groom a horse, with anybody." 

" Ha ! " said Nicholas, gravely. " I am afraid they don't 
keep many animals of either kind on board ship, Smike, and 
even when they have horses that they are not very particular 
about rubbing them down ; still you can learn to do some- 
thing else, you know. Where there's a will, there's a way." 

" And I am very willing," said Smike, cheering up again. 

" God knows you are," rejoined Nicholas ; " and if you 
fail, it shall go hard but I'll do enough for us both." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 275 

" Do we go all the way, to-day ? " asked Smike, after a 
short silence. 

" That would be too severe a trial, even for your willing 
legs," said Nicholas, with a good-humored smile. "No. 
Godalming is some thirty and odd miles from London — as I 
found from a map I borrowed — and I purpose to rest there. 
We must push on again to-morrow, for we are not rich enough 
to loiter. Let me relieve you of that bundle ! Come ! " 

'"No, no," rejoined Smike, falling back a few steps. 
" Don't ask me to give it up to you." 

" Why not } " asked Nicholas. 

"Let me do something for 5'ou, at least," said Smike. 
" You will never let me serve you as I ought. You will never 
know how I think, day and night, of ways to please you." 

" You are a foolish fellow to say it, for I know it well, and 
see it, or I should be a blind and senseless beast," rejoined 
Nicholas. " Let me ask you a question while I think of it, 
and there is no one by," he added, looking him steadily in the 
face. " Have you a good memory ? " 

" I don't know," said Smike, shaking his head sorrow- 
fully. " I think I had once ; but it's all gone now — all 
gone." 

" Why do you think you had once ? " asked Nicholas, 
turning quickly upon him as though the answer in some way 
helped out the purport of his question. 

" Because I could remember, when I was a child," said 
Smike, " but that is very, very long ago, or at least it seems 
so. I was always confused and giddy at that place you took 
me from ; and could never remember, and sometimes couldn't 
even understand, what they said to me. I — let me see — let 
me see ! " 

" You are wandering now," said Nicholas, touching him 
on the arm. 

" No," replied his companion, with a vacant look. " I 

was only thinking how ." He shivered in\'oluntarily as 

he spoke. 

" Think no more of that place, for it is all over," retorted 
Nicholas, fixing his eye full upon that of his companion, 
which was fast settling into an unmeaning stupefied gaze, once 
habitual to him, and common even then. " What of the first 
day you went to Yorkshire .? " 

" Eh ! " cried the lad. 

" That was before you began to lose your recollection, you 



276 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

know," said Nicholas quietly. " Was the weather hot or 
cold ? " 

" Wet," replied the boy. " Very wet. I have always said, 
when it has rained hard, that it was like the night I came ; 
and they used to crowd round and laugh to see me cry when 
the rain fell heavily. It was like a child, they said, and that 
made me think of it more. I turned cold all over sometimes, 
for I could see myself as I was then, coming in at the very 
same door." 

" As you were then," repeated Nicholas, with assumed 
carelessness ; " how was that ? " 

" Such a little creature," said Smike, " that they might 
have had pity and mercy upon me, only to remember it." 

" You didn't find your way there, alone ! " remarked 
Nicholas. 

" No," rejoined Smike, "oh no." 

" Who was with you ? " 

" A man — a dark, withered man. I have heard them say 
so, at the school, and I remembered that before. I was glad 
to leave him, I was afraid of him ; but they made me more 
afraid of them, and used me harder too." 

" Look at me," said Nicholas, wishing to attract his full 
attention. " There ; don't turn away. Do you remember no 
woman, no kind woman, who hung over you once, and kissed 
your lips, and called you her child ? ' 

" No," said the poor creature, shaking his head, " no, 
never." 

" Nor any house but that house in Yorkshire ? " 

" No," rejoined the youth, with a melancholy look; "a 
room — I remember I slept in a room, a large lonesome room 
at the top of a house, where there was a trap-door in the ceil- 
ing. I have covered my head with the clothes often, not 
to see it, for it frightened me : a young child with no one near 
at night : and I used to wonder what was on the other side. 
There was a clock too, an old clock, in one corner. I remem- 
ber that. I have never forgotten that room ; for when I have 
terrible dreams, it comes back, just as it was. I see things 
and people in it that I had never seen then, but there is the 
room just as it used to be ; that never changes." 

" Will you let me take the bundle now ? " asked Nicholas, 
abruptly changing the theme. 

" No," said Smike, " no. Come, let us walk on." 

He quickened his pace as he said this, apparently undei 



NICHOLAS NICK'LEBY. 277 

the impression that they had been standing still, during the 
whole of the previous dialogue. Nicholas marked him closely, 
and every word of this conversation remained upon his 
memor}-. 

It was, by this time, within an hour of noon, and although 
a dense vapor still enveloped the city they had left, as if the 
very breath of its busy people hung over their schemes of gain 
and profit and found greater attraction there than in the quiet 
region above, in the open country it was clear and fair. Occa- 
sionally, in some low spots they came upon patches of mist 
which the sun had not yet driven from their strongholds ; but 
these were soon pa<:sed, and as they labored up the hills be- 
yond, it was pleasant to look down, and see how the sluggish 
mass rolled heavily off, before the cheering influence of day. 
A broad, fine, honest sun lighted up the green pastures and 
dimpled water with the semblance of summer, while it left the 
travellers all the invigorating freshness of that early time of 
year. The ground seemed elastic under their feet ; the sheep- 
bells were music to their ears ; and exhilarated by exercise, 
and stimulated by hope, they pushed onward with the strength 
of lions. 

The day wore on, and all these bright colors subsided, 
and assumed a quieter tint, like young hopes softened down 
by time, or youthful features by degrees resolving into the 
calm and serenity of age. But they were scarcely less beau- 
tiful in their slow decline, than they had been in their prime ; 
for nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its 
own ; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the 
grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy, that 
we can scarcely mark their progress. 

To Godalm'ing they came at last, and here they bargained 
for two humble beds, and slept soundly. In the morning they 
were astir, though not quite so early as the sun, and again 
afoot ; if not with all the freshness of yesterday, still, with 
enough of hope and spirit to bear them cheerily on. 

It was a harder day's journey than yesterday's, for there 
were long and weary hills to climb ; and in journeys, as in life, 
it is a great deal easier to go down hill than up. However, 
they kept on, with unabated perseverance, and the hill has not 
yet lifted its face to heaven that perseverance will not gain 
the summit of at last. 

They walked upon the rim of the Devil's Punch Bowl ; 
and Smike listened with greedy interest as Nicholas read the 



2 78 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

inscription upon the stone which, reared upon that wild spot, 
tells of a murder committed there by night. The grass on 
which they stood, had once been dyed with gore ; and the 
blood of the murdered man had run down, drop by drop, into 
the hollow which gives the place its name. " The Devil's 
Bowl," thought Nicholas, as he looked into the void, " never 
held fitter liquor than that." 

Onward they kept, with steady purpose, and entered at 
length upon a wide and spacious tract of downs, with every 
variety of little hill and plain, to change their verdant surface. 
Here, there shot up, almost perpendicularly, into the sky, a 
height so steep, as to be hardly accessible to any but the 
sheep and goats that fed upon its sides, and there, stood a 
mound of green, sloping and tapering off so delicately, and 
merging so gently into the level ground, that you could scarce 
define its limits. Hills swelling above each other ; and undu- 
lations, shapely and uncouth, smooth and rugged, graceful 
and grotesque, thrown negligently side by side, bounded the 
view in each direction ; while frequently, with unexpected 
noise, there uprose from the ground a flight of crows, who, 
cawing and wheeling round the nearest hill, as if uncertain of 
their course suddenly poised themselves upon the wing and 
skimmed down the long vista of some opening valley, with the 
speed of light itself. 

By degrees, the prospect receded more and more on either 
hand, and as they had been shut out from rich and extensive 
scenery, so they emerged once again upon the open country. 
The knowledge that they were drawing near their place of 
destination, gave them fresh courage to proceed ; but the way 
had been difficult, and they had loitered on the road, and 
Smike was tired. Thus twilight had already closed in, when 
they turned off the path to the door of a road-side inn, yet 
twelve miles short of Portsmouth. 

" Twelve miles," said Nicholas, leaning with both hands 
on his stick, and looking doubtfully at Smike. 

" Twelve long miles," repeated the landlord. 

" Is it a good road ? " inquired Nicholas. 

''Very bad," said the landlord. As of course, being a 
landlord, he would say. 

" I want to get on," said Nicholas, hesitating. " I scarcely 
know what to do." 

" Don't let me influence you," rejoined the landlord. "/ 
wouldn't go on if it was me." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 279 

" Wouldn't you ? " asked Nicholas, with the same uncer- 
tainty. 

" Not if I knew when I was well off," said the landlord. 
And having said it, he pulled up his apron, put his hands into 
his pockets, and taking a step or two outside the door, looked 
down the dark road with an assumption of great indifference. 

A glance at the toil-worn face of Smike determined Nich- 
olas, so without any further consideration he made up his mind 
to stay where he was. 

The landlord led them into the kitchen, and as there was 
a good fire he remarked that it was very cold. If there had 
happened to be a bad one he would have observed that it was 
very warm. 

" What can you give us for supper ? " was Nicholas's 
natural question. 

" Why — what would you like 1 " was the landlord's no less 
natural answer. 

Nicholas suggested cold meat, but there was no cold meat 
— poached eggs, but there were no eggs — mutton chops, but 
there wasn't a mutton chop within three miles, though there 
had been more last week than they knew what to do with, and 
would be an extraordinary supply the day after to-morrow. 

" Then," said Nicholas, " I must leave it entirely to you, 
as I would have done, at first, if you had allowed me." 

" Why, then I'll tell you what," rejoined the landlord. 
" There's a gentleman in the parlor that's ordered a hot beef- 
steak pudding and potatoes, at nine. There's more of it than 
he can manage, and I have very little doubt that if I ask 
leave, you can sup with him. I'll do that, in a minute." 

" No, no," said Nicholas, detaining him. " I would rather 
not. I — at least — pshaw ! why cannot I speak out. Here ; 
you see that I am travelling in a very humble manner, and 
have made my way hither on foot. It is more than probable, 
I think, that the gentleman may not relish my company ; and 
although I am the dusty figure you see, I am too proud to 
thrust myself into his." 

" Lord love you," said the landlord, "it's only Mr. Crumm- 
ies ; he isn't particular." 

" Is he not ? " asked Nicholas, on whose mind, to tell the 
truth, the prospect of the savory pudding was making some 
impression. 

" Not he. He'll like your way of talking, I know. But 
we'll soon see all about that. Just wait a minute." 



28o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

The landlord hurried into the parlor, without staying for 
further permission, nor did Nicholas strive to prevent him : 
wisely considering that supper, under the circumstances, was 
too serious a matter to trifle with. It was not long before the 
host returned, in a condition of much excitement. 

" All right," he said in a low voice. " I knew he would. 
You'll see something rather worth seeing, in there. Ecod, 
how they are a going of it ! " 

There was no time to inquire to what this exclamation, 
which was delivered in a ver}' rapturous tone, referred ; for he 
had already thrown open the door of the room ; into which 
Nicholas, followed by Smike with the bundle on his shoulder 
(he carried it about with him as vigilantly as if it had been a 
sack of gold), straightway repaired. 

Nicholas was prepared for something odd, but not for 
something quite so odd as the sight he encountered. At the 
upper end of the room, were a couple of boys, one of them 
very tall and the other very short, both dressed as sailors — 
or at least as theatrical sailors, with belts, buckles, pigtails, 
and pistols complete — fighting what is called in pi ay -bills a ter- 
rific combat, with two of those short broad-swords with basket 
hilts which are commonly used at our minor theatres. The 
short boy had gained a great advantage over the tall bo}'', who 
was reduced to mortal strait, and both were overlooked by a 
large heavy man, perched against the corner of a table, who 
emphatically adjured them to strike a little more fire out of 
the swords, and they couldn't fail to bring the house down, 
on the very first night. 

"Mr. Vincent Crummies," said the landlord with an air of 
great deference. " This is the young gentleman." 

Mr. Vincent Crummies received Nicholas with an inclina- 
tion of the head, something between the courtesy of* a Roman 
emperor and the nod of a pot companion ; and bade the land- 
lord shut the door and begone. 

"There's a picture," said Mr. Crummies, motioning Nich- 
olas not to advance and spoil it. " The little 'un has him ; 
if the big 'un doesn't knock under, in three seconds, he's a 
dead man. Do that again, boys." 

The two combatants went to work afresh, and chopped away 
until the swords emitted a shower of sparks: to the great satis- 
faction of Mr. Crummies, who appeared to consider this a very 
great point indeed. The engagement commenced with about 
two hundred chops administered by the short sailor and the 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 281 

tall sailor, alternately, without producing any particular result, 
until the short sailor was chopped down on one knee ; but this 
was nothing to him, for he worked himself about on the one 
knee with the assistance of his left hand, and fought most des- 
perately until the tall sailor chopped his sword out of his grasp. 
Now, the inference was, that the short sailor, reduced to this 
extremity, would give in at once and cry quarter, but, instead 
of that, he all of a sudden drew a large pistol from his belt 
and presented it at the face of the tall sailor, who was so over- 
come at this (not expecting it) that he let the short sailor pick 
up his sword and begin again. Then, the chopping recom- 
menced, and a variety of fancy chops were administered on 
both sides ; such as chops dealt with the left hand, and under 
the leg, and over the right shoulder, and over the left ; and 
when the short sailor made a vigorous cut at the tall sailor's 
legs, which would have shaved them clean off if it had taken 
effect, the tall sailor jumped over the short sailor's sword, 
wherefore to balance the matter, and make it all fair, the tall 
sailor administered the same cut, and the short sailor jumped 
over his sword. After this, there was a good deal of dodging 
about, and hitching up of the inexpressibles in the absence of 
braces, and then the short sailor (who was the moral character 
evidently, for he always had the best of it) made a violent de- 
monstration and closed with the tall sailor, who, after a few un- 
availing struggles, went down, and expired in great torture as 
the short sailor put his foot upon his breast, and bored a hole 
in him through and through. 

" That'll be a double encore if you take care, boys," said 
Mr. Crummies. " You had better get your wind now and 
change your clothes." 

Having addressed these words to the combatants, he 
saluted Nicholas, who then observed that the face of Mr. 
Crummies was quite proportionate in size to his body ; that 
he had a very full under-lip, a hoarse voice, as though he were 
in the habit of shouting very much, and very short black hair, 
shaved off nearly to the crown of his head — to admit (as he 
afterwards learnt) of his more easily wearing character wigs 
of any shape or pattern. 

" What do you think of that, sir ? " inquired Mr. Crumm- 
ies. 

" Very good, indeed — capital," answered Nicholas. 

" You won't see such boys as those very often, I think," 
said Mr. Crummies. 



282 NICHOLAS NICKLE BY. 

Nicholas assented — observing that if they were a little 
better match 

" Match ! " cried Mr. Crummies. 

" I mean if they were a little more of a size," said Nicholas, 
explaining himself. 

" Size ! " repeated Mr. Crummies ; " why it's the essence 
of the combat that there should be a foot or two between 
them. How are you to get up the sympathies of the audience 
in a legitimate manner, if there isn't a little man contending 
against a big one — unless there's at least five to one, and we 
haven't hands enough for that business in our company." 

" I see," replied Nicholas. " I beg your pardon. That 
didn't occur to me, I confess." 

" It's the main point," said Mr. Crummies. " I open at 
Portsmouth the day after to-morrow, If you're going there, 
look into the theatre, and see how that'll tell." 

Nicholas promised to do so, if he could, and drawing a 
chair near the fire, fell into conversation with the manager at 
once. He was very talkative and communicative, stimulated 
perhaps, not only by his natural disposition, but by the spirits 
and water he sipped very plentifully, or the snuff he took in 
large quantities from a piece of whitey-brown paper in his 
waistcoat pocket. He laid open his affairs without the small- 
est reserve, and descanted at some length upon the merits of 
his company, and the acquirements of his family ; of both of 
which, the two broadsword boys formed an honorable portion. 
There was to be a gathering, it seemed, of the different ladies 
and gentlemen at Portsmouth on the morrow, whither the 
father and sons were proceeding (not for the regular season, 
but in the course of a wandering speculation), after fulfilling 
an engagement at Guildford with the greatest applause. 

" You are going that way 1 " asked the manager. 

" Ye-3'es," said Nicholas. " Yes, I am." 

" Do you know the town at all .-* " inquired the manager, 
who seemed to consider himself entitled to the same degree 
of confidence as he had himself exhibited. 

" No," replied Nicholas. 

" Never there ? " 

" Never." 

Mr. Vincent Crummies gave a short dry cough, as much 
as to say, " If you won't be communicative, you won't ; " and 
took so many pinches of snuff from the piece of paper, one 
after another, that Nicholas quite wondered where it all went to. 



NICHOLAS NTCKLEB V. 



283 



While he was thus engaged, Mr. Crummies looked, from 
time to time, with great interest at Smike, with whom he had 
appeared considerably struck from the first. He had now 
fallen asleep, and was nodding in his chair. 

" Excuse my saying so," said the manager, leaning over to 
Nicholas, and sinking his voice, " but what a capital counten- 
ance your friend has got ! " 

" Poor fellow ! " said Nicholas, with a half smile, " I wish 
it were a little more plump, and less haggard." 

" Plump ! " exclaimed the manager, quite horrified, " you'd 
spoil it for ever." 

" Do you think so 1 " 

" Think so, sir ? Why, as he is now," said the manager, 
striking his knee emphatically ; " without a pad upon his 
body, and hardly a touch of paint upon his face, he'd make such 
an actor for the starved business as was never seen in this 
country. Only let him be tolerably well up in the Apothecary 
in Romeo and Juliet with the slightest possible dab of red on 
the tip of his nose, and he'd be certain of three rounds the 
moment he put his head out of the practicable door in the 
front grooves O. P." 

" You view him with a professional eye," said Nicholas. 

" And well I may," rejoined the manager, " I never saw a 
young fellow so regularly cut out for that line, since I've 
been in the profession. And I played the heavy children 
when I was eighteen months old." 

The appearance of the beef-steak pudding, which came in 
simultaneously with the junior Vincent Crummleses, turned 
the conversation to other matters, and indeed, for a time, 
stopped it altogether. These two young gentlemen wielded 
their knives and forks with scarcely less address than their 
broad-swords, and as the whole party were quite as sharp set 
as either class of weapons, there was no time for talking until 
the supper had been disposed of. 

The Master Crummleses had no sooner swallowed the last 
procurable morsel of food, than they evinced, by various half- 
suppressed yawns and stretchings of their limbs, an obvious 
inclination to retire for the night, which Smike had betrayed 
still more strongly : he having, in the course of the meal, 
fallen asleep several times while in the very act of eating. 
Nicholas therefore proposed that they should break up at 
once, but the manager would by no means hear of it ; vowing 
that he had promised himself the pleasure of inviting his new 



284 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

acquaintance to share a bowl of punch, and that if he declined, 
he should deem it very unhandsome behavior. 

" Let them go," said Mr. Vincent Crummies, " and we'll 
have it snugly and cosily together by the fire." 

Nicholas was not much disposed to sleep — being in truth 
too anxious — so, after a little demur, he accepted the ofYer, 
and having exchanged a shake of the hand with the young 
Crummleses, and the manager having on his part bestowed a 
most affectionate benediction on Smike, he sat himself down 
opposite to that gentleman by the fireside to assist in empty- 
ing the bowl, which soon afterwards appeared, steaming in a 
manner which was quite exhilarating to behold, and sending 
forth a most grateful and in\'iting fragrance. 

But, despite the punch and the manager, who told a variety 
of stories, and smoked tobacco from a pipe, and inhaled it in 
the shape of snuff, with a most astonishing power, Nicholas 
was absent and dispirited. His thoughts were in his old 
home, and when they reverted to his present condition, the 
uncertainty of the morrow cast a gloom upon him, which his 
utmost efforts were unable to dispel. His attention wandered ; 
although he heard the manager's voice he was deaf to what 
he said ; and when Mr. Vincent Crummies concluded the his- 
tory of some long adventure with a loud laugh, and an inquiry 
what Nicholas would have done under the same circumstances, 
he was obliged to make the best apology in his power, and to 
confess his entire ignorance of all he had been talking about. 

" Why, so I saw," observed Mr. Crummies. " You're 
uneasy in your mind. What's the matter ? " 

Nicholas could not refrain from smiling at the abruptness 
of the question ; but, thinking it scarcely worth while to parry 
it, owned that he was under some apprehensions lest he might 
not succeed in the object which had brought him to that part 
of the country. 

"And what's that? " asked the manager. 

" Getting something to do which will keep me and my poor 
fellow-traveller in the common necessaries of life," said Nich- 
olas. " That's the truth. You guessed it long ago, I dare 
say, so I may as well have the credit of telling it you with a 
good grace." 

" What's to be got to do at Portsmouth more than any- 
where else ? " asked Mr. Vincent Crummies melting the seal- 
ing-wax on the stem of his pipe in the candle, and rolling it 
out afresh with his little finger. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 285 

" There are many vessels leaving the port, I suppose," 
replied Nicholas. " I shall try for a berth in some ship or 
other. There is meat and drink there, at all events." 

" Salt meat and new rum ; pease-pudding and chaff-bis- 
cuits," said the manager, taking a whiff at his pipe to keep it 
alight, and returning to his work of embellishment. 

" One may do worse than that," said Nicholas. " I can 
rough it, I believe, as well as most young men of my age and 
previous habits." 

" You need be able to," said the manager, " if you go on 
board ship ; but you won't." 

" Why not ? " 

" Because there's not a skipper or mate that would think 
you worth your salt, when he could get a practiced hand," re- 
plied the manager ; " and they as plentiful there, as the oys- 
ters in the streets." 

" What do you mean ? " asked Nicholas, alarmed by this 
prediction, and the confident tone in which it had been uttered. 
" Men are not born able seamen. They must be reared, I sup- 
pose ? " 

Mr. Vincent Crummies nodded his head. " They must ; 
but not at your age, or from young gentlemen like you." 

There was a pause. The countenance of Nicholas fell, 
and he gazed ruefully at the fire. 

" Does no other profession occur to you, which a young 
man of your figure and address could take up easily, and see 
the world to advantage in ? " asked the manager. 

" No," said Nicholas, shaking his head. 

"Why, then, I'll tell you one," said Mr. Crummies, throw- 
ing his pipe into the fire, and raising his voice. " The stage." 

" The stage ! " cried Nicholas, in a voice almost as loud. 

" The theatrical profession," said Mr. Vincent Crummies. 
" I am in the theatrical profession myself, my wife is in the 
theatrical profession, my children are in the theatrical profes- 
sion. I had a dog that li\'ed and died in it from a puppy ; 
and my chaise-pony goes on in Timour the Tartar. I'll bring 
you out, and your friend too. Say the word. I want a novelty." 

" I don't know anything about it," rejoined Nicholas, 
whose breath had been almost taken away by this sudden pro- 
posal. " I never acted a part in my life, except at school." 

" There's genteel comedy in your walk and manner, juvenile 
tragedy in your eve, and touch-and-go farce in your laugh." 
said Mr. Vincent Crummies. " You'll do as well as if you had 



286 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

thought of nothing else but the lamps, from your birth down- 
wards." 

Nicholas thought of the small amount of small change that 
would remain in his pocket after paying the tavern bill ; and 
he hesitated. 

" You can be useful to us in a hundred ways," said Mr. 
Crummies. " Think what capital bills a man of your educa- 
tion could write for the shop windows." 

"Well I think I could manage that department," said 
Nicholas. 

" To be sure you could," replied Mr. Crummies. " ' For 
further particulars see small hand-bills ' — we might have half 
a volume in every one of 'em. Pieces too ; why, you could 
write us a piece to bring out the whole strength of the com- 
pany, whenever we wanted one." 

" I am not quite so confident about that," replied Nicholas 
" But I dare say I could scribble something now and then, 
that would suit you." 

" We'll have a new show piece out directly," said the 
manager. " Let me see — peculiar resources of this establish- 
ment — new and splendid scenery — you must manage to intro- 
duce a real pump and two washing-tubs." 

" Into the piece ? " said Nicholas. 

"Yes," replied the manager. "I bought 'em cheap at a 
sale the other day, and they'll come in admirably. That's the 
London plan. They look up some dresses and properties, and 
have a piece written to fit 'em. Most of the theatres keep an 
author on purpose." 

" Indeed ! " cried Nicholas. 

"Oh yes," said the manager; "a common thing. It'll 
look very well in the bills in separate lines — Real pump ! 
— Splendid tubs ! — Great attraction ! You don't happen to be 
anything of an artist, do you .' " 

" That is not one of my accomplishments," rejoined 
Nicholas. 

" Ah ! Then it can't be helped," said the manager. " If 
you had been, we might have had a large woodcut of the last 
scene for the posters, showing the whole depth of the stage, 
with the pump and tubs in the middle ; but, however, if you're 
not, it can't be helped." 

" What should I get for all this ? " inquired Nicholas, after 
a few moments' reflection. " Could I live by it ?" 

" Live by it ! " said the manager. " Like a prince ! With 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 287 

your own salary, and your friends, and your writings, you'd 
make — ah ! you'd make a pound a week ! " 

" You don't say so ! " 

" I do indeed, and if we had a run of good houses, nearly 
double the money." 

Nicholas shrugged his shoulders ; but sheer destitution was 
before him ; and if he could summon fortitude to undergo the 
extremes of want and hardship, for what had he rescued his 
helpless charge if it were only to bear as hard a fate as that 
from which he had wrested him ? It was easy to think of 
seventy miles as nothing, when he was in the same town with 
the man who had treated him so ill and roused his bitterest 
thoughts ; but now, it seemed far enough. What if he went 
abroad, and his mother or Kate were to die the while ? 

Without more deliberation, he hastily declared that it was 
a bargain, and gave Mr. Vincent Crummies his hand upon it. 



^«^ 




CHAPTER XXIII. \ 

TREATS OF THE COMPANY OF MR. VINCENT CRUMMLES, AND OF 
HIS AFFAIRS, DOMESTIC AND THEATRICAL. 

As Mr. Crummies had a strange four-legged animal in the 
inn stables, which he called a pony, and a vehicle of unknown 
design, on which he bestowed the appellation of a four-wheeled 
phaeton, Nicholas proceeded on his journey next morning 
with greater ease than he had expected ; the manager and him- 
self occupying the front seat ; and the Master Crummleses 
and Smike being packed together behind, in company with a 
wicker basket defended from wet by a stout oilskin, in which 
were the broad-swords, pistols, pigtails, nautical costumes, 
and other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young 
gentlemen. 

The pony took his time upon the road, and — possibly in 
consequence of his theatrical education — evinced, every now 
and then, a stroner inclination to lie down. However, Mr. 
Vincent Crummies kept him up pretty well, by jerkmg the 
rein, and plying the whip ; and when these means failed, and 
the animal came to a stand, the elder Master Crummies got 



28S NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

out and kicked him. By dint of these encouragements, he 
was persuaded to move from time to time, and they jogged on 
(as Mr. Crummies truly observed) very comfortably for all 
parties. 

" He's a good pony at bottom," said Mr. Crummies, turn- 
ing to Nicholas. 

He might have been at bottom, but he certainly was not 
at top, seeing that his coat was of the roughest and most ill- 
favored kind. So, Nicholas merely observed that he shouldn't 
wonder if he was. 

" Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone," said 
Mr. Crummies, flicking him skilfully on the eyelid for old 
acquaintance sake. " He is quite one of us. His mother was 
on the stage." 

" Was she ? " rejoined Nicholas. 

" She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen 
years," said the manager ; " fired pistols, and went to bed in a 
nightcap ; and, in short, took the low comedy entirely. His 
father was a dancer." 

" Was he at all distinguished ? " 

"Not very," said the manager. " He was rather a low sort 
of pony. The fact is, he had been originally jobbed out by 
the day, and he never quite got over his old habits. He was 
clever in melodrama too, but too broad — too broad. When 
the mother died he took the port wine business." 

" The port wine business ! '" cried Nicholas. 

" Drinking port wine with the clown," said the manager ; 
"but he was greedy, and one night bit off the bowl of the glass 
and choked himself, so his vulgarity was the death of him at 
last." 

The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring in- 
creased attention from Mr. Crummies as he progressed in his 
day's work, that gentleman had veiy little time for conversa- 
tion. Nicholas was thus left at leisure to entertain himself 
with his own thoughts, until they arrived at the drawbridge at 
Portsmouth, when Mr. Crummies pulled up 

" We'll get down here," said the manager, " and the boys 
will take him round to the stable, and call at my lodgings 
with the luggage. You had better let yours be taken there, 
for the present." 

Thanking Mr. Vincent Crummies for his obliging offer, 
Nicholas jumped out, and, giving Smike his arm, accompanied 
the manager up High Street on their way to the theatre \ feel- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 289 

ing nervous and uncomfortable enough at the prospect of an 
immediate introduction to a scene so new to him. 

They passed a great many bills, pasted against the walls 
and displayed in windows, wherein the names of Mr. Vincent 
Crummies, Mrs. Vincent Crummies, Master Crummies, Mas- 
ter P. Crummies, and Miss Crummies, were printed in very 
large letters, and everything else in very small ones ; and, 
turning at length into an entry, in which was a strong smell 
of orange-peel and lamp-oil, with an under-current of saw-dust, 
groped their way through a dark passage, and, descending a 
step or two, threaded a little maze of canvas screens and paint- 
pots, and emerged upon the stage of the Portsmouth Theatre. 

" Here we are," said Mr. Crummies. 

It was not very light, but Nicholas found himself close to 
the first entrance on the prompt side, among bare walls, dusty 
scenes, mildewed clouds, heavily daubed draperies, and dirty 
floors. He looked about him ; ceiling, pit, boxes, gallery, 
orchestra, fittings, and decorations of every kind, — all looked 
coarse, cold, gloomy, and wretched. 

" Is this a theatre ? " whispered Smike, in amazement ; 
" I thought it was a blaze of light and finer}'." 

" Why, so it is," replied Nicholas, hardly less surprised ; 
" but not by day, Smike — not by day." 

The manager's voice recalled him from a more careful in- 
spection of the building, to the opposite side of the proscenium, 
where, at a small mahogany table with rickety legs, and of an 
oblong shape, sat a stout, portly female, apparently between 
forty and fifty, in a tarnished silk cloak, with her bonnet 
dangling by the strings in her hand, and her hair (of which 
she had a great quantity) braided in a large festoon over each 
temple. 

" Mr. Johnson," said the manager (for Nicholas had given 
the name which Newman Noggs had bestowed upon him in 
his conversation with Mrs. Kenwigs), " let me introduce Mrs. 
Vincent Crummies." 

" I am glad to see you, sir," said Mrs. Vincent Cnmimles, 
in a sepulchral voice. " I am very glad to see you, and still 
more happy to hail you as a promising member of our corps." 

The lady shook Nicholas by the hand as she addressed 
him ill these terms ; he saw it was a large one, but had not 
expected quite such an iron grip as that with which she 
honored him. 

"And this," said the lady, crossing to Smike, as tragic 

19 



290 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 



actresses cross when they obey a stage direction, " and this 
is the other. You too, are welcome, sir." 

" He'll do, I think, my dear ? " said the manager, taking a 
pinch of snuff. 

" He is admirable," replied the lady. " An acquisition 
indeed." 

As Mrs. Vincent Crummies recrossed back to the table, 
there bounded on to the sta-^e from some mysterious inlet, a 
little girl in a dirty white frock with tucks up to the knees, 
short trousers, sandaled shoes, white spencer, pink gauze 
bonnet, green veil and curl-papers ; who turned a pirouette, 
cut twice in the air, turned another pirouette, then, looking 
off at the opposite wing, shrieked, bounded forward to within 
six inches of the footlights, and fell into a beautiful attitude 
of terror, as a shabby gentleman in an old pair of buff slippers 
came in at one powerful slide, and chattering his teeth, fiercely 
brandished a walking-stick. 

" They are going through the Indian Savage and the 
Maiden," said Mrs. Crummies. 

" Oh ! " said the manager, " the little ballet interlude. 
Very good, go on. A little this wav, if you please, Mr. John- 
son. That'll do. Now ! " 

The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, 
and the savage, becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the 
maiden ; but the maiden avoided him in six twirls, and came 
down, at the end of the last one, upon the very points of her 
toes. This seemed to make some impression upon the savage ; 
for, after a little more ferocity and chasing of the maiden into 
corners, he began to relent, and stroked his face several times 
with his right thumb and forefingers, thereby intimating that 
he was struck with admiration of the maiden's beauty. Acting 
upon the impulse of this passion, he (the savage) began to hit 
himself severe thumps in the chest, and to exhibit other in- 
dications of being desperately in love, which being rather a 
prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the maiden's 
falling asleep ; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall, 
sound as a church, on a sloping bank, and the savage per- 
ceiving it, leant his left ear on his left hand, and nodded side- 
ways, to intimate to all whom it might concern that she was 
asleep, and no shamming. Being left to himself, the savage 
had a dance, all alone. Just as he left off, the maiden woke 
up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had a dance all 
alone too — such a dance that the savage looked on in ecstasy 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 291 

all the while, and when it was done, plucked from a neighbor- 
ing^ tree some botanical curiosity, resembling a small pickled 
cabbage, and offered it to the maiden, who at first wouldn't 
have it, but on the savage shedding tears relented. Then 
the savage jumped for joy ; then the maiden jumped for rap- 
ture at the sweet smell of the pickled cabbage. Then the 
savage and the maiden danced violently together, and, finally, 
the savage dropped down on one knee, and the maiden stood 
on one leg upon his other knee ; thus concluding the ballet, 
and leaving the spectators in a state of pleasing uncertainty, 
whether she would ultimately marry the savage, or return to 
her friends. 

"Very well indeed," said Mr. Crummies ; "bravo ! " 

" Bravo ! " cried Nicholas, resolved to make the best of 
ever^'thing. " Beautiful ! " 

"This, sir," said Mr. Vincent Crummies, bringing the 
maiden forward, " This is the infant phenomenon — Miss 
Ninetta Crummies." 

" Your daughter ? " inquired Nicholas. 

" My daughter — my daughter," replied Mr. Vincent 
Crummies ; " the idol of ever}' place we go into, sir. We 
have had complimentary letters about this girl, sir, from the 
nobility and gentry of almost every town in England." 

" I am not surprised at that," said Nicholas ; " she must 
be quite a natural genius." 

"Quite a — ! " Mr. Crummies stopped : language was not 
powerful enough to describe the infant phenomenon. " I'll tell 
you what, sir," he said ; " the talent of this child is not to be 
imagined. She must be seen, sir — seen — to be ever so faintly 
appreciated. There ; go to your mother, mv dear." 

" May I ask how old she is .' " inquired Nicholas. 

"You may, sir," replied Mr. Crummies, looking steadily 
in his questioner's face, as some men do when they have 
doubts about being implicitly believed in what they are going 
to say. " She is ten years of age, sir." 

" Not more ! " 

" Not a day." 

" Dear me ! " said Nicholas, "it's extraordinar)'." 

It was ; for the infant phenomenon, though of short stature, 
had a comparatively aged countenance, and had moreover 
been precisely the same age — -not perha])s to the full extent 
of the memor}' of the oldest inhabitant, but certainly for five 
good years. But she had been kept up late every night, and 



292 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

put upon an unlimited allowance of gin and water from in- 
fancy, to prevent her growing tall, and perhaps this system of 
training had produced in the infant phenomenon these addi- 
tional phenomena. 

While this short dialogue was going on, the gentleman 
who had enacted the savage, came up, with his walking shoes 
on his feet,- and his slippers in his hand, to within a few 
paces, as if desirous to join in the conversation. Deeming this 
a good opportunity, he put in his word. 

" Talent there, sir ! " said the savage, nodding towards Miss 
Crummies. 

Nicholas assented. 

" Ah ! " said the actor, setting his teeth together, and draw- 
ing in his breath with a hissing sound, " she oughtn't to be in 
the provinces, she oughtn't." 

"What do you mean ? " asked the manager. 

"I mean to say," replied the other, warmly, "that she is 
too good for country boards, and that she ought to be in one 
of the large houses in London, or nowhere ; and I tell you 
more, without mincing the matter, that if it wasn't for envy 
and jealousy in some quarter that you know of, she would 
be. Perhaps you'll introduce me here, Mr. Crummies." 

" Mr. Folair," said the manager, presenting him to Nich- 
olas. 

" Happy to know you, sir." Mr. Folair touched the brim 
of his hat with his forefinger, and then shook hands. " A 
recruit, sir, I understand .-" " 

" An unworthy one," replied Nicholas. 

" Did you ever see such a set out as that ? " whispered the 
actor, drawing him away, as Crummies left them to speak to 
his wife. 

" As what ? " 

Mr. Folair made a funny face from his pantomime collec- 
tion, and pointed over his shoulder. 

" You don't mean the infant phenomenon .? " 

" Infant humbug, sir," replied Mr. Folair. "There isn't a 
female child of common sharpness in a charity school, that 
couldn't do better than that. She may thank her stars she 
was born a manager's daughter." 

" You seem to take it to heart," observed Nicholas, with a 
smile. 

"Yes, by Jove, and well I may," said Mr. Folair, drawing 
his arm through his, and walking him up and down the stage. 



NICHOLAS NICK'LEBY. 293 

" Isn't it enough to make a man crusty to see that Utile 
sprawler put up in the best business every night, and actually 
keeping money out of the house, by being forced down the 
people's throats, while other people are passed over ? Isn't 
it extraordinary to see a man's confounded family conceit 
blinding him, even to his own interest? Why I knowoi fifteen 
and sixpence that came to Southampton one night last 
month, to see me dance the Highland Fling ; and what's the 
consequence? I've never been put up in it since — never once 
— while the ' infant phenomenon ' has been grinning through 
artificial flowers at fi\'e people and a baby in the pit, and two 
boys in the galleiy, every night." 

" If I may judge from what I have seen of you," said 
Nicholas, " you must be a valuable member of the company." 

" Oh ! " replied Mr. Folair, beating his slippers together, 
to knock the dust out ; " I can come it pretty well — nobody 
better, perhaps, in my line — but having such business as one 
gets here, is like putting lead on one's feet instead of chalk, 
and dancing in fetters without the credit of it. Holloa, old fel- 
low, how are you ? " 

The gentleman addressed in the latter words, was a dark 
complexioned man, inclining indeed to sallow, with long 
thick black hair, and very evident indications (although he 
was close shaved) of a stiff beard, and whiskers of the same 
deep shade. His age did not appear to exceed thirty, though 
many at first sight would ha\'e considered him much older, as 
his face was long, and very pale from the constant application 
of stage paint. He wore a checked shirt, an old green coat 
with new gilt buttons, a neckerchief of broad red and green 
stripes, and full blue trousers ; he carried, too, a common ash 
walking-stick, apparently more for show than use, as he 
flourished it about, with the hooked end downwards, except 
when he raised it for a few seconds, and throwing himself into 
a fencing attitude, made a pass or two at the side scenes, or 
at any other object, animate or inanimate, that chanced to 
afford him a pretty good mark at the moment. 

" Well, Tommy," said this gentleman, making a thrust at 
his friend, who parried it with his slipper, " what's the news ? " 

"A new appearance, that's all," replied Mr. Folair, look- 
ing at Nicholas. 

" Do the honors. Tommy, do the honors," said the other 
gentleman, tapping him reproachfully on the crown of the hat 
with his stick. 



204 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

"This is Mr. Lenville, who does our first tragedy, Mr. 
Johnson," said the pantomimist. 

" Except when old bricks and mortar takes it into his head 
to do it himself, you should add, Tommy,"' remarked Mr. 
Lenville. " You know who bricks and mortar is, I suppose, sir ? " 

" I do not, indeed," replied Nicholas. 

" We call Crummies that, because his style of acdng is 
rather in the heavy and ponderous way," said Mr. Lenville. " I 
mustn't be cracking jokes though, for I've got apart of twelve 
lengths here, which I must be up in to-morrow night, and I 
haven't had time to look at it yet ; Lm a confounded quick 
study, that's one comfort." 

Consoling himself with this reflection, Mr. Lenville drew 
from his coat-pocket a greasy and crumpled manuscript, and, 
having made another pass at his friend, proceeded to walk to 
and fro, conning it to himself and indulging occasionally in such 
appropriate action as his imagination and the text suggested. 

A pretty general muster of the company had by this time 
taken place ; for besides Mr. Lenville and his friend Tommy, 
there were present, a slim young gentleman with weak eyes, 
who played the low-spirited lovers and sang tenor songs, and 
who had come arm-in-arm with the comic countryman — a man 
with a turned up nose,' large mouth, broad face, and staring 
eyes. Making himself veiy amiable to the infant phenomenon, 
was an inebriated elderly gentleman in the last depths of 
shabbiness, who played the calm and virtuous old men ; and 
paying especial court to Mrs. Crummies was another elderly 
gentleman, a shade more respectable, who played the irascib/le 
old men — those funny fellows who have nephews in the army 
and perpetually run about with thick sticks to compel them to 
marry heiresses. Besides these there was a roving-looking per- 
son in a rough great-coat, who strode up and down in front of 
the lamps, flourishing a dress cane, and rattling away, in an 
undertone, with great vivacity, for the amusement of an ideal 
audience. He was not quite so young as he had been, and his 
figure was rather running to seed ; but there was an air of 
exaggerated gentility about him, which bespoke the hero of 
swaggering comedy. There was, also, a little group of three 
or four young men, with lantern jaws and thick eyebrows, 
who were conversing in one corner ; but they seemed to be of 
secondary importance, and laughed and talked together with- 
out attracting any attention. 

The ladies were gathered in a little knot by themselves 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 295 

round the rickety table before mentioned. There was Miss 
Snevellicci — who could do anything, from a medley dance to 
Lady Macbeth, and also always played some part in blue silk 
knee-smalls at her benefit — glancing, from the depths of her 
coal-scuttle straw bonnet, at Nicholas, and affecting to be 
absorbed in the recital of a diverting story to her friend Miss 
Ledrook, who had brought her work, and was making up a 
ruff in the most natural manner possible. There was Miss 
Belvawney — who seldom aspired to speaking parts, and usually 
went on as a page in white silk hose, to stand with one leg- 
bent, and contemplate the audience, or to go in and out after 
Mr. Crummies in stately tragedy — twisting up the ringlets of 
the beautiful Miss Bravassa, who had once had her likeness 
taken " in character " by an engraver's apprentice, whereof im- 
pressions were hung up for sale in the pastry-cook's window, and 
the green-grocer's, and at the circulating library, and the box- 
office, whenever the announce bills came out for her annual 
night. There was Mrs. Lenville, in a very limp bonnet and 
veil, decidedly in that way in which she would wish to be if 
she truly loved Mr. Lenville ; there was Miss Gazingi, with 
an imitation ermine boa tied in a loose knot round her neck, 
flogging Mr. Crummies, junior, with both ends, in fun. Lastly, 
there was Mrs. Grudden in a brown cloth pelisse and a beaver 
bonnet, who assisted Mrs. Crummies in her domestic affairs, 
and took money at the doors, and dressed the ladies, and 
swept the house, and held the prompt book when everybody 
else was on for the last scene, and acted any kind of part on 
any emergency without ever learning it, and was put down in 
the bills under any name or names whatever, that occurred to 
Mr. Crummies as looking well in print. 

Mr. Folair having oliligin^'lv confided these particulars to 
Nicholas, left him to mingle with his fellows ; the work of 
personal introduction was completed by Mr. Vincent Crumm- 
ies, who publicly heralded the new actor as a prodigy of ge- 
nius and learning. 

" I beg your pardon," said Miss Snevellicci, sidling 
towards Nicholas, " but did you ever play at Canterbury ? " 

" I never did," replied Nicholas. 

" I recollect meeting a gentleman at Canterbur}'," said 
Miss Snevellicci, " only for a few moments, for I was leaving 
the company as he joined it, so like you that I felt almost 
certain it was the same." 

" I see you now, for the first time," rejoined Nicholas with 



296 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



all due gallantry. " I am sure I never saw you before ; I 
couldn't have forgotten it." 

"Oh, I'm sure — it's very flattering of you to say so," re- 
torted Miss Snevellicci with a graceful bend. " Now I look 
at you again, I see that the gentleman at Canterbury hadn't 
the same eyes as you — you'll thinli me very foolish for taking 
notice of such things, won't you .'' " 

" Not at all," said Nicholas. "How can I feel otherwise 
than flattered by your notice in any way ? " 

" Oh, you men are such vain creatures ! " cried Miss 
Snevellicci. Whereupon, she became charmingly confused, 
and, pulling out her pocket-handkerchief from a faded pink 
silk reticule with a gilt clasp, called to Miss Ledrook — 

" Led, my dear," said Miss Snevellicci. 

" Well, what is the matter ? " said Miss Ledrook. 

" It's not the same." 

" Not the same what ? " 

" Canterbury — you know what I mean. Come here ! I 
want to speak to you." 

But Miss Ledrook wouldn't come to Miss Snevellicci, so 
Miss Snevellicci was obliged to go to Miss Ledrook, which 
she did, in a skipping manner that was quite fascinating ; and 
Miss Ledrook evidently joked Miss Snevellicci about being 
struck with Nicholas ; for, after some playful whispering, Miss 
Snevellicci hit Miss Ledrook veiy hard on the backs of her 
hands, and retired up, in a state of pleasing confusion. 

" Ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Vincent Crummies, who 
had been writing on a piece of paper, " we'll call the Mortal 
Struggle to-morrow at ten ; ever^-body for the procession. 
Intrigue, and Ways and Means, you're all up in, so we shall 
only want one rehearsal. Everybody at ten, if you please." 

" Everybody at ten," repeated Mrs. Grudden, looking 
about her. 

"On Monday morning we shall read a new piece," said 
Mr. Crummies ; " the names not known yet, but everybody 
will have a good part. Mr. Johnson will take care of that." 

" Hallo ! " said Nicholas^ starting, " I " 

" On Monday morning," repeated Mr. Crummies, raising 
his voice, to drown the unfortunate Mr. Johnson's remon- 
strance ; "that'll do, ladies and gentlemen." 

The ladies and gentlemen required no second notice to 
quit ; and, in a few minutes, the theatre was deserted, save by 
the Crummies' family, Nicholas, and Smike. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



297 



" Upon my word," said Nicholas, taking the manager 
aside, " I don't think I can be ready by Monday." 

"Pooh, pooh," replied Mr. Crummies. 

"But really 1 can't," returned Nicholas; "my invention 
is not accustomed to these demands, or possibly 1 might 
produce " 

" Invention ! what the devil's that got to do with it ! " cried 
the manager, hastily. 

" Everything, my dear sir." 

" Nothing, my dear sir," retorted the manager, with 
evident impatience. " Do you understand French ? " 

" Perfectly well." 

"Very good," said the manager, opening the table-drawer, 
and giving a roll of paper from it to Nicholas. " There I 
Just turn that into English, and put your name on the title- 
page. Damn me," said Mr. Crummies, angrily, " If I haven't 
often said that I wouldn't have a man or woman in my 
company that wasn't master of the language, so that they 
might learn it from the original, and play it in English, and 
save all this trouble and expense." 

Nicholas smiled and pocketed the play. 

" What are you going to do about your lodgings .-• " said 
Mr. Crummies. 

Nicholas could not help thinking that, for the first week, 
it would be an uncommon convenience to have a turn-up bed- 
stead in the pit, but he merely remarked that he had not 
turned his thoughts that way. 

" Come home with me then," said Mr. Crummies, " and 
my boys shall go with you after dinner, and show you the 
most likely place." 

The offer was not to be refused ; Nicholas and Mr. 
Crummies gave Mrs. Crummies an arm each, and walked up 
the street in stately array. Smike, the boys, and the phe- 
nomenon, went home by a shorter cut, and Mrs. Grudden 
remained behind to take some cold Irish stew and a pint of 
porter in the box-office. 

Mrs. Crummies trod the pavement as if she were going 
to immediate execution with an animating consciousness 
of innocence, and that heroic fortitude which virtue alone 
inspires. Mr. Crummies, on the other hand, assumed the 
look and gait of a hardened despot ; but they both attracted 
some notice from many of the passers-by, and when they 
heard a whisper of " Mr. and Mrs. Crummies ! " or saw a little 



2^8 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

boy run back to stare them in the face, the severe expression 
of their countenances relaxed, for they felt it was popularity. 

Mr. Crummies lived in Saint Thomas Street, at the house 
of one Bulph, a pilot, who sported a boat-green door, with 
window-frames of the same color, and had the little finger of 
a drowned man on his parlor mantel-shelf, with other maritime 
and natural curiosities. He displayed also a brass knocker, 
a brass plate, and a brass bell handle, all very bright and 
shining ; and had a mast, with a vane on the top of it, in his 
back yard. 

" You are welcome," said Mrs. Crummies, turning round 
to Nicholas when they reached the bow-windowed front room 
on the first floor. 

Nicholas bowed his acknowledgments, and was unfeignedly 
glad to see the cloth laid. 

" We have but a shoulder of mutton with onion sauce,"' 
said Mrs. Crummies, in the same charnel-house voice ; " but 
such as our dinner is, we beg you to partake of it." 

" You are very good," replied Nicholas, " I shall do it 
ample justice." 

"Vincent," said Mrs. Crummies, "what is the hour?" 

"Five minutes past dinner-time," said Mr. Crummies. 

Mrs. Crummies rang the bell. " Let the mutton and onion 
sauce appear." 

The slave who attended upon Mr. Bulph's lodgers, dis- 
appeared, and after a short interval re-appeared with the fes- 
tive banquet. Nicholas and the infant phenomenon opposed 
each other at the pembroke-table, and Smike and the master 
Crummleses dined on the sofa bedstead. 

" Are they very theatrical people here ? " asked Nicholas. 

"No," replied Mr. Crummies, shaking his head, "far 
from it — far from it." 

" I pity them," observed Mrs. Crummies. 

" So do I," said Nicholas; "if they have no relish for 
theatrical entertainments, properly conducted." 

" Then they have none, sir," rejoined Mr. Crummies. " To 
the infant's benefit, last year, on which occasion she repeated 
three of her most popular characters, and also appeared in the 
Fairy Porcupine, as originally performed by her, there was a 
house of no more than four pound twelve." 
" Is it possible ? " cried Nicholas. 

" y\nd two pound of that was trust, pa," said the phe- 
nomenon. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 299 

"And two pound of that was trust," repeated Mr. Crumm- 
ies. '' Mrs. Crummies herself has played to mere handfuls." 

** But they are always a taking audience, Vincent," said 
the manager's wife. 

" Most audiences are, when they have good acting — real 
good acting — the regular thing," replied Mr. Crummies, 
forcibly. 

"Do you give lessons, ma'am .^" inquired Nicholas. • 

"I do," said Mrs. Crummies. 

" There is no teaching here, I suppose ? " 

"There has been," said Mrs. Crummies. "I have re- 
ceived pupils here. I imparted tuition to the daughter of a 
dealer in ships' provision ; but it afterwards appeared that 
she was insane when she first came to me. It was ver}^ ex- 
traordinary that she would come, under such circumstances." 

Not feeling quite so sure of that, Nicholas thought it best 
to hold his peace. 

" Let me see,"' said the manager, cogitating after dinner. 
" Would you like some nice little part with the infant ? " 

"You are ver\^ good," replied Nicholas hastily; "but I 
think perhaps it would be better if I had somebody of my own 
size at first, in case I should turnout awkward. I should feel 
more at home perhaps." 

"True," said the manager. " Perhaps you would. And 
you could play up to the infant, in time, you know." 

"Certainly," replied Nicholas: devoutlv hoping that it 
would be a very long time before he was honored with this 
distinction. 

" Then I'll tell you what we'll do." said Mr. Crummies. 
"You shall study Romeo when you've done that piece — don't 
forget to throw the pump and the tubs in by the bye — Juliet 
Miss Snevellicci, old Grudden the nurse. — Yes, that'll do very 
well. Rover too ; — you might get up Rover while you were 
about it, and Cassio, and Jeremy Diddler. You can easilv 
knock them off; one part helps the other so much. Here 
they are, cues and all." 

With these hasty general directions Mr. Crummies thrust 
a number of little books into the faltering hands of Nicholas, 
and bidding his eldest son go with him and show where 
lodgings were to be had, shook him by the hand, and wished 
him good-night. 

There is no lack of comfortable furnished apartments in 
Portsmouth, and no difficulty in finding some that are pro- 



300 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

portionate to very slender finances ; but the former were too 
good, and the latter too bad, and they went into so many 
houses, and came out unsuited, that Nicholas seriously began 
to think he should be obliged to ask permission to spend the 
night in the theatre after all. 

Eventually, however, they stumbled upon two small rooms 
up three pair of stairs, or rather two pair and a ladder, at a 
tobacconist's shop, on the Common Hard : a dirty street lead- 
ing down to the dockyard. These Nicholas engaged, only too 
happy to have escaped any request for payment of a week's 
rent beforehand. 

"There! Lay down our personal property, Smike," he 
said, after showing young Crummies down stairs. " We have 
fallen upon strange times, and Heaven only knows the end of 
them : but I am tired with the events of these three days, and 
will postpone reflection till to-morrow — if I can." 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



OF THE GREAT BESPEAK FOR MISS SNEVELLICCI, AND THE 
FIRST APPEARANCE OF NICHOLAS UPON ANY STAGE 

Nicholas was up betimes in the morning ; but he had 
scarcely begun to dress, notwithstanding, when he heard foot- 
steps ascending the stairs, and was presently saluted by the 
voices of Mr. Folair the pantomimist, and Mr. Lenville, the 
tragedian. 

" House, house, house!" cried Mr. Folair. 

" What, ho ! within there ! " said Mr. Lenville, in a deep 
voice. 

" Confound these fellows ! " thought Nicholas ; " they 
have come to breakfast, I suppose. I'll open the door 
directly, if you'll wait an instant." 

The gentlemen entreated him not to hurry himself ; and, 
to beguile the interval, had a fencing bout with their walking- 
sticks on the very small landing-place : to the unspeakable 
discomposure of all the other lodgers down stairs. 

" Here, come in," said Nicholas, when he had completed 
his toilet. " In the name of all that's horrible, don't make 
that noise outside." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 301 

"An uncommon snug little box this," said Mr. Lenville, 
stepping into the front room, and taking his hat off, before he 
could get in at all. " Pernicious snug." 

" For a man at all particular in such matters, it might be 
a trifle too snug," said Nicholas ; " for, although it is, un- 
doubtedly, a great con\enience to be able to reach anything 
you want from the ceiling or the floor, or either side of the 
room, without having to move from your chair, still these ad- 
vantages can only be had in an apartment of the most limited 
size." 

" It isn't a bit too confined for a single man," returned 
Mr. Lenville. "That reminds me, — my wife, Mr. Johnson, — 
I hope she'll have some good part in this piece of yours ? " 

" I glanced at the French copy last night," said Nicholas. 
" It looks very good I think." 

" What do you mean to do for me, old fellow ? " asked Mr. 
Lenville, poking the struggling fire with his walking-stick, and, 
afterwards wiping it on the skirt of his coat. " Anything in 
the gruff and grumble way ? " 

" You turn your wife and child out of doors," said Nicholas ; 
" and in a fit of rage and jealousy, stab your eldest son in the 
library." 

" Do I though } " exclaimed Mr. Lenville. " That's ver)^ 
good business." 

" xA.fter which," said Nicholas, "You are troubled with re- 
morse till the last act, and then you make up your mind to 
destroy yourself. But just as you are raising the pistol to your 
head, a clock strikes — ten." 

"I see," cried Mr. Lenville. " Very good." 

"You pause," said Nicholas; "You recollect to have 
heard a clock strike ten in your infancy. The pistol falls 
from your hand — you are overcome — you burst into tears, and 
become a virtuous and exemplary character for ever after- 
wards." 

" Capital ! " said Mr. Lenville : "that's a sure card, a sure 
card. Get the curtain down with a touch of nature like that, 
and it'll be a triumphant success." 

" Is there anything good for me .^ " inquired Mr. Folair, 
anxiously. 

" Let me see," said Nicholas. " You play the faithful and 
attached servant ; you are turned out of doors with the wife 
and child." 

" Always coupled with that infernal phenomenon," sighed 



3 o 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

Mr. Folair ; " and we go into poor lodgings, where I won't 
take any wages, and talk sentiment, I suppose ? " 

"Why — yes," replied Nicholas : " that is the course of the 
piece." 

" I must have a dance of some kind, you know," said Mr. 
Folair. " You'll have to introduce one for the phenomenon, 
so you'd better make a pas de deux, and save time." 

" There's nothing easier than that," said Mr. Lenville, ob- 
serving the disturbed looks of the young dramatist. 

" Upon my word I don't see how it's to be done," rejoined 
Nicholas. 

" Why, isn't it obvious ? " reasoned Mr. Lenville. " Gad 
zooks, who can help seeing the way to do it ? — you astonish 
me ! You get the distressed lady, and the little child, and 
the attached servant, into the poor lodgings, don't you ? 
— Well, look here. The distressed lady sinks into a 
chair, and buries her face in her pocket handkerchief — 
' What makes you weep, mama ? ' says the child. ' Don't 
weep, mama, or you'll make me weep too ! ' — ' And me ! ' says 
the faithful ser\-ant, rubbing his eyes with his arm. ' What 
can we do to raise your spirits, clear mama .-' ' says the little 
child. ' Ay, what ca7i we do ? ' says the faithful servant. ' Oh, 
Pierre! ' says the distressed lady ; 'would that I could shake 
off these painful thoughts.' — ' Try, ma'am, try,' says the faith- 
ful servant ; ' rouse yourself, ma'am ; be amused.' — ' I will,' 
says tlie lady, ' I will learn to suffer with fortitude. Do you 
remember that dance, my honest friend, which, in happier 
days, you practised with this sweet angel ? It never failed to 
calm my spirits then. Oh ! let me see it once again before 
I die ! '—there it is — cue for the band before I die, — and off 
they go. That's the regular thing ; isn't it. Tommy ? " 

"That's it," replied Mr. Folair. "The distressed lady, 
overpowered by old recollections, faints at the end of the 
dance, and you close in with a picture." 

Profiting by these and other lessons, which were the result 
of the personal experience of the two actors, Nicholas wil- 
lingly gave them the best breakfast he could, and, when heat 
length got rid of them, applied himself to his task : by no 
means displeased to find that it was so much easier than he 
had at first supposed. He worked very hard all day, and did 
not leave his room until the evening, when he went down to 
the theatre, whither Smike had repaired before him to go on 
with another gentleman as a general rebellion. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 3 03 

Here all the people were so much changed, that he scarcely 
knew them. False hair, false color, false calves, false muscles 
— they had become different beings. Mr. Lenville was a bloom- 
ing warrior of most exquisite proportions ; Mr. Crummies, his 
large face shaded by a profusion of black hair, a Highland out- 
law of most majestic bearing ; one of the old gentleman a gaoler, 
and the other a venerable patriarch ; the comic countrj^man, 
a fighting-man of great valor, relieved by a touch of humor ; 
each of the master Crummleses a prince in his own right ; and 
the low-spirited lover, a desponding captive. There was a 
gorgeous banquet ready spread for the third act, consisting of 
two pasteboard vases, one plate of biscuits, a black bottle, and 
a vinegar cruet ; and, in short, everything was on a scale of 
the utmost splendor and preparation. 

Nicholas was standing with his back to the curtain, 
now contemplating the first scene, which was a Gothic arch- 
way, about two feet shorter than Mr. Crummies, through which 
that gentleman was to make the first entrance, and now listen- 
ing to a couple of people who were cracking nuts in the gal- 
ler}', wondering whether they made the whole audience, 
when the manager himself walked familiarly up and accosted 
him. 

" Been in front to-night ? " said Mr. Crummies. 

"No," replied Nicholas, "not yet. I am going to see the 
play." 

" We've had a pretty good Let," said Mr. Crummies. 
. " Four front places in the centre, and the whole of the stage- 
box." 

" Oh, indeed ! " said Nicholas ; " a family, I suppose .' " 

"Yes," replied Mr. Crummies, "yes. It's an affecting 
thing. There are six children, and they never come unless the 
phenomenon plays." 

It would have been difficult for any party, family or other- 
wise, to have visited the theatre on a night when the phenom- 
enon did no/ play, inasmuch as she always sustained one, and 
not uncommonly two or three, characters, every night ; but 
Nicholas, sympathizing with the feelings of a father, refrained 
from hinting at this trifling circumstance, and Mr. Crummies 
continued to talk, uninterrupted by him. 

"Six," said that gentleman ; " Pa and Ma eight, aunt nine, 
governess ten, grandfather and grandmother twelve. Then, 
there's the footman, who stands outside, with a bag of oranges 
and a jug of toast-and-water and sees the play for nothing 



204 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

through the little pane of glass in the box-door — it's cheap at 
a guinea ; they gain by taking a box." 

"I wonder you allow so many," observed Nicholas. 

" There's no help for it," replied Mr. Crummies ; " it's 
always expected in the country. If there are six children, 
six people come to hold them in their laps. A family-box 
carries double always. Ring in the orchestra, Grudden ! " 

That useful lady did as she was requested, and shortly 
afterwards the tuning of three fiddles was heard. Which pro- 
cess having been protracted as long as it was supposed 
that the patience of the audience could possibly bear it, 
was put a stop to by another jerk of the bell, which, being 
the signal to being in earnest, set the orchestra playing a 
variety of popular airs, with involuntary variations. 

If Nicholas had been astonished at the alteration for the 
better which the gentlemen displayed, the transformation of 
the ladies was still more extraordinary'. When, from a snug 
corner of the manager's box, he beheld Miss Snevellicci in all 
the glories of white muslin with a golden hem, and Mrs. 
Crummies in all the dignity of the outlaw's wife, and Miss 
Bravassa in all the sweetness of Miss Snevellicci's confiden- 
tial friend, and Miss Belvawney in the white silks of a 
page doing duty everywhere and swearing to live and die in 
the service of everybody, he could scarcely contain his 
admiration, which testified itself in great applause, and the 
closest possible attention to the business of the scene. The 
plot was most interesting. It belonged to no particular age, 
people, or country, and was perhaps the more delightful on that 
account, as nobody's previous information could aftord the re- 
motest glimmering of what would ever come of it. An outlaw 
had been very successful in doing something somewhere, and 
came home, in triumph, to the sounds of shouts and fiddles, 
to greet his wife — a lady of masculine mind, who talked a 
good deal about her father's bones, which it seemed were un- 
buried, though whether from a peculiar taste on the part of 
the old gentleman himself, or the reprehensible neglect of his 
relations, did not appear. This outlaw's wife was, somehow 
or other, mixed up with a patriarch living in a castle a long 
way off, and this patriarch was the father of several of the 
characters, but he didn't exactly know which, and was uncer- 
tain whether he Iiad brought up the right ones in his castle, or 
the wrong ones ; he rather incUned to the latter opinion, and, 
being uneasy, relieved his mind with a banqiiet, during which 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



305 



solemnity somebody in a cloak said " Beware ! " which some- 
body was known by nobody (except the audience) to be the 
outlaw himself, who had come there, for reasons unexplained, 
but possibly with an eye to the spoons. There was an agree- 
able little surprise in the way of certain love passages between 
the desponding captive and Miss Snevellicci, and the ccmic 
fighting-man and Miss JJravassa ; besides which, Mr. Lenville 
had several very tragic scenes in the dark, while on throat- 
cutting expeditions, which were all baffled by the skill and 
bravery of the comic fighting-man (who overheard whatever 
was said all through the piece) and the intrepidity of Miss 
Snevellicci, who adopted tights, and therein repaired to the 
prison of her captive lover, with a small basket of refresh- 
ments and a dark lantern. At last, it came out that the patri- 
arch was the man who had treated the bones of the outlaw's 
father-in-law with so much disrespect, for which cause and 
reason the outlaw's wife repaired to his castle to kill him, and 
so got into a dark room, where, after a good deal of groping 
in the dark, everybody got hold of everybody else, and took 
them for somebody besides which occasioned a vast quantity 
of confusion, with some pistoling, loss of life, and torchlight ; 
after which, the patriarch came forward, and observing, with 
a knowing look, that he knew all about his children now, and 
would tell them when they got inside, said that there could 
not be a more appropriate occasion for marrying the young 
people than that-; and therefore he joined their hands, with 
the full consent of the indefatigable page, who (being the only 
other person surviving) pointed with his cap into the clouds, 
and his right hand to the ground ; thereby invoking a blessing 
and giving the cue for the curtain to come down, which it did, 
amidst general applause. 

" What did you think of that ? " asked Mr. Crummies, when 
Nicholas went round to the stage again. Mr. Crummies was 
ve'ry red and hot, for your outlaws are desperate fellows to 
shout. 

" I think it was very capital indeed," replied Nicholas ; 
"Miss Snevellicci in particular was uncommonly good." 

'' She's a genius," said Mr. Crummies ; " quite a genius, 
that girl. By the bye, I've been thinking of bringing out that 
piece of yours on her bespeak night." 

" When .? " asked Nicholas. 

" The night of her bespeak. Her benefit night, when her 
friends and patrons bespeak the play," said Mr. Crummies. 

20 



3o6 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



" Oh ! I understand," replied Nicholas. 

" You see," said Mr. Crummies, " it's sure to go, on such 
an occasion, and even if it should not work up quite as well 
as we expect, why it will be her risk, you know, and not ours." 

" Yours, you mean," said Nicholas. 

" I said mine, didn't I ? " returned Mr. Crummies. " Next 
Monday week. What do you say 1 You'll have done it, and 
are sure to be up in the lover's part, long before that time." 

"I don't know about 'long before,'" replied Nicholas; 
" but by that time I think I can undertake to be ready." 

" Very good," pursued Mr. Crummies, " then we'll call 
that settled. Now I want to ask you something else. There's 
a little — what shall I call it — a little canvassing takes place 
on these occasions." 

" Among the patrons, I suppose ? " said Nicholas. 

"Among the patrons ; and the fact is, that Snevellicci has 
had so many bespeaks in this place, that she wants an attrac- 
tion. She had a bespeak when her mother-in-law died, and a 
bespeak when her uncle died ; and Mrs. Crummies and my- 
self have had bespeaks on the anniversary of the phenom- 
enon's birthday, and our wedding-day, and occasions of that 
description, so that, in fact, there's some difficulty in getting a 
good one. Now, won't you help this poor girl, Mr. Johnson.'"' 
said Crummies, sitting himself down on a drum, and taking 
a great pinch of snuff, as he looked him steadily in the face. 

" How do you mean .'"' rejoined Nicholas. 

" Don't you think you could spare half-an-hour to-morrow 
morning, to call with her at the houses of one or two of the 
principal people .'' " murmured the manager in a persuasive 
tone. 

" Oh dear me," said Nicholas, with an air of very strong 
objection, " I shouldn't like to do that." 

" The infant will accompany her," said Mr. Crummies. 
" The moment it was suggested to me, I gave permission for 
the infant to go. There will not be the smallest impropriety 
— Miss Snevellicci, sir, is the ver}^ soul of honor. It would 
be of material service — the gentleman from London — author 
of the new piece — actor in the new piece — first appearance on 
any boards — it would lead to a great bespeak, Mr. Johnson." 

" I am very sorry to throw a damp upon the prospects of 
anybody, and more especially a lady," replied Nicholas,* 
" but really 1 must decidedly object to making one of the 
canvassing party." 



NICHOLAS NICKLF.BY. 307 

" What does Mr, Johnson say, Vincent ? " inquired a voice 
close to his ear; and, loolcing round, he found Mrs. Crummies 
and Miss Snevellicci herself standing behind him. 

" He has some objection, my dear," replied Mr. Crummies, 
looking at Nicholas. 

" Objection ! " exclaimed Mrs. Crummies. " Can it be 
possible ? " 

" Oh, I hope not ! " cried Miss Snevellicci. " You surely 
are not so cruel — oh, dear me ! — Well, I — to think of that 
now, after all one's looking forward to it ! " 

" Mr. Johnson will not persist, my dear," said Mrs. 
Crummies. " Think better of him than to suppose it. Gal- 
lantry, humanity, all the best feelings of his nature must be 
enlisted in this interesting cause." 

"Which moves even a manager," said Mr. Crummies, 
smiling. 

" And a manager's wife," added Mrs. Crummies, in her 
accustomed tragedy tones. " Come, come, you will relent, 
1 know you will." 

" It is not in my nature," said Nicholas, moved by these 
appeals, " to resist any entreaty, unless it is to do something 
positively wrong ; and, beyond a feeling of pride, I know noth- 
ing which should prevent my doing this. I know nobody 
here, and nobody knows me. So be it then. I yield." 

Miss Snevellicci was at once overwhelmed with blushes 
and expressions of gratitude, of which latter commodity 
neither Mr. nor Mrs. Crummies was by any means sparing. 
It was arranged that Nicholas should call upon her, at her 
lodgings, at eleven next morning, and soon after they parted : 
he to return home to his authorship: Miss Snevellicci to 
dress for the after-piece : and the disinterested manager and 
his wife to discuss the probable gains of the forthcoming 
bespeak, of which they were to have two-thirds of the profits 
by solemn treaty of agreement. 

At the stipulated hour next morning, Nicholas repaired to 
the lodgings of Miss Snevellicci, which were in a place called 
Lombard Street, at the house of a tailor. A strong smell of 
ironing pervaded the little passage ; and the tailor's daughter, 
who opened the door, appeared in that flutter of spirits which 
is so often attendant upon the periodical getting up of a 
family's linen. 

" Miss Snevellicci lives here, I believe ? " said Nicholas, 
when the door was opened. 



3o8 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



The tailor's daughter replied in the affirmative. 

" Will you have the goodness to let her know that Mr. 
Johnson is here ? " said Nicholas. 

" Oh, if you please you're to come up stairs," replied the 
tailor's daughter, with a smile. 

Nicholas followed the young lady, and was shown into a 
small apartment on the first floor, communicating with a back 
room ; in which, as he judged from a certain half-subdued 
clinking sound, as of cups and saucers, Miss Snevellicci was 
then taking her breakfast in bed. 

"You're to wait, if you please," said the tailor's daughter, 
after a short period of absence, during which the clinking in 
the back room had ceased, and had been succeeded by whisper- 
ing. " She won't be long." 

As she spoke she pulled up the window-Liind, and having 
by this means (as she thought) diverted Mr. Johnson's atten- 
tion from the room to the street, caught up some articles which 
were airing on the fender, and had very much the appearance 
of stockings, and darted off. 

As there were not many objects of interest outside the 
window, Nicholas looked about the room with more curiosity 
than he might otherwise have bectowed upon it. On the sofa 
lay an old guitar, several thumbed pieces of music, and a 
scattered litter of curl-papers : together with a confused heap 
of play-bills, and a pair of soiled white satin shoes with large 
blue rosettes. Hanging over the back of a chair was a half- 
finished muslin apron v.'ith little pockets ornamented with red 
ribbons, such as waiting-women wear on the stage, and (by 
consequence) are never seen with anywhere else. In one 
corner stood the diminutive pair of top-boots in which Miss 
Snevellicci was accustomed to enact the little jockey, and, 
folded on a chair hard by, was a small parcel, which bore a 
very suspicious resemblance to the companion smalls. 

But the most interesting object of all, was, perhaps, the 
open scrap-book, displayed in the midst of some theatrical 
duodecimos that were strewn upon the table ; and pasted into 
which scrap-book were various critical notices of Miss Snevel- 
licci's acting, extracted from different provincial journals, to- 
gether with one poetic address in her honor commencing — 

Sinj;, God of Lovo, and tell me in wh.it dearth 
Thrice-f;ifted Snevellicci came on earth, 
To thrill us with her smile, her tear, her eye, 
Sing, God of Love, and tell me quickly why. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 309 

Besides this effusion, there were innumerable complimentary 
allusions, also extracted from newspapers, such as — " We ob- 
serve from an advertisement in another part of our paper of 
to-day, that the charming and highly-talented Miss Snevel- 
licci takes her benefit on Wednesday, for which occasion she 
has put forth a bill of fare that might kindle exhilaration in 
the breast of a misanthrope. In the confidence that our fel- 
low-townsmen have not lost that high appreciation of public 
utility and private worth, for which they have long been so 
pre-eminently distinguished, we predict that this charming 
actress will be greeted with a bumper." " To Correspond- 
ents. — J. S. is misinformed when he supposes that 'the highly- 
gifted and beautiful Miss Snevellicci, nightly captivating all 
hearts at our pretty and commodious little theatre, is not the 
same lady to whom the young gentleman of immense fortune, 
residing within a hundred miles of the good city of York, 
lately made honorable proposals. We have reason to know 
that Miss Snevellicci is the lady who was implicated in that 
mysterious and romantic affair, and whose conduct on that 
occasion did no less honor to her head and heart, than do her 
histrionic triumphs to her brilliant genius." A copious assort- 
ment of such paragraphs as these, with long bills of benefits 
all ending with "Come Early," in large capitals, formed the 
principal contents of Miss Snevellicci's scrap-book. 

Nicholas had read a great many of these scraps, and was 
absorbed in a circumstantial and melancholy account of the 
train of events which had led to Miss Snevellicci's spraining 
her ankle by slipping on a piece of orange-peel flung by a 
monster in human form, (so the paper said,) upon the stage at 
Winchester, — when that young lady herself, attired in the 
coal-scuttle bonnet and walking-dress complete, tripped nito 
the room, with a thousand apologies for having detained him 
so long after the appointed time. 

" But really," said Miss Snevellicci, " my darling Led, who 
lives with me here, was taken so very ill in the night that I 
thought she would have expired in my arms." 

" Such a fate is almost to be envied," returned Nicholas, 
"but I am very sorry to hear it nevertheless." 

" What a creature you are to flatter ! " said Miss Snevel- 
licci, buttoning her glove in much confusion. 

" If it be flattery to admire your charms and accomplish- 
ments," rejoined Nicholas, laying his hand upon the scrap- 
book, "you have better specimens of it here." 



3IO 



NICHOLAS AICKLEB Y. 



" Oh you cruel creature, to read such things as those ! 
I'm ahnost ashamed to look you in the face afterwards, posi- 
tively I am," said Miss Snevellicci, seizing the book and putting 
it away in a closet. " How careless of Led ! How could she 
be so naughty ! " 

" I thought 3'ou had kindly left it here, on purpose for me 
to read," said Nicholas. And really it did seem possible. 

" I wouldn't have had you see it for the world ! " rejoined 
Miss Snevellicci. " I never was so vexed — never ! But she 
is such a careless thing, there's no trusting her." 

The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of 
the phenomenon, who had discreetly remained in the bedroom 
up to this moment, and now presented herself, with much 
grace and lightness, bearing in her hand a very little green 
parasol with a broad fringe border, and no handle. After a 
few words of course, they sallied into the street. 

The phenomenon was rather a troublesome companion, for 
first the right sandal came down, and then the left, and these 
mischances being repaired, one leg of the little white trousers 
was discovered to be longer than the other ; besides these ac- 
cidents, the green parasol was dropped down an iron grating, 
and only fished up again, with great difficulty and by dint 
of much exertion. Plowever, it was impossible to scold her, 
as she was the manager's daughter, so Nicholas took it all in 
perfect good humor, and walked on, with Miss Snevellicci, 
arm in arm on one side, and the offending infant on the other. 

The first house to which they bent their steps, was situated 
in a terrace of respectable appearance. Miss Snevellicci's 
modest double-knock was answered by a foot-boy, who, in re- 
ply to her inquiry whether Mrs. Curdle was at home, opened 
his eyes very wide, grinned very much, and said he didn't 
know, but he'd inquire. With this, he showed them into a 
parlor where he kept them waiting, until the two women-ser- 
vants had repaired thither, under false pretences, to see the 
pla3^-actors ; and having compared notes with them in the pas- 
sage, and joined in a vast quantity of whispering and gig- 
gling, he at length went up stairs with Miss Snevellicci'-s 
name. 

Now, Mrs. Curdle was supposed, by those who were best 
informed on such points, to possess quite the London taste in 
matters relating to literature and the drama ; and as to Mr. 
Curdle, he hacl written a pamphlet of sixty-four pages, post 
octavo, on the character of the Nurse's deceased husband in 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 311 

Romeo and Juliet, with an inquiry whetlier he really had been 
a "merry man" in his life-time, or whether it was merely his 
widow's affectionate partiality that induced her so to report 
him. He had likewise pro\ed, that by altering the received 
mode of punctuation, any one of Shakspeare's plays could be 
made quite different, and the sense completely changed ; it is 
needless to say, therefore, that he was a great critic, and a 
very profound and most original thinker. 

" Well, Miss Snevellicci," said Mrs. Curdle, entering the 
parlor, " and how do jou do ? " 

Miss Snevellicci made a graceful obeisance, and hoped 
Mrs. Curdle was well, as also Mr. Curdle, who at the same 
time appeared. Mrs. Curdle was dressed in a morning wrap- 
per, with a little cap stuck upon the top of her head. Mr. 
Curdle wore a loose robe on his back, and his right forefinger 
on his forehead after the portraits of Sterne, to whom some- 
body or other had once said he bore a striking resemblance. 

" I ventured to call, for the purpose of asking whether you 
would put your name to my bespeak, ma'am," said Miss 
Snevellicci, producing documents. 

"Oh! I really don't know what to say," replied Mrs. 
Curdle. " It's not as if the theatre was in its high and palmy 
days — you needn't stand. Miss Snevellicci — the drama is 
gone, perfectly gone." 

" As an exquisite embodiment of the poet's visions, and a 
realization of human intellectuality, gilding with refulgent 
light our dreamy moments, and laying open a new and magic 
world before the mental eye, the drama is gone, perfectly 
gone," said Mr. Curdle. 

"What man is there, now living, who can present before 
us all those changing and prismatic colors with which the 
character of Hamtet is invested .? " exclaimed Mrs. Curdle. 

"What man indeed — upon the stage," said Mr. Curdle, 
with a small reservation in favor of himself. " Hamlet ! 
Pooh ! ridiculous ! Hamlet is gone, perfectly gone." 

Quite overcome by these dismal refiections, Mr. and Mrs. 
Curdle sighed, and sat for some short time without speaking. 
At lengtli, the lady, turning to Miss Snevellicci, inquired what 
play she proposed to ha\-e. 

" Quite a new one," said Miss Snevellicci, " of which this 
gentleman is the author, and in which he plays ; being his 
first appearance on any stage. Mr. Johnson is the gentle- 
man's name." 



312^ NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" I hope you have preserved the unities, sir ? " said Mr. 

Curdle. 

" The original piece is a French one," said Nicholas. 
" There is abundance of incident, sprightly dialogue, strongly- 
marked characters " 

" — AH unavailing without a strict obsen-ance of the unities, 
sir," returned Mr. Curdle. " The unities of the drama, be- 
fore everything." 

" Might I ask you," said Nicholas, hestitating between the 
respect he ought to assume, and his love of the whimsical, 
"might I ask you what the unities are t " 

Mr. Curdle coughed and considered. " The unities, sir," 
he said, " are a completeness — a kind of a universal dovetail- 
edness with regard to place and time — a sort of a general 
oneness, if I may be allowed to use so strong an expression. 
I take those to be the dramatic unities, so far as I have been 
enabled to bestow attention upon them, and I have read much 
upon the subject, and thought much. I find, running through 
the performances of this child," said Mr. Curdle, turning to 
the phenomenon, " a unity of feeling, a breadth, a light and 
shade, a warmth of coloring, a tone, a harmony, a glow, an 
artistical development of original conceptions, which I look 
for, in vain, among older performers. I don't know whether 
I make myself understood ? " 

" Perfectly," replied Nicholas. 

" Just so," said Mr. Curdle, pulling up his neckcloth. 
" That is my definition of the unities of the drama." 

Mrs. Curdle had sat listening to this lucid explanation 
with great complacency. It being finished, she inquired what 
Mr, Curdle thought, about putting down their names. 

" I don't know, my dear ; upon my word I don't know," 
said Mr. Curdle. " If we do, it must be distinctly understood 
that we do not pledge ourselves to the quality of the perform- 
ances. Let it go forth to the world, that we do not give 
thetn the sanction of our names, but that we confer the dis- 
tinction merely upon Miss Snevellicci. That being clearly 
stated, I take it to be, as it were, a duty, that we should ex- 
tend our patronage to a degraded stage, even for the sake of 
the associations with which it is entwined. Have you got two- 
and-sixpence for half-a-crown, Miss Snevellicci ? " said Mr. 
Curdle, turning over four of those pieces of money. 

Miss Snevellicci felt in all the corners of the pink reticule, 
but there was nothing in any of them. Nicholas murmured a 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 313 

jest about his being an author, and thought it best not to go 
through the form of feehng in his own pockets at all 

" Let me see," said Mr, Curdle : " twice four's eight — four 
shillings a-piece to the boxes, Miss Snevellicci, is exceedingly 
dear in the present state of the drama — three half-crowns is 
seven-and-six ; we shall not differ about sixpence, I suppose ? 
Sixpence will not part us, Miss Snevellicci ? " 

Poor Miss Snevellicci took the three half-crowns, with 
many smiles and bends, and Mrs. Curdle, adding several sup- 
plementary directions relative to keeping the places for 
them, and dusting the seat, and sending two clean bills as 
soon as they came out, rang the bell, as a signal for breaking 
up the conference. 

"Odd people those," said Nicholas, when they got clear 
of the house. 

" I assure you," said Miss Snevellicci, taking his arm, 
" that I think myself very lucky they did not owe all the 
money instead of being sixpence short. Now, if you were to 
succeed, they would give people to understand that they had 
always patronized you ; and if you were to fail, they would 
have been quite certain of that from the ver}' beginning." 

At the next house they visited they were in great glory ; 
for, there, resided the six children who were so enraptured 
with the public actions of the phenomenon, and who, being 
called down from the nursery to be treated with a pri\ate 
view of that young lady, proceeded to poke their fingers into 
her eyes, and tread upon her toes, and show her many other 
little attentions peculiar to their time of life. 

" I shall certainly persuade Mr. Eorum to take a private 
box," said the lady of the house, after a most gracious recep- 
tion. " I shall only take two of the children, and will make 
up the rest of the party of gentlemen — your admirers. Miss 
Snevellicci. Augustus, you naughty boy, leave the little girl 
alone." 

This was addressed to a young gentleman who was pinch- 
ing the phenomenon behind, apparently with a view of ascer- 
taining whether she was real. 

" I am sure you must be very tired," said the mama, turn- 
ing to Miss Snevellicci. " I cannot think of allowing you to 
go, without first taking a glass of wine. Fie, Charlotte, I am 
ashamed of you ! Miss Lane, my dear, pray see to the chil- 
dren." 

Miss Lane was the governess, and this entreaty was ren- 



314 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

dered necessary by the abrupt behavior of the youngest Miss 
Borum, who, having filched the phenomenon's little green 
parasol, was now carrying it bodily off, while the distrac'.e:! 
infant looked helplessly on. 

" I am sure, where you ever learnt to act as you do," said 
good-natured Mrs. Borum, turning again to Miss Snevellicci, 
" 1 cannot understand (Emma, don't stare so) ; laughing in 
one piece, and crying in the next, and so natural in all — oh, 
dear ! " 

" I am very happy to hear you express so favorable an 
opinion," said Miss Snevellicci. " It's quite delightful to think 
you like it." 

" Like it ! " cried Mrs. Borum. " Who can help liking it ! 
I would go to the play twice a week if I could : I dote upon 
it. Only you're too affecting sometimes. You do put me in 
such a state ; into such fits of crying ! Goodness gracious me. 
Miss Lane, how can you let them torment that poor child so ! " 

The phenomenon was really in a fair way of being torn 
limb from limb ; for two strong little boys, one holding on by 
each of her hands, were dragging her in different directions as 
a trial of strength. However, Miss Lane (who had herself 
been too much occupied in contemplating the grown-up actors, 
to pay the necessary attention to these proceedings) rescued 
the unhappy infant at this juncture, who, being recruited with 
a glass of wine, was shortly afterwards taken away by her 
friends, after sustaining no more serious damage than a flat- 
tening of the pink gauze bonnet, and a rather extensive creas- 
ing of the white frock and trousers. 

It was a trying morning ; for there were a great many calls 
to make, and everybody wanted a different thing. Some 
wanted tragedies, and others comedies ; some objected to 
dancing ; some wanted scarcely anything else. Some thought 
the comic singer decidedly low, others hoped he would have 
more to do than he usually had. Some people wouldn't prom- 
ise to go, because other people wouldn't promise to go ; and 
other people wouldn't go at all, because other people went. 
At length, and by little and little, omitting something in this 
place, and adding something in that. Miss Snevellicci pledged 
herself to a bill of fare which was comprehensive enough, if it 
had no other merit (it included among other trifles, four pieces, 
divers songs, a few combats, and several dances) ; and they 
returned home, pretty well exhausted with the business of the 
day. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 3 1 5 

Nicholas worked away at the piece, which was speedily 
put into rehearsal, and. then worked away at his own part, 
which he studied with great perseverance and acted — as the 
whole company said — to perfection. And at length the great 
day arrived. The crier was sent round, in the morning, to 
proclaim the entertainments with sound of bell in all the 
thoroughfares ; and extra bills of three feet long by nine inches 
wide, were dispersed in all directions, flung down all the 
areas, thrust under all the knockers, and developed in all the 
shops. They were placarded on all the walls too, though 
not with complete success, for an illiterate person having un- 
dertaken this office during the indisposition of the regular bill- 
sticker, a part were posted sideways, and the remainder up- 
side down. 

At half-past five, there was a rush of four people to the 
gallery-door ; at a quarter before six, there were at least a dozen; 
at six o'clock the kicks were terrific ; and when the elder Mas- 
ter Crummies opened the door, he was obliged to run behind 
it for his life. Fifteen shillings were taken by Mrs. Grudden 
in the first ten minutes. 

Behind the scenes, the same unwonted excitement prevailed. 
Miss Snevellicci was in such a perspiration that the paint 
would scarcely stay on her face. Mrs. Crummies was so ner- 
vous that she could hardly remember her part. Miss Bra- 
vassa's ringlets came out of curl with the heat and anxiety ; 
even Mr. Crummies himself kept peeping through the hole in 
the curtain, and running back, every now and then, to announce 
that another man had come into the pit. 

At last, the orchestra left off, and the curtain rose upon 
the new joiece. The first scene, in which there was nobody 
particular, passed off calmly enough, but when Miss Snevel- 
licci went on in the second, accompanied by the phenomenon 
as child, what a roar of applause broke out ! The people in 
the Borum box rose as one man, waving their hats and hand- 
kerchiefs, and uttering shouts of " Bravo ! " Mrs. Borum and 
the governess cast wreaths upon the stage, of which, some 
fluttered into the lamps, and one crowned the temples of a fat 
gentleman in the pit, who, looking eagerly towards the scene, 
remained unconscious of the honor; the tailor and his family 
kicked at the panels of the upper boxes till they threatened 
to come out altogether ; the xevy ginger-beer boy remained 
transfixed in the centre of the house ; a young officer, supposed 
to entertain a passion for Miss Snevellicci, stuck his glass in 



3i6 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



his eye as though to hide a tear. Again and again Miss Snev- 
ellicci, curtseyed lower and lower, and again and again the 
applause came down, louder and louder. At length, when the 
phenomenon picked up one of the smoking wreaths and put 
it on, sideways, over Miss Snevellicci's eye, it reached its cli- 
max, and the play proceeded. 

But when Nicholas came on for his crack scene with Mrs. 
Crummies, what a clapping of hands there was ! When Mrs. 
Crummies (who was his unworthy mother), sneered and called 
him " presumptuous boy," and he defied her, what a tumult 
of applause came on ! When he quarrelled with the other 
gentleman about the young lady, and producing a case of pis- 
tols, said that if he was a gentleman, he would fight him in 
that drawing-room, until the furniture was sprmkled with the 
blood of one, if not of two— how boxes, pit, and gallery, joined 
in one most vigorous cheer! When he called his mother 
names, because she wouldn't give up the young lady's property, 
and she relenting, caused him to relent likewise, and fall down 
on one knee and ask her blessing, how the ladies in the audi- 
ence sobbed ! When he was hid behind the curtam in the 
dark, and the wicked relation poked a sharp sword in every 
direction, save where his legs were plamly visible, what a thrill 
of anxious fear ran through the house ! His air, his figure, 
his walk, his look, everything he said or did, was the subject 
of commendation. There was a round of applause every time 
he spoke. And when, at last, in the pump-and-tub scene, Mrs. 
Grudden lighted the blue fire, and all the unemployed mem- 
bers of the company came in, and tumbled clown in various 
directions — not because that had anything to do with the plot, 
but in order to finish off with a tableau — the audience (who 
had by this time increased considerably) gave vent to such a 
shout of enthusiasm, as had not been heard in those walls for 
many and many a day. 

In short, the success both of new piece and new actor 
was complete, and when Miss Snevellicci was called for at the 
end of the play, Nicholas led her on, and divided the ap- 
plause. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



317 



CHAPTER XXV. 

CONCERNING A YOUNG LADY FROM LONDON, WHO JOINS THE 
COMPANY, AND AN ELDERLY ADMIRER WHO FOLLOWS IN HER 
TRAIN ; WITH AN AFFECTING CEREMONY CONSEQUENT ON 
THEIR ARRIVAL. 

The new piece being a decided hit, was announced for 
every evening of performance until further notice, and the 
evenings when the theatre was closed, were reduced from three 
in the week to two. Nor were these the only tokens of extra- 
ordinary success ; for, on the succeeding Saturday, Nicholas 
received, by favor of the indefatigable Mrs. Grudden, no less 
a sum than thirty shillings ; besides which substantial reward, 
he enjoyed considerable fame and honor : having a presenta- 
tion copy of Mr. Curdle's pamphlet forwarded to the theatre, 
with that gentleman's own autograph (in itself an inestimable 
treasure) on the fly-leaf, accompanied with a note, containing 
many expressions o£ approval, and an unsolicited assurance 
that Mr. Curdle would be very happy to read Shakspeare to 
him for three hours every morning before breakfast during his 
stay in the town. 

" I've got another novelty, Johnson," said Mr. Crummies 
one morning in great glee. 

" What's that ? " rejoined Nicholas. " The pony ? " 

" No, no, we never come to the pony till everything else 
has failed," said Mr. Crummies. " I don't think we shall 
come to the pony at all, this season. No, no, not the 
pony." 

" A boy phenomenon, perhaps ? " suggested Nicholas. 

" There is only one phenomenon, sir," replied Mr. Crumm- 
ies impressively, "and that's a girl." 

" Very true," said Nicholas. "• I beg your pardon. Then 
I don't know what it is, I am sure." 

" What should you say to a young lady from London .? " 
inquired Mr. Crummies. " Miss So-and-so, of the Theatre 
Royal, Drury I.ane ? " 

" I should say she would look very well in the bills," said 
Nicholas. 



3^8 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



" You're about right there," said Mr. Crummies ; " and if 
you had said she would look very well upon the stage too, you 
wouldn't have been far out. Look here ; what do you think 
of this .? " 

With this inquiry Mr. Crummies unfolded a red poster, 
and a blue poster, and a yellow poster, at the top of each of 
which public notification was inscribed in enormous characters 
" First appearance of the unrivalled Miss Petowker of the 
Theatre Royal, Drury oane ! " 

" Dear me ! " said Nicholas, " I know that lady." 

" Then you are acquainted with as much talent as was ever 
compressed into one young person's body," retorted Mr. 
Crummies, rolling up the bills again ; " that is, talent of a cer- 
tain sort — of a certain sort. ' The Blood Drinker,' " added 
Mr. Crummies with a prophetic sigh, " ' The Blood Drinker ' 
will die with that girl ; and she's the only sylph / ever saw, 
who could stand upon one leg, and play the tambourine on 
her other knee like a sylph." 

"When does she come down? " asked Nicholas. 

" We expect her to-day," replied Mr. Crummies. " She 
is an old friend of J\lrs. Crummles's. Mrs. Crummies saw 
what she could do — always knew it from the first. She taught 
her, indeed, nearly all she knows. Mrs. Crummies was the 
original Blood Drinker." 

" Was she, indeed ? " 

" Yes. She was obliged to give it up though." 

" Did it disagree with her .'' " asked Nicholas. 

"Not so much with her, as with her audiences," replied 
Mr. Crummies. " Nobody could stand it. It was too tre- 
mendous. You don't quite know what Mrs. Crummies is, 
yet." 

Nicholas ventured to insinuate that he thought he did. 

" No, no, you don't," said Mr. Crummies ; "you don't in- 
deed, /don't, and that's a fact. I don't think her country 
will, till she is dead. Some new proof of talent bursts from 
that astonishing woman every year of her life. Look at her, 
mother of six children, three of 'em alive, and all upon the 
stage ! " 

" Extraordinary ! " cried Nicholas. 

" Ah ! extraordinary indeed," rejoined Mr. Crummies, 
taking a complacent pinch of snufF, and shaking his, head 
gravely. " I i)led'j,c you my professional word 1 didn't even 
know she could tlance, till her last benefit, and tlieii she played 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 3 ig 

Juliet, and Helen Macgregor, and did the skipping-rope horn- 
pipe between the pieces. The very first time I saw that 
admirable woman, Johnson," said Mr. Crummies, drawing a 
little nearer, and speaking in the tone of confidential friend- 
ship, " she stood upon her head on the butt-end of a spear, 
surrounded with blazing fireworks." 

"You astonish me ! " said Nicholas. 

" 67/1? astonished 771 e ! " returned Mr. Crummies, with a very 
serious countenance. " Such grace, coupled with such dignity ! 
I adored her from that moment ! " 

The arrival of the gifted subject of these remarks put an 
abrupt termination to Mr. Crummles's eulogium. Almost im- 
mediately afterwards. Master Percy Crummies entered with a 
letter, which had arrived by the General Post, and was directed 
to his gracious mother ; at sight of the superscription where- 
of, Mrs. Crummies exclaimed, " From Henrietta Petowker, I 
do declare ! " and instantlv became absorbed in the contents. 

" Is it — ?" inquired Mr. Crummies, hesitating. 

"Oh, yes, it's all right," replied Mrs. Crummies, anticipa- 
ting the question. "What an excellent thing for her, to be 
sure ! " 

" It's the best thing altogether, that I ever heard of, I 
think," said Mr. Crummies ; and then Mr. Crummies, Mrs. 
Crummies, and Master Percy Crummies, all fell to laugh- 
ing violently. Nicholas left them to enjoy their mirth to- 
gether, and walked to his lodgings ; wondering very much 
what mystery connected with Miss Petowker could provoke 
such merriment, and pondering still more on the extreme sur- 
prise with which thar lady would regard his sudden enlistment 
in a profession of which she w^as such a distinguished and 
brilliant ornament. 

But, in this latter respect he was mistaken ; for — whether 
Mr. Vincent Crummies had paved the wa3% or Miss Petowker 
had some special reason for treating him with even more than 
her usual amiability — their meeting at the theatre next day 
was more like that of two dear friends who had been insepara- 
ble from infancy, than a recognition passing between a lady 
and gentleman who had only met some half dozen times, and 
then by mere chance. Nay, Miss Petowker e\"en whispered 
that she had wholly dropped the Kenwigses in her conversa- 
tions with the manager's family, and had represented herself 
as having encountered Mr. Johnson in the very first and most 
fashionable circles ; and on Nicholas receiving this intelligence 



,20 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

with unfeigned surprise, she added, with a sweet glance, that 
she had a claim on his good nature now, and might tax it be- 
fore long. 

Nicholas had the honor of playing in a slight piece with 
Miss Petowker that night, and could not but observe that 
the warmth of her reception was mainly attributable to a most 
persevering umbrella in the upper boxes ; he saw, too, that 
the enchanting actress cast many sweet looks towards the 
quarter whence these sounds proceeded ; and that every time 
she did so, the umbrella broke out afresh. Once, he thought 
that a peculiarly shaped hat in the same corner was not wholly 
unknown to him ; but, being occupied with his share of the 
stage business, he bestowed no great attention upon this cir- 
cuinstance, and it had quite vanished from his memory by the 
time he reached home. 

He had just sat down to supper with Smike, when one of 
the people of the house came outside the door, and announced 
that a gentleman below stairs wished to speak to Mr. Johnson, 

" Well, if he does, you must tell him to come up ; that's 
all I know," replied Nicholas. " One of our hungry brethren, 
I suppose, Smike." 

His fellow-lodger looked at the cold meat in silent calcula- 
tion of the quantity that would be left for dinner next day, and 
put back a slice he had cut for himself, in order that the \ isit- 
or's encroachments might be less formidable in their effects. 

'■It is not anybody who has been here before," said 
Nicholas, " for he is tumbling up every stair. Come in, come 
in. In the name of wonder ! Mr. Lillyvick ? " 

It was, indeed, the collector of water-rates who, regarding 
Nicholas, with a fixed look and immovable countenance, 
shook hands with most portentous solemnity, and sat himself 
down in a seat by the chimney-corner. 

" Why, when did you come here ? " asked Nicholas 

"This morning, sir," replied Mr. Lillyvick. 

" Oh ! I see ; then you were at the theatre to-night, and it 
was your umb " 

"This umbrella," said Mr. Lillyvick, producing a fat green 
cotton one with a battered ferrule. " What did you think of 
that performance ? " 

"So far as I could judge, being on the stage," replied 
Nicholas, " I thought it very agreeable." 

"Agreeable ! " cried the collector. "I mean to say, sir, 
that it was delicious." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



-^21 



Mr. Lillyvick bent forward to pronounce the last word 
with greater emphasis ; and having done so, drew himself up, 
and frowned and nodded a great many times. 

"I say, delicious," repeated Mr. Lillyvick. "Absorbing, 
fairy-like, toomultuous," and again Mr. Lillyvick drew himself 
up, and again he frowned and nodded. 

"Ah!" said Nicholas, a little surprised at these symp- 
toms of ecstatic approbation. " Yes, she is a clever girl." 

" She is a divinity," returned Mr. Lillyvick, giving a col- 
lector's double knock on the ground with the umbrella before- 
mentioned. "I have known divine actresses before now, sir; 
I used to collect — at least I used to call for — and very often 
call for — the water-rate at the house of a divine actress, who 
lived in my beat for upwards of four year, but never — no, 
never, sir — of all divine creatures, actresses or no actresses, 
did I see a diviner one than is Henrietta Petowker." 

Nicholas had much ado to prevent himself from laughing ; 
not trusting himself to speak, he merely nodded in accord- 
ance with Mr. Lillyvick's nods, and remained silent. 

" Let me speak a word with you in private," said Mr. 
Lillyvick. 

Nicholas looked good-humoredly at Smike, who, taking 
the hint, disappeared. 

" A bachelor is a miserable wretch, sir," said Mr. Lillyvick. 

" Is he ? " asked Nicholas. 

"He is," rejoined the collector. " I have lived in the 
world for nigh si.xty year, and I ought to know what it is." 

" You ought to know, certainlj^," thought Nicholas ; " but 
whether you do or not, is another question." 

" If a bachelor happens to have saved a little matter of 
money," said Mr. Lillyvick, " his sisters and brothers, and 
nephews and nieces, look to that money, and not to him ; 
even if, by being a public character, he is the head of the 
family, or, as it may be, the main from which all the other 
little branches are turned on, they still wish him dead all the 
while, and get low-spirited every time they see him looking in 
good health, because they want to come into his little prop-' 
ert}\ You see that ? " 

" Oh, yes," replied Nicholas : " it's very true, no doubt." 

" The great reason for not being married," resumed Mr. 
Lillyvick, " is the expense ; that's what's kept me off, or else 
— Lord ! " said Mr. Lillyvick, snapping his fingers, '* I might 
have had fifty women." 

21 



32 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" Fine women ? " asked Nicholas. 

" Fine women, sir ! " replied the collector ; " ay ! not so 
fine as Henrietta Petowker, for she is an uncommon speci- 
men, but such women as don't fall into every man's way, I 
can tell you. Now suppose a man can get a fortune in a wife 
instead of with her — eh ? " 

" Why, then, he's a lucky fellow," replied Nicholas. 

"That's what I say," retorted the collector, patting him 
benignantly on the side of the head with his umbrella ; " just 
what I say. Henrietta Petowker, the talented Henrietta 
Petowker has a fortune in herself, and I am going to " 

"To make her Mrs. Lillyvick ? " suggested Nicholas. 

" No, sir, not to make her Mrs. Lillyvick," replied the 
collector. " Actresses, sir, always keep their maiden names 
— that's the regular thing — but Fm going to marry her ; and 
the day after to-morrow, too." 

" I congratulate you, sir," said Nicholas. 

"Thank you, sir," replied the collector, buttoning his 
waistcoat. " I shall draw her salary, of course, and I hope 
after all that it's nearly as cheap to keep two as it is to keep 
one ; that's a consolation." 

" Surely you don't want any consolation at such a mo- 
ment ? " observed Nicholas. 

" No," replied Mr. Lillyvick, shaking his head nervously: 
" no — of course not." 

" But how come you both here, if you're going to be mar- 
ried, Mr. Lillyvick?" asked Nicholas. 

"Why, that's what I came to explain to you," replied the 
collector of water-rate. " The fact is, we have thought it 
best to keep it secret from the family." 

" Family ! " said Nicholas. " What family ? " 

"The Kenwigses of course," rejoined Mr. Lillyvick. "If 
my niece and the children had known a word about it before 
I came away, they'd have gone into fits at my feet, and never 
have come out of 'em till I took an oath not to marry any- 
body. Or they'd have got out a commission of lunacy, or 
some dreadful thing," said the collector, quite trembling as he 
spoke. 

"To be sure," said Nicholas. "Yes; they would have 
been jealous, no doubt." 

" To prevent which," said Mr. Lillyvick, " Henrietta Pe- 
towker (it was settled between us) should come down here to 
her friends, the Crummleses, under pretence of this engage- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



323 



ment, and I should go down to Guildford the day before, and 
join her on the coach there ; which I did, and we came down 
from Guildford yesterday together. Now, for fear you should 
be writing to Mr. Noggs, and might say anything about us, 
we have thought it best to let you into the secret. We shall 
be married from the Crummleses' lodgings, and shall be de- 
lighted to see you — either before church or at breakfast-time, 
which you like. It won't be expensive, you know,"' said the 
collector, highly anxious to prevent any misunderstanding on 
•this point ; "just muffins and coffee, with perhaps a shrimp 
or something of that sort for a relish, you know." 

" Yes, yes, I understand," replied Nicholas. " Oh, I shall 
be most happy to come ; it will give me the greatest pleasure. 
Where's the lady stopping ? With Mrs. Crummies ? " 

"Why, no," said the collector; " they couldn't very well 
dispose of her at night, and so she is staying with an acquaint- 
ance of hers, and another young lady ; they both belong to 
the theatre." 

" Miss Snevellicci, I suppose ? " said Nicholas. 

" Yes, that's the name." 

" And they'll be bridesmaids, I presume ? " said Nicholas. 

" Why," said the collector, with a rueful face, "they will 
have four bridesmaids. I'm afraid they'll make it rather theat- 
rical." 

" Oh no, not at all," replied Nicholas, with an awkward 
attempt to convert a laugh into a cough. "Who may the four 
be ? Miss Snevellicci of course — Miss Ledrook " 

" The — the phenomenon," groaned the collector. 

" Ha, ha ! " cried Nicholas. " I beg your pardon, I don't 
know what I'm laughing at — yes, that'll be very pretty — the 
phenomenon — who else .'' " 

" Some young woman or other," replied the collector, 
rising ; " some other friend of Henrietta Petowker's. Well, 
you'll be careful not to say anything about it, will you } " 

" You may safely depend upon me," replied Nicholas. 
*' Won't you take anything to eat or drink ? " 

" No," said the collector ; " I haven't any appetite. I 
should think it was a very pleasant life, the married one, eh ? " 

" I have not the least doubt of it," rejoined Nicholas. 

" Yes," said the collector ; " certainly. Oh yes. No 
doubt. Good-night." 

With these words, Mr. Lillyvick, whose manner had ex- 
hibited through the whole of this interview a most extraordinary 



324 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

compound of precipitation, hesitation, confidence and doubt, 
fondness, misgiving, meanness, and self-importance, turned liis 
baclv upon the room, and left Nicholas to enjoy a laugh by 
himself if he felt so disposed. 

Without stopping to inquire whether the intervening day 
appeared to Nicholas to consist of the usual number of hours 
of the ordinary length, it may be remarked that, to the parties 
more directly interested in the forthcoming ceremony, it passed 
with great rapidity, insomuch that when Miss Petowker awoke 
on the succeeding morning in the chamber of Miss Snevellicci, 
she declared that nothing should ever persuade her that that 
really was the day which was to behold a change in her condi- 
tion. 

" I never will believe it," said Miss Petowker ; " I cannot 
really. It's of no use talking, I never can make up my mind 
to go through with such a trial ! " 

On hearing this. Miss Snevellicci and Miss Ledrook, who 
knew perfectly well that their fair friend's mind had been 
made up for three or four years, at any period of which time 
she would have cheerfully undergone the desperate trial now 
approaching if she could have found any eligible gentleman 
disposed for the venture, began to preach comfort and firm- 
ness, and to say how very proud she ought to feel that it was 
in her power to confer lasting bliss on a deserving object, and 
how necessary it was for the happiness of mankind in general 
that women should possess fortitude and resignation on such 
occasions ; and that although for their parts they held true 
happiness to consist in a single life, which thev would not will- 
ingly exchange — no, not for any worldl)' consideration — still 
(thank Heaven), if ever the time should come, they hoped they 
knew their duty too well to repine, but would the rather sub- 
mit with meekness and humility of spirit to a fate for wliich 
Providence had clearly designed them with a view to the con- 
tentment and reward of their fellow-creatures. 

" I might feel it was a great blow," said Miss Snevellicci, 
" to break up old associations and what-do-you-callems of that 
kind, but I would submit my dear, I would indeed." 

" So would I," said Miss Ledrook ; " I would rather court 
the yoke than shun it. I have broken hearts before now, and 
I'm very sorry for it. It's a terrible thing to reflect upon." 

" It is indeed," said Miss Snevellicci. " Now Led, my 
dear, we must positively get her ready, or we shall be too late, 
we shall indeed." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 325 

This pious reasoning, and perhaps the fear of being too late, 
supported the bride through the ceremony of robing, after 
which, strong tea and brandv were administered in alternate 
doses as a means of strengthening her feeble limbs and caus- 
ing her to walk steadier. 

" How do you feel now, my love ? " inquired Miss Snevel- 
licci. 

" Oh Lilly vick !." cried the bride. " If you knew what I 
am undergoing for you ! " 

" Of course he knows it, love, and will never forget it," 
said Miss Ledrook. 

" Do you think he won't ? " cried Miss Petowker, really 
showing great capability for the stage. " Oh, do you think he 
won't .'' Do you think Lillyvick will always remember it — 
always, alwa}'S, always .'' " 

There is no knowing in what this burst of feeling might 
have ended, if Miss Snevellicci had not at that moment pro- 
claimed the arrival of the fly, which so astounded the bride 
that she shook off divers alarming symptoms which were com- 
ing on very strong, and running to the glass adjusted her dress, 
and calmly declared that she was ready for the sacrifice. 

She was accordingly supported into the coach, and there 
" kept up " (as Miss Snevellicci said) with perpetual sniffs of 
sa/ volatile and sips of brandy and other gentle stimulants, 
until they reached the manager's door, which was already 
opened by the two Master Crummleses, who wore white cock- 
ades, and were decorated with the choicest and most resplend- 
ent waistcoats in the theatrical v/ardrobe. By the combined ex- 
ertions of these young gentlemen and the bridesmaids, assisted 
by the coachman. Miss Petowker was at length supported in a 
condition of much exhaustion to the first floor, where she no 
sooner encountered the youthful bridegroom than she fainted 
with great decorum. 

" Henrietta Petowker ! " said the collector ; " cheer up, my 
lovely one." 

Miss Petowker grasped the collector's hand, but emotion 
choked her utterance. 

" Is the sight of me so dreadful, Henrietta Petowker ? " 
said the collector. 

" Oh no, no, no," rejoined the bride ; "but all the friends, 
the darling friends, of my youthful days — to leave them all — 
it is such a shock ! " 

With such expressions of sorrow, Miss Petowker went on 



,26 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

to enumerate the dear friends of her youthful days one by 
one, and to call upon such of them as were present to come 
and embrace her. This done, she remembered that Mrs. 
Crummies had been more than a mother to her, and after that, 
that Mr. Crummies had been more than a father to her, and 
after that, that the Master Crummleses and Miss Ninetta 
Crummies had been more than brothers and sisters to her. 
These various remembrances being each accompanied with 
a series of hugs, occupied a long time, and they were obliged 
to drive to church very fast, for fear they should be too late. 

The procession consisted of two flys ; in the first of which 
were Miss Bravassa (the fourth bridesmaid), Mrs. Crummies, 
the collector, and Mr. Folair, who had been chosen as his 
second on the occasion. In the other were the bride, Mr. 
Crummies, Miss Snevellicci, Miss Ledrook, and the phenome- 
non. The costumes were beautiful. The bridesmaids were 
quite covered with artificial flowers, and the phenomenon, in 
particular, was rendered almost invisible by the portable 
arbor in which she was enshrined. Miss Ledrook, who was 
of a romantic turn, wore in her breast the miniature of some 
field-officer unknown, which she had purchased, a great bar- 
gain, not very long before ; the other ladies displayed several 
dazzling articles of imitative jewellery, almost equal to real ; 
and Mrs. Crummies came out in a stern and gloomy majesty, 
which attracted the admiration of all beholders. 

But, perhaps the appearance of Mr. Crummies was more 
striking and appropriate than that of any member of the party. 
This gentleman, who personated the bride's father, had, in 
pursuance of a happy and original conception, " made up " 
for the part by arraying himself in a theatrical wig, of a style 
and pattern commonly known as a brown George, and more- 
over assuming a snuff-colored suit, of the previous century, 
with gray silk stockings, and buckles to his shoes. The bet- 
ter to support his assumed character he had determined to 
be greatly overcome, and, consequently, when they entered 
the church, the sobs of the affectionate parent were so heart- 
rending that the pew-opener suggested the propriety of his 
retiring to the vestry, and comforting himself with a glass of 
water before the ceremony began. 

The procession up the aisle was beautiful. The bride, 
with the four bridesmaids, forming a group previously arranged 
and rehearsed ; the collector, followed by his second, imita- 
ting his walk and gestures, to the indescribable amusement of 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



327 



some theatrical friends in the gallery ; Mr. Crummies, with 
an infirm and feeble gait ; Mrs. Crummies advancing with 
that stage walk, which consists of a stride and a stop alter- 
nately ; it was the completest thing ever witnessed. The 
ceremony was very quickly disposed of, and all parties pres- 
ent having signed the register (for which purpose, when it 
came to his turn, Mr. Crummies carefully wiped and put on 
an immense pair of spectacles), they went back to breakfast 
in high spirits. And here they found Nicholas awaiting their 
arrival. 

" Now then," said Crummies, who had been assisting Mrs. 
Grudden in the preparations, which were on a more extensive 
scale than was quite agreeable to the collector. " Breakfast, 
breakfast." 

No second invitation was required. The company crowded 
and squeezed themselves at the table as well as they could, 
and fell to, immediately : Miss Petowker blushing very much 
when anybody was looking, and eating ver}^ much when any- 
body was not looking ; and Mr. Lillyvick going to work as 
though with the cool resolve, that since the good things 
must be paid for by him, he would leave as little as possible 
for the Crummleses to eat up afterwards. 

" It's ver}' soon done, sir, isn't it ? " inquired Mr. Folair 
of the collector, leaning over the table to address him. 

" What is soon done, sir ? " returned Mr. Lillyvick. 

"The tying up, the fixing oneself with a wife," replied 
Mr. Folair. " It don't take long, does it ? " 

"No, sir," replied Mr. Lillyvick, coloring. "It does not 
take long. And what then, sir ? " 

" Oh ! nothing," said the actor. " It don't take a man 
long to hang himself, either, eh 1 Ha, ha ! " 

Mr. Lillyvick laid down his knife and fork, and looked 
round the table with indignant astonishment. 

" To hang himself ! " repeated Mr. Lillyvick. 

A profound silence came upon all, for Mr. Lilly\'ick was 
dignified beyond expression. 

" To hang himself ! " cried Mr. Lillj^dck again. " Is any 
parallel attempted to be drawn in this company between 
matrimony and hanging ? " 

" The noose, you know," said Mr. Folair, a little crest- 
fallen. 

"The noose, sir?" retorted Mr. Lillyvick. "Does any 
man dare to speak to me of a noose, and Henrietta Pe " 



328 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



" Lillyvick," suggested Mr. Crummies. 

— " and Henrietta Lillyvick in the same breath ? " said the 
collector. " In this house, in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. 
Crummies, who have brought up a talented and virtuous 
family, to be blessings and phenomenons, and what not, are 
we to hear talk of nooses ? " 

" Folair," said Mr. Crummies, deeming it a matter of 
decency to be affected by this allusion to himself and partner, 
"I'm astonished at you." 

" What are you going on in this way at me for? " urged 
the unfortunate actor. " What have I done ? " 

" Done, sir ! " cried Mr. Lillyvick, " aimed a blow at the 
whole framework of society — " 

" And the best and tenderest feelings," added Crummies, 
relapsing into the old man. 

" And the highest and most estimable of social ties," said 
the collector. " Noose ! As if one was caught, trapped, into 
the married state, pinned by the leg, instead of going into it 
of one's own accord and glor\'ing in the act ! " 

" I didn't mean to make it out, that you were caught and 
trapped, and pinned by the leg," replied the actor. " I'm 
sorry for it ; I can't say any more." 

" So you ought to be, sir," returned Mr. Lillyvick ; " and 
I am glad to hear that you have enough of feeling left to be 



so." 



The quarrel appearing to terminate with this reply, Mrs. 
Lillyvick considered that the fittest occasion (the attention of 
the company being no longer distracted) to burst into tears, 
and require the assistance of all four bridesmaids, which was 
immediately rendered, though not without some confusion, 
for the room being small and the table-cloth long, a whole 
detachment of plates were swept off the board at the very 
first move. Regardless of this circumstance, however, Mrs. 
Lillyvick refused to be comforted until the belligerents had 
passed their words that the dispute should be carried no 
further, which, after a sufficient show of reluctance, they did, 
and from that time Mr. Folair sat in moody silence, content- 
ing himself with pinching Nicholas's leg when anything was 
said, and so expressing his contempt both for the speaker and 
the sentiments to which he gave utterance. 

There were a great number of speeches made ; some by 
Nicholas, and some by Crummies, and some by the collector ; 
two by the master Crummleses in returning thanks for them- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 329 

selves, and one by the phenomenon on behalf of the brides- 
maids, at which Mrs. Crummies shed tears. There was some 
singing, too, from Miss I>edrook and Miss Bravassa, and very- 
likely there might ha\"e been more, if the fly-driver, who 
stopped to drive the happy pair to the spot where they pro- 
posed to take steamboat to Ryde, had not sent in a peremp- 
tory message intimating, that if they didn't come directly he 
should infallibly demand eighteen-pence over and above his 
agreement. 

This desperate threat effectually broke up the part}\ 
After a most pathetic leave-taking, Mr. Lillyvick and his bride 
departed for Ryde, where they were to spend the next two 
days in profound retirement, and whither they were accom- 
panied by the infant, who had been appointed travelling 
bridesmaid on Mr. Lillyvick's express stipulation : as the 
steamboat people, deceived by her size, would (he had pre- 
viously ascertained) transport her at half-price. 

As there was no performance that night, Mr. Crummies 
declared his intention of keeping it up till everything to drink 
was disposed of ; but Nicholas having to play Romeo for the 
first time on the ensuing evening, contrived to slip away in 
the midst of a temporary confusion, occasioned by the unex- 
pected development of strong symptoms of inebriety in the 
conduct of Ivlrs. Grudden. 

To this act of desertion he was led, not only by his own 
inclinations, but by his anxiety on account of Smike, who, 
having to sustain the character of the Apothecary, had been 
as yet wholly unable to get any more of the part into his head 
than the general idea that he was very hungry, which — per- 
haps from old recollections — he had acquired with great apti- 
tude. 

" I don't know what's to be done, Smike," said Nicholas, 
laying down the book. " I am afraid you can't learn it, my 
poor fellow." 

" I am afraid not " said Smike, shaking his head. " I 
think if you — but that would give you so much trouble." 

" What ? " inquired Nicholas. "Never mind me." 

" I think," said Smike, " if you were to keep saying it to 
me in little bits, over and over again, I should be able to 
recollect it from hearing you." 

" Do you think so!" exclaimed Nicholas. "Well said. 
Let us see who tires first. Not I, Smike, trust me. Now then, 
' Who calls so loud t ' " 



330 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" 'Who calls so loud ? ' " said Smike. 

" ' Who calls so loud ? ' " repeated Nicholas. 

" ' Who calls so loud ? ' " cried Smike. 

Thus they continued to ask each other who called so loud, 
over and over again; and when Smike had that by heart, 
Nicholas went to another sentence, and then to two at a 
time, and then to three, and so on, until at midnight poor 
Smike found to his unspeakable joy that he really began to 
remember something about the text. 

Early in the morning they went to it again, and Smike, 
rendered more confident by the progress he had already 
made, got on faster and with better heart. As soon as he be- 
gan to acquire the words pretty freely, Nicholas showed him 
how he must come in with both hands spread out upon his 
stomach, and how he must occasionally rub it, in compliance 
with the established form by which people on the stage always 
denote that ther want something to eat. After the morning's 
rehearsal they went to work again, nor did they stop, except 
for a hasty dinner, until it was time to repair to the theatre 
at night. 

Never had master a more anxious, humble, docile pupil. 
Never had pupil a more patient, unwear}dng, considerate kind- 
hearted master. 

As soon as they were dressed, and at every interval when 
he was not upon the stage, Nicholas renewed his instructions. 
They prospered well. The Romeo was received with hearty 
plaudits and unbounded favor, and Smike was pronounced 
unanimously, alike by audience and actors, the very prince 
and prodigy of Apothecaries. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 



IS FRAUGHT WITH SOME DANGER TO MISS NICKLEBY'S PEACE 

OF MIND. 

The place was a handsome suit of private apartments in 
Regent Street ; the time was three o'clock in the afternoon to 
the dull and plodding, and the first hour of morning to the gay 
and spirited ; the persons were Lord Frederick Verisopht, and 
his friend Sir Mulberry Hawk. 

These distinguished gentlemen were reclining listlessly on a 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 33 1 

couple of sofas, with a table between them, on which were 
scattered in rich confusion the materials of an untasted break- 
fast. Newspapers lay strewn about the room, but these, like 
the meal, were neglected and unnoticed ] not, however, be- 
cause any flow of conversation prevented the attractions of 
the journals from being called into request, for not a word 
was exchanged between the two, nor was any sound uttered, 
save when one, in tossing about to find an easier resting-place 
for his aching head, uttered an exclamation of impatience, 
and seemed for the moment to communicate a new restlessness 
to his companion. 

These apjoearances would in themselves have furnished a 
pretty strong clue to the extent of the debauch of the previous 
night, even if there had not been other indications of the 
amusements in which it has been passed. A couple of billiard 
balls, all mud and dirt, two battered hats, a champagne bottle 
with a soiled glove twisted round the neck, to allow of its be- 
ing grasped more surely in its capacity of an ofifensive weapon ; 
a broken cane ; a card-case without the top ; an empty purse ; 
a watch-guard snapped asunder ; a handful of silver, mingled 
with fragments of half-smoked cigars, and their stale and 
crumbled ashes ; these, and many other tokens of riot and 
disorder, hinted very intelligibly at the nature of last night's 
gentlemanly frolics. 

Lord Frederick Verisopht was the first to speak. Dropping 
his slippered foot on the ground, and, yawning heavily, he 
struggled into a sitting posture, and turned his dull languid 
eyes towards his friend, to whom he called in a drowsy voice. 

" Hallo ! " replied Sir Mulberry, turning round. 

"Are we going to Tie here all da-a-y ? " said the lord. 

" I don't know that we're fit for anything else," replied Sir 
Mulberry ; " yet awhile, at least. I haven't a grain of life in 
me this morning." 

'* Life ! " cried Lord Frederick. " I feel as if there would 
be nothing so snug and comfortable as to die at once." 

" Then why don't you die ? " said Sir Mulberry. 

With which inquiry he turned his face away, and seemed 
to occupy himself in an attempt to fall asleep. 

His hopeful friend and pupil drew a chair to the breakfast 
table, and essayed to eat ; but, finding that impossible, lounged 
to the window, then loitered up and down the room with his 
hand to his fevered head, and finally threw himself again on 
his sofa, and roused his friend once more. 



332 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" What the devil's the matter?" groaned Sir Mulberry, 
sitting upright on the couch. 

Although Sir Mulberry said this with sufficient ill-humor, 
he did not seem to feel himself quite at liberty to remain si- 
lent ; for after stretching himself very often, and declaring 
with a shiver that it was "infernal cold," he made an experi- 
ment at the breakfast table, and proving more successful than 
his less-seasoned friend, remained there. 

" Suppose," said Sir Mulberry, pausing with a morsel on 
the point of the fork, " Suppose we go back to the subject of 
little Nickleby, eh ? " 

" Which little Nickleby ; the money-lender or the ga-a-1 .? " 
asked Lord Frederick. 

"You take me, I see," replied Sir Mulberry. "The girl, 
of course." 

"You promised me you'd find her out," said Lord Fred- 
erick. 

" So I did," rejoined his friend ; "but I have thought fur- 
ther of the matter since then. You distrust me in the busi- 
ness — you shall find her out yourself." 

" Na-ay," remonstrated the other. 

" But I say yes," returned his friend. "You shall find 
her out yourself. Don't think that I mean, when you can — I 
know as well as you that if I did, you could never get sight of 
her without me. No. I say you shall find her out — shall — 
and I'll put you in the way." 

" Now curse me, if you ain't a real, devylish, downright, 
thorough-paced friend," said the young lord, on whom this 
speech had produced a most reviving effect. 

" I'll tell you how," said Mulberry. " She was at that 
dinner as a bait for you." 

" No ! " cried the young lord. " What the dev " 

"As a bait for you," repeated his friend; "old Nickleby 
told me so himself." 

>Vhat a fine old cock it is ! " exclaimed Lord Frederick; 
" a noble rascal ! " 

"Yes," said Sir Mulberry, "he knew she was a smart 
little creature " 

" Smart ! " interposed the young lord. " Upon my soul. 
Hawk, she's a perfect beauty — a — a picture, a statue, a — a — 
upon my soul she is ! " 

"Well," replied Sir Mulberry, shrugging his shoulders 
and manifesting an indifference, whether he felt it or not ; 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 333 

"that's a matter of taste; if mine doesn't agree with yours, 
so much the better." 

" Confound it ! " reasoned the lord, " you were thick 
enough with her that day, anyhow. I could hardly get in a 
word." 

"Well enough for once, well enough for once," replied Sir 
Mulberry ; " but not worth the trouble of being agreeable to 
again. If you seriously want to follow up the niece, tell the 
uncle that you must know where she lives and how she lives, 
and with whom, or you are no longer a customer of his. 
He'll tell you fast enough." 

" Why didn't you say this before ? " asked Lord Frederick, 
" instead of letting me go on burning, consuming, dragging 
out a miserable existence for an a-aa:e ! " 

" I didn't know it, in the first place," answered Sir Mulberr}'- 
carelessly ; " and in the second, I didn't believe you were so 
very much in earnest." 

Now, the truth was, that in the interval which had 
elapsed since the dinner at Ralph Nickleby's, Sir Mulberry 
Hawk had been furtively trying by every means in his power 
to discover whence Kate had so suddenly appeared, and 
whither she had disappeared. Unassisted by Ralph, how- 
ever, with whom he had held no communication since their 
angry parting on that occasion, all his efforts were wholly 
unavailing, and he had therefore arrived at the determination 
of communicating to the young lord the substance of the ad- 
mission he had gleaned from that worthy. To this he was 
impelled by various considerations ; among which the cer- 
tainty of knowing whatever the weak young man knew was 
decidedly not the least, as the desire of encountering the 
usurer's niece again, and using his utmost arts to reduce her 
pride, and revenge himself for her contempt, was uppermost 
in his thoughts. It was a politic course of proceeding, and 
one which could not fail to redound to his advantage in every 
point of view, since the very circumstance of his having ex- 
torted from Ralph Nickleby his real design in introducing his 
niece to such society, coupled with his extreme disinterested- 
ness in communicating it so freely to his friend, could not but 
advance his interests in that quarter, and greatlv facilitate the 
passage of coin (pretty frequent and speedy alreadv) from 
the pockets of Lord Frederick Verisopht to those of Sir Mul- 
berry Hawk. 

Thus reasoned Sir Mulberr}-, and in pursuance of this 



3A4 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



reasoning he and his friend soon afterwards repaired to Ralph 
Nickleby's, there to execute a plan of operations concerted by 
Sir Mulberry himself, avowedly to promote his friend's object, 
and really to attain his own. 

They found Ralph at home, and alone. As he led them 
into the drawing-room, the recollection of the scene which 
had taken place there seemed to occur to him, for he cast a 
curious look at Sir Mulberry, who bestowed upon it no other 
acknowledgment than a careless smile. 

They had a short conference upon some money matters 
then in progress, which were scarcely disposed of when the 
lordly dupe (in pursuance of his friend's instructions) re- 
quested with some embarrassment to speak to Ralph alone. 

" Alone, eh ? " cried Sir Mulberry, affecting surprise. 
" Oh, very good. I'll walk into the next room here. Don't 
keep me long, that's all." 

So saying, Sir Mulberry took up his hat, and humming a 
fragment of a song disappeared through the door of com- 
munication between the two drawing-rooms, and closed it 
after him. 

" Now, my lord," said Ralph, "what is it ?" 

" Nickleby," said his client, throwing himself along the 
sofa on which he had been previously seated, so as to bring 
his lips nearer to the old man's ear, " what a pretty creature 
your niece is ! " 

" Is she, my lord ? " replied Ralph. " Maybe — maybe. I 
don't trouble my head with such matters." 

"You know she's a deyv'lish fine girl," said the client. 
" You must know that, Nickleby. Come, don't deny that." 

" Yes, I believe she is considered so," replied Ralph. 
" Indeed, I know she is. If I did not, you are an authority 
on such points, and your taste, my lord — on all points, indeed 
— is undeniable." 

Nobody but the young man to whom these words were 
addressed could have been deaf to the sneering tone in which 
they were spoken, or blind to the look of contempt by which 
they were accompanied. But Lord Frederick Verisopht was 
both, and took them to be complimentar}'. 

" Well," he said, " p'raps you're a little right, and p'raps 
you're a little wrong — a little of both, Nickleby. I want to 
know where this beauty lives, that I may have another peep 
at her, Nickleby." 

" Really " Ralph began in his usual tones. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 335 

" Don't talk so loud," cried the other, achieving the great 
point of his lesson to a miracle. "I don't want Hawk to 
hear." 

" You know he is your rival, do you ? " said Ralph, look- 
ing sharply at him. 

" He always is, d-a-amn him," replied the client ; " and I 
want to steal a march upon him. Ha, ha, ha ! He'll cut up 
so rough, Nickleby, at our talking together without him. 
Where does she live, Nickleby, that's all ? Only tell me 
where she lives, Nickleby." 

" He bites," thought Ralph. " He bites." 

" Eh, Nickleby, eh ? " pursued the client. " Where does 
she live .'' " 

"Really, my lord," said Ralph, rubbing his hands slowly 
over each other, " I must think before I tell you." 

"No, not a bit of it, Nickleby; you musn't think at all. 
Where is it ? " 

"No good can come of your knowing," replied Ralph. 
" She has been virtuously and well brought up \ to be sure she 
is handsome, poor, unprotected ! Poor girl, poor girl." 

Ralph ran over this brief summary of Kate's condition as 
if it were merely passing through his own mind, and he had 
no intention to speak aloud ; but the shrewd sly look which 
he directed at his companion as he delivered it, gave this 
poor assumption the lie. 

" I tell you I only want to see her," cried his client. "A 
ma-an may look at a pretty woman without harm, mayn't he ? 
Now, where does she live .'' You know you're making a for- 
tune out of me, Nickleby, and upon my soul nobody shall 
ever take me to anybody else, if you only tell me this." 

" As you promise that, my lord," said Ralph, with feigned 
reluctance, " and as I am most anxious to oblige you, and as 
there's no harm in it — no harm — I'll tell you. But you had 
better keep it to yourself, my lord ; strictly to yourself." 
Ralph pointed to the adjoining room as he spoke, and nodded 
expressively. 

The young lord, feigning to be equally impressed with the 
necessity of this precaution, Ralph disclosed the present ad- 
dress and occupation of his niece, observing that from what he 
heard of the family they appeared very ambitious to have 
distinguished acquaintances, and that a lord could, doubtless, 
introduce himself with great ease, if he felt disposed. 

" Your object being only to see her again," said Ralph, 
" you could effect it at any time you chose by that means." 



^^6 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Lord Frederick acknowledged the hint with a great many 
squeezes of Ralph's hard, horny hand, and whispering that 
they would now do well to close the conversation, called to 
Sir Mulberry Hawk that he might come back. 

" I thought you had gone to sleep," said Sir Mulberry, re- 
appearing with an ill-tempered air. 

" Sorry to detain you," replied the gull ; " but Nickleby 
has been so ama-azingly funny that I couldn't tear myself 
away." 

" No, no," said Ralph ; " it was all his lordship. You 
know what a witty, humorous, elegant, accomplished man 
Lord Frederick is. Mind the step, my lord — Sir Mulberry, 
pray give way." 

With such courtesies as these, and many low bows, and 
the same cold ^neer upon his face all the while, Ralph busied 
himself in showing Tiis visitors down stairs, and otherwise than 
by the slightest possible motion about the corners of his 
mouth, returned no show of answer to the look of admiration 
with which Sir Mulberry Hawk seemed to compliment him on 
being suQh an accomplished and most consummate scoundrel. 

There"hTid-been-a ri-ng at the bell a few momenis before, 
which was answered by Newman Noggs just as they reached 
the hall. In the ordinary course of business Newman would 
have_either admitted the new-comer in silence, or have re- 
quested him or her to stand aside whiJe the gentlemen passed 
out. But he no sooner saw who it was, than as if for some 
private reason of his own, he boldly departed from the estab- 
lished custom of Ralph's mansion in business hours, and look- 
ing towards the respectable trio who were approaching, cried 
in a loud and sonorous voice : " Mrs. Nickleby ! " 

" Mrs. Nickleby ! " cried Sir Mulberry Hawk, as his friend 
looked back, and stared him in the face. 

It was, indeed, that well-intentioned lady, who, having 
received an offer for the empty house in the city directed to 
the landlord, had brought it post-haste to Mr. Nickleby with- 
out delay. 

" Nobody ji'^w know," said Ralph. " Step into the office, 
my — my — dear. I'll be with you directly." 

" Nobody I know ! " cried Sir Mulberry Hawk, advancing 
to the astonished lady. " Is this Mrs. Nickleby— the mother 
of Miss Nickleby — the delightful creature that I had the hap- 
piness of meeting in this house the very last time I dined 
here ! But no ; " said Sir Mulberry, stopping short. " No, it 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 33 A 

can't be. There is the same cast of features, the same inde- 
scribable air of — But no, no. This lady is too young for that." 

" 1 think you can tell the gentleman, brother-m-law, if it 
concerns him to know," said Mrs. Nickleby, acknowledging 
the compliment with a graceful bend, " that Kate Nickleby is 
my daughter." 

" Her daughter, my lord ! " cried Sir Mulberry, turning to 
his friend. " This lady's daughter, my lord." 

"My lord!" thought Mrs. Nickleby. "Well, I never 
did—! " 

" This, then, my lord," said Sir Mulberry, "is the lady to 
whose obliging marriage we owe so much happiness. This 
lady is the mother of sweet Miss Nickleby. Do you observe 
the extraordinary likeness, my lord ? Nickleby — introduce 
us." 

Ralph did so, in a kind of desperation. 

" Upon my soul, it's a most delightful thing," said Lord 
Frederick, pressing forward : " How de do ? " 

Mrs. Nickleby was too much flurried by these uncommonly 
kind salutations, and her regrets at not having on her other 
bonnet, to make any immediate reply, so she merely continued 
to bend and smile, and betray great' agitation. 

" A — and how is Miss Nickleby.'" said Lord Frederick. 
" Well, I hope ? " 

" She is quite well, I'm obliged to you, my lord," returned 
Mrs. Nickleby, recovering. " Quite well. She wasn't well 
for some days after that day she dined here, and I can't help 
thinking, that she caught cold in that hackney-coach coming 
home : Hackney-coaches, my lord, are such nasty things, that 
it's ahnost better to walk at any time, for although I believe a 
hackney-coachman can be transported for life, if he has a - 
broken window, still they are so reckless, that they nearly all 
have broken windows. I once had a swelled face for six weeks, 
my lord, from riding in a hackney-coach — I think it was a hack- 
ney-coach," said Mrs. Nickleby reflecting, " though Fm not 
quite certain, whether it wasn't a chariot ; at all events I 
know it was a dark green, with a very long number, beginning 
with a nought and ending with a nine — no, beginning with a 
nine, and ending with a nought, that was it, and of course the 
stamp-office people would know at once whether it was a 
coach or a chariot if any inquiries were made there — however 
that was, there it was with a broken window, and there was I 
for six weeks with a swelled face — I think that was the very 

22 



^,g NICHOLAS MICKLEBY. 

same hackney-coach, that we found out afterwards, had the top 
open all the time, and we should never even have known it, 
if they hadn't charged us a shilling an hour extra for having it 
open, which it seems is the law, or was then, and a most 
shameful law it appears to be — I don't understand the subject, 
but I should say the corn Laws could be nothing to that act 
of Parliament." 

Having pretty well run herself out by this time, Mrs. Nick- 
leby stopped as suddenly as she had started off, and repeated 
that Kate was quite well. " . .deed," said Mrs. Nickleby, 
" I don't think she ever was better, since she had the hooping- 
cough, scarlet-fever and measles, all at the same time, and 
that'^s the fact." 

" Is that letter for me ? " growled Ralph, pointing to the 
little packet Mrs. Nickleby held in her hand. 

" For you, brother-in-law," replied Mrs. Nickleby, "and I 
walked all the way up here on purpose to give it you." 

" All the way up here ! " cried Sir Mulberry, seizing upon 
the chance of discovering where Mrs. Nickleby had come from. 
" What a confounded distance ! How far do you call it 
now? " 

" How far do I call it ! " said Mrs. Nickleby. " Let me 
see. It's just a mile, from our door to the Old Bailey." 

" No, no. Not so much as that," urged Sir Mulberry. 

" Oh ! It is indeed," said Mrs. Nickleby. " I appeal to 
his lordship." 

" I should decidedly say it was a mile," remarked Lord 
Frederick, with a solemn aspect. 

" It must be ; it can't be a yard less," said Mrs. Nickleby. 
" All down Newgate Street, all down Cheapside, all up Lom- 
bard Street, down Gracechurch Street, and along Thames 
Street, as far as Spigwiffin's Wharf. Oh ! It's a mile." 

" Yes, on second thoughts I should say it was," replied 
• Sir Mulberry. " But you don't surely mean to walk all the 
way back .'' " 

" Oh, no," rejoined Mrs. Nickleby.. " I shall go back in 
an omnibus. I didn't travel about in omnibuses, when my poor 
dear Nicholas was alive, brother-in-law. But as it is, you 
know — " 

"Yes, yes," replied Ralph impatiently, "and you had 
better get back before dark." 

" Thank you, brother-in-law, so I had," returned Mrs. 
Nickleby. " I think I had better say good-by, at once." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 330 

" Not stop and — rest ? " said Ralph, who seldom offered 
refreshments unless something was to be got by it. 

" Oh dear me no," returned Mrs. Nickleby, glancing at 
the dial. 

" Lord Frederick," said Sir Mulberry, " we are going Mrs. 
Nickleby's way. We'll see her safe to the omnibus t " 

" By all means. Ye-es." 

" Oh ! I really couldn't think of it ! " said Mrs. Nick- 
leby. 

But Sir Mulberry Hawk, and Lord Frederick were per- 
emptory in their politeness, and leaving Ralph, who seemed 
to think, not unwisely, that he looked less ridiculous as a mere 
spectator, than he would have done if he had taken any part 
in these proceedings, they quitted the house with Mrs. Nickleby 
between them ; that good lady in a perfect ecstasy of satisfac- 
tion, no less with the attentions shown her by two titled gen- 
tlemen, than with the conviction that Kate might now pick 
and choose, at least between two large fortunes, and most 
unexceptionable husbands. 

As she was carried away for the moment by an irresistible 
train of ■• thought, all connected with her daughter's future 
greatness. Sir Mulberry Hawk and his friend exchanged 
glances over the top of the bonnet which the poor lady so 
much regretted not having left at home, and proceeded to dilate 
with great rapture, but much respect, on the manifold per^ 
fections of Miss Nickleby. 

" What a delight, what a comfort, what a happiness, this 
amiable creature must be to you," said Sir Mulberry, throw- 
ing into his voice an indication of the warmest feeling. 

"She is indeed, sir," replied Mrs. Nickleby; "she is the 
sweetest-tempered, kindest-hearted creature — and so clever ! " 

" She looks clayver," said Lord Frederick Verisopht, with 
the air of a judge of cleverness. 

" I assure you she is, my lord," returned Mrs. Nickleby. 
" When she was at school in Devonshire, she was universally 
allowed to be beyond all exception the very cleverest girl there, 
and there were a great many very clever ones too, and that's 
the truth — twenty-five young ladies, fifty guineas a-year without 
the et-ceteras, both the Miss Dowdies, the most accomplished, 
elegant, fascinating creatures — Oh dear me ! " said Mrs. 
Nickleby, " I never shall forget what pleasure she used to 
give me and her poor dear papa, when she was at that school, 
never — such a delightful letter every half-year, telling us that 



34° 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



she was the first pupil in the whole establishment, and had 
made more progress than anybody else ! I can scarcely bear 
to think of it even now. The girls wrote all the letters them- 
selves," added Mrs. Nickleby, " and the writing-master touched 
them up afterwards with a magnifying glass and a silver pen ; 
at least I think they wrote them, though Kate was never quite 
certain about that, because she didn't know the handwriting 
of hers again ; but any way, I know it was a circular which 
they all copied, and of course it was a very gratifying thing — 
very gratifying." 

With similar recollections Mrs. Nickleby beguiled the 
tediousness of the way, until they reached the omnibus, which 
the extreme politeness of her new friends would not allow 
them to leave until it actually started, when they took their 
hats, as Mrs. Nickleby solemnly assured her hearers on many 
subsequent occasions, " completely off," and kissed their 
straw-colored kid gloves till they were no longer visible. 

Mrs. Nickleby leant back in the furthest corner of the 
conveyance, and, closing her eyes, resigned herself to a host 
of most pleasing meditations. Kate had never said a word 
about having met either of these gentlemen ; " tl^at," she 
thought, " argues that she is strongly prepossessed in favor 
of one of them." Then the question arose, which one could 
it be. The lord was the youngest, and his title was certainly 
the grandest ; still Kate was not the girl to be swayed by such 
considerations as these. " I will never put any constraint 
upon her inclinations," said Mrs. Nickleby to herself; "but 
upon my word I think there's no comparison between his 
lordship and Sir Mulberr)'. Sir Mulberry is such an attentive 
gentlemanly creature, so much manner, such a fine man, and 
has so much to say for himself. I hope it's Sir Mulberry ; 
I think it must be Sir Mulberry ! " And then her thoughts 
flew back to her old predictions, and the number of times 
she had said, that Kate with no fortune would marry better 
than other people's daughters with thousands ; and, as she 
pictured with the brightness of a mother's fancy all the 
beauty and grace of the poor girl who had struggled so cheer- 
fully with her new life of hardship and trial, her heart grew too 
full, and the tears trickled down her face. 

Meanwhile, Ralph walked to and fro in his little back 
office, troubled in mind by what had just occurred. To say 
that Ralph loved or cared for — in the most ordinar)' accepta- 
tion of those terms — any one of God's creatures, would be the 



NICHOLAS NIC KLEBY. 341 

wildest fiction. Still, there had somehow stolen upon him 
from time to time a thought of his niece which was tiniied 
witlv-compassion and pity ; breaking through the dull cloud 
of dislike or indiff erence which darkened men and women in 
his eyes, there was, in her case, the faintest gleam of light — a 
■most feeble and^sjckly ray at the B"est of limes — but there it 
was, and it showed the poor girl in a better and purer aspect 
than any in which he had looked on human nature yet. 

" I wish," thought Ralph, " I had never done this. And 
yet it will keep this boy to me, while there is money to be 
made. Selling;^a^irl— throwing her in the wa}- of temjojtation^ 
and insult, and coarse speech. N early tw o thousand, pounds 
profit from him already though. Pshaw ! match-making 
mothers__daJjie same thing every day." 

He sat down, and told the chances, for and against, on 
his fingers. 

" If I had not put them in the right track to-day," thought 
Ralph, " this foolish woman would have done so. Well. If 
her daughter is as true to herself as she should be from 
what I have seen, what harm ensues ? A little teazing, a little 
humbling, a few_tears . Yes," said Ralpli, aloud, as lit locked 
his iron sai'e. " She must take her chance. She must take 
her chance." ,-^ 



CHAPTER XXVII. 



MRS. NICKLEBY BECOMES ACQUAINTED WITH MESSRS.- PYKE 
AND PLUCK, WHOSE AFFECTION AND INTEREST ARE BEYOND 
ALL BOUNDS. 

Mrs. Nickleby had not felt so proud and important for 
many a day, as when, on reaching home, she gave herself 
wholly up to the pleasant visions which had accompanied her 
on her way thither. Lady Mulberry Hawk — that was the 
prevalent idea. Lady Mulberry Hawk ! — On Tuesday last, 
at St. George's, Hanover-square, by the Right Reverend the 
Bishop of Llandaff,, Sir Mulberry Hawk, of Mulberry Castle, 
North Wales, to Catherine, only daughter of the late Nicholas 
Nickleby, Esquire, of Devonshire. " Upon my word ! " cried 
Mrs. Nicholas Nickleby, " it sounds very well." 

Having despatched the ceremony, with its attendant fes- 



342 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

tivities, to the perfect satisfaction of her own mind, the san- 
guine mother pictured to her imagination a long train of honors 
and distinctions wliicli could not fail to accompany Kate in 
her new and brilliant sphere. She would be presented at 
court, of course. On the anniversary of her birthday, which 
was upon the nineteenth of July (" at ten minutes past three 
o'clock in the morning," thought Mrs. Nickleby in a paren- 
thesis, " for I recollect asking what o'clock it was,") Sir Mul- 
berry would give a great feast to all his tenants, and would 
return them three and a half per cent, on the amount of their 
last half-year's rent, as would be fully described and recorded 
in the fashionable intelligence, to the immeasurable delight 
and admiration of all the readers thereof. Kate's picture, 
too, would be in at least half-a-dozen of the annuals, and on 
the opposite page would appear, in delicate type, *' Lines on 
contemplating the Portrait of Lady Mulberry Hawk. By Sir 
Dingleby Dabber. Perhaps some one annual, of more com- 
prehensive design than its fellows, might even contain a por- 
trait of the mother of Lady Mulberry Hawk, with lines by the 
father of Sir Dingleby Dabber. More unlikely things had 
come to pass. Less interesting portraits had appear-^d. As 
this thought occurred to the good lady, her countenance un- 
consciously assumed that compound expression of simpering 
and sleepiness which, being common to all such portraits, is 
perhajDS one reason why they are always so charming and 
agreeable. 

With such triumphs of aerial architecture did Mrs. Nickle- 
by occupy the whole evening after her accidental introduction 
to Ralph's titled friends ; and dreams, no less prophetic and 
equally promising, haunted her sleep that night. She was 
preparing for her frugal dinner next day, still occupied with the 
same ideas — a little softened down perhaps by sleep and 
daylight — when the girl who attended her partly for company, 
and partly to assist in the household affairs, rushed into the 
room in unwonted agitation, and announced that two gentle- 
men were waiting in the passage for permission to walk up 
stairs. 

" Bless my heart ! " cried Mrs. Nickleby, hastily arranging 
her cap and front, " if it should be — dear me, standing in the 
passage all this time — why don't you go and ask them to 
walk up, you stupid thing } " 

While the girl was gone on this errand, Mrs. Nickleby 
hastily swept into a cupboard all vestiges of eating and drink- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 343 

ing ; which she had scarcely done, and seated herself with 
looks as collected as she could assume, when two gentlemen, 
both perfect strangers, presented themselves. 

" How do you do i " said one gentleman, laying great 
stress on the last word of the inquiry. 

" Ho70 do you do ? " said the other gentleman, altering 
the emphasis, as if to give variety to the salutation. 

Mrs. Nickleby curtseyed and smiled, and curtseyed again, 
and remarked, rubbing her hands as she did so, that she 
hadn't the — really — the honor to — 

" To know us," said the first gentleman. " The loss has 
been ours, Mrs. Nickleby. Has the loss been ours, Pyke ? " 
" It has, Pluck," answered the other gentleman. 
"We have regretted it very often, I believe, Pyke?" said 
the first gentleman. 

" Very often. Pluck," answered the second. 
"But now," said the first gentleman, "now we have the 
happiness we have pined and languished for. Have we pined 
and languished for this happiness, Pyke, or have we not } " 
" You know we have. Pluck," said Pyke, reproachfully. 
" Xgu hear him, ma'am ? " said Mr. Pluck, looking 
round ; " you hear the unimpeachable testimony of my friend 
Pyke — that reminds me, — formalities, formalities, must not be 
neglected in civilized society. Pyke — Mrs. Nickleby." 
Mr. Pyke laid his hand upon his heart, and bowed low. 
" Whether I shall introduce myself with the same formal- 
ity," said Mr. Pluck — "whether I shall say myself that my 
name is Pluck, or whether 1 shall ask my friend Pyke (who 
being now regularly introduced, is competent to the office) to 
state for me, Mrs. Nickleby, that my name is Pluck ; whether 
I shall claim your acquaintance on the plain ground of the 
strong interest I take in your welfare, or whether I shall 
make° myself known to you as the friend of Sir Mulberry 
Hawk — these, Mrs. Nickleby, are considerations which I 
leave to you to determine." 

" Any friend of Sir Mulberry- Hawk's requires no better 
introduction to me," observed Mrs. Nickleby, graciously. 

" It is delightful to hear you say so," said Mr. Pluck, 
drawing a chair close to Mrs. Nickleby, and seating himself. 
" It is refreshing to know that you hold my excellent friend, 
Sir Mulberry, in such high esteem. A word in your ear, Mrs. 
Nickleby. When Sir Mulberry knows it, he will be a happy 
man — I say, Mrs. Nickleby, a happy man. Pyke, be seated." 



344 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



" My good opinion," said Mrs, Nickleby, and the poor 
lady exulted in the idea that she was man'ellously sly : " my 
good opinion can be of very little consequence to a gentleman 
like Sir Mulberry." 

" Of little consequence ! " exclaimed Mr. Pluck. " Pyke, 
of what consequence to our friend, Sir Mulberry, is the good 
opinion of Mrs. Nickleby?" 

"Of what consequence .-' " echoed Pyke. 

"Ay," repeated Pluck; "is it of the greatest conse- 
quence ? " 

"Of the very greatest consequence," replied Pyke. 

"Mrs. Nickleby cannot be ignorant," said Mr. Pluck, " of 
the immense impression which that sweet girl has — " 

" Pluck ! " said his friend, " beware ! " 

" Pyke is right," muttered Mr. Pluck, after a short pause ; 
" I was not to mention it. Pyke is very right. Thank you, 
Pyke." 

" Well now, really ! " thought Mrs. Nickleby within her- 
self. " Such delicacy as that, I never saw ! " 

Mr. Pluck, after feigning to be in a condition of great 
embarrassment for some minutes, resumed the conversation 
by entreating Mrs. Nickleby to take no heed of what tie had 
inadvertently said — to consider him imprudent, rash, injudi- 
cious. The only stipulation he would make in his own favor 
was, that she should give him credit for the best intentions. 

" But when," said Mr. Pluck, " when I see so much sweet- 
ness and beauty on the one hand, and so much ardor and 
devotion on the other, I — pardon me, Pyke, I didn't intend to 
resume that theme. Change the subject, Pyke." 

"We promised Sir Mulberry and Lord Frederick," said 
Pyke, " that we'd call this morning and inquire whether you 
took any cold last night." 

" Not the least in the world last night, sir," replied Mrs. 
Nickleby, " with many thanks to his lordship and Sir Mul- 
berry for doing me the honor to inquire ; not the least — 
which is the more singular, as I really am very subject to colds, 
indeed — very subject. I had a cold once," said Mrs. Nickle- 
by, " I think it was in the year eighteen hundred and seven- 
teen ; let me see, four and five are nine, and — yes, eighteen 
hundred and seventeen, that I thought I never should get rid 
of ; actually and seriously, that I tliought 1 never should get 
rid of. I was only cured at last by a remedy that I don't 
know whether you ever happened to hear of, Mr. Pluck. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 345 

You have a gallon of water as hot as you can possibly bear 
it, with a pound of salt and sixpen'orth of the finest bran, 
and sit with your head in it for twenty minutes every night 
just before going to bed ; at least, I don't mean your head — 
your feet. It's a most extraordinary cure — a most extraordi- 
nary cure. I used it for the first time, I recollect, the day 
after Christmas Day, and by the middle of April following 
the cold was gone. It seems quite a miracle when you come 
to think of it, for I had it ever since the beginning of Sep 
tember." 

" What an afflicting calamity ! " said Mr. Pyke. 

" Perfectly horrid ! " exclaimed Mr. Pluck. 

" But it's worth the pain of hearing, only to know that 
Mrs. Nickleby recovered it, isn't it, Pluck .? " cried Mr. Pyke. 

" That is the circumstance which gives it such a thrilling 
interest," replied Mr. Pluck. 

" But come," said Pyke, as if suddenly recollecting him- 
self ; " we must not forget our mission in the pleasure of this 
interview. We come on a mission, Mrs. Nickleby." 

" On a mission," exclaimed that good lady, to whose mind 
a defiii^tive proposal of marriage for Kate at once presented 
itself in lively colors. 

" From Sir Mulberry, replied Pyke. " You must be very 
dull here." 

" Rather dull, I confess," said Mrs. Nickleby. 

" We bring the compliments of Sir Mulberry Hawk, and a 
thousand entreaties that you'll take a seat in a private box at 
the play to-night," said Mr. Pluck. 

" Oh dear ! " said Mrs. Nickleby, " I never go out at all, 
never." 

" And that is the very reason, my dear Mrs. Nickleby, 
why you should go out to-night," retorted Mr. Pluck. *• Pyke, 
entreat Mrs. Nickleby." 

" Oh, pray do," said Pyke. 

" You positively must," urged Pluck. 

" You are very kind," said Mrs. Nickleby, hesitating ; 
." but—" 

" There's not a but in the case, my dear Mrs. Nickleby,''' 
remonstrated Mr. Pluck ; " not such a word in the A'ocabulary. 
Your brother-in-law joins us, Lord Frederick joins us, Sir 
Mulberry joins us, Pvke joins us — a refusal is out of the ques- 
tion. Sir Mulberry sends a carriage for you — twenty minutes 
before seven to the moment — you'll not be so cruel as to dis- 
appoint the whole party, Mrs. Nickleby ? " 



346 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

" You are so very pressing, that I scarcely know what to 
say," replied the worthy lady. 

" Say nothing ; not a word, not a word, my dearest 
madam," urged Mr. Pluck. " Mrs. Nickleby," said that ex- 
cellent gentleman, lowering his voice, " there is the most 
trifling, the most excusable breach of confidence in what I 
am about to say ; and yet if my friend Pyke there overheard 
it — such is that man's delicate sense of honor, Mrs. Nickleby 
— he'd have me out before dinner-time." 

" Mrs. Nickleby cast an apprehensive glance at the war- 
like Pyke, who had walked to the window ; and Mr. Pluck, 
squeezing her hand, went on : 

" Your daughter has made a conquest on which I may 
congratulate you. Sir Mulberry, my dear ma'am. Sir Mul- 
berry is her devoted slave. Hem! " 

" Hah ! " cried Mr. Pyke, at this juncture, snatching some- 
thing from the chimney-piece with a theatrical air. " What 
is this ! what do I beho'ld ! " 

" What do you behold, my dear fellow ? " asked Mr. Pluck. 

" It is the face, the countenance, the expression," cried 
Mr. Pyke, falling into his chair with a miniature in his hand ; 
" feebly portrayed, imperfectly caught, but still the face, the 
countenance, the expression." 

" I recognize it at this distance ! " exclaimed Mr. Pluck, 
in a fit of enthusiasm. " Is it not, my dear madam, the faint 
similitude of — " 

" It is my daughter's portrait," said Mrs. Nickleby, with 
great pride. And so it was. And little Miss La Creevy had 
brought it home for inspection only two nights before. 

Mr. Pyke no sooner ascertained that he was quite right in 
his conjecture, than he launched into the most extravagant 
encomiums of the divine original ; and in the warmth of his 
enthusiasm kissed the picture a thousand times, while Mr. 
Pluck pressed Mrs. Nickleby 's hand to his heart, and con- 
gratulated her on the possession of such a daughter, with so 
much earnestness and affection, that the tears stood, or 
seemed to stand, in his eyes. Poor Mrs. Nickleb}', who haci^ 
listened in a state of enviable complacenc}^ at first, became at 
length quite overpowered by these tokens of regard for, and 
attachment to, the family ; and even the servant girl, who had 
peeped in at the door, remained rooted to the spot, in aston- 
ishment at the ecstasies of the two friendly visitors. 

By degrees these raptures subsided, and Mrs. Nickleby went 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 347 

i. 
on to entertain her guests with a lament over her fallen for- 
tunes, and a picturesque account of her old house in the coun- 
try ; comprising a full description of the different apartments, 
not forgetUng the little store-room, and a lively recollection of 
how many steps you went down to get into the garden, and 
which way you turned when you came out at the parlor-door, 
and what capital fixtures there were in the kitchen. This last 
reflection naturally conducted her into the wash-house, where 
she stumbled upon the brewing utensils, among which she 
might have wandered for an hour, if the mere mention of 
those implements had not, by an association of ideas, in- 
stantly reminded Mr. Pyke that he was " amazing thirsty." 

" And I'll tell you what," said Mr. Pyke ; " if you'll send 
round to the public-house for a pot of mild half-and-half, pos- 
itively and actually I'll drink it." 

And positively and actually Mr. Pyke did drink it, and 
Mr. Pluck helped him, while Mrs. Nickleby looked on in di- 
vided admiration of the condescension of the two, and the ap- 
titude with which they accommodated themselves to the pew- 
ter-pot ; in explanation of which seeming marvel it may be 
here observed, that gentlemen who, like Messrs. Pyke and 
Pluck, live upon their wits (or not so much, perhaps, upon 
the presence of their own wits as upon the absence of wits in 
other people) are occasionally reduced to very narrow shifts 
and straits, and are at such periods accustomed to regale 
themselves in a very simple and primitive manner. 

"At twenty minutes before seven, then," said Mr. Pyke, 
rising, " the coach will be here. One more look — one little 
look — at that sweet face. Ah ! here it is. Unmoved, un- 
changed ! " This by the way was a very remarkable circum- 
stance, miniatures being liable to so many changes of expres- 
sion. " Oh, Pluck ! Pluck ! " 

Mr. Pluck made no other reply than kissing Mrs. Nick- 
leby's hand with a great show of feeling and attachment ; 
Mr. Pyke having done the same, both gentlemen hastily with- ^ 
drew. ^ 

^ Mrs. Nickleby was commonly in the habit of giving herself ^ 

credit for a pretty tolerable share of penetration and acute- 
ness, but she had never felt so satisfied with her own sharp- 
sightedness as she did that day. She had found it all out 
the night before. She had never seen Sir Mulberry and 
Kate together — never even heard Sir Mulbeny's name — and 
yet hadn't she said to herself from the veiy first, that she 



348 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y 

saw how the case stood ? and what a triumpli it was, for 
there was now no doubt about it. If these flattering atten- 
tions to herself were not sufficient proofs, Sir Mulberry's con- 
fidential friend had suffered the secret to- escape him in so 
many words. " I am quite in love with that dear Mr. Pluck, 
I declare I am," said Mrs. Nickleby. 

There was one great source of uneasiness in the midst of 
this good fortune, and that was the having nobody by, to 
whom she could confide it. Once or twice she almost resolved 
to walk straight to Miss La Creevy's and tell it all to her. 
" But I don't know," thought Mrs. Nickleby ; " she is a very 
worthy person, but I am afraid too much beneath Sir Mul- 
berry's station for us to make a companion of. Poor thing ! " 
Acting upon this grave consideration she rejected the idea of 
taking the little portrait-painter into her confidence, and con- 
tented herself with holding out sundry vague and mysterious 
hopes of preferment to the servant-girl, who received these 
obscure hints of dawning greatness with much veneration and 
respect. 

Punctual to its time came the promised vehicle, which was 
no hackney coach, but a private chariot, having behind it a 
footman, whose legs, although somewhat large for his body, 
might, as mere abstract legs, have set themselves up for 
models at the Royal Academy. It was quite exhilarating to 
hear the clash and bustle with which he banged the door and 
jumped up behind after Mrs. Nickleby was in ; and as that 
good lady was perfectly unconscious that he applied the gold- 
headed end of his long stick to his nose, and so telegraphed 
most disrespectfully to the coachman over her very head, she 
sat in a state of much stiffness and dignity, not a little proud 
of her position. 

At the theatre entrance there was more banging and more 
bustle, and there were also Messrs. Pyke and Pluck waiting 
to escort her to her box ; and so polite were they that Mr. 
Pyke threatened with many oaths to " smifligate " a very old 
man with a lantern who accidentally stumbled in her way 
— to the great terror of Mrs. Nickleby, who, conjecturing^^ 
more from Mr. Pyke's excitement than any previous acquaint- ■ 
ance with the etymology of the word that smilligation and 
bloodshed must be in the main one and the same thing, was 
alarmed beyond expression, lest something should occur. 
Fortunately, however, Mr. Pyke confined himself to mere 
verbal smilligation, and they reached their box with no more 



NICHOLAS NTCKLEBY. 34CJ 

serious interruption by the way, than a desire on the part of 
the same pugnacious gentleman to "smash " the assistant box- 
keeper for happening to mistake the number. 

Mrs. Nickleby had scarcely been put away behind the 
curtain of the box in an arm chair, when Sir Mulberry and 
Lord Frederick Verisopht arrived, arrayed from the crowns 
of their heads to the tips of their gloves, and from the tips of 
their gloves to the toes of their boots, in the most elegant and 
costly manner. Sir Mulberry was a little hoarser than on the 
previous day, and Lord Frederick looked rather sleepy and 
queer : from which tokens, as well as from the circumstance 
of their both being to a trifling extent unsteady on their legs, 
Mrs. Nickleby justly concluded that they had taken dinner. 

" We have been — we have been — toasting your lovely 
daughter, Mrs. Nickleby," whispered Sir Mulberr}^, sitting 
down behind her. 

" Oh, ho ! " thought that knowing lady ; " wine in, truth 
out. — You are very kind. Sir Mulberry." 

" No, no, upon my soul ! " replied Sir Mulberry Hawk. 
" It's you that's kind, upon my soul it is. It was so kind of 
you to come to-night." 

" So very kind of you to invite me, you mean. Sir Mulberry," 
replied Mrs. Nickleby, tossing her head, and looking pro- 
digiously sly. 

" I am so anxious to know you, so anxious to cultivate 
your good opinion, so desirous that there should be a delicious 
kind of harmonious family understanding between us," said 
Sir Mulberry, " that you mustn't think I'm disinterested in 
what I do. I'm infernal selfish ; I am — upon my soul I am." 

"lam sure you can't be selfish. Sir Mulberr}^" replied 
Mrs. Nickleby. " You have much too open and generous a 
countenance for that." 

" What an extraordinary observer you are ! " said Sir 
Mulberry Hawk. 

"Oh no, indeed, I don't see very far into things. Sir 
Mulberr}'," replied Mrs. Nickleby, in a tone of voice which 
heft the baronet to infer that she saw very far indeed. 

" I am quite afraid of you," said the baronet. " Upon my 
soul," repeated Sir Mulberry, looking round to his compan- 
ions ; " I am afraid of Mrs. Nickleby. She is so immensely 
sharp." 

Messrs. Pyke and Pluck shook their heads mysteriously, 
and observed together that they had found that out long ago ; 



3 5 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

upon which Mrs. Nickleby tittered, and Sir Mulberry laughed, 
and Pyke and Pluck roared. 

*• But Where's my brother-in-law. Sir Mulberry? " inquired 
Mrs. Nickleby. " I shouldn't be here without him. I hope 
he's coming." 

" Pyke," said Sir Mulberry, taking out his toothpick and 
lolling back in his chair, as if he were too lazy to invent a 
reply to this question. " Where's Ralph Nickleby ? " 

" Pluck," said Pyke, imitating the baronet's action, and 
turning the lie over to his friend, "where's Ralph Nickleby ? " 

Mr. Pluck was about to return some evasive reply, when 
the bustle caused by a party entering the next box seemed to 
attract the attention of all four gentlemen, who exchanged 
glances of much meaning. The new party beginning to con- 
verse together. Sir Mulberry suddenly assumed the character 
of a most attentive listener, and implored his friends not to 
breathe — not to breathe. 

" Why not ? " said Mrs. Nickleby. " What is the matter ? " 

" Hush ! " replied Sir Mulbeny, laying his hand on her 
arm. " Lord Frederick, do you recognize the tones of that 
voice ? " 

" Deyvle take me if I didn't think it was the voice of Miss 
Nickleby." 

" Lor, my lord ! " cried Miss Nickleby's mamma, thrusting 
her head round the curtain. '' Why actually — Kate, my dear, 
Kate." 

" Yo?/ here, mamma ! Is it possible ! " 

" Possible, my dear.-* Yes." 

" Why who — who on earth is that you have with you, 
mamma ? " said Kate, shrinking back as she caught sight of a 
man smiling and kissing his hand. 

" Who do you suppose, my dear ? " replied Mrs. Nickleby, 
bending towards Mrs. Wititterly, and speaking a little louder 
for that lady's edification. " There's Mr. Pyke, Mr. Pluck, Sir 
Mulberry Hawk, and Lord Frederick Verisopht." 

"Gracious Heaven!" thought Kate hurriedly. "How 
comes she in such society ! " 

Now, Kate thought thus so hurriedly, and the surprise was 
so great, and moreover brought back so forcibly the recollec- 
tion of what had passed at Ralph's delectable dinner, that she 
turned extremely pale and appeared greatly agitated, which 
symptoms being observed by Mrs. Nickleby, were at once 
set down by that acute lady as being caused and occasioned 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 35 1 

by violent love. But, although she was in no small degree 
delighted by this discovery which reflected so much credit on 
her own quickness of perception, it did not lessen her motherly 
anxiety in Kate's behalf ; and accordingly, with a vast quantity 
of trepidation, she quitted her own box to hasten into that of 
Mrs. Wititterly. Mrs. Wititterly, keenly alive to the glory of 
having a lord and a baronet among her visiting acquaintance, 
lost no time in signing to Mr. Wititterly to open the door, and 
thus it was that in less than thirty seconds Mrs. Nickleby's 
party had made an irruption into Mrs. Wititterly's box, which 
it filled to the very door, there being in fact only room for 
Messrs. Fyke and Pluck to get in their heads and waistcoats. 

" My dear Kate," said Mrs. Nickleby, kissing her daughter 
affectionately. " How ill you looked a moment ago ! You 
quite frightened me, I declare ! " 

" It was mere fancy, mamma— the — the — reflection of the 
lights perhaps," replied Kate, glancing nervously round, and 
finding it impossible to whisper any caution or explanation. 
" Don't you see Sir Mulberry Hawk, my dear ? " 
Kate bowed slightly, and biting her lip turned her head 
towards the stage. 

But Sir Mulberry Hawk was not to be so easily repulsed, 
for he advanced with extended hand ; and Mrs. Nickleby 
officiously informing Kate of this circumstance, she was 
obliged to extend her own. Sir Mulberry detained it while 
he murmured a profusion of compliments, which Kate, remem- 
bering what had passed between them, rightly considered as 
so many aggravations of the insult he had already put upon 
her. Then followed the recognition of Lord Frederick Veri- 
sopht, and then the greeting of Mr. Pyke, and then that of Mr. 
Pluck, and finally, to complete the young lady's mortification, 
she was compelled at Mrs. Wititterly's request to perform 
the ceremony of introducing the odious persons, whom she 
regarded with the utmost indignation and abhorrence. 

" Mrs. Wititterly is delighted," said Mr. Wititterly, rubbing 
his hands ; " delighted, my lord, I am sure, with this oppor- 
tunity of contracting an acquaintance which, I trust, my lord, 
we shall improve. Julia, my dear, you must not allow your- 
self to be too much excited, you must not. Indeed you must 
not. Mrs. Wititterly is of a most excitable nature. Sir Mul- 
berry. The snuff of a candle, the wick of a lamp, the bloom 
of a peach, the down on a butterfly. You might blow her 
away, my lord ; you might blow her away." 






352 NICHOLAS NTCKLEBY. 

Sir Mulberry seemed to think that it would be a great 
convenience if the lady could be blown away. He said, how- 
ever, that the delight was mutual, and Lord Frederick added 
that it was mutual, whereupon Messrs. Pike and Pluck were 
heard to murmur from the distance that it was very mutual 
indeed. 

" I take- an interest, my lord," said Mrs. Wititterly, with 
a faint smile, " such an interest in the drama." 

"Ye — es. It's very interesting," replied Lord Frederick. 

" I'm always ill after Shakspeare," said Mrs. Wititterly. 
" I scarcely exist the next day ; I find the re-action so very 
great after a tragedy, my lord, and Shakspeare is such a deli- 
cious creature." 

" Ye — es ! " replied Lord Frederick. " He was a clayver 
man." 

" Do you know, my lord," said Mrs. Wititterly, after a 
long silence, " I find I take so much more interest in his plays, 
after having been to that dear little dull house he was born 
in ! Were you ever there, my lord ? " 

" No, nayver," replied my lord. 

" Then really you ought to go, my lord," returned Mrs. 
Wititterly, in very languid and drawling accents. " I don't 
know how it is, but after you've seen the place and written 
your name in the little book, somehow or other you seem to 
be inspired ; it kindles up quite a fire within one." 

" Ye — es ! " replied Lord Frederick, " I shall certainly go 
there." 

"Julia, my life," interposed Mr. Wititterly, "you are de- 
ceiving his lordship — unintentionally, my lord, she is deceiving 
you. It is your poetical temperament, my dear — 3-our ethereal 
soul — your fervid imagination, which throws you into a glow 
of genius and excitement. There is nothing in the place, my 
dear — nothing, nothing." 

" I think there must be something in the place," said Mrs. 
Nickleby, who had been listening in silence ; "for, soon after 
I was married, I went to Stratford with my poor dear Mr, 
Nickleby, in a post-chaise from Birmingham — was it a jDOSt^ 
chaise though !" said Mrs. Nickleby, considering; "yes, it 
must have been a post-chaise, because I recollect remarking 
at the time that the driver had a green shade over his left 
eye ; — in a post-chaise from Birmingham, and after we had 
seen Shakspeare's tomb and birth-place, we went back to the 
inn there, where we slept that night, and I recollect that all 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 3^3 

night long I dreamt of nothing but a black gentleman, at full 
length, in plaster-of-Paris, with a lay down collar tied with 
two tassels, leaning against a post and thinking ; and when I 
woke in the morning and described him to Mr. Nickleby, he 
said it was Shakspeare just as he had been when he was 
alive, which was very curious indeed. Stratford — Stratford,'' 
continued Mrs. Nickleby, considering. " Yes, I am positive 
about that, because 1 recollect I was in the family way with 
my son Nicholas at the time, and I had been very much 
frightened by an Italian image boy that very morning. In 
fact, it was quite a mercy, ma'am," added Mrs. Nickleby, in a 
whisper to Mrs. Wititterly, " that my son didn't turn out to 
be a Shakspeare, and what a dreadful thing that would have 
been ! " 

When Mrs. Nickleby, had brought this interesting anec- 
dote to a close, Pyke and Pluck, ever zealous' in their patron's 
cause, proposed the adjournment of a detachment of the 
party into the next box ; and with so much skill were the 
preliminaries adjusted, that Kate, despite all she could say or 
do to the contrary, had no alternative but to suffer herself to 
be led away by Sir Mulberry Hawk. Her mother and Mr. 
Pluck accompanied them, but the worthy lady, pluming herself 
upon her discretion, took particular care not so much as to 
look at her daughter during the whole evening, and to seem 
wholly absorbed m the jokes and conversation of Mr. Pluck, 
who, having been appointed sentry over Mrs. Nickleby for 
that especial purpose, neglected, on his side, no possible op- 
portunity of engrossing her attention. 

Lord Frederick Verisopht remained in the next box to be 
talked to by Mrs. Wititterly, and Mr. Pyke was in attendance 
to throw in a word or two when necessary. As to Mr. Witit- 
terly, he was sufficiently busy in the body of the house, in- 
forming such of his friends and acquaintance as happened to 
be there, that those two gentlemen up stairs, whom they had 
seen in conversation with Mrs. W., were the distinguished 
Lord Frederick Verisopht and his most intimate friend, the 

fy Sir Mulberry Hawk — a communication which inflamed 
reral respectable house-keepers with the utmost jealousy 
and rage, and reduced sixteen unmarried daughters to the 
very brink of despair. 

The evening came to. an end at last, but Kate had vet to 
be handed down stairs by the detested Sir Mulberrv ; and so 
skilfully were the manoeuvres of Messrs. Pyke and Pluck 



354 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



conducted, that she and the baronet were the last of the party, 
and were even — without an appearance of effort or design — 
left at some little distance behind. 

" Don't hurry, don't hurry," said Sir Mulberry, as Kate 
hastened on, and attempted to release her arm. 

She made no reply, but still pressed forward. 

" Nay, then — " coolly observed Sir Mulberr)', stopping her 
outright. 

" You had best not seek to detain me, sir ! " said Kate, 
angrily. 

" And why not ? " retorted Sir Mulberry. " My dear 
creature, now why do you keep up this show of displeas- 
ure >. " 

'■'■Sho7o/" repeated Kate, indignantly. " How dare you 
presume to speak to me, sir — to address me — to come into 
my presence ? " 

"You look prettier in a passion, Miss Nickleby," said 
Sir Mulberry Hawk, stooping down, the better to see her 
face. 

" I hold you in the bitterest detestation and contempt, 
sir," said Kate. " If you find any attraction in looks of dis- 
gust and aversion, you — let me rejoin my friends sir, in- 
stantly. Whatever considerations may have withheld me thus 
far, I will disregard them all, and take a course that even 
you might feel, if you do not immediately suffer me to pro- 
ceed." 

Sir Mulberry smiled, and still looking in her face and re- 
taining her arm, walked towards the door. 

" If no regard for my sex or helpless situation will induce 
you to desist from this coarse and unmanly persecution," 
said Kate, scarcely knowing, in the tumult of her passions, 
what she said, " I have a brother who will resent it dearly, 
one day." 

" Upon my soul ! " exclaimed Sir Mulberry, as though 
quietly communing with himself, and passing his arm round 
her waist as he spoke, " she looks more beautiful, and I like 
her better, in this mood, than when her eyes are cast down, 
and she is in perfect repose ! " 

How Kate reached the lobby where her friends M'ere 
waiting she never knew, but she hurried a(::fross it without at 
all regarding them, and disengaged Jierself suddenly from her 
companion, sprang into the coach, and throwing herself into 
its darkest corner burst into tears. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y 355 

Messrs. Pike and Pluck, knowing their cue, at once threw 
the party into great commotion by shouting for the carriages, 
and getting up a violent quarrel with sundry inoffensive by- 
standers ; in the midst of which tumult they put the affrighted 
Mrs. Nicideby in her chariot, and having got her safely off, 
turned their thoughts to Mrs. VVititterly, whose attention also 
they had now effectually distracted from the young lady, by 
throwing her into a state of the utmost bewilderment and 
consternation. At length, the conveyance in which she had 
come rolled off too with its load, and the four worthies, being 
left alone under the portico, enjoyed a hearty laugh together. 

"There," said Sir -Mulberry, turning to his noble friend. 
" Didn't I tell you last night that if we could find where they 
were going by bribing a servant through my fellow, and then 
established ourselves close by with the mother, these people's 
house would be our own .? Why here it is, done in four-and- 
twenty hours." 

" Ye-es," replied the dupe. " But I have been tied to the 
old woman all ni-ight." 

" Hear him ! " said Sir Mulberry, turning to his two friends. 
" Hear this discontented grumbler. Isn't it enough to make 
a man swear never to help him in his plots and schemes again ? 
Isn't it an infernal shame .-' " 

Pyke asked Pluck whether it was not an infernal shame, 
and Pluck asked Pyke ; but neither answered. 

" Isn't it the truth ? " demanded Frederick Verisopht. 
" Wasn't it so ? " 

" Wasn't it so ! " repeated Sir Mulberry. " How would 
you have had it ? How could we have got a general invitation 
at first sight — come when you like, go when you like, stop as 
long as you like, do what you like — if you, the lord, had not 
made yourself agreeable to the foolish mistress of the house ? 
Do I care for this girl, except as your friend ? Haven't I 
been sounding your praises in her ears, and bearing her pretty 
sulks and peevishness all night for you ? What sort of stuff 
do you think I'm made of? Would 1 do this for every man .■* 
Don't I deserve even gratitude in return ? " 

" You're a deyvlish good fellow," said the poor young lord, 
taking his friend's arni. " Upon my life, you're a dey\lish 
good fellow, Hawk." 

"And I have done right, have I ?" demanded Sir Mul 
berry. 

"Quite ri-ght." 



356 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" And like a poor, silly, good-natured, friendly dog as I 
am, eh ? " 

" Ye-es, ye-es ; like a friend," replied the other. 

" Well then," replied Sir Mulberr}', " I'm satisfied. And 
now let's go and have our revenge on the German baron and 
the Frenchman, who cleaned you out so handsomely last 
night." 

With these words the friendly creature took his com- 
panion's arm and led him away: turning half round as he did 
so, and bestowing a wink and a contemptuous smile on Messrs. 
Pike and Pluck, who, cramming their handkerchiefs into their 
mouths to denote their silent enjoyment of the proceedings, 
followed their patron and his victim at a little distance. 



CHAPTER XXVIIl. 

MISS NICKLEBY, RENDERED DESPERATE BY THE PERSECUTION 
OF SIR MULBERRY HAWK, AND THE COMPLICATED DIFFI- 
CULTIES AND DISTRESSES WHICH SURROUND HER, APPEALS, 
AS A LAST RESOURCE, TO HER UNCLE FOR PROTECTION. 

The ensuing morning brought reflection with it, as morn- 
ing usually does ; but widely different was the train of thought 
it awakened in the different persons who had been so unex- 
pectedly brought together on the preceding evening, by the 
active agency of Messrs. Pike and Pluck. 

The reflections of Sir Mulberry Hawk — if such a term 
can be applied to the thoughts of the systematic and calcula- 
ting man of dissipation, whose joys, regrets, pains, and pleas- 
ures, are all of self, and who would seem to retain nothing of 
the intellectual faculty but the power to debase himself, and 
to degrade the very nature whose outward semblance he wears 
— the reflections of Sir Mulberry' Hawk turned upon Kate 
Nickleby, and were, in brief, that she was undoubtedly hand- 
some ; that her coyness must be easily conquerable by a man 
of his address and experience, and that the pursuit was one 
which could not fail to redound to 'his credit, and greatly to 
enhance his reputation with the world. And lest this last con- 
sideration — no mean or secondary one with Sir Mulberry — 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 357 

should sound strangely in the ears of some, let It be remem- 
bered that most men live in a world of their own, and that in 
that limited circle alone are they ambitious for distinction and 
applause. Sir Mulberry's world was peopled with protiigates, 
and he acted accordingly. 

Thus, cases of injustice, and oppression, and tyranny, and 
the most extravagant bigotry, are in constant occurrence 
among us every day. It is the custom to trumpet forth much 
wonder and astonishment at the chief actors therein setting 
at defiance so completely the opinion of the world ; but there 
is no greater fallacy ; it is precisely because they do consult 
the opinion of their own little world that such things take 
place at all, and strike the great world dumb with amazement. 

The reliections of Mrs. Nickleby were of the proudest and 
most complacent kind ; under the influence of her very agree- 
able delusion she straightway sat down and indited a long 
letter to Kate, in which she expressed her entire approval of 
the admirable choice she had made, and extolled Sir Mulberry 
to the skies ; asserting, for the more complete satisfaction of 
her daughter's feelings, that he was precisely the individual 
whom she (Mrs. Nickleby") would have chosen for her son-in- 
law, if she had had the picking and choosing from all man- 
kind. The good lady then, with the preliminary observation 
that she might be fairly supposed not to have lived in the 
world so long without knowing its ways, communicated a great 
many subtleprecepts applicable to the state of courtship, and 
confirmed in their wisdom by her own personal experience. 
Above all things she commended a strict maidenly reserve, as 
being not only" a very laudable thing in itself, but as tending 
materially to strengthen and increase a lover's ardor. " And 
I never,"' added Mrs. Nickleby, " was more deUghted in my 
life than to observe last night, my dear, that your good sense 
had already told you this." With which sentiment, and vari- 
ous hints of the pleasure she derived from the knowledge 
that her daughter inherited so large an instalment of her own 
excellent sense and discretion (to nearly the full measure of 
wiiich she might hope, with care, to succeed in time\ Mrs. 
Nickleby concluded a very long and rather illegible letter. 

Poor Kate was well nigh distracted on the receipt of four 
closely-written and closely-crossed sides of congratulation on 
the ver\' subject which had prevented her closing her eyes all 
night, and kept her weeping and watching in her chamber ; 
still worse and more trying was the necessit)' of rendering 



■V"' 



358 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



herself agreeable to Mrs. Wititterly, who, being in low spirits 
after the fatigue of the preceding night, of course expected 
her companion (else wherefore had she board and salary ?) to 
be in the best spirits possible. As to Mr. Wititterly, he went 
about all day in a tremor of delight at having shaken hands 
with a lord, and having actually asked him to come and see 
him in his" own house. The lord himself, not being troubled 
to any inconvenient extent with the power of thinking, re- 
galed himself with the conversation of Messrs. Pyke and 
Pluck, who sharpened their wit by a plentiful indulgence in 
varipus costly stimulants at his expense. 

It was four in the afternoon — that is, the vulgar afternoon 
of the sun and the clock — and Mrs. Wititterly reclined, 
according to custom, on the drawing-room sofa, while Kate 
read aloud anew novel in three volumes, entitled "The 
Lady Flabella," which Alphon se th e doubtful had procured 
.from the library that very mor nii'ig.^ And it was a production 
admirably suited to a lady labonng under Mrs. Wititterly's 
complaint, seeing that there was not a line in it, from begin- 
ning to end, which could, by the most remote contingency, 
awaken the smallest excitement in any person breathing. 

Kate read on. 

" ' Cherizette,' said the Lady Flabella, inserting her mouse- 
like feet in the blue satin slippers, which had unwittingly 
occasioned the half-playful half-angry altercation between her- 
self and the youthful Colonel Befillaire, in the Duke of Mince- 
fenille's salon de da/ise on the previous night. ' Cherizette, ma 
chere, donnez-moi de reaii-de-Cologiie, s'il Toits p/atf, 711011 eji/a>it.' 

" ' Mcrcie — thank you,' said the Lady Flabella, as the live- 
ly but devoted Cherizette, plentifully besprinkled- with the 
fragrant compound the Lady Flabella's mouc/ioir of finest 
cambric, edged with richest lace, and emblazoned at the four 
corners with the Flabella crest, and gorgeous heraldic bear- 
ings of that noble family; '■ Mercie — that will do.' 

" At this instant, while the Lady Flabella yet inhaled that 
delicious fragrance by holding the mojuhoir to her exquisite, 
but thoughtfully-chiselled nose, the door of the boudoir 
(artfully concealed by rich hangings of silken damask, the hue 
of Italy's firmament) was thrown open, and with noiseless 
tread two valets-de-chambre, clad in sumptuous liveries of 
peach-blossom and gold, advanced into the room followed by 
a page in has de soie — silk stockings — who, while they re- 
mained at some distance making the most graceful obeisances, 



NTCITOLAS NJCKLEB V. 359 

advanced to the feet of his lovely mistress, and dropping on 
one knee presented, on a golden salver gorgeously chased, 
a scented />///c't. 

" The Lady Flabella, with an agitation she could not re- 
press, hastily tore off the envelope and broke the scented seal. 
It was from Beftllaire — the young, the slim, the low-voiced — 
//d'r<v?w/ Beiillaire." 

" Oh, charming ! " interrupted Kate's patroness, who was 
sometimes taken Hterary ; " Poetic, really. Read that descrip- 
tion again Miss Nickleby." 

Kate complied. 

" Sweet, indeed ! " said Mrs. Wititterlj-, with a sigh. " So 
voluptuous, is it not .'' So soft .■' " 

" Yes, I think it is," replied Kate, gently : " very soft." 

" Close the book. Miss Nickleby," said Mrs. Wititterly, 
" I can hear nothing more to-day. I should be sorry to dis- 
turb the impression of that sweet description. Close the 
book." 

Kate complied, not unwillingly ; and, as she did so, Mrs. 
Wititterly raising her glass with a languid hand, remarked, 
that she looked pale. 

" It was the fright of that — that noise and confusion last 
night," said Kate. 

" How very odd ! " exclaimed Mrs. Wititterly, with a look 
of surprise. And, certainly, when one comes to think of it, 
it was very odd that anything should have disturbed a com- 
panion. A steam-engine, or other ingenious piece of 
mechanism out of order, would have been nothing to it. 

" How did you come to know Lord Frederick, and those 
other delightful creatures, child ? " asked Mrs. \\'ititterly, still 
eyeing Kate through her glass. 

"I met them at my uncle's," said Kate, vexed to feel that 
she was coloring deeply, but unable to keep down the blood 
which rushed to her face whenever she thought of that man. 

" Have you known them long ? " 

" No," rejoined Kate. " Not long." 

" I was very jrladof the opportunity which that respectable 
person, your mother, gave us of being known to them," said 
Mrs. Wititterly, in a lofty manner. " Some friends of ours 
were on the very point of introducing us, which makes it quite 
remarkable." 

This was said lest Miss Nickleby should grow conceited 
on the honor and dignity of having known four great people 



360 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



(for Pyke and Pluck were included among the delightful 
creatures), whom Mrs. Wititterly did not know. But as the 
circumstance had made no impression one way or other upon 
Kate's mind, the force of the observation was quite lost upon 
her. 

"They asked permission to call," said Mrs. Wititterly. 
" I gave it them of course." 

" Do you expect them to-day ? " Kate ventured to inquire. 

Mrs. Wititterly's answer was lost in the noise of a tremen- 
dous rapping at the street-door, and, before it had ceased to 
vibrate, there drove up a handsome cabriolet, out of which 
leaped Sir Mulberry Hawk and his friend Lord Frederick. 

" They are here now," said Kate, rising and hurr)-ing 
away. 

" Miss Nickleby ! " cried Mrs. Wititterly, perfectly aghast 
at a companion's attempting to quit the room, without her 
permission first had and obtained. " Pray don't think of 



)) 



going. 

" You are very good ! " replied Kate. " But " 

" For goodness' sake, don't agitate me by making me 
speak so much," said Mrs. Wititterly, with great sharpness. 
" Dear me, Miss Nickleby, I beg '-' 

It was in vain for Kate to protest that she was unwell, for 
the footsteps of the knockers, whoever they w^ere, were already 
on the stairs. She resumed her seat, and had scarcely done 
so, when the doubtful page darted into the room and an- 
nounced, Mr. Pyke, and Mr. Pluck, and Lord Frederick 
Verisopht, and Sir Mulberry Hawk, all at one burst. 

" The most extraordinary thing in the world," said Mr. 
Pluck, saluting both ladies with the utmost cordiality ; " the 
most extraordinarv thins;. As Lord Frederick and Sir Mul- 
berry drove up to the door, Pyke and I had that instant 
knocked." 

"That instant knocked,'' said Pyke. 

" No matter how you came, so that you are here," said Mrs. 
Wititterly, who, by dint of lying on the same sofa for three 
years and a half, had got up a little pantomime of graceful 
attitudes, and now threw herself into the most striking of the 
series, to astonish the visitors. " I am delighted, I am sure." 

" And how is Miss Nickleby ? " said Sir Mulberr}- Hawk, 
accosting Kate, in a low voice ; not so low, however, but that 
it reached the ears of Mrs Wititterly. 

" Why, she complains of suffering; from the fright of last 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



361 



night," said the lady. " I am sure, I don't wonder at it, for 
my nerves are quite torn to pieces." 

" And yet you look," observed Sir Mulberry, turning round ; 
" and yet you look " 

" Beyond everything," said Mr. Pyke, coming to his 
patron's assistance. Of course Mr. Pluck said the same. 

" I am afraid Sir Mulberry is a flatterer, my lord," said 
Mrs. Wititterly, turning to that young gentleman, who had 
been sucking the head of his cane in silence, and staring at 
Kate. 

" Oh, deyvlish ! " replied my lord. Having given utterance 
to which remarkable sentiment, he occupied himself as before. 

" Neither does Miss Nickleby look the worse," said Sir 
Mulberry, bending his bold gaze upon her. " She was always 
handsome, but upon my soul, ma'am, you seem to have 
imparted some of your own good looks to her besides." 

To judge from the glow which suffused the poor girl's 
countenance after this speech, Mrs. Wititterly might, with 
some show of reason, have been supposed to have imparted 
to it some of that artificial bloom which decorated her own. 
Mrs. Wititterly admitted, though not with the best grace in 
the world, that Kate (^/i/ look pretty. She began to think too, 
that Sir Mulberry was not quite so agreeable a creature as 
she had at first supposed him ; for. although a skilful flatterer 
is a most delightful companion if you can keep him all to 
yourself, his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to 
complimenting other people. 

" Pyke," said the watchful Mr. Pluck, observing the effect 
which the praise of Miss Nickleby had produced. 

" WxU, Pluck," said Pyke. 

" Is there anybody," demanded Mr. Pluck, mysteriously, 
" anybody you know, whom Mrs. Wititterly's profile reminds 
you of?" 

" Reminds me of ! " answered Pyke. " Of course there 
is." 

" Who do you mean ? " said Pluck, in the same mysterious 
manner. " The D. of B. ? " 

"The C. of B.," replied Pyke, with the faintest trace of a 
grin lingering in his countenance. " The beautiful sister is 
the countess ; not the duchess." 

"True," said Pluck, "the C. of B. The resemblance is 
wonderful ? " 

" Perfectly startling ! " said Mr. Pyke. 



,62 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Here was a state of things ! Mrs. Wititterly was declared, 
upon the testimony of two veracious and competent witnesses, 
to be the very picture of a countess ! This was one of the 
consequences of getting into good society. Why, she might 
have moved among grovelUng people for twenty years, and 
never heard of it. How could she, indeed ? what did they 
know about countesses ! 

The two gentlemen having by the greediness with which 
this little bait was swallowed, tested the extent of Mrs. 
Wititterly's appetite for adulation, proceeded to administer 
that commodity in very large doses, thus affording to Sir 
Mulberry Hawk an opportunity of pestering Miss Nickleby 
with questions and remarks, to which she was absolutely 
oblii;ed to make some reply. Meanwhile, Lord Frederick 
enjoyed unmolested the full flavor of the gold knob at the 
top of his cane, as he would have done to the end of the 
interview if Mr. Wititterly had not come home, and caused 
the conversation to turn to his favorite topic. 

" My lord," said Mr. Wititterly, " I am delighted — honored 
— ])roud. Be seated again, my lord, pray. I am proud, 
indeetl ; most proud." 

It was to the secret annoyance of his wife that Mr. 
Wititterly said all this, for, although she was bursting with 
pride and arrogance, she would have had the illustrious guests 
believe that their visit was quite a common occurrence, and 
that they had lords and baronets to see them every day in 
the week. But Mr. Wititterly's feelings were beyond the 
power of suppression. 

" It is an honor, indeed ! " said Mr. Wititterly. " Julia, 
my soul, you will suffer for this to-morrow." 

" Suffer ! " cried Lord Frederick. 

"The reaction, my lord, the reaction," said Mr. Wititterly. 
" This violent strain upon the nervous system over, my lord, 
what ensues ? A sinking, a depression, a lowness, a lassi- 
tude, a debility. My lord, if Sir Tumley Snuffim was to see 
that delicate creature at this moment, he would not give a — 
a — this for her life." In illustration of which remark, Mr. 
Wititterly took a pinch of snuff from his box, and jerked it 
lightly into the air as an emblem of instability. 

" Not that'" said Mr. Wititterly, looking about him with a 
serious countenance. " Sir Tumley Snuffim would not give 
that for Mrs. Wititterly's existence." 

Mr. Wititterly told' this with a kind of sober exultation, as 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 363 

if it were no trifling distinction for a man to have a wife in 
such a desperate state, and Mrs. Wititterly sighed and looked 
on, as if she felt the honor, but had determined to bear it as 
meekly as might be. 

" Mrs. Wititterly," said her husband, " is Sir Tumley 
SnufBm's favorite patient. I believe 1 may venture to say, 
that Mrs. Wititterly is the first person who took the new 
medicine which is supposed to have destroyed a family at 
Kensington Gravel Pits. I believe she was. If 1 am wrong, 
Julia, my dear, you will correct me." 

" I believe I was," said Mrs. Wititterly, in a faint voice. 

As there appeared to be some doubt in the mind of his 
patron how he could best join in this conversation, the inde- 
fatigable Mr. Pyke threw himself into the breach, and, by 
way of saying something to the point, inquired — with reference 
to the aforesaid medicine — whether it was nice ? 

" No, sir, it was not. It had not even that recommenda- 
tion," said Mr. W. 

" Mrs. Wititterly is quite a martyr," observed Pyke, with 
a complimentary bow. 

" I //i/'/i/c 1 am," said Mrs. Wititterly, smiling, 

" I think you are, my dear Julia," replied her husband, in 
a tone which seemed to say that he was not vain, but still 
must insist upon their privileges. " If anybody, my lord," 
added Mr. Wititterly, wheeling round to the nobleman, "will 
produce to me a greater martyr than Mrs. Wititterly, all I can 
say is, that I shall be glad to see that martyr, whether male 
or female — that's all, my lord." 

Pyke and Pluck promptly remarked that certainly nothing 
could be fairer than that ; and the call having been by this 
time protracted to a very great length, they obeyed Sir Mul- 
berry's look, and rose to go. This brought Sir Mulberry 
himself and Lord Frederick on their legs also. Many pro- 
testations of friendship, and expressions anticipative of the 
pleasure which must inevitably flow from so happy an ac- 
quaintance, were exchanged, and the visitors departed, with 
renewed assurances that at all times and seasons the mansion 
of the Wititterlys would be honored by receiving them beneath 
its roof. 

That they came at all times and seasons — that they dined 
there one day, supped the next, dnied again on the next, and 
were constantly to and fro on all — that they made parties to 
visit public places, and met by accident at lounges — that upon 



364 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, 

all these occasions Miss Nickleby was exposed to the con- 
stant and unremitting persecution of Sir Mulberry Hawk, who 
now began to feel his character, even in the estimation of his 
two dependants, involved in the successful reduction of her 
pride — that she had no intervals of peace or rest, except at 
those hours when she could sit in her solitary room, and weep 
over the trials of the day — -all these were consequences 
naturally flowing from the well-laid plans of Sir Mulberry, 
and their able execution by the auxiliaries. Pike and Pluck. 

And thus for a fortnight matters went on. That anv but 
the weakest and silliest of people could have seen in one 
interview that Lord Frederick Verisopht, though he was a 
lord, and Sir Mulberry Hawk, though he was a baronet, were 
not persons accustomed to be the best possible companions, 
and were certainly not calculated by habits, manners, tastes, 
or conversation, to shine with any very great lustre in the 
society of ladies, need scarcely be remarked. But with Mrs. 
Wititterly the two titles were all-sufficient ; coarseness became 
humor, vulgarity softened itself down into the most charming 
eccentricity ; insolence took the guise of an easy absence of 
reserve, attainable only by those who had had the good for- 
tune to mix with high folks. 

If the mistress put such a construction upon the behavior 
of her new friends, what could the companion urge against 
them 1 If they accustomed themselves to very' little restraint 
before the lady of the house, with how much more freedom 
could they address her paid dependant ! Nor was e\en this 
the worst. As the odious Sir Mulberrv Hawk attached him- 
self to Kate with less and less of disguise, Mrs. Wititterly 
began to grow jealous of the superior attractions of Miss 
Nickleby. If this feeling had led to her banishment from the 
drawing-room when such company was there, Kate would have 
been only too happy and willing that it should have existed, 
but unfortunately for her she possessed that native grace and 
true gentility of manner, and those thousand nameless accom- 
plishments which give to female society its greatest charm ; if 
these be valuable anywhere, they were especially so where 
the lady of the house was a mere animated doll. The conse- 
quence was, that Kate had the double mortification of being 
an indispensable part of the circle when Sir Mulberry' and his 
friends were there, and of being exposed, on that very 
account, to all Mrs. Wilitterly's ill-humors and caprices when 
they were gone. She became utterly and completely miserable. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



365 



Mrs. Witltterly had ne\-er thrown off the mask with regard 
to Sir Mulberry, but when she was more than usually out of 
temper, attributed the circumstance, as ladies sometimes do, 
to nervous indisposition. However, as the dreadful idea that 
Lord Frederick Verisopht also was somewhat taken with Kate, 
and that she, Mrs. Wititterly, was quite a secondary person, 
dawned upon that lady's mind and gradually developed itself, 
she became possessed with a large quantity of highly proper 
and most virtuous indignation, and felt it her duty, as a 
married lady and a moral member of societ)% to mention the 
circumstance to " the young person " without delay. 

Accordingly Mrs. Wititterly broke ground next morning, 
during a pause in the novel-reading. 

"Miss Nickleby," said Mrs. Wititteriy, "I wish to speak 
to you very gravely. I am sorry to have to do it, upon my 
word I am very sorry, but you leave me no alternative, Miss 
Nickleby." Here Mrs. Wititterly tossed her head — not 
passionately, only virtuously — and remarked, w'ith some 
appearance of excitement, that she feared that palpitation of 
the heart was coming on again. 

" Your behavior, Miss Nickleby," resumed the lady, " is 
very far from pleasing me — very far. I am very anxious 
indeed that you should do well, but you may depend upon it, 
Niss Nickleby. you will not, if you go on as you do." 

" Ma'am ! " exclaimed Kate, proudly. 

" Don't agitate me by speaking in that wa\% Miss Nickleby, 
don't," said Mrs. Wititterly, with some violence, ""or you'll 
compel me to ring the bell." 

Kate looked at her, but said nothing. 

" You needn't suppose," resumed Mrs. Wititterly, " that 
your looking at me in that way. Miss Nickleby, will prevent 
my saying what I am going to say, which I feel to be a 
religious duty. You needn't direct your glances towards me," 
said Mrs. Wititterly, with a sudden burst of spite ; / am not 
Sir Mulberry, no, nor Lord Frederick Verisopht, Miss 
Nickleby ; nor am I Mr. Pyke, nor Mr. Pluck either." 

Kate looked at her again, but less steadily than before ; 
and resting her elbow on the table, covered her eyes with her 
hand. 

" If such things had been done when /was a young girl." 
said Mrs. Wititterly (this, by the way, must have been some 
little time before), " I don't suppose anybody would have be- 
lieved it." 



366 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



" I don't think they would," murmured Kate. " I do not 
think anybody would believe, without actually knowing it, 
what I seem doomed to undergo ! " 

" Don't talk to me of being doomed to undergo, Miss 
Nickleby, if you please," said Mrs. Wititterly, with a shrillness 
of tone quite surprising in so great an invalid. " I will not 
be answered. Miss Nicklebv. I am not accustomed to be 
answered, nor will I permit it for an instant. Do you hear ? " 
she added, waiting with some apparent inconsistency for an 
answer. 

" I do hear you, ma'am," replied Kate, " with surprise ; 
with greater surprise than I can express." 

"I have always considered you a particularly well-behaved 
young person for your station in life," said Mrs. Wititterly ; 
" and as you are a person of healthy appearance, and neat in 
your dress and so forth, I have taken an interest in you, as I 
do still, considering that I owe a sort of duty to that respect- 
able old female, your mother. For these reasons, Miss 
Nickleby, I must tell you once for all, and begging 3'ou to 
mind what I say, that I must insist upon your immediately 
altering your very forward behavior to the gentlemen who 
visit at this house. It really is not becoming," said Mrs, 
Wititterly, closing her chaste eyes as she spoke ; " it is im- 
proper, quite improper." 

" Oh ! " cried Kate, looking upwards and clasping her 
hands ; " is not this, is not this, too cruel, too hard to bear ! 
Is it not enough that I should have suffered as I have, night 
and day ; that I should almost ha\-e sunk in my own estima- 
tion from very shame of having been brought into contact 
with such people ; but must I also be exposed to this unjust 
and most unfounded charge ! " 

" You will have the goodness to recollect. Miss Nickleby," 
said Mrs. Wititterly, " that when you use such terms as 
'unjust,' and 'unfounded,' you charge me, in effect, with 
stating that which is untrue." 

" I do," said Kate, with honest indignation. " Whether 
you make this accusation of yourself, or at the prompting of 
others, is alike to me. I say it is vilely, grossly, wilfully 
untrue. Is it possible !" cried Kate, "that anyone of my 
own sex can have sat by, and not have seen the misery these 
men have caused me ! Is it possible that you, ma'am, can 
have been present, and failed to mark the insulting freedom 
that their every look bespoke .-' Is it possible that you can 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 367 

have avoided seeing, that these hbertines, in their utter dis- 
respect for you, and utter disregard of all gentlemanly be- 
havior, and almost of decency, have had but one object in 
introducing themselves here, and that the furtherance of their 
designs uoon a friendless, helpless girl, who, without this 
humiliating confession, might have hoped to receive from one 
so much her senior something like womanly aid and sympathy ? 
I do not — I cannot believe it ! " 

If poor Kate had possessed the slightest knowledge of the 
world, she certainly would not have ventured, even in the 
excitement into which she had been lashed, upon such an 
injudicious speech as this. Its effect was precisely what a 
more experienced observer would have foreseen. Mrs. 
Wititterly received the attack upon her veracity with ex- 
emplary calmness, and listened with the most heroic fortitude 
to Kate's account of her own sufferings. But allusion being 
made to her being held in disregard by the gentlemen, she 
evinced violent emotion, and this blow was no sooner followed 
up by the remark concerning her seniority, than she fell back 
upon the sofa, uttering dismal screams. 

"What is the matter ! " cried Mr. Wititterly, bouncing into 
the room. "Heavens, what do I see! Julia! Julia! look 
up, my life, look up ! " 

But Julia looked down most perseveringly, and screamed 
still louder ! so Mr. Wititterly rang the bell, and danced in a 
frenzied manner round the sofa on which Mrs. Wititterly lay ; 
uttering perpetual cries for Sir Tumley Snuffim, and never 
once leaving off to ask for any explanation of the scene be- 
fore him. 

" Run for Sir Tumley," cried Mr. Wititterly, menacing the 
page v.ith both fists. "I knew it Miss Nickleby," he said, 
looking round with an air of melancholy triumph, "that 
society has been too much for her. This is all soul, you 
know, every bit of it." With this assurance Mr. \\'ititterly 
took up the prostrate form of Mrs. Wititterly, and carried her 
bodily off to bed. 

Kate waited until Sir Tumley Snuffim had paid his visit 
and looked in with a report, that, through tl;e special inter- 
position of a merciful Trovidence (thus spake Sir Tumley), 
Mrs. Wititterly had gone to sleep. She then hastily attired 
herself for walking, and lea\-ing word that she should return 
within a couple of hours, hurried away towards her uncle's 
house. 



368 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



It had been a good day with Ralph Nickleby, quite a 
lucky day. As he walked to and fro in his little back room 
with his hands clasped behind him, adding up in his own 
mind all the sums that had been, or would be, netted from 
the business done since morning, his mouth was drawn into a 
hard stern smile ; while the firmness of the lines and curves 
that made it up, as well as the cunning glance of his cold 
bright eye, seemed to tell, that if any resolution or cunning 
would increase the profits, they would not fail to be exerted 
for the purpose. 

" Very good ! " said Ralph, in allusion, no doubt, to some 
proceeding of the day. " He defies the usurer, does he ? 
Well, we shall see. ' Honesty is the best policy,' is it ! We"ll 
try that too." 

He stopped, and then walked on again. 
. " He is content," said Ralph, relaxing into a smile, "to set 
his known character and conduct against the power of money. 
Dross, as he calls it. Why, what a dull blockhead this fellow 
must be ! Dross too, dross ! — Who's that ? " 

" Me," said Newman Noggs, looking in. "Your niece." 

" What of her } " asked Ralph sharply. 

"She's here." 

" Here ? " 

Newman jerked his head towards his little room, to signify 
that she was waiting there. 

" What does she want t " asked Ralph. 

" I don't know," rejoined Newman. " Shall I ask ? " he 
added quickly. 

" No," replied Ralph. " Show her in ! Stay." He hastily 
put away a padlocked cash-box that was on the table, and 
substituted in its stead an empty purse. " There," said Ralph. 
" Now she may come in." 

Newman, with a grim smile at this manoeuvre, beckoned 
the young lady to advance, and having placed a chair for her, 
retired ; looking stealthily over his shoulder at Ralph as he 
limped slowly out. 

" Well," said Ralph, roughly enough ; but still with some- 
thing more of kindness in his manner than he would have 
exhibited towards anybody else. "Well, my — dear. What 
now ? " 

Kate raised her eyes, which were filled with tears ; and 
with an effort to master her emotion, strove to speak, but in 
vain. So drooping her head again, she remained silent. Her 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 360 

face was hidden from ]iis view, but Ralph could see that she 
was weeping. 

" I can guess the cause of tiiis ! " thought Ralph, after 
looking at her for sometime in silence. " I can — I can — ^guess 
the cause. Well 1 Well! " thought Ralph — for the moment 
quite disconcerted, as he watched the anguish of his beautiful 
niece. " Where is the harm .' Only a few tears ; and it's an 
excellent lesson for her, an excellent lesson." 

"What is the matter?" asked Ralph, drawing a chair 
opposite, and sitting down. 

He was rather taken aback by the sudden firmness with 
which Kate looked up and answered him. 

"The matter which brings me to you, sir," she said, "is 
one which should call the blood up into your cheeks, and 
make you burn to hear, as it does me to tell. I have been 
wronged ; my feelings have been outraged, insulted, wounded 
past all healing, and by your friends." 

" Friends ! " cried Ralph, sternly. "/ have no friends, 
girl." 

"By the men I saw here, then," returned Kate, quickly. 
" If they were no friends of yours, and you knew what they 
were, — oh, the more shame on you, uncle, for bringing me 
among them. To have subjected me to what I was "exposed 
to here, through any misplaced confidence or imperfect know- 
ledge of your guests, would have required some strong excuse ; 
but if you did it — as I now believe you did — knowing them 
well, it was most dastardly and cruel." 

Ralph drew back in utter amazement at this plain speak- 
ing, and regarded Kate with the sternest look. But she met 
his gaze proudly and firmly, and although her face was very 
pale, it looked more noble and handsome, lighted up as it was, 
than it had ever appeared before. 

" There is some of that boy's blood in you, I see," said 
Ralph, speaking in his harshest tones, as something in the 
flashing eye reminded him of Nicholas at their last meeting. 

" I hope there is ! " replied Kate. " I should be proud to 
know^ it. I am 'young, uncle, and all the difficulties and 
miseries of my situation have kept it down, but I have been 
roused to-day beyond all endurance, and come what may, / 
w/// 7iof, as I am your brother's child, bear these insults 
longer." 

" What insults, girl ? " demanded Ralph sharply. 

"Remember what took place here, and ask yourself," 

24 



370 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



replied Kate, coloring deeply. " Uncle you must — I am sure 
you will — release me from such vile and degrading companion- 
ship as I am exposed to now. I do not mean," said Kate, 
hurrying to the old man, and laying her arm upon his shoulder; 
" I do not mean to be angry and violent — I beg your pardon 
if I have seemed so, dear uncle, — but you do not know what 
I have suffered, you do not indeed. You cannot tell what 
the heart of a young girl is — I have no right to expect you 
should ; but when I tell you that I am wretched, and that my 
heart is breaking, I am sure you will help me. I am sure, I 
am sure you will ! " 

Ralph looked at her for an instant ; then turned away his 
head, and beat his foot nervously upon the ground. 

" I have gone on day after day," said Kate, bending over 
him, and timidly placing her little hand in his, "in the hope 
that this persecution would cease ; I have gone on day after 
day, compelled to assume the appearance of cheerfulness, 
when I was most unhappy. I have had no counsellor, no 
adviser, no one to protect me. Mama supposes that these 
are honorable men, rich and distinguished, and how caJi I — 
how can I undeceive her — when she is so happy in these 
little delusions, which are the only happiness she has .'' The 
lady with whom you placed me, is not the person to whom I 
could confide matters of so much delicacy, and I have come 
at last to you, the only friend I have at hand — almost the 
only friend I have at all — to intreat and implore you to assist 
me." 

" How can I assist you, child ? " said Ralph, rising from 
his chair, and pacing up and down the room in his old 
attitude. 

"You have influence with one of these men, I know" 
rejoined Kate, emphatically. " Would not a word from you 
induce them to desist from this unmanly course .'' " 

" No," said Ralph, suddenly turning ; " at least — that — I 
cariXaajLit, if it would." 
^'^' Can't say it ! " 

" No," said Ralph, coming to a dead stop, and clasping 
his hands more tightly behind him. " i can't say it." 

Kate fell back a step or two, and looked at him, as if in 
doubt whether she had heard aright. 

"We are connected in business," said Ralph, poising him- 
self alternately on his toes and heels, and looking coolly in his 
niece's face, "in business, and 1 can't afford to offend them^ 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



371 



What is it after all ? We ha\c all our trials, and this is one 

of yours. Some girls would be proud to have such gallants at 
their feet " '-■■■i , , . . ..i n i».-« i .i M ii i .i»i r. i.,i . , .^..^Ktrnw^ajw^a^ww.. 

" Proud ! " cried Kate. 

"I don't say," rejoined Ralph, raising his fore-finger, 
"but that you do right to despise them ; no, you show your 
good sense in that, as indeed I knew from the first you would. 
Well. In all other respects you are comfortably bestowed. 
I t's not much to bear. If this young lord does dog your foot- 
steps, and whisper his drivelling inanities in your ears, what 
of it } It's a dishon nrablp^ y3';<;ipn So be it ; it won't last 
long. S'ome "other novelty will spring up one day, and you 
will be released. In the meantime " 

" In the meantime," interrupted Kate, with becoming 
pride and indignation, " I am to be the scorn of my own sex, 
and the toy of the other; justly condemned by all women of 
right feelmgrn^nd'clespised by all honest and honorable men ; 
sunken in mx.Qwn esteem, and degraded m every eye that 
looks upon me. No, not if I work my fingers to the bone, not 
if I am driven to the roughest and hardest labor. Do not 
mistake me. I will not dis;rrace vour recommendation. I will 
remain in the house in which it placed me, until I am entitled 
to leave it by the terms of my engagement ; though, mind, I 
see these men no more ! When I quit it, I will hide myself 
from them and you, and, striving to support my mother by 
hard service, I will live, at least, in peace, and trust in God to 
help me." 

With these words, she waved her hand, and quitted the 
room, leaving Ralph Nickleby motionless as a statue. 

The surprise with which Kate, as she closed the room- 
door, beheld, close beside it, Newman Noggs standing bolt 
upright in a little niche in the wall like some scarecrow or 
Guy Faux laid up in winter cjuarters, almost occasioned her 
to call aloud. But, Newman, laying his finger upon his lips, 
she had the presence of mind to refrain. 

" Don't," said Newman, gliding out of his recess, and ac- 
companying her across the hall. "Don't cr}', don't cry." Two 
very large tears, by the bye, were running down Newman's 
face, as he spoke. 

" I see how it is," said poor Noggs, drawing from his 
pocket what seemed to be a very old duster, and wiping Kate's 
ej-es with it, as gently as if she were an infant. " You're 
giving way now. Yes, }'es, very good ; that's right, I like 



372 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



that. It was right not to give way before him. Yes, yes ! 
Ha, ha, ha ! Oh, yes. Poor thing ! " 

With these disjointed exclamations, Newman wiped his 
own eyes with the afore-mentioned duster, and, limping to the 
street-door, opened it to let her out. 

"Don't cry any more," whispered Newman. " I shall see 
you soon. Ha ! ha ! ha ! And so shall somebody else too. 
Yes, yes. Ho ! ho ! ho ! " 

"God bless you," answered Kate, hurr}'ing out, "God 
bless you." 

"Same to you," rejoined Newman, opening the door again 
a little way, to say so. " Ha, ha, ha ! Ho ! ho ! ho ! " 

And Newman Noggs opened the door once again to nod 
cheerfully, and laugh — and shut it, to shake his head mourn- 
fully, and cry. 

Ralph remained in the same attitude till he heard the 
noise of the closing door, when he shrugged his shoulders, and 
after a few turns about the room — hasty at first, but gradually 
becoming slower, as he relapsed into himself — sat down before 
his desk. 

It is one of those problems of human nature, which may 
be ifotcnr "(FivTiT.'biit lint sfi!\ e:r;-^a]tTibugh Ralph felt "no re- 
morse at that niniiicnt for his conduct towards the innocent, 
truc-hcancd girl ; although his lil)crline clients had doiiL- ]-;re- 
cisely what he had expected, precisely what he most wished, 
ahcrpfe"cis:elywhat Avould tend most to his advantagcrstill he 
hated them for doing it, from the very bottom of Iiis soul. 

"Ugh!" said Ralph,' scowling round, and shaking his 
clenched hand as the faces of the two profligates rose up be- 
fore his mind ; " you shall pay for this. Oh ! you shall pay 
for this ! " 

As the usurer turned for consolation to his books and 
papers, a performance was going on outside his office-door, 
which would have occasioned him no small surprise, if he 
could by any means have become acquainted with it. 

Newman Noggs was the sole actor. He stood at a little 
distance from the door, with his face towards it ; and with the 
sleeves of his coat turned back at the wrists, was occupied in 
bestowing the most vigorous, scientific, and straightforward 
blows upon the empty air. 

At first sight, this would have appeared merely a wise pre- 
caution in a man of sedentary habits, with the view of opening 
the chest and strengthening the muscles of the arms. But 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



373 



the intense eagerness and joy depicted in the face of Newman 
Noggs, which was suffused with perspiration ; the surprising 
energy with which he directed a constant succession of blows 
towards a particular panel about five feet eight from the 
ground, and still worked away in the most untiring and per- 
severing manner ; would have sufficiently explained to the 
attentive observer, that his imagination was threshing to with- 
in an inch of his life, his body's most active employer, Mr. 
Ralph Nickleby. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 



OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF NICHOLAS, AND CERTAIN INTERNAL 
DIVISIONS IN THE COMPANY OF MR. VINCENT CRUMMLES. 

The unexpected success and favor with which his experi- 
ment at Portsmouth had been received, induced ]\Ir. Crumm- 
ies to prolong his stay in that town for a fortnight beyond the 
period he had originally assigned for the duration of his visit, 
during which time Nicholas personated a vast variety of 
characters with undiminished success, and attracted so many 
people to the theatre who had never been seen there before, 
that a benefit was considered by the manager a ven,- promising 
speculation. Nicholas assenting to the terms proposed, the 
benefit .was had, and by it he realized no less a sum than 
twenty pounds. 

Possessed of this unexpected wealth, his first act was to 
enclose to honest John Browdie the amount of his friendly 
loan, which he accompanied with many expressions of grati- 
tude and esteem, and many cordial wishes for hisraatrim.onial 
happiness. To Newman Noggs he for\varded one half of the 
sum he had realized, entreating him to take an opportunit)' of 
handing it to Kate in secret, and conveying to her the warm- 
est assurance of his love and affection. He made no mention 
of the way in which he had employed himself ; merely inform- 
ing Newman that a letter addressed to him under his 
assumed name at the Post Office, Portsmouth, would readily 
find him, and entreating that worthy friend to write full par- 
ticulars of the situation of his mother and sister, and an 



274 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

account of all the grand things that Ralph Nickleby had done 
for them since his departure from London. 

" You are out of spirits," said Smike, on the night after 
the letter had been dispatched. 

" Not 1 ! " rejoined Nicholas, with assumed gayety, for the 
confession would have made the boy miserable all night ; " I 
was thinking about my sister, Smike." 

" Sister ! " 

"Ay." 

"Is she like you ?" inquired Smike. 

"Why, so they say," replied Nicholas, laughing, "only a 
great deal handsomer." 

" She must be very beautiful," said Smike, after thinking 
a little while with his hands folded together, and his eyes 
bent upon his friend. 

" Anybody who didn't know you as well as I do, my dear 
fellow, would say you were an accomplished courtier," said 
Nicholas. 

" I don't even know what that is," replied Smike, shaking 
his head. " Shall I ever see your sister .■' " 

"To be sure," cried Nicholas; "we shall all be together 
one of these days — when we are rich, Smike." 

" How is it that you, who are so kind and good to me, 
have nobody to be kind to you ?" asked Smike. "I cannot 
make that out." 

" Why, it is a long stor)'," replied Nicholas, " and one you 
would have some difficulty in comprehending, I fear. I have 
an enemy — you understand what that is .'' " 

" Oh, yes, I understand that," said Smike. 

" Well, it is owing to him," returned Nicholas. " He is rich, 
and not so easily punished as your old enemy, Mr. Squeers. 
He is my uncle, but he is a villain, and has done me wrong." 

" Has he though ? " asked Smike, bending eagerly forward. 
" What is his name ? Tell me his name. 

" Ralph— Ralph Nickleby." 

" Ralph Nickleby," repeated Smike. " Ralph. I'll get 
that name by heart." 

He had nuittered it over to himself some twenty times, 
when a loud knock at the door disturbed him from his occu- 
pation. Before he could open it, Mr. Folair, the pantomimist, 
thrust in his head. 

Mr. Folair's head was usually decorated with a very round 
hat, unusually high in the crown, and curled up quite tight in 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 375 

the brims. On the present occasion he wore it very much on 
one side, with the back part forward in consequence of its 
being the least rusty ; round his neck he wore a tiaming red 
worsted comforter, whereof the straggUng ends peeped out 
beneath his threadbare Newmarket coat, which was very tight 
and buttoned all the way up. He carried in his hand one 
very dirty glove, and a cheap dress cane with a glass handle ; 
in short, his whole appearance was unusually dashing, and 
demonstrated a far more scrupulous attention to his toilet, 
than he was in the habit of bestowing upon it. 

"Good-evening, sir," said Mr. Folair, taking off the tall 
hat, and running his fingers through his hair. " I bring a 
communication. Hem ! " 

" From whom and what about ? " inquired Nicholas. " You 
are unusually mysterious to-night." 

" Cold, perhaps," returned Mr. Folair, " cold, perhaps. 
That is the fault of my position — not of myself, Mr. Johnson. 
My position as a mutual friend requires it, sir." Mr. Folair 
paused with a most impressive look, and diving into the hat, 
before noticed, drew from thence a small piece of whity-brown 
paper curiously folded, whence he brought forth a note which 
it had served to keep clean, and handing it over to Nicholas, 
said — 

" Have the goodness to read that, sir." 

Nicholas, in a state of much amazement, took the note 
and broke the seal, glancing at Mr. Folair as he did so, who, 
knitting his brow and pursing up his mouth with great dignity, 
was sitting with his eyes steadfastly fixed upon the ceiling. 

It was directed to blank Johnson, Esq., by favor of Augus- 
tus Folair, Esq. ; and the astonishment of Nicholas was in no 
degree lessened, when he found it to be couched in the fol- 
lowing: laconic terms : 



'O 



" Mr. Lenville presents his kind regards to Mr. Johnson, 
and will feel obliged if he will inform him at what hour to- 
morrow morning it will be most convenient to him to meet Mr. 
L. at the theatre, for the purpose of having his nose pulled in 
the presence of the company. 

" Mr. Lenville requests Mr. Johnson not to neglect making 
an appointment, as he has invited two or three professional 
friends to witness the ceremony, and cannot disappoint them 
upon any account whatever. 

" Portsmouth^ Tuesday night." 



376 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Indignant as he was at this impertinence, there was some- 
thing so exquisitely absurd in such a cartel of defiance, that 
Nicholas was obliged to bite his lip and read the note over 
two or three times before he could muster sufiicient gravity 
and sternness to address the hostile messenger, who had not 
taken his eyes from the ceiling, nor altered the expression of 
his face in the slightest degree. 

" Do you know the contents of this note, sir ? " he asked, 
at length. 

" Yes," rejoined Mr. Folair, looking round for an instant, 
and immediately carrying his eyes back again to the ceil- 
ing. 

" And how dare you bring it here, sir ? " asked Nicholas, 
tearing it into very little pieces, and jerking it in a shower 
towards the messenger. " Had you no fear of being kicked 
down stairs, sir ? " 

Mr. Folair turned his head — now ornamented with several 
fragments of the note — towards Nicholas, and with the same 
imperturbable dignity, briefly replied " No." 

" Then," said Nicholas, taking up the tall hat and tossing 
it towards the door, "you had better follow that article of 
your dress, sir, or you may find yourself very disagreeably 
deceived, and that within a dozen seconds." 

" I say, Johnson," remonstrated Mr. Folair, suddenly los- 
ing all his dignity, " none of that, you know. No tricks with 
a gentleman's wardrobe." 

"Leave the room," returned Nicholas. " How could you 
presume to come here on such an errand, you scoundrel } " 

" Pooh ! pooh ! " said Mr. Folair, unwinding his comforter, 
and gradually getting himself out of it. " There — that's 
enough."' 

"Enough ! " cried Nicholas, advancing towards him. 
" Take yourself off, sir." 

" Pooh ! pooh ! I tell you," returned Mr. Folair, waving 
his hand in deprecation of any further wrath ; " I wasn't in 
earnest. I only brought it in joke." 

" You had better be careful how you indulge in such jokes 
again," said Nicholas, "or you may find an allusion to pull- 
ing noses rather a dangerous reminder for the subject of your 
facetiousness. Was it written in joke, too, pray? " 

" No, no, that's the best of it," returned the actor ; " right 
down earnest — honor bright." 

Nicholas could not repress a smile at the odd figure before 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



377 



him, wliicli, at all times more calculated to provoke mirth 
than anger, was especially so at that moment, when witli one 
knee upon the ground, Mr. Folair twirled his old hat round 
upon his hand, and affected the extremest agony lest any of the 
nap should have been knocked off — an ornament which it is 
almost superfluous to say, it had not boasted for many months. 

" Come sir," said Nicholas, laughing in spite of himself. 
" Have the goodness to explain." 

"Why, I'll tell you how it is," said Mr. Folair, sitting him- 
self down in a chair with great coolness. " Since you came 
here Lenville has done nothing but second business, and, in- 
stead of having a reception every night as he used to have, 
they have let him come on as if he was nobody." 

" What do you mean by a reception ? " asked Nicholas. 
. " Jupiter ! " exclaimed Mr. Folair, " what an unsophiscated 
shepherd you are, Johnson ! Why, applause from the house 
when you first come on. So he has gone on night after night 
never getting a hand, and you getting a couple of rounds at 
least, and sometimes three, till at length he got quite desper- 
ate and had half a mind last night to play Tybalt with a real 
sword, and pink you — not dangerously, but just enough to lay 
you up for a month or two." 

"Very considerate," remarked Nicholas. 

" Yes, I think it was under the circumstances ; his profes- 
sional reputation being at stake," said Mr. Folair, quite seri- 
ously. " But his heart failed him, and he cast about for some 
other way of annoying you, and making himself popular at 
the same time — for that's the point. Notoriety, notoriety is 
the thing. Bless you, if he pinked you," said Mr Folair, stop- 
ping to make a calculation in his mind, " it would have been 
worth — ah, it would have been worth eight or ten shillings a 
a week to him. All the town would have come to see the 
actor who nearly killed a man by mistake ; I shouldn't wonder 
if it had got him an engagement in London. However, he 
was obliged to try some other mode of getting popular, and 
this one occurred to him. It's a clever idea, really. If you had 
shown the white feather, and let him pull your nose, he'd have 
got it into the paper ; if you had sworn the peace against him, 
it would have been in the paper too, and he'd have been just 
as much talked about as you — don't you see ? " 

"Oh certainly," rejoined Nicholas; "but suppose I were 
to turn the tables, and pull Ais nose, what then ? Would that 
make his fortune .'' " 



- - 8 NICHOLAS NIC /CLE B Y. 

"Why, I don't think it would," replied Mr. Folair, scratch- 
ino- his head, " because there wouldn't be any romance about 
it, and he wouldn't be favorably known. To tell you the 
truth though he didn't calculate much upon that, for you're 
always so mild spoken, and are so popular among the women, 
that we didn't suspect you of showing fight. If you did, how- 
ever, he has a way of getting out of it easily, depend upon 
that." 

" Has he ? " rejoined Nicholas "we will try to-morrow morn- 
ing. In the meantime, you can give whatever account of our 
interview you like best. Good-night." 

As Mr. Folair was pretty well known among his fellow- 
actors for a man who delighted in mischief, and was by no 
means scrupulous, Nicholas had not much doubt but that he 
had secretly prompted the tragedian in the course he li^d 
taken, and, moreover, that he would have carried his mission 
with a very high hand if he had not been disconcerted by the 
very unexpected demonstrations with which it had been re- 
ceived. It was not worth his while to be serious with him, 
however, so he dismissed the pantomimist, with a gentle hint 
that if he offended again it would be under the penalty of a 
broken head ; and Mr. Folair taking the caution in exceed- 
ingly good part, walked away to confer with his principal, and 
give him such an account of his proceedings as he might think 
best calculated to carry on the joke. 

He had no doubt reported that Nicholas was in a state of 
extreme bodily fear : for when that young gentleman walked 
Avith much deliberation down to the theatre next morning at 
the usual hour, he found all the company assembled in evident 
expectation, and Mr. Lenville, \yilh his severest stage face, 
sitting majestically on a table whistling defiance. 

Now the ladies were on the side of Nicholas, and the gen- 
tlemen (being jealous) were on the side of the disappointed 
tragedian ; so that the latter formed a little group about the 
redoubtable Mr. Lenville, and the former looked on at a litde 
distance in some trepidation and anxiety. On Nicholas stop- 
ping to salute them, Mr. Lenville laughed a scornful laugh, 
and made some general remark touching the natural history of 
puppies. 

" Oh ! " said Nicholas looking quietly round, " are you 

there ? " 

" Slave ! " returned Mr. Lenville, fiourishing his right arm 
and approaching Nicholas with a theatrical stride. But some- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



379 



how he appeared just at that moment a little startled, as if 
Nicholas did not look quite so frightened as he had expected, 
and came all at once to an awkward halt, at which the assem- 
bled ladies burst into a shrill laugh. 

" Object of my scorn and hatred ! " said Mr. Lenville, " I 
hold ye in coniempt." 

Nicholas laughed in very unexpected enjoyment of this 
performance ; and the ladies, by way of encouragement, 
laughed louder than before ; whereat Mr. Lenville assumed 
his bitterest smile, and expressed his opinion that they were 
" minions." 

" Uut they shall not protect ye ! " said the tragedian, taking 
an upward look at Nicholas, beginning at his boots and 
ending at the crown of his head, and then a downward one 
beginning at the crown of his head, and ending at his boots — 
which two looks, as ever)'body knows express defiance on the 
stage. " They shall not protect ye — boy ! " 

Thus speaking, Mr. Lenville folded his arms, and treated 
Nicholas to that expression of face with which, in melo-dra- 
matic performances, he was in the habit of regarding the tyr- 
anical kings when they said, " Away with him to the deepest 
dungeon beneath the castle moat ; " and which, accompanied 
with a little jingling of fetters, had been known to produce 
great effects in its time. 

Whether it was the absence of fetters or not, it made no 
very deep impression on Mr. Lenville's adversary, however, 
but rather seemed to increase the good humor expressed in 
his countenance ; in which stage of the contest, one or two 
gentlemen, who had come out expressly to witness the pulling 
of Nicholas's nose, grew impatient, murmuring that if it were 
to be done at all it had better be done at once, and that if 
Mr. Lenville didn't mean to do it he had better say so, and 
not keep them waiting there. Thus urged, the tragedian ad- 
justed the cuff of his right coat sleeve for the performance of 
the operation, and walked in a very stately manner up to Nich- 
olas, who suffered him to approach to within th.e requisite dis- 
tance, and then, without the smallest discomposure, knocked 
him down. 

Before the discomfited tragedian could raise his head from 
the boards, Mrs. Lenville (who, as has been before hinted, was 
in an interesting state) rushed from the rear rank of ladies, 
and uttering a piercing scream threw herself upon the body. 

" Do you see this, monster ? Do you see this ? " cried Mr. 



28o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Lenville, sitting up, and pointing to his prostrate lady, who 
was holding him very tight round the waist. 

"Come," said Nicholas, nodding his head, "apologize for 
the insolent note you wrote to me last night, and waste no 
more time in talking." 

" Never 1 " cried Mr. Lenville. 

" Yes — yes — yes ! " screamed his wife, " For my sake — 
for mine, Lenville — forego all idle forms, unless you would see 
me a blighted corse at your feet." 

" This is affecting ! " said Mr. Lenville, looking round him, 
and drawing the back of his hand across his eyes. " The ties 
of nature are strong. The weak husband and the father — the 
father that is yet to be — relents. I apologize." 

"Humbly and submissively?" said Nicholas. 

" Humbly and submissively," returned the tragedian, 
scowling upward. " But only to save her, — for a time will 
come " 



" Very good," said Nicholas ; " I hope Mrs. Lenville may 
have a good one ; and when it does come, and you are a 
father, you shall retract it if you have the courage. There. 
Be careful, sir, to what lengths your jealousy carries you an- 
other time ; and be careful, also, before you venture too far, 
to ascertain your rival's temper." With this parting advice 
Nicholas picked up Mr. Lenville's ash stick which had flown 
out of his hand, and breaking it in half, threw him the pieces 
and withdrew. 

The profoundest deference was paid to Nicholas that 
night, and the people who had been most anxious to have his 
nose pulled in the morning, embraced occasions of taking him 
aside, and telling him with great feeling, how very friendly 
they took it that he should have treated that Lenville so prop- 
erly, who was a most unbearable fellow, and on whom they 
had all, by a remarkable coincidence, at one time or other con- 
templated the infliction of condign punishment, which they 
had only been restrained from administering by considera- 
tions of mercy ; indeed, to judge from the invariable termina- 
tion of all these stories, there never was such a charitable and 
kind-hearted set of people as the male members of Mr. 
Crummles's company. 

Nicholas bore his triumph, as he had his success in the 
little world of the theatre, with the utmost moderation and 
good humor. The crest-fallen Mr. Lenville made an expiring 
effort to obtain revenge by sending a boy into the gallery to 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 381 

hiss, but he fell a sacrifice to popular indignation, and was 
promptly turned out without having his money back. 

"Well, Smike," said Nicholas when the first piece was 
over, and he had almost finished dressing to go home, " is 
there any letter yet ? " 

" Yes," replied Smike, " I got this one from the post- 
ofifice." 

" From Newman Noggs," said Nicholas, casting his eye 
upon the cramped direction ; " it's no easy matter to make 
his writing out. Let me see — let me see." 

Bv dint of poring over the letter for half an hour, he 
contrived to make himself master of the contents, which were 
certainly not of a nature to set his mind at ease. Newman 
took upon himself to send back the ten pounds, observing 
that he had ascertained that neither Mrs. Nickleby nor Kate 
was in actual want of money at the moment, and that a time 
might shortly come when Nicholas might want it more. He 
entreated him not be alarmed at what he was about to say ; — 
there was no bad news — they were in good health — but he 
thought circumstances might occur, or were occurring, which 
would render it absolutely necessary that Kate should have 
her brother's protection, and if so, Newman said, he would 
write to him to that effect, either by the next post or the next 
but one. 

Nicholas read this passage very often, and the more he 
thought of it the more he began to fear some treachery upon 
the part of Ralph. Once or twice he felt tempted to repair 
to London at all hazards without an hour's delay, but a little 
reflection assured him that if such a step were necessar}-, New- 
man would have spoken out and told hun so at once. 

" At all event's I should prepare them here for the pos- 
sibility of my going away suddenly," said Nicholas ; " I should 
lose no time in doing that." As the thought occurred to him, 
he took up his hat and hurried to the green-room. 

" Well, Mr. Johnson," said Mrs. Crummies, who was 
seated there in full regal costume with the phenomenon as the 
Maiden in her maternal arms, " next week for Ryde, then for 
Winchester, then for " 

"I have some reason to fear," interrupted Nicholas, "that 
before you leave here my career with you will have closed." 

" Closed I " cried Mrs. Crummies, raising her hands in 
astonishment. 

" Closed ! " cried Miss Snevellicci, trembling so much in 



382 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

her tights that she actually laid her hand upon the shoulder 
of the manageress for support. 

"Why he don't mean to say he's going! " exclaimed Mrs. 
Grudden, making her way towards Mrs. Crummies. " Hoity 
toity ! Nonsense." 

The phenomenon being of an affectionate nature and 
moreover excitable raised a loud cry, and Miss Belvawney 
and Miss Bra\'assa actually shed tears. Even the male per- 
formers stopped in their conversation, and echoed the word 
" Going ! " although some among them (and they had been 
the loudest in their congratulations that day) winked at each 
other as though they would not be sorry to lose such a favored 
rival ; an opinion, indeed, which the honest Mr. Folair, who 
was ready dressed for the savage, openly stated in so many 
words to a demon with whom he was sharing a pot of porter. 

Nicholas briefly said that he feared it would be so, al- 
though he could not yet speak with any degree of certainty ; 
and getting away as soon as he could, went home to con New- 
man's letter once more, and speculate upon it afresh. 

How trifling all that had been occupying his time and 
thoughts for many weeks seemed to him during that sleepless 
night, and how constantly and incessantly present to his 
imagination was the one idea that Kate in the midst of some 
great trouble and distress might even then be looking — and 
vainly too — for him ! 



CHAPTER XXX. 



FESTIVITIES ARE HELD IN HONOR OF NICHOLAS, WHO SUD- 
DENLY WITHDRAWS HIMSELF FROM THE SOCIETY OF MR. 
VINCENT CRUMMLES AND HIS THEATRICAL COMPANIONS. 

Mr. Vincent Crummles was no sooner acquainted with 
the public announcement which Nicholas had made relative 
to the probability of his shortly ceasing to be a member of 
the company, than he evinced many tokens of grief and con- 
sternation ; and, in the extremity of his despair, c\cn held out 
certain vague promises of a speedy inipro\'ement not only in 
the amount of his regular salary, but also in the contingent 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 383 

emoluments appertaining to Iiis autliorship. Finding Nicliolas 
bent upon quitting the society (for he had now determined 
that, even if no further tidings came from Newman, he would, 
at all hazards, ease his mind by repairing to London and as- 
certaining the exact position of his sister) Mr. Crummies was 
fain to content himself by calculating the chances of his com- 
ing back again, and taking prompt and energetic measures to 
make the most of him before he went away. 

"Let me see," said Mr. Crummies, taking off his outlaw's 
wig, the better to arrive at a cool-headed view of the whole 
case. " Let me see. This is Wednesday night. \^'e'll have 
posters out the first thing in the morning, announcing posi- 
tively your last appearance for to-morrow." 

"■ But perhaps it may not be my last appearance, you 
know," said Nicholas. "Unless I am summoned away, I 
should be sorry to inconvenience you by leaving before the 
end of the week." 

"So much the better," returned Mr. Crummies. "We 
can have positively your last appearance, on Thursday — re-en- 
gagement for one night more, on Friday — and, yielding to the 
wishes of numerous influential patrons, who were disappointed 
in obtaining seats, on Saturday. That ought to bring three 
ver\' decent houses." 

" Then 1 am to make three last appearances, am 1 ? " in- 
quired Nicholas, smiling. 

" Yes," rejoined the manager, scratching his head with an 
air of some vexation ; " three is not enough, and it's very 
bungling and irregular not to have more, but if we can't help 
it we can't, so there's no use in talking. A novelty would be 
very desirable. You couldn't sing a comic song on the pony's 
back, could you ? " 

" No," replied Nicholas, " I couldn't indeed." 

" It has drawn money before now," said Mr. Crummies, 
with a look of disappointment. " What do you think of a 
brilliant display of fireworks ? " 

" That it would be rather expensive," replied Ni 
dryly. 

" Eighteenpence would do it," said Mr. Crummies, 
on the top of a pair of steps with the phenomenon in an atti- 
tude ; ' Farewell ' on a transparency behind ; and nine people 
at the wings with a squib in each hand — all the dozen and a 
half going off at once — it would be very grand — awful from 
the front, quite awful." 



Michaias^v 
5. " You ' 



384 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



As Nicholas appeared by no means impressed with the 
solemnity of the proposed effect, but, on the contrary, received 
the proposition in a most irreverent manner, and laughed at 
it very heartily, Mr. Crummies abandoned the project in its 
birth, and gloomily observed that they must make up the best 
bill they could with combats and hornpipes, and so stick to 
the legitimate drama. 

For the purpose of carrying this object into instant execu- 
tion, the manager at once repaired to a small dressing-room, 
adjacent, where Mrs. Crummies was then occupied in ex- 
changing the habiliments of a melo-dramatic empress for the 
ordinary attire of matrons in the nineteenth century. And 
with the assistance of this lady, and the accomplished Mrs. 
Grudden (who had quite a genius for making out bills, being 
a great hand at throwing in the notes of admiration, and know- 
ing from long experience exactly where the largest capitals 
ought to go), he seriously applied himself to the composition 
of the poster. 

" Heigho ! " sighed Nicholas, as he threw himself back in 
the prompter's chair, after telegraphing the needful directions 
to Smike, who had been playing a meagre tailor in the inter- 
lude, with one skirt to his coat, and a little pocket handker- 
chief with a large hole in it, and a woollen nightcap, and a red 
nose, and other distinctive marks peculiar to tailors on the 
stage. " Heisrho ! I wish all this were over." 

" Over, Mr. Johnson ! " repeated a female voice behind 
him, in a kind of plaintive surprise. 

" It was an ungallant speech, certainly," said Nicholas, 
looking up to see who the speaker was, and recognizing Miss 
Sneveilicci. " I would not have made it if I had known you 
had been within hearing." 

" What a dear that Mr. Digby is ! " said Miss Sneveilicci, 
as the tailor went off on the opposite side, at the end of the 
piece, with great applause. (Smike's theatrical name was 
Digby.) 

" I'll tell him presently, for his gratification, that you said 
so," returned Nicholas. 

" Oh you naughty thing ! " rejoined Miss Sneveilicci. " I 
don't know though, that I should much mind his knowing my 
opinion of him ; with some other people, indeed, it might 

be " Here Miss Sneveilicci stopped, as though waiting 

to be questioned, but no questioning came, for Nicholas was 
thinking about more serious matters. 



NICHOLAS NTCKLEBY. 



38s 



"How kind it is of you," resumed Miss Snevellicci, after 
a short silence, ''to sit waiting for him night after night, 
night after night, no matter how tired you are ; and taking so 
much pains with him, and doing it all with as much delight 
and readiness as if you were coining gold by it ! " 

" He well deserves all the kindness I can show him, and a 
great deal more," said Nicholas. " He is the most grateful, 
single-hearted, affectionate creature, that ever breathed." 

" So odd, too," remarked Miss Snevellicci, " isn't he } " 

" God help him, and those who have made him so ; he is 
indeed," rejoined Nicholas, shaking his head. 

" He is such a devilish close chap," said Mr. Folair, who 
had come up a little before, and now joined in the conversa- 
tion. " Nobody can ever get anything out of him." 

" What should they get out of him 1 " asked Nicholas, 
turning round with some abruptness. 

" Zooks ! what a fire-eater you are, Johnson ! " returned 
Mr. Folair, pulling up the heel of his dancing shoe. " I'm 
only talking of the natural curiosity of the people here, to 
know what he has been about all his life." 

" Poor fellow ! it is pretty plain, I should think, that he 
has not the intellect to have been about anything of much 
importance to them or anj'body else," said Nicholas. 

"Ay," rejoined' the actor, contemplating the effect of his 
face in a lamp reflector, " but that involves the whole ques- 
tion, you know." 

" What question ? " asked Nicholas. 

" Why, the who he is and what he is, and how you two, 
who are so different, came to be such close companions," re- 
plied Mr, Folair, delighted with the opportunity of saying 
something disagreeable. "That's in everybody's mouth." 

" The ' everybody ' of the theatre, I suppose .'' " said Nich- 
olas, contemptuously. 

"In it and out of it too," replied the actor. " Why, you 
know, Lenville says " 

" I thought I had silenced him effectually," interrupted 
Nicholas, reddening. / 

" Perhaps you have," rejoined the immovable Mr. Folair ; 
" if you have, he said this before he was silenced : Lenville 
says that you're a reg^ilar stick of an actor, and that it's only 
the mystery about you that has caused you to go down with 
the people here, and that Crummies keeps it up for his own 
sake ; though Lenville says he don't believe there's anything 

25 



386 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

at all in it, except your having got into a scrape and run away 
from somewhere, for doing something or other." 

" Oh ! " said Nicholas, forcing a smile. 

" That's a part of what he says," added Mr. Folair. " I 
mention it as the friend of both parties, and in strict confi- 
dence, /don't agree with him, you know. He says he takes 
Digby to be more knave than fool ; and old Fluggers, who does 
the heavy business you know, he says that when he delivered 
messages at Covent Garden the season before last, there 
used to be a pickpocket hovering about the coach-stand who 
had exactly the face of Digby ; though, as he very properly 
says, Digby may not be the same, but only his brother, or 
some near relation." 

" Oh ! " cried Nicholas again. 

" Yes," said Mr. Folair, with undisturbed calmness, " that's 
what they say. I thought I'd tell you, because really you 
ought to know. Oh ! here's this blessed phenomenon at last. 
Ugh, you little imposition, I should like to — quite ready, my 
darling,— humbug— Ring up Mrs. G., and let the favorite 
wake 'em ! " 

Uttering in a loud voice such of the latter allusions as were 
complimentary to the unconscious phenomenon, and giving 
the rest in a confidential " aside " to Nicholas, Mr. Folair 
followed the ascent of the curtain with his eyes, regarded with 
a sneer the reception of Miss Crummies as the Maiden, and, 
falling back a step or two, to advance with the better effect, 
uttered a preliminary howl, and " went on " chattering his 
teeth_and brandishing his tin tomahawk as the Indian Savage. 
/ i^ So these are some of the stories they invent about us, and 
^ndy"from mouth to mouth ! " thought Nicholas. '\ If a man 
fwould commit an inexpiable offence against any society, large 
lor small,j£Uiim be successful. They will forgive him any 
Iprime but that/ 

^—""Tou surely don't mind what that malicious creature says, 
Mr. Johnson ? " observed Miss Snevellicci in her most winning 
tones. 

" Not I," replied Nicholas. " If I were going to remain 
here, I might think it worth my while to embroil myself. As 
it is, let them talk till they are hoarse. But here," added 
Nicholas, as Smike approached, " here comes the subject of a 
portion of their good nature, so let he and I say good night 
together." ^, 

" No, I will not let either of you say anything of the kmd, 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



387 



returned Miss Snevellicci. " You must come home and see 
mama who only came to Portsmouth to-day, and is dying to 
behold you. Led, my dear, persuade Mr. Johnson." 

"Oh, I'm sure," returned Miss Ledrook, with considerable 
vivacity, " if j'.?// can't persuade him — " Miss Ledrook said 
no more, but intimated, by a dexterous playfulness, that if 
Miss Snevellicci couldn't persuade him, nobody could. 

" Mr. and Mrs. Lillyvick have taken lodgings in our house, 
and share our sitting-room for the present," said Miss Snevel- 
licci. "Won't that induce you? " 

" Surely," returned Nicholas, " I can require no possible 
inducement beyond your invitation." 

" Oh no ! I dare say," rejoined Miss Snevellicci. And 
Miss Ledrook said, " Upon my word ! " Upon which Miss 
Snevellicci said that Miss Ledrook was a giddy thing ; and 
Miss Ledrook said that Miss Snevellicci needn't color up quite 
so much ; and Miss Snevellicci beat Miss Ledrook, and Miss 
Ledrook beat Miss Snevellicci. 

" Come," said Miss Ledrook, " it's high time we were 
there, or we shall have poor Mrs. Snevellicci thinking that you 
have run away with her daughter, Mr. Johnson ; and then we 
should have a pretty to-do." 

"My dear Led," remonstrated Miss Snevellicci, "how you 
do talk ! " 

Miss Ledrook made no answer, but taking Smike's arm in 
hers, left her friend and Nicholas to follow at their pleasure ; 
which it pleased them, or rather pleased Nicholas, who had no 
great fancy for a tete-d-tete under the circumstances, to do at 
once. 

There were not wanting matters of conversation when 
they reached the street, for it turned out that Miss Snevellicci 
had a small basket to carry home, and Miss Ledrook a small 
band-box, both containing such minor articles of theatrical 
costume as the lady performers usually carried to and fro 
every evening. Nicholas would insist upon carrying the 
basket, and Miss Snevellicci would insist upon carrj'ing it her- 
self, which gave rise to a struggle, in which Nicholas captured 
the basket and the band-box likewise. Then Nicholas said, 
that he wondered what could possibly be inside the basket, 
and attempted to peep in, whereat Miss Snevellicci screamed, 
and declared that if she thought he had seen, she was sure 
she should faint away. This declaration was followed by a 
similar attempt on the band-box, and similar demonstrations 



388 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



on the part of Miss Ledrook, and then both ladies vowed that 
they wouldn't move a step further until Nicholas had prom- 
ised that he wouldn't offer to peep again. At last Nicholas 
pledged himself to betray no further curiosity, and they walked 
on : both ladies giggling very much, and declaring that they 
never had seen such a wicked creature in all their born clays 
— never. 

Lightening the way with such pleasantry as this, they ar- 
rived at the tailor's house in no time ; and here they made 
quite a little party, there being present besides Mr. Lillyvick 
and Mrs. Lillyvick, not only Miss Snevellicci's mama, but her 
papa also. And an uncommonly fine man Miss Snevellicci's 
papa was, with a hook nose, and a white forehead, and curly 
black hair, and high cheek bones, and altogether quite a 
handsome face, only a little pimply as though with drinking. 
He had a very broad chest had Miss Snevellicci's papa, and 
he wore a threadbare blue dress coat buttoned with gilt but- 
tons tight across it ; and he no sooner saw Nicholas come 
into the room, than he whipped the two forefingers of his 
right hand in between the two centre buttons, and sticking his 
other arm gracefully a-kimbo, seemed to say, " Now, here I 
am, my buck, and what have you got to say to me ? " 

Such was, and in such an attitude sat Miss Snevellicci's 
papa, who had been in the profession ever since he had first 
played the ten-year-old imps in the Christmas pantomimes ; who 
could sing a little, dance a little, fence a little, act a little, and 
do everything a little, but not much ; who had been sometimes 
in the ballet, and sometimes in the chorus, at ever)^ theatre in 
London ; who was always selected in virtue of his figure to 
play the militar)^ visitors and the speechless noblemen ; who 
always wore a smart dress, and came on arm-in-arm with a 
smart lady in short petticoats, — and always did it it too with 
such an air that people in the pit had been several times known 
to cry out " Bravo ! " under the impression that he was some- 
body. Such was Miss Snevellicci's papa, upon whom some 
envious persons cast the imputation that he occasionally beat 
Miss Snevellicci's mama, who was still a dancer, with a neat 
little figure and some remains of good looks, and who now 
sat, as she danced, — being rather too old for the full glare of 
the foot lights-, — in the back ground. 

To these good people Nicholas was presented with much 
formality. The introduction being completed, Miss Snevel- 
l icci's papa "(wf ro"was scented with rum and water) said" that 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 389 

he was delighted to make the acquaintance of a gentleman so 
highly talented ; and furthermore remarked, that there hadn't 
been such a hit made — no, not since the first appearance of 
his friend Mr. Glavormelly, at the Coburg. 

" You have seen him, sir ? " said Miss Snevellicci's papa. 

"No, really I never did," replied Nicholas. 

" You never saw my friend Glavormelly, sir ! " said Miss 
Snevellicci's papa. " Then you have never seen acting yet. 
If he had lived " 

" Oh, he is dead, is he } " interrupted Nicholas. 

" He is," said Mr. Snevellicci. " but he isn't in Westmintser 

Abbey, more's the shame. He was a . Well, no matter. 

He is gone to that bourne from whence no traveller returns. 
I hope he is appreciated titer c.^^ 

So saying Miss Snevellicci's papa rubbed the tip of his 
nose with a very yellow silk handkerchief, and gave the com- 
pany to understand that these recollections overcame him. 

" Well, Mr. Lillyvick," said Nicholas, " and how are you ? " 

" Quite well, sir," replied the collector. " There is nothing 
like the married state, sir, depend upon it." 

" Indeed ! " said Nicholas, laughing. 

" Nothing like it," sir, replied Mr. Lillyvick solemnly. 
" How do you think," whispered the collector, drawing him 
aside, " How do you think she looks to-night ? " 

" As handsome as ever," replied Nicholas, glancing at the 
late Miss Petowker. 

'' Why, there's a air about her, sir," whispered the collec- 
tor, " that I never saw in anybody. Look at her, now she 
moves to put the kettle on. There ! Isn't it fascination, 
sir?" 

" You're a lucky man," said Nicholas. 

"Ha, ha, ha!" rejoined the collector, "No. Do you 
think I am though, eh ? Perhaps I may be, perhaps I may 
be. I say, I couldn't have done much better if I had been a 
young man, could I } You couldn't have done much better 
yourself, could you — eh — could you ? " With such inquiries, 
and many more such, Mr. Lillyvick jerked his elbow into 
Nicholas's side, and chuckled till his face became quite puF- 
ple in the attempt to keep down his satisfaction. 

By this time the cloth had been laid under the joint super- 
intendence of all the ladies, upon two tables put together, one 
being high and narrow, and the other low and broad. There 
were oysters at the top, sausages at the bottom, a pair of snuf- 



350 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 

fers in the centre, and baked potatoes wherever it was most 
convenient to put them. Two additional chairs were brought 
in from the bedroom ; Miss SnevelUccl sat at the head of the 
table, and Mr. Lillyvick at the foot ; and Nicholas had not 
only the honor of sitting next Miss Snevellicci, but of having 
Miss Snevellicci's mama on his right hand, and Miss Snevel- 
licci's papa over the way. In short, he was the hero of the 
feast ; and when the table was cleared and something warm 
introduced, Miss Snevellicci's papa got up and proposed his 
health in a speech containing such affecting allusions to his 
coming departure, that Miss Snevellicci wept, and was com- 
pelled to retire into the bedroom. 

" Hush ! Don't take any notice of it," said Miss Le- 
drook, peeping in from the bedroom. " Say, when she comes 
back, that she exerts herself too much." 

Miss Ledrook eked out this speech with so many myste- 
rious nods and frowns before she shut the door again, that a 
profound silence came upon all the company, during which 
Miss Snevellicci's papa looked very big indeed — several sizes 
larger than life — at everybody in turn, but particularly at 
Nicholas, and kept on perpetually emptying his tumbler and 
filling it again, until the ladies returned in a cluster, with 
Miss Snevellicci among them. 

"You needn't alarm yourself a bit, Mr. Snevellicci," said 
Mrs. Lillyvick. " She is only a little weak and nervous ; she 
has been so ever since the morning." 

" Oh," said Mr. Snevellicci, " that's all, is it .? " 

" Oh yes, that's all. Don't make a fuss about it," cried 
all the ladies together. 

Now this was not exactly the kind of reply suited to Mr. 
Snevellici's importance as a man and a father, so he picked 
out the unfortunate Mrs. Snevellicci, and asked her what the 
devil she meant by talking to him in that way. 

" Dear me, my dear ! " said Mrs. Snevellicci. 

" Don't call me your dear, ma'am," said Mr. Snevellicci, 
"if you please." 

" Pray, pa, don't," interposed Miss Snevellicci. 

" Don't what, my child ? " 

" Talk in that way." 

" Why not ? " said Mr. Snevellicci. " I hope you don't 
suppose there's anybody here who is to prevent my talking as 
I like?" 

"Nobody wants to, pa," rejoined his daughter. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 3^1 

" Nobody would if they did want to," said Mr. Snevellicci. 
" I am not ashamed of myself. Snevellicci is my name. I'm 
to be found in Broad Court, Bow Street, when I'm in town. 
If I'm not at home, let any man ask for me at the stage door. 
Damme, they know me at the stage door I suppose ? Most 
men have seen my portrait at the cigar shop round the corner. 
I've been mentioned in the newspapers before now, haven't 
I ? Talk ! I'll tell you what ; if I found out that any man had 
been tampering with the affections of my daughter, I wouldn't 
talk. I'd astonish him without talking ; that's my way." 

So saying, Mr. Snevellicci struck the palm of his left hand 
three smart blows with his clenched fist ; pulled a phantom 
nose with his right thumb and fore finger, and swallowed 
another glassfull at a draught. "That's my way," repeated 
Mr. Snevellicci. 

Most public characters have their failings : and the truth 
I S that Mr. bneveiiicci was a little ariclicted to drmkinp^ : or. 
if the whole tru th must be told, that he was scarcely ever 
sober. He knewTn his cups three distinct stages of intpxica- 
~tion,— tRe "3ighifie d — the quarrelsome — the amorous. .When 
professToiiaTIy engaged he never got beyond the dignified ; in 
private circles he went through all three, passing from one to 
another with a rapidity of transition often rather perplexing 
to those who had not the honor of his acquaintance. 

Thus Mr. Snevellicci had no sooner swallowed another 
glassful than he smiled upon all present in happy forgetfulness 
of having exhibited symptoms of pugnacity, and proposed 
" The ladies ! Bless their hearts ! " in a most vivacious man- 
ner. 

" I love 'em," said Mr. Snevellicci, looking round the ta- 
ble, "I love 'em, every one." 

"Not every one," reasoned Mr. Lillyvick. mildly. 

"Yes, every one," repeated Mr. Snevellicci. 

"That would include the married ladies, you know," said 
Mr. Lillyvick. 

" I love them too, sir," said Mr. Snevellicci. 

The collector looked into the surrounding faces with an 
aspect of grave astonishment, seeming to say, " This is a 
nice man ! " and appeared a little surprised that Mrs. Lilly- 
vick's manner yielded no evidences of horror and indignation. 

"One good turn deserves another," said Mr. Snevellicci. 
"I love them and they love me." And as if this avowal 
were not made in sufficient disregard and defiance of all moral 



392 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

obligations, what did Mr. Snevellicci do ? He winked — ^wink- 
ed, openly and undisguisedly ; winked with his right eye — 
upon Henrietta Lillyvick ! 

The collector fell back in his chair in the intensity of his 
astonishment. If anybody had winked at her as Henrietta 
Petowker, it would have been indecorous in the last degree ; 
but as Mrs. Lillyvick ! While he thought of it in a cold per- 
spiration, and wondered whether it was possible that he could 
be dreaming, Mr. Snevellicci, repeated the wink, and drinking 
to Mrs. Lillyvick in dumb show, actually blew her a kiss ! 
Mr. Lillyvick left his chair, walked straight up to the other 
end of the table, and fell upon him — literally fell upon him — 
instantaneously. Mr. Lillyvick was no light weight, and con- 
sequently when he fell upon Mr. Snevellicci, Mr. Snevellicci 
fell under the table. Mr. Lillyvick followed him, and the 
ladies screamed. 

"What is the matter with the men! Are they mad?" 
cried Nicholas, diving under the table, dragging up the col- 
lector by main force, and thrusting him, all doubled up, into 
a chair, as if he had been a stuffed figure. " What do you 
mean to do ? What do you want to do ? What is the matter 
with you ? " 

While Nicholas raised up the collector, Smike had per- 
formed the same office for Mr. Snevellicci, who now regarded 
his late adversary in tipsy amazement. 

" Look here, sir," replied Mr. Lillyvick, pointing to his 
astonished wife, " here is purity and elegance combined, whose 
feelings have been outraged — violated, sir ! " 

" Lor, what nonsense he talks ! " exclaimed Mrs. Lillyvick 
in answer to the inquiring look of Nicholas. " Nobody has 
said anything to me." 

" Said, Henrietta ! " cried the collector. " Didn't I see 
him — " Mr. Lillyvick couldn't bring himself to utter the 
word, but he counterfeited the motion of the eye. 

" Well ! " cried Mrs. Lillyvick. " Do you suppose nobody 
is ever to look at me ? A pretty thing to be married indeed, 
if that was law ! " 

" You didn't mind it ? " cried the collector, 

" Mind it ! " repeated Mrs. Lillyvick contemptuously. 
" You ought to go down on your knees and beg everybody's 
pardon, that you ought." 

" Pardon, my dear ? " said the dismayed collector. 

"Yes, and mine first," replied Mrs, Lillyvick. "Do you 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 393 

suppose / ain't the best judge of what's proper and what's 
improper ? " 

" To be sure," cried all the ladies. " Do you suppose we 
shouldn't be the first to speak, if there was anything that 
ought to be taken notice of ? " 

" Do you suppose ///^^ don't know, sir ? " said Miss Snevel- 
licci's papa, pulling up his collar, and muttering something 
about a punching of heads, and being only withheld by con- 
siderations of age. With which Miss Snevellicci's papa looked 
steadily anrd sternly at Mr. Lillyvick for some seconds, and 
then rising deliberately from his chair, kissed the ladies all 
round, beginning with Mrs. Lillyvick. 

The unhappy collector looked piteously at his wife, as if 
to see whether there was any one trait of Miss Petowker left 
in Mrs. Lillyvick, and finding too surely that there was not, 
begged pardon of all the company with great humility, and 
sat down such a crest-fallen, dispirited, disenchanted man, 
that despite all his selfishness and dotage, he was quite an 
object of compassion. 

Miss Snevellicci's papa being greatly exalted by this 
triumph, and incontestable proof of his popularity with the 
fair sex, quickly grew convivial, not to say uproarious ; volun- 
teering more than one song of no inconsiderable length, and 
resralins: the social circle between-whiles with recollections of 
divers splendid women who had been supposed to entertam a 
passion for himself, several of whom he toasted by name, 
taking occasion to remark at the same time that if he had 
been a little more alive to his own interest, he might have 
been rolling at that moment in his chariot-and-four. These 
reminiscences appeared to awaken no very torturing pangs in 
the breast of Mrs. Snevellicci, who was sufficiently occupied 
in descanting to Nicholas upon the manifold accomplishments 
and merits of her daughter. Nor was the young lady herself 
at all behind-hand in displaying her choicest allurements ; but 
these, heightened as they were by the artifices of Miss Le- 
drook, had .nacHegf whatever in increasing the attention of 
Nicholas, wlm, with the precedent ol Miss Squeers still fresh 
in his memory, steadily resisted every fascination, and placed 
so strict a guaixl upon his behavior. tha,t when he had taken 
his leave the ladies were unanimous in pronouncing liim quite 
a monster of insensibility. 

Next day the posters appeared in due course, and the 
public were informed, in all the colors of the rainbow, and in 



394 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



letters afflicted with every possible variation of spinal deformity, 
how that Mr. Johnson would have the honor of making his 
last appearance that evening, and how that an early applica- 
tion for places was requested, in consequence of the extraor- 
dinary overflow attendant on his performances. ; It being a 
remarkable fact in theatrical history, but one long^ince estab- 
lished beyond dispute, that it is a hopeless endeavor to attract 
people to a theatre unless the.y_,can be first brought to believe 
that they will never get into it. 

Nicholas was somewhat at a loss, on entering*the theatre 
at night, to account for the unusual perturbation and excite- 
ment visible in the countenances of all the company, but he 
was not long in doubt as to the cause, for before he could 
make any inquiry respecting it Mr. Crummies approached, 
and in an agitated tone of voice, informed him that there was 
a London manager in the boxes. 

" It's the phenomenon, depend upon it, sir," said Crummies, 
dragging Nicholas to the little hole in the curtain that he 
might look through at the London manager. " I have not 
the smallest doubt it's the fame of the phenomenon — that's 
the man ; him in the great-coat and no shirt-collar. She shall 
have ten pound a-week, Johnson ; she shall not appear on the 
London boards for a farthing less. They shan't engage her 
either, unless they engage Mrs. Crummies too — twenty pound 
a-week for the pair ; or I'll tell you what, I'll throw in myself 
and the two boys, and they shall have the family for thirty. I 
can't say fairer than that. They must take us all, if none of 
us will go without the others. That's the way some of the 
London people do, and it always answers. Thirty pound a- 
week. It's too cheap, Johnson. It's dirt cheap." 

Nicholas replied, that it certainly was ; and Mr. Vincent 
Crummies taking several huge pinches of snuff to compose 
his feelings, hurried away to tell Mrs. Crummies that he had 
quite settled the only terms that could be accepted, and had 
resolved not to abate one single farthins:. 

When everybody was dressed and the curtain went up, the 
excitement occasioned by the presence of the London manager 
increased a thousand-fold. Everybody happened to know 
that the London manager had come down specially to witness 
his or her own performance, and all were in a flutter of anxiety 
and expectation. Some of those who were not on in the 
first scene, hurried to the wings, and there stretched their 
necks to have a peep at him ; others stole up into the two 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



395 



little private boxes over the stage-doors, and from that posi- 
tion reconnoitered the London manager. Once the London 
manager was seen to smile. He smiled at the comic country- 
man's pretending to catch a blue-bottle, while Mrs. Crummies 
was making her greatest effect. " Very good, my fine fel- 
low," said Mr. Crummies, shaking his fist at the comic 
countryman when he came off, " you leave this company next 
Saturday night." 

In the same way, everybody who was on the stage beheld 
no audience but one individual ; everybody played to the 
London manager. When Mr. Lenville in a sudden burst of 
passion called the emperor a miscreant, and then biting his 
glove, said, " But I must dissemble," instead of looking 
gloomily at the boards and so waiting for his cue, as is proper 
in such cases, he kept his eye fixed upon the London man- 
ager. When Miss Eravassa sang her song at her lover, who 
according to custom stood- ready to shake hands with her be- 
tween the verses, they looked, not at each other but at the 
London manager. Mr. Cnmimles died point blank at him ; 
and when the two guards came in to take the body off after a 
very hard death, it was seen to open its eyes and glance at 
the London manager. At length the London manager was 
discovered to be asleep, and shortly after that he woke up and 
went away, whereupon all the company fell foul of the un- 
happy comic countryman, declaring that his buffonery was the 
sole cause ; and Mr. Crummies said, that he had put up with 
it a long time, but that he really couldn't stand it any longer, 
and therefore would feel obliged by his looking out for another 
engagement. 

All this was the occasion of much amusement to Nicholas, 
whose only feeling upon the subject was one of sincere satis- 
faction that the great man went away before he appeared. He 
went through his part in the two last pieces as briskly as he 
could, and having been received with unbounded favor and 
unprecedented applause — so said the bills for next day, which 
had been printed an hour or two before — he took Smike's 
awrr-sud walked home to bed. 

IWith the post next morning came a letter from Newman 
Noggs, very inky, very short, very dirty, ver^' small, and very 
mysterious, urging Nicholas to return to London ipjtantly ; 
not to lose an instant ; to be there that night if possible. 

" I will," said Nicholas. " Heaven knows I have remained 
here for the best, and sorely against my own will ; but even 



39^ 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



now I may have dallied too long. What can have happened ? 
Smike, my good fellow, here — take my purse. Put our things 
together, and pay what little debts we owe — quick, and we 
shall be in time for the morning coach. I will only tell them 
that we are going, and will return to you immediately." 

So saying, he took his hat, and hurrying away to the 
lodgings of Mr. Crummies, applied his hand to the knocker 
with such hearty good-will, that he awakened that gentleman, 
who was still in bed, and caused Mr. Bulph the pilot to take 
his morning's pipe very nearly out of his mouth in the ex- 
tremity of his surprise. 

The door being opened, Nicholas ran up stairs without 
any ceremony, and bursting into the darkened sitting-room 
on the one pair front, found that the two Master Crummleses 
had sprung out of the sofa-bedstead and were putting on their 
clothes with great rapidity, under the impression that it was 
the middle of the night, and the next house was on fire. 

Before he could undeceive them, Mr. Crummies came 
down in a flannel-gown and night-cap ; and to him Nicholas 
briefly explained that circumstances had occurred which ren- 
dered it necessary for him to repair to London immediately, 

" So good-by," said Nicholas ; "good-by, good-by." 

He was half-way down stairs before Mr. Crummies had 
sufficiently recovered his surprise to gasp out something about 
the posters. 

" I can't help it," replied Nicholas, " Set whatever I may 
have earned this week against them, or if that will not repay 
you, say at once what will. Quick, quick." 

"We'll cry quits about that," returned Crummies. "But 
can't we have one last night more ? " 

" Not an hour — not a minute," replied Nicholas, im- 
patiently. 

" Won't you stop to say something to Mrs. Crummies ? " 
asked the manager, following him down to the door. 

" I couldn't stop if it were to prolong my life a score of 
years," rejoined Nicholas. " Here, take my hand, and with 
it my hearty thanks. — Oh ! that I should have been fooling 
here ! " 

Accompariying these words with an impatient stamp upon 
the ground, he tore himself from the manager's detaining 
grasp, and darting rapidly down the street was out of sight in 
an instant. 

" Dear me, dear me," said Mr. Crummies, looking wist- 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 397 

fully towards the point at which he had just disappeared; "if 
he only acted like that, what a deal of money he'd draw ! He 
should have kept upon this circuit ; he'd have been ver}^ use- 
ful to me. But he don't know what's good for him. He is 
an impetuous youth. Young men are rash, \qx\ rash." 

Mr. Crummies being in a moralizing mood, might possibly 
have moralized for some minutes longer if he had not mechan- 
ically put his hand towards his w^aistcoat pocket, w^here he 
was accustomed to keep his snuff. The absence of any 
pocket at all in the usual direction, suddenly recalled to his 
recollection the fact that he had no waistcoat on ; and this 
leading him to a contemplation of the extreme scantiness of 
his attire, he shut the door abruptly, and retired up stairs 
with great precipitation. 

Smike had made good speed while Nicholas was absent, 
and with his help e\erything was soon ready for their depart- 
ure. They scarcely stopped to take a morsel of breakfast, 
and in less than half an hour arrived at the coach-office : 
quite out of breath with the haste they had made to reach it 
in time. There were yet a few minutes to spare, so, having 
secured the places, Nicholas hurried into a slopseller's hard 
by, and bought Smike a great-coat. It would have been 
rather large for a substantial yeoman, but the shopman aver- 
ring (and with considerable truth) that it was a most uncom- 
mon fit, Nicholas would have purchased it in his impatience 
if it had been twice the size. 

As they hurried up to the coach, which was now in the 
open street and all ready for starting, Nicholas was not a little 
astonished to find himself suddenly clutched in a close and 
violent embrace, which nearly took him off his legs ; nor was 
his amazement at all lessened by hearing the voice of Mr. 
Crummies exclaim, " It is he — my friend, my friend ! " 

" Bless my heart," cried Nicholas, struggling in the mana- 
ger's arms, " what are you about ? " 

The manager made no reply, but strained him to his breast 
again, exclaiming as he did so, " Farewell, my noble, my lion- 
hearted boy ! " 

In fact, Mr. Crummies, who could never lose any oppor- 
tunit}^ for professional display, had turned out for the express 
purpose of taking a public farewell of Nicholas ; and to ren- 
der it the more imposing, he was now, to that young gentle- 
man's most profound annoyance, inflicting upon him a rapid 
succession of stage embraces, which, as ever}-body knows, are 



398 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



performed by the embracer's laying his or her chin on the 
shoulder of the object of affection, and looking over it. This 
Mr. Crummies did in the highest style of melodrama, pouring 
forth at the same time all the most dismal forms of farewell 
he could think of, out of the stock pieces. Nor was this all, 
for the elder Master Crummies was going through a similar 
ceremony with Smike ; while Master Percy Crummies, with a 
very little second-hand camlet cloak, worn theatrically over 
his left shoulder, stood by, in the attitude of an attendant 
officer, waiting to convey the two victims to the scaffold. 

The lookers-on laughed very heartily, and as it was as 
well to put a good face upon the matter, Nicholas laughed too 
when he had succeeded in disengaging himself ; and rescuing 
the astonished Smike, climbed up to the coach roof after him, 
and kissed his hand in honor of the absent Mrs. Crummies as 
they rolled away. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



OF RALPH NICKLEBY AND NEWMAN NOGGS, AND SOME WISE 
PRECAUTIONS, THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF WHICH WILL 
APPEAR IN THE SEQUEL. 

In blissful unconsciousness that his nephew was hastening 
at the utmost speed of four good horses towards his sphere of 
action, and that every passing minute diminished the distance 
between them, Ralph Nickleby sat that morning occupied in 
his customary avocations, and yet unable to prevent his 
thoughts wandering from time to time back to the interview 
which had taken place between himself and his niece on the 
previous day. At such intervals, after a few moments of ab- 
straction, Ralph would mutter some peevish interjection, and 
apply himself with renewed steadiness of purpose to the ledger 
before him, but again and again the same train of thought came 
back despite all his efforts to prevent it, confusing him in his cal- 
culations, and utterly distracting his attention from the figures 
over which he bent. At length Ralph laid down his pen, and 
threw himself back in his chair as though he had made up his 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 399 

mind to allow the obtrusive current of reflection to take its 
own course, and, by giving it full scope, to rid himself of it 
effectually. 

" I am not a man to be moved by a pretty face," muttered 
Ralph sternly. " There is a grinning skull beneath it, and 
men like me who look and work below the surface see that, 
and not its delicate covering. And yet I almost like thegirl, 
or should if she had been less proudly and squeamishly 
brought up. If the boy .were drowned or hanged,_ and the 
mother dead, thisliouse should be her home. I wish they 
wefe,"with all my soul." 

Notwithstanding the deadly ^hatred which Ralph felt 
towards Nicholas, and th"e~l)itter' contempt with which he 
sneered at poor Mrs. Nickleby — notwithstanding the baseness 
with which he had behaved, and was then behaving, and would 
behave again if his interest prompted him, towards Kate her- 
self — still tliere was, strange though it may seem, something 
humanizing and e\-en gentle in his thoughts at that moni.ent,,^. 
"^e thought of what his home might be if Kate were there ; 
he placed her in the empty chair, looked upon her, heard her 
speak ; he felt again upon his arm the gentle pressure of the 
trembling hand ; he strewed his costly rooms with the hun- 
dred silent tokens of feminine presence and occupation ; he 
came back again to the cold fireside and the silent dreary 
splendor ; and in that one glimpse of a better nature, born as, 
it was in selfish thought, the rich man felt himself friendXess, 
childless, and alone. Gold,, for the insknt, lost its lustre in 
Ills" c\-es7 ft >r' there were countless treasures of the heart which 
iFcrnilJ ne\er purchase. 

■ A \ ery sliglit circumstance was sufficient to banish such 

reflection's from the mind of such a man. As Ralph looked 
vacantly out across the yard towards the window of the other 
office, he became suddenly aware of the earnest observation 
of Newman Noggs, who with his red nose almost touching the 
glass, feigned to be mending a pen with a rusty fragment of a 
knife, but was in reality staring at his employer with a counte- 
nance of the closest and most eager scrutiny. 

Ralph exchanged his dreamy posture for his accustomed 
business attitude : the face of Newman disappeared, and the 
train of thought took to flight, all simultaneously and in an 
instant. 

After a few minutes, Ralph rang his bell. Newman an- 
swered the summons, and Ralph raised his eyes steathily to 



400 YICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

his face, as if he almost feared to read there, a knowledge of 
his recent thoughts. 

There was not the smallest speculation, however, in the 
countenance of Newman Noggs. If it be possible to imagine 
a man with two e3'es in his head, and both wide open, looking 
in no direction whatever, and seeing nothing, Newman ap- 
peared to be that man while Ralph Nickleby regarded him. 

" How now ? " growled Ralph. 

" Oh ! " said Newman, throwing some intelligence into his 
eyes all at once, and dropping them on his master, " I thought 
you rang." With which laconic remark Newman turned 
round and hobbled away. 

" Stop ! " said Ralph. 

Newman stopped ; not at all disconcerted. 

•' I did ring." 

" I knew you did." 

" Then why do you ofifer to go if you know that } " 

" I thought you rang to say you didn't ring," replied New- 
man. " You often do." 

" How dare you pry, and peer, and stare at me, sirrah ? " 
demanded Ralph. 

" Stare ! " cried Newman, " at jou ! Ha, ha ! " which was 
all the explanation Newman deigned to offer. 

"Be careful, sir," said Ralph, looking steadily at him. 
" Let me have no drunken fooling here. Do you see this 
parcel ? " 

" It's big enough," rejoined Newman. 

" Carry it into the City ; to Cross, in Broad Street, and 
leave it there — quick. Do you hear ? " 

Newman gave a dogged kind of nod to express an affirma- 
tive reply, and, leaving the room for a few seconds, returned 
with his hat. Having made various ineffective attempts to fit 
the parcel (which was some two feet square) into the crown 
thereof, Newman took it under his arm, and after putting on 
his fingerless gloves with great precision and nicety, keeping 
his eyes fixed upon Mr. Ralph Nickleby all the time, he ad- 
justed his hat upon his head with as much care, real or pre- 
tended, as if it were a bran-new one of the most expensive 
quality, and at last departed on his errand. 

He executed his commission with great promptitude and 
despatch, only calling at one public-house for half a minute, 
and even that might be said to be in his way, for he went in 
at one door and came out at the other ; but as he returned 




NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. ^Oj 

and had got so far homewards as the Strand, Newman began 
to loiter with the uncertain air of a man who has not quite 
made up his mind whether to halt or go straight forwards. 
After a very short consideration, the former inclination pre- 
vailed, and making towards the point he had had in his mind, 
Newman knocked a modest double-knock, or rather a nervous 
single one, at Miss La Creevy's door. 

It was opened by a strange servant, on whom the odd figure 
of the visitor did not appear to make the most favorable im- 
pression possible, inasmuch as she no sooner saw him than 
she very nearly closed it, and placing herself in the narrow 
gap, inquired what he wanted. But Newman merely uttering 
the monosyllable "Noggs," as if it were some cabalistic word, 
at sound of which bolts would fly back and doors open, 
pushed briskly past and gained the door of Miss La Creevy's 
sitting-room, before the astonished servant could offer any 
opposition. 

" Walk in if you please," said Miss La Creevy in reply to the 
sound of Newman's knuckles ; and in he walked accordingly. 

" Bless us ! " cried Miss La Creevy, starting as Newman 
bolted in ; " what did you want, sir ? " 

"You have forgotten me," said Newman, with an inclina- 
tion of the head. " I wonder at that. That nobody should 
remember me who knew me in other days, is natural enough ; 
but there are few people who, seeing me once, forget me no7ci." 
He glanced, as he spoke, at his shabby clothes and paralytic 
limb, and slightly shook his head, 

" I did forget you, I declare," said Miss La Creevy, rising 
to receive Newman, who met her half-way, " and I am ashamed 
of myself for doing so ; for you are a kind, good creature, Mr. 
Noggs. Sit down and tell me all about Miss Nickleby. Poor 
dear thing ! I haven't seen her for this many a week." 

" How's that ? " asked Newman. 

" Why the truth is, Mr. Noggs," said Miss La Creevy, 
" that I have been out on a visit — the first visit I have made 
for fifteen years." 

"That is a long time," said Newman, sadly. 

" So it is a very long time to look back upon in years, though, 
somehow or other, thank Heaven, the solitary days roll away 
peacefully and happily enough," replied the miniature painter. 
" I have a brother, Mr. Noggs — the only relation I have — and 
all that time I nev^er saw him once. Not that we ever quar- 
relled, but he was apprenticed down in the country, and he got 

26 



402 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

married there, and new ties and affections springing up about 
him, he forgot a poor Httle woman like me, as it was very rea- 
sonable he should, you know. Don't suppose that I complain 
about that, because I always said to mj'self, ' It is very natural ; 
poor dear John is making his way in the world, and has a wife 
to tell his cares and troubles to, and children now to play 
about him, so God bless him and them, and send we may all 
meet together one day where we shall part no more.' But 
what do you think, Mr. Noggs," said the miniature painter, 
brightening up and clapping her hands, " of that very same 
brother coming up to London at last, and never resting till he 
found me out ; what do you think of his coming here and sit- 
ting down in that very chair, and cWing like a child because 
he was so glad to see me — what do you think of his insisting 
on taking me down all the way into the country to his own 
house (quite a sumptuous place, Mr. Noggs, with a large gar- 
den and I don't know how many fields, and a man in livery 
waiting at table, and cows and horses and pigs and I don't 
know what besides), and making me stay a whole month, and 
pressing me to stop there all my life — yes, all my life — and so 
did his wife, and so did the children — and there were four of 
them, and one, the eldest girl of all, they — they had named 
her after me eight good years before, they had indeed. I 
never was so happy ; in all my life I never was ! " The wor- 
thy soul hid her face in her handkerchief, and sobbed aloud ; 
for it was the first opportunity she had had of unburdening 
her heart, and it would have its way. 

" But bless my life," said Miss La Creevy, wiping her eyes 
after a short pause, and cramming her handkerchief into her 
pocket with great bustle and dispatch ; " what a foolish 
creature I must seem to you, Mr. Noggs ! I shouldn't have 
said anything about it, only I wanted to explain to you how it 
was I hadn't seen Miss Nickleby." 

" Have you seen the old lady ? " asked Newman. 

" You mean Mrs. Nickleby ? " said Miss La Creevy. 
" Then I tell you what, Mr. Noggs, if you want to keep in the 
good books in that quarter, you had better not call her the old 
lady any more, for I suspect she wouldn't be best pleased to 
hear you. Yes, I went there the night before last, but she was 
quite on the high ropes about something, and was so grand 
and mysterious, that I couldn't make anything of her ; so, to 
tell you the truth, I took it into my head to be grand too, and 
came away in state. I thought she would have come round 
again before this, but she hasn't been here." 



NTCHOLAS NICKLEBY. 403 

" About Miss Nickleby — " said Newman. 

" Why, she was here twice while I was away," returned 
Miss La Creevy. " I was afraid she mightn't hke to have me 
calUng on her among those great folks in what's-its-name Place, 
so I thought I'd wait a day or two, and if I didn't see her, 
write." 

" Ah ! " exclaimed Newman, cracking his fingers. 

" However, I want to hear all the news about them from 
you," said Miss La Creevy. " How is the old rough and 
tough monster of Golden Square ? Well, of course ; such 
peojDle always are. I don't mean how is he in health, but how 
is he going on ; how is he behaving himself ? " 

" Damn him ! " cried Newman, clashing his cherished hat 
on the floor ; " like a false hound." 

" Gracious, Mr. Noggs, you quite terrify me ! " exclaimed 
Miss La Creevy, turning pale. 

" I should have spoilt his features yesterday afternoon if I 
could have afforded it," said Newman, moving restlessly about, 
and shaking his fist at a portrait of Mr. Canning over the 
mantel-piece. " I was very near it. I was obliged to put my 
hands in my pockets, and keep 'em there very tight. I shall 
do it some day in that little back parlor, I know I shall. I 
should have done it before now, if I hadn't been afraid of 
making bad worse. I shall double-lock myself in with him and 
have it out before I die, I'm quite certain of it." 

" I shall scream if you don't compose yourself, Mr. Noggs," 
said Miss La Creevy ; I'm sure I shan't be able to help it." 

" Never mind," rejoined Newman, darting violently to and 
fro. " He's coming up to-night ; I wrote to tell him. He lit- 
tle thinks I know ; he little thinks I care. Cunning scoun- 
drel ! he don't think that. Not he, not he. Never mind, I'll 
thwart him — /, Newman Noggs. Ho, ho, the rascal ! " 

Lashing himself up to an extravagant pitch of fur}'-, New- 
man Noggs jerked himself about the room with the most 
eccentric motion ever beheld in a human being ; now sparring 
at the little miniatures on the wall, and now giving himself 
violent thumps on the head, as if to heighten the delusion, 
until he sank down in his former seat quite breathless and 
exhausted. 

" There," said Newman, picking up his hat ; " that's done 
me good. Now I'm better, and I'll tell you all about it." 

It took some little time to reassure Miss La Creevy, w-ho 
had been almost frightened out of her senses by this remark- 



404 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

able demonstration ; but that clone, Newman faithfully re- 
lated all that had passed in the interview between Kate and 
her uncle, prefacing his narrative with a statement of his 
previous suspicions on the subject, and his reasons for form- 
ing them ; and concluding with a communication of the step 
he had taken in secretly writing to Nicholas. 

Though little Miss La Creevy's indignation was not so 
singularly displayed as Newman's, it was scarcely inferior in 
violence and intensity. Indeed if Ralph Nickleby had hap- 
pened to make his appearance in the room at that moment, 
there is some doubt whether he would not have found Miss 
La Creevy a more dangerous opponent than even Newman 
Noggs himself. 

" God forgive me for saying so," said Miss La Creevy, as 
a wind-up to all her expressions of anger, " but I really feel as 
if I could stick this into him with pleasure." 

It was not a very awful weapon that Miss La Creevy held, 
it being in fact nothing more nor less than a black-lead pencil ; 
but discovering her mistake, the little portrait painter, ex- 
changed it for a mother-of-pearl fruit knife, wherewith, in proof 
of her desperate thoughts, she made a lunge as she spoke, 
which would have scarcely disturbed the crumb of a half- 
quartern loaf. 

" She won't stop where she is, after to-night," said New- 
man. "That's a comfort." 

" Stop ! " cried Miss La Creevy, " she should have left 
there, weeks ago." 

— " If we had known of this," rejoined Newman. " But 
we didn't. Nobody could properly interfere but her mother 
or brother. The mother's weak — poor thing — weak. The 
"" •' dear young man will be here to-night." 

" Heart alive ! " cried Miss La Creevy. " He" will do 
something desperate, Mr. Noggs, if you tell him all at once." 

Newman left off rubbing his hands, and assumed a thought- 
ful look. 

" Depend upon it," said Miss La Creevy, earnestly, " if 
you are not very careful in breaking out the truth to him, he 
will do some violence upon his uncle or one of these men that 
will bring some terrible calamity upon his own head, and grief 
and sorrow to us all." 

" I never thought of that," rejoined Newman, his counten- 
ance falling more and more. " I came to ask you to receive 
his sister in case he brought her here, but — " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



405 



"But this is a matter of much greater importance," inter- 
rupted Miss La Creevy ; " that you might have been sure of 
before you came, but the end of this, nobody can forsee, unless 
you are very guarded and careful." 

" What can I do ? " cried Newman, scratching his head 
with an air of great vexation and perplexity. '' If he was to 
talk of pistolling 'em all, I should be obliged to say, ' Certainly. 
Serve 'em right.' " 

Miss La Creevy could not suppress a small shriek on hear- 
ing this, and instantly set about extorting a solemn pledge 
from Newman, that he would use his utmost endeavors to 
pacify the wrath of Nicholas ; which, after some demur, was 
conceded. They then consulted together on the safest and 
surest mode of communicating to him the circumstances 
which had rendered his presence necessary. 

" He must have time to cool before he can possibly do any- 
thing," said Miss La Creevy. " That is of the greatest con- 
sequence. He must not be told until late at night." 

" But he'll be in town between six and seven this evening," 
replied Newman. " / can't keep it from him when he asks 
me." 

" Then you must go out, Mr. Noggs," said Miss La Creevy. 
" You can easily have been kept away by business, and must 
not return till nearly midnight." 

" Then he'll come straight here," retorted Newman. 

" So I suppose," observed Miss La Creevy ; "but he won't 
find me at home, for I'll go straight to the City, the instant 
you leave me, make up matters with Mrs. Nickleby, and take 
her away to the theatre, so that he may not even know where 
his sister lives." 

Upon further discussion, this appeared the safest and most 
feasible mode of proceeding that could possibly be adopted. 
Therefore it was finally determined that matters should be so 
arranged. Newman, after listening to many supplementary 
cautions and entreaties, took his leave of Miss La Creevy 
and trudged back to Golden Square, ruminating as he went 
upon a vast number of possibilities and impossibilities which 
crowded upon his brain, and arose out of the conversation 
that had just terminated. 



4o6 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

RELATING CHIEFLY TO SOME REMARKABLE CONVERSATION, AND 
SOME REMARKABLE PROCEEDINGS TO WHICH IT GIVES 
RISE. 

" London at last ! " cried Nicholas, throwing back his 
great-coat and rousing Smike from a long nap. " It seemed 
to me as though we should never reach it." 

" And yet you came along at a tidy pace too," observed 
the coachman, looking over his shoulder at Nicholas with no 
very pleasant expression of countenance. 

"Ay, I know that," was the reply, "but I have been very 
anxious to to be at my journey's end, and that makes the way 
seem long." 

" Well," remarked the coachman, " if the way seemed long 
with such cattle as you've sat behind, you 77iust have been 
most uncommon anxious ; " and so saying, he let out his whip- 
lash and touched up a little boy on the calves of his legs by 
way of emphasis. 

They ratded on through the noisy, bustling, crowded streets 
of London, now displaying long double rows of brightly-burn- 
ing lamps, dotted here and there with the chemists' glaring 
lights, and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that 
streamed from the windows of the shops, where sparkling jewel- 
lery, silks and velvets of the richest colors, the most inviting 
delicacies, and most sumptuous articles of luxurious ornaments 
succeeded each other in rich and glittering profusion. Streams 
of people apparently without end poured on and on, jostling 
each other in the crowd and hurr^-ing forward, scarcely seem- 
ing to notice the riches that surrounded them on every side ; 
while vehicles of all shapes and makes, mingled up together 
in one moving mass like running water, lent their ceaseless 
roar to swell the noise and tumult. 

As they dashed by the quickly-changing and ever-varying 
objects, it was curious to observe in what a strange procession 
they passed before the eye. Emporiums of splendid dresses, 
the materials brought from every quarter of the world ; tempt- 
ing stores of everything to stimulate and pamper the sated 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 407 

appetite and give new relish to the oft-repeated feast ; vessels 
of burnished gold and silver, wrought into every exquisite 
form of vase, and dish, and goblet ; guns, swords, pistols and 
patent engines of destruction ; screws and irons for the crooked, 
clothes for the newly-born, drugs for the sick, coffins for the 
dead, churchyards for the buried — all these jumbled each with 
the other and flockir.g side by side, seemed to flit by in motley 
dance like the fantastic groups of the old Dutch painter, and 
with the same stern moral for the unheeding restless crowd. 

Nor were there wanting objects in the crowd itself to give 
new point and purpose to the shifting scene. The rags of the 
squalid ballad-singer fluttered in the rich light that showed 
the goldsmith's treasures ; pale and pinched-up faces hovered 
about the windows where was tempting food ; hungry eyes 
wandered over the profusion guarded by one thin sheet of 
brittle glass — an iron wall to them ; half-naked shivering fig- 
ures stopped to gaze at Chinese shawls and golden stuffs ot„,S^Od- 
f-^rndia. There was a christening party at the la^^^, coffin- | ^^ 
\ maker's, alTrrttmcroHrateWmarTraTs^o^e^ great im- ^ ^ 
) provements in the bravest mansion. Life and death went I 
y hand in hand ; wealth and poverty stood side by side ; reple- \ 
Ction and starvation laid them down together. -^ 

But it was London ; and the old country lady inside, who 
had put her head out of the coach-window a mile or two on 
this side of Kingston, and had cried out to the driver that she 
was sure he must have passed it and forgotten to set her down, 
was satisfied at last. 

Nicholas engaged beds for himself and Smike at the inn 
where the coach stopped, and repaired, without the delay of 
another moment, to the lodgings of Newman Noggs ; for his 
anxiety and impatience had increased with every succeeding 
minute, and were almost beyond control. 

There was a fire in Newman's garret, and a candle had 
been left burning ; the floor was cleanly swept, the room was 
as comfortably arranged as such a room could be, and meat 
and drink were placed in order upon the table. Everything 
bespoke the affectionate care and attention of Newman Noggs, 
but Newman himself was not there. 

" Do you know what time he will be home ? " inquired 
Nicholas, tapping at the door of Newman's front neighbor. 

"Ah, Mr. Johnson ! " said Crowl, presenting himself. 
" Welcome, sir. — How well you're looking ! I never could 
have believed " 



4o8 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



" Pardon me," interposed Nicholas. " My question — I am 
extremely anxious to know." 

" Why, he has a troublesome affair of business," replied 
Crowl, " and will not be home before twelve o'clock. He was 
very unwilling to go, I can tell you, but there was no help for 
it. However, he left word that you were to make yourself 
comfortable till he came back, and that I was to entertain you, 
which I shall be very glad to do." 

In proof of his extreme readiness to exert himself for the 
general entertainment, Mr. Crowl drew a chair to the table as 
he spoke, and helping himself plentifully to the cold meat, 
invited Nicholas and Smike to follow his example. 

Disappointed and uneasy, Nicholas could touch no food, 
so, after he had seen Smike comfortably established at the 
table, he walked out (despite a great many dissuasions uttered 
by Mr. Crowl with his mouth full), and left Smike to detain 
Newman in case he returned first. 

As Miss La Creevy had anticipated, Nicholas betook him- 
self straight to her house. Finding her from home, he debated 
within himself for some time whether he should go to his 
mother's residence and so compromise her with Ralph Nickle- 
by. Fully persuaded, however, that Newman would not have 
solicited him to return unless there was some strong reason 
which required his presence at home, he resolved to go there, 
and hastened eastwards with all speed. 

Mrs. Nickleby would not be at home, the girl' said, until 
past twelve, or later. She believed Miss Nickleby was well, 
but she didn't live at home now, nor did she come home except 
very seldom. She couldn't say where she was stopping, but 
it was not at Madame Mantalini's. She was sure of that. 

With his heart beating violently, and apprehending he 
knew not what disaster, Nicholas returned to where he had 
left Smike. Newman had not been home. He wouldn't be, 
till twelve o'clock ; there was no chance of it. Was there no 
possibility of sending to fetch him if it were only for an in- 
stant, or forwarding to him one line of writing to which he 
might return a verbal reply ? That was quite impracticable. 
He was not at Golden Square, and probably had been sent 
to execute some commission at a distance. 

Nicholas tried to remain quietly where he was, but he feft 
so nervous and excited that he could not sit still. He seemed 
to be losing time unless he was moving. It was an absurd 
fancy, he knew, but he was wholly unable to resist it. So, he 
took up his hat and rambled out again. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



409 



He strolled westward this time, pacing the long streets 
with hurried footsteps, and agitated by a thousand misgivings 
and apprehensions which he could not overcome. He passed 
into Hyde Park, now silent and deserted, and increased his 
rate of walking as if in the hope of lea\ ing his thoughts be- 
hind. They crowded upon him more thickly, however, now 
there were no passing objects to attract his attention ; and 
the one idea was always uppermost, that some stroke of ill- 
fortune must have occurred so calamitous in its nature that 
all were fearful of disclosing it to him. The old question 
arose again and again — What could it be ? Nicholas walked 
till he was weary, but was not one bit the wiser ; and indeed 
he came out of the Park at last a great deal more confused 
and perplexed than he had gone into it. 

Pie had taken scarcely anything to eat or drink since 
early in the morning, and felt quite worn out and exhausted. 
As he returned languidly towards the point from which he had 
started, along one of the thoroughfares which lie between 
Park Lane and Bond Street, he passed a handsome hotel, 
before which he stopped mechanically. 

"An expensive place, I dare say," thought Nicholas ; "but 
a pint of wine and a biscuit are no great debauch wherever 
they are had. And yet I don't know." 

He walked on a few steps, but looking wistfully down the 
long vista of gas-lamps before him, and thinking how long it 
would take to reach the end of it — and being besides in that 
kind of mood in which a man is most disposed to yield to his 
first impulse — and being, besides, strongly attracted to the 
hotel, in part by curiosity, and in part by some odd mixture 
of feelings which he would have been troubled to define — 
Nicholas turned back again, and walked into the coffee-room. 

It was very handsomely furnished. The walls were orna- 
mented with the choicest specimens of French paper, en- 
riched with a gilded cornice of elegant design. The floor 
was covered with a rich carpet ; and two superb mirrors, one 
above the chimney-piece and one at the opposite end of the 
room reaching from lioor to ceiling, multiplied the other beau- 
ties and added new ones of their own to enhance the general 
effect. There was rather a noisy party of four gentlemen in 
a box by the fire-place, and only two other persons present- 
both elderly gentlemen, and both alone. 

Observing all this in the first comprehensive glance with 
which a stranger surveys a place that is new to him, Nicholas 



4 1 o NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

sat himself down in the box next to the noisy party, with his 
back towards them, and postponing his order for a pint of 
claret until such time as the waiter and one of the elderly 
gentlemen should have settled a disputed question relative to 
the price of an item in the bill of fare, took up a newspaper 
and began to read. 

He had not read twenty lines, and was in truth half- 
dozing, when he was startled by the mention of his sister's 
name. " Little Kate Nickleby " were the words that caught 
his ear. He raised his head in amazement, and as he did so, 
saw by the reflection in the opposite glass, that tvv'o of the 
party behind him had risen and were standing before the fire. 
" It must have come from one of them," thought Nicholas. 
He waited to hear more with a countenance of some indigna- 
tion, for the tone of speech had been anything but respectful, 
and the appearance of the individual whom he presumed to 
have been the speaker was coarse and swaggering. 

This person — so Nicholas observed in the same glance at 
the mirror which had enabled him to see his face — was stand- 
ing with his back to the fire conversing with a younger man, 
who stood with his back to the company, wore his hat, and 
was adjusting his shirt collar by the aid of the glass. They 
spoke in whispers, now and then bursting into a loud laugh, 
but Nicholas could catch no repetition of the words, nor any- 
thino; sounding at all like the words, which had attracted his 
attention. 

At length the two resumed their seats, and more wine 
being ordered, the party grew louder in their mirth. Still 
there was no reference made to anybody with whom he was 
acquainted, and Nicholas became persuaded that his excited 
fancy had either imagined the sounds altogether, or converted 
some other words into the name which had been so much in 
his thoughts. 

" It is remarkable too," thought Nicholas : " if it had been 
' Kate ' or ' Kate Nickleby,' I should not have been so much 
surprised ; but 'little Kate Nickleby ! '" 

The wine coming at the moment prevented his finishing 
the sentence. He swallowed a glassful and took up the paper 
again. At that instant 

" Little Kate Nickleby ! " cried a voice behind him. 

" I was right," muttered Nicholas as the paper fell from 
his hand. " And it was the man I supposed." 

" As there was a proper objection to drinking her in heel- 



NICHdLAS NICKLEB V. 41 1 



taps," said the voice, " we'll give her the first glass in the new 
magnum. Little Kate Nickleby ! " 

" Little Kate Nickleby," cried the other three. And the 
glasses were set down empty. 

Keenly alive to the tone and manner of this slight and 
careless mention of his sister's name in a public place, Nicho- 
las fired at once ; but he kept himself quiet by a great effort, 
and did not even turn his head. 

" The jade ! " said the same voice which had spoken be- 
fore. " She's a true Nickleby — a worthy imitator of her old 
vmcle Ralph — she hangs back to be more sought after — so 
does he ; nothing to be got out of Ralph unless you follow 
him up, and then the money comes douloly welcome, and the 
bargain doubly hard, for you're impatient and he isn't. Oh ! 
infernal cunning." 

" Infernal cunning," echoed two voices. 

Nicholas wafe in a perfect agony as the two elderly gentle- 
men opposite, rose one after the other and went away, lest 
they should be the means of his losing one word of what was 
said. But the conversation was suspended as they withdrew, 
and resumed with even greater freedom when they had left 
the room. 

" I am afraid," said the younger gentleman, " that the old 
woman has grown jea-a-lous, and locked her up. Upon my 
soul it looks like it." 

" If they quarrel and little Nickleby goes home to her 
mother, so much the better," said the first. " I can do any- 
thing with the old lady. She'll believe anything I tell her." 

" Egad that's true," returned the other voice. " Ha, ha, 
ha ! Poor deyvle ! " 

The laugh was taken up by the two voices which always 
came in together, and became general at Mrs. Nickleby's ex- 
pense. Nicholas turned burning hot with rage, but he com- 
manded himself for the moment, and waited to hear more. 

What he heard need not be repeated here. Suffice it that 
as the wine went round he heard enough to acquaint him with 
the characters and designs of those whose conversation he 
overheard ; to possess him with the full extent of Ralph's 
villan}^ and the real reason of his own presence being re- 
quired in London. He heard all this and more. He heard 
his sister's sufferings derided, and her virtuous conduct jeered 
at and brutally misconstrued ; he heard her name bandied 
from mouth to mouth, and herself made the subject of coarse 
and insolent wagers, free speech, and licentious jesting. 



412 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

The man who had spoken first, led the conversation and 
indeed ahnost engrossed it, being only stimulated from time 
to time by some slight observation from one or other of his 
companions. To him then Nicholas addressed himself when 
he was sufficiently composed to stand before the party, and 
force the words from his parched and scorching throat. 

" Let me have a word with you, sir," said Nicholas. 

" With me, sir ? " retorted Sir Mulberry Hawk, eyeing him 
in disdainful surprise. 

" I said with you," replied Nicholas, speaking with great 
difficulty, for his passion choked him. 

" A mysterious stranger, upon my soul ! " exclaimed Sir 
Mulberry, raising his wine-glass to his lips, and looking round 
upon his friends. 

" Will you step apart with me for a few minutes, or do 
you refuse .-' " said Nicholas sternly. 

Sir Mulberry merely paused in the act of drinking, and 
bade him either name his business or leave the table. 

Nicholas drew a card from his pocket, and threw it before 
him. 

" There, sir," said Nicholas ; " my business you will guess." 

A momentary expression of astonishment, not unmixed 
with some confusion, appeared in the face of Sir Mulberry as 
he read the name ; but he subdued it in an instant, and toss- 
ing the card to Lord Frederick Verisopht, who sat opposite, 
drew a tooth-pick from a glass before him, and very leisurely 
applied it to his mouth. 

" Your name and address .'' " said Nicholas, turning paler 
as his passion kindled. 

" I shall give you neither," replied Sir Mulberry. 

" If there is a gentleman in this party," said Nicholas, 
looking round and scarcely able to make his white lips form 
the words, " he will acquaint me with the name and residence 
of this man." 

There was a dead silence. 

" I am the brother of the young lady who has been the 
subject of conversation here," said Nicholas. " I denounce 
this person as a liar, and impeach him as a coward. If he 
has a friend here, he will save him the disgrace of the paltry 
attempt to conceal his name — an utterly useless one — for I 
will find it out, nor leave him until I have." 

Sir Mulberry looked at him contemptuously, and, address- 
ing his companions, said — 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



413 



" Let the fellow talk. I have nothing serious to say to 
boys of his station ; and his pretty sister shall save him a 
broken head, if he talks till midnight." 

" You are a base and spiritless scoundrel ! " said Nicholas, 
" and shall be proclaimed so to the world. I 7mll know you; 
I will follow you home if you walk the streets till morning." 

Sir Mulberry's hand involuntarily closed upon the de- 
canter, and he seemed for an instant about to launch it at the 
head of his challenger. But he only filled his glass, and 
laughed in derision. 

Nicholas sat himself down, directly opposite to the party, 
and, summoning the waiter, paid his bill. 

"Do you know that person's name? " he inquired of the 
man in an audible voice, pointing out Sir Mulberry as he put 
the question. 

Sir Mulberry laughed again, and the two voices which 
had always sjDoken together, echoed the laugh ; but rather 
feebly. 

" That gentleman, sir ? " replied the waiter, who, no 
doubt, knew his cue, and answered with just as little respect, 
and just as much impertinence as he could safely show : " no, 
sir, I do not, sir." 

" Here, you sir ! " cried Sir Mulberr}^ as the man was 
retiring. " Do you know that person's name .'' " 

" Name, sir ? No, sir." 

" Then you'll find it there," said Sir Mulberry, throwing 
Nicholas's, card towards him : " and when you have made 
yourself master of it, put that piece of pasteboard in the fire." 

The man grinned, and, looking doubtfully at Nicholas, 
compromised the matter by sticking the card in the chimney- 
glass. Having done this, he retired. 

Nicholas folded his arms, and, biting his lip, sat perfectly 
quiet ; sufficiently expressing by his manner, however, a firm 
determination to carry his threat of following Sir Mulberry 
home, into steady execution. 

It was; evident from the tone in which the younger mem- 
ber of the party appeared to remonstrate with his friend, that 
he objected to this course of proceeding, and urged him to 
comply with the request which Nicholas had made. Sir 
Mulberry, however, who was not quite sober, and who was in 
a sullen and dogged state of obstinacy, soon silenced the rep- 
resentations of his weak young friend, and further seemed — as 
if to save himself from a repetition of them — to insist on being 



414 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

left alone. However this might have been, the young gentle- 
man and the two who had always spoken together, actually 
rose to go after a short interval, and presently retired, leaving 
their friend alone with Nicholas. 

It will be very readily supposed that to one in the condi- 
tion of Nicholas the minutes appeared to move with leaden 
wings indeed, and that their progress did not seem the more 
rapid from the monotonous ticking of a French clock, or the 
shrill sound of its little bell which told the quarters. But 
there he sat ; and in his old seat on the opposite side of the 
room reclined Sir Mulberry Hawk, with his legs upon the 
cushion, and his handkerchief thrown negligently over his 
knees ; finishing his magnum of claret with the utmost coolness 
and inditference. 

Thus they remained in perfect silence for upwards of an 
hour — Nicholas would have thought for three hours at least, 
but that the little bell had only gone four times. Twice or 
thrice he looked angrily and impatiently round ; but there 
was Sir Mulberry in the same attitude, putting his glass to 
his lips from time to time, and looking vacantly at the wall, 
as if he were wholly ignorant of the presence of any living 
person. 

At length he yawned, stretched himself and rose, walked 
coolly to the glass, and, having surveyed himself therein, 
turned round and honored Nicholas with a long and con- 
temptuous stare. Nicholas stared again with right good- 
will j Sir Mulberry shrugged his shoulders, smiled slightly, 
rang the bell, and ordered the waiter to help him on with his 
great-coat. 

The man did so, and held the door open. 

" Don't wait," said Sir Mulberry ; and they were alone 
again. 

Sir Mulberr}' took several turns up and down the room, 
whistling carelessly all the time : stopped to finish the last 
glass of claret which he had poured out a few minutes before, 
walked again, put on his hat, adjusted it by the glass, drew 
on his gloves, and, at last, walked slowly out. Nicholas, who 
had been fuming and chafing until he was nearly wild, darted 
from his seat, and followed him : so closely, that before the 
door had swung upon its hinges after Sir Mulberry's passing 
out, they stood side by side in the street together. 

There was a private cabriolet in waiting ; the groom opened 
the apron, and jumped out to the horse's head. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 415 

" Will you make yourself known to me ? " asked Nicholas, 
in a suppressed voice. 

" No," replied the other fiercely, and confirming the refusal 
with an oath. " No." 

" If you trust to your horse's speed, you will find yourself 
mistaken," said Nicholas. "I will accompany you. By 
Heaven 1 will, if I hang on to the foot-board ! " 

" You shall be horsewhipped if you do," returned Sir Mul- 
berry. 

" You are a villain," said Nicholas. 

"You are an errand-boy for aught I know," said Sir Mul- 
berry Hawk. 

" I am the son of a country gentleman," returned Nicholas, 
" your equal in birth and education, and your superior I trust 
in everything besides. I tell you again. Miss Nickleby is my 
sister. Will you or will you not answer for your unmanly and 
brutal conduct ? " 

" To a proper champion — yes. To you — no," returned 
Sir Mulberry, taking the reins in his hand. " Stand out of the 
way, dog. William, let go her head." 

" You had better not," cried Nicholas, springing on the 
step as Sir Mulberry jumped in, and catching at the reins. 
"He has no command over the horse, mind. You shall not 
go — you shall not, I swear — till you have told me who you 
are." 

The groom hesitated, for the mare, who was a high-spirited 
animal and thorough-bred, plunged so violently that he could 
scarcely hold her. 

" Leave go, I tell you ! " thundered his master. 

The man obeyed. The animal reared and plunged as 
though it would dash the carriage into a thousand pieces, but 
Nicholas, blind to all sense of danger, and conscious of 
nothing but his fury, still maintained his place and his hold 
upon the reins. 

" Will you unclasp your hand } " 

" Will you tell me who you are .^ " 

"No!" 

"No!" 

In less time than the quickest tongue could tell it, these 
words were exchanged, and Sir Mulberry shortening his whip, 
applied it furiously to the head and shoulders of Nicholas. 
It was broken in the struggle ; Nicholas gained the heavy 
handle, and with it laid open one side of his antagonist's face 



4i6 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



from the eye to the lip. He saw the gash ; knew that the mare 
had darted off at a wild mad gallop ; a hundred lights danced 
in his eyes, and he felt himself flung violently upon the ground. 

He was giddy and sick, but staggered to his feet directly, 
roused by the loud shouts of the men who were tearing up the 
street, and screaming to those ahead to clear the way. He 
was conscious of a torrent of people rushing quickly by — look- 
ing up, could discern the cabriolet whirled along the foot 
pavement with frightful rapidity — then heard a loud cry, the 
smashing of some heavy body, and the breaking of glass — 
and then the crowd closed in in the distance, and he could 
see or hear no more. 

The general attention had been entirely directed from 
himself to the person in the carriage, and he was quite alone. 
Rirditlv iudfrins: that under such circumstances it would be 
madness to follow, he turned down a by-street ni search of the 
nearest coach-stand, finding after a minute or two that he was 
reeling like a drunken man, and aware for the first time of a 
stream of blood that was trickling down his face and breast. 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 



IN WHICH MR. RALPH NICKLEBY IS RELIEVED, BY A VERY 
EXPEDITIOUS PROCESS, FROM ALL COMMERCE WITH HIS 
RELATIONS. 

Smike and Newman Noggs, who in his impatience had 
returned home long before the time agreed upon, sat before 
the fire, listening anxiously to every footstep on the stairs, 
and the slightest sound that stirred within the house, for the 
approach of Nicholas. Time had worn on, and it was grow- 
ing late. He had promised to be back in an hour ; and his 
prolonged absence began to excite considerable alarm in the 
minds of both, as was abundantly testified by the blank looks 
they cast upon each other at every new disappointment. 

At length a coach was heard to stop, and Newman ran out 
to light Nicholas up the stairs. Beholding him in the trim 
described at the conclusion of the last chapter, he stood aghast 
in wonder and consternation. 

" Don't be alarmed," said Nicholas, hurrying him back 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 417 

into the room. " There is no harm done, beyond what a basin 
of water can repair." 

" No harm ! " cried Newman, passing his hands hastilj/ 
over the back and arms of Nicholas, as if to assure himself 
that he had broken no bones. "■ What have you been doing ? " 

" f know all," interrupted Nicholas ; " I have heard apart, 
and guessed the rest. But before I remove one jot of these 
stains, I must hear the whole from you. You see I am col- 
lected. My resolution is taken. Now, my good friend, speak 
out ; for the time of any palliation or concealment is past, and 
nothing will avail Ralph Nickleby now." 

" Your dress is torn in several places ; you walk lame, and 
I am sure are suffering pain," said Newman. Let me see 
to your hurts first." 

" I have no hurts to see to, beyond a little soreness and 
stiffness that will soon pass off," said Nicholas, seating him- 
s-^^lf with some difficulty. " But if I had fractured every limb, 
and still preserved my senses, you should not bandage one 
till you had told me what I have the right to know. Come," 
said Nicholas, giving his hand to Noggs. " You had a sister 
of your own, you told me once, who died before you fell into 
misfortune. Now think of her, and tell me, Newman." 

" Yes, I will, I will," said Noggs. " I'll tell you the whole 
truth." 

Newman did so. Nicholas nodded his head from time 
to time, as it corroborated the particulars he had already 
gleaned ; but he fixed his eyes upon the fire, and did not look 
round once. 

His recital ended, Newman insisted upon his young 
friend's stripping off his coat, and allowing whatever injuries 
he had received to be properly tended. Nicholas, after some 
opposition, at length consented, and, while some pretty severe 
bruises on his arms and shoulders were beinsf rubbed with oil 
and vmegar, and various other efficacious remedies which 
Newman borrowed from the different lodgers, related in what 
manner they had been received. The recital made a strong 
impression on the warm imagination of Newman ; for when 
Nicholas came to the violent part of the quarrel, he rubbed 
so hard, as to occasion him the most exquisite pain, which he 
would not have exhibited, however, for the world, it being 
perfectly clear that, for the moment, Newman was operating 
on Sir Mulberry Hawk, and had quite lost sight of his real 
patient. 



4 1 8 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

This martyrdom over, Nicholas arranged with Newman 
that while he was otherwise occupied next morning, arrange- 
ments should be made for his mother's immediately quitting 
her present residence, and also for despatching Miss La 
Creevy to break the intelligence to her. He then wrapped 
himself in Smike's great-coat, and repaired to the inn where 
they were to pass the night, and where (after writing a few 
lines to Ralph, the delivery of which was to be intrusted to 
Newman next day), he endeavored to obtain the repose of 
which he stood so much in need. 

Drunken men, they say, may roll down precipices, and be 
quite unconscious of any serious personal inconvenience when 
their reason returns. The remark may possibly apply to in- 
juries received in other kinds of violent excitement ; certain 
it is, that although Nicholas experienced some pain on first 
awakening next morning, he sprung out of bed as the clock 
struck seven, with very little difficulty, and was soon as much 
on the alert as if nothing had occurred. 

Merely looking into Smike's room, and telling him that 
Newman Noggs would call for him very shortly, Nicholas 
descended into the street, and calling a hackney-coach, bade 
the man drive to Mrs. Wititterly's, according to the direction 
which Newman had given him on the previous night. 

It wanted a quarter to eight when they reached Cadogan 
Place. Nicholas began to fear that no one might be stirring 
at that early hour, when he was relieved by the sight of a 
female servant, employed in cleaning the door-steps. By this 
functionary he was referred to the doubtful page, who ap- 
peared with dishevelled hair and a very warm and glossy face, 
as of a page who had just got out of bed. 

By this young gentleman he was informed that Miss Nick- 
leby was then taking her morning's walk in the gardens be- 
fore the house. On the question being propounded whether 
he could go and find her, the page desponded and thought 
not ; but being slimulated with a shilling, the page grew san- 
guine and thought he could. 

" Say to Miss Nickleby that her brother is here, and in 
great haste to see her," said Nicholas. 

The plated buttons disappeared with an alacrity most un- 
usual to them, and Nicholas paced the room in a state of 
feverish agitation which made the delay even of a minute in- 
supportable. He soon heard a light footstep which he well 
knew, and before he could advance to meet her, Kate had 
fallen on his neck and burst into tears. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 4 , cj 

•'My darling girl," said Nicholas as he embraced her. 
" How pale you are ! " 

" I have been so unhappy here, dear brother," sobbed 
poor Kate ; " so very, very miserable. Do not leave me here, 
dear Nicholas, or I shall die of a broken heart." 

"I will leave you nowhere," answered Nicholas — "never 
again, Kate," he cried, moved in spite of himself as he folded 
her to his heart. ''.Tell me that I acted for the best. Tell 
rne that we parted because T feared to bring misfortune on 
yqu£Keacl I that it,.'^^.^^t4al to me no less than to yourself, 
and that if 1 did wrong it was in ignorance of tlie world and 
i^iknowingly." 

" Why should I tell you what we know so well ? " returned 
Kate soothingly. " Nicholas — dear Nicholas — how can you 
give way thus ? " 

" It is such bitter reproach to me to know what you have 
undergone," returned her brother; "to see you so much 
altered, and yet so kind and patient — God ! " cried Nicholas, 
clenching his fist and suddenly changing his tone and manner, 
" it sets my whole blood on fire again. You must leave here 
with me directly ; you should not have slept here last night, 
but that I knew all this too late. To whom can I speak, be- 
fore we drive away ? " 

This question was most opportunely put, for that instant 
Mr. Wititterly walked in, and to him Kate introduced her 
brother, who at once announced his purpose, and the impossi- 
bility of deferring it. 

" The quarter's notice," said Mr. Wititterly, with the 
gravity of a man on the right side, " is not yet half expired. 
Therefore — " 

" Therefore," interposed Nicholas, " the quarter's salary 
must be lost, sir. You will excuse this extreme haste, but 
circumstances require that I should immediately remove my 
sister, and I have not a moment's time to lose. Whatever 
she brought here I will send for, if you will allow me, in the 
course of the day." 

Mr. Wititterly bowed, but offered no opposition to Kate's 
immediate departure ; with which, indeed, he was rather grati- 
fied than otherwise. Sir Tumley Snufifim having given it as 
his opinion, that she rather disagreed with Mrs. Wititterly's 
constitution. 

" With regard to the trifle of salary that is due," said Mr. 
Wititterly, " T will — " here he was interrupted bv a violent fit 
of coughing — " i will— owe it to Miss Nickleby," 



^2o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



Mr. Wititterly, it should be observed, was accustomed to 
owe small accounts, and to leave them owing. All men have 
some little pleasant way of their own ; and this was Mr. 
Wititterly's. 

" If you please," said Nicholas. And once more offering 
a hurried apology for so sudden a departure, he hurried Kate 
into the vehicle, and bade the man drive with all speed into 
the City. 

To the City they went accordingly, with all the speed the 
hackney-coach could make ; and as the horses happened to live 
at Whitechapel and to be in the habit of taking their break- 
fast there, when they breakfasted at all, they performed the 
journey with greater expedition than could reasonably have 
been expected. 

Nicholas sent Kate up stairs a few minutes before him, 
that his unlooked-for appearance might not alarm liis mother, 
and when the way had been paved, presented himself -with 
much duty and affection. Newman had not been idle, for 
there was a little cart at the door, and the effects were hurry- 
ingjQ.ut already. 
£^aw, Mrs. Nickleby was not the sort of person to be told 
anything in a hurry, or rather to comprehend ^^aflvthing of 
peculiar delicacy or importance on a shojX,,,noticeJ Where- 
fore, although the good lady had been subjected to a full 
hour's preparation by little Miss La Creevy, and was now ad- 
dressed in most lucid terms both by Nicholas and his sister, 
she was in a state of singular bewilderment and confusion, 
and could by no means be made to comprehend the necessity 
of such hurried proceedings. 

" Why don't you ask your uncle, my dear Nicholas, what 
he can possibly mean by it ? " said Mrs. Nickleby. 

"My dear mother," returned Nicholas, "the time for 
talking has gone by. There is but one step to take, and that 
is to cast him off with the scorn and indignation he deserves. 
Your own honor and good name demand that, after the dis- 
covery of his vile proceedings, you should not be beholden to 
him one hour, even for the shelter of these bare walls." 

" To be sure," said Mrs. Nickleby, crying bitterly, " he is 
a brute, a monster ; and the walls are very bare, and want 
painting too, and I ha\e had this ceiling white-washed at the 
expense of eighteen-pence, which is a very distressing thing, 
considering that it is so much gone into your uncle's pocket. 
I never could have believed it — never." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 42 1 

" Nor I, nor anybody else," said Nicholas. 
" Lord bless my life ! " exclaimed Mrs. Nickleby. " To 
think that that Sir Mulberry Hawk should be such an aban- 
doned wretch as Miss La Creevy says he is, Nicholas, my 
dear ; when I was cong;ratulating myself ever}- day on his be- 
ing an admirer of our dear Kate's, and thinking what a thing 
it would be for the family if he was to become connected 
with us, and use his interest to get you some profitable govern- 
ment place. There are very good places to be got about the 
court, I know ; for a friend of ours (Mr. Cropley, at Exeter, 
my dear Kate, you recollect), he had one, and I know that it 
was the chief part of his duty to wear silk stockings, and a 
bag wig like a black watch-pocket ; and to think that it should 
come to this after all — oh, dear, dear, it's enough to kill one, 
that it is ! " With which expressions of sorrow, Mrs. Nickleby 
gave fresh vent to her grief, and wept piteously. 

As Nicholas and his sister were by this time compelled to 
superintend the removal of the few articles of furniture. Miss 
La Creevy devoted herself to the consolation of the matron, 
and observed with great kindness of manner that she must 
really make an effort, and cheer up. 

" Oh I dare say, Miss La Creevy," returned Mrs. Nickle- 
by, with a petulance not unnatural in her unhappy circum- 
stances, " it's very easy to say cheer up, but if you had as many 

occasions to cheer up as I have had and tliere," said Mrs. 

Nickleby, stopping short, " Think of Mr. Pyke and Mr. Pluck, 
two of the most perfect gentlemen that ever lived, what am I 
to say to them — what can I say to them ? Why, if I was to 
say to them, ' I'm told your friend Sir Mulberry is a base 
wretch,' they'd laugh at me." 

" They will laugh no more at us, I take it," said Nicholas, 
advancing. " Come, mother, there is a coach at the door, 
and until Monday, at all events, we will return to our old 
quarters." 

— "Where everything is ready, and a hearty welcome into 
the bargain," added Miss La Creevy. " Now, let me go with 
you down stairs." 

But Mrs. Nickleby w^as not to be so easily moved, for first 
she insisted on going up stairs to see that nothing had been 
left, and then on going down stairs to see that everything had 
been taken away ; and when she was getting into the coach 
she had a vision of a forgotten coffee-pot on the back-kitchen 
hob, and after she was shut in, a dismal recollection of a green 



42 2 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

umbrella behind some unknown door. At last Nicholas, in a 

condition of absolute despair, ordered the coachman to drive 

. away, and in the unexpected jerk of a sudden starting, Mrs. 

/ Nickleby lost a shilling among the straw, which fortunately 

I confined her attention to the coach until it was too late to re- 

\member anything else. 

Having seen everything safely out, discharged the servant, 
and locked the door, Nicholas jumped into a cabriolet and 
drove to a by-place near Golden Square where he had ap- 
pointed to meet Noggs ; and so quickly had everything been 
done, that it was barely half-past nine when he reached the 
place of meeting. 

" Here is the letter for Ralph," said Nicholas, "and here 
the key. When you come to me this evening, not a word of 
last night. Ill news travels fast, and they will know it soon 
enough. Ha\'e you heard if he was much hurt ? " 

Newman shook his head. 

" I will ascertain that, myself, without loss of time," said 
Nicholas. 

" You had better take some rest," returned Newman. " You 
are fevered and ill." 

Nicholas waved his hand carelessly, and concealing the 
indisposition he really felt, now that the excitement which 
had sustained him was over, took a hurried farewell of New- 
man Noggs, ajnd left him. 

Newman was not three minutes' walk from Golden Square, 
but in the course of that three minutes he took the letter out 
of his hat and put it in again twenty times at least. First the 
front, then the back, then the sides, then the superscription, 
then the seal, were objects of Newman's admiration. Then 
he held it at arm's length as if to take in the whole at one 
delicious survey, and then he rubbed his hands in a perfect 
ecstasy with his commission. 

He reached the office, hung his hat on its accustomed peg, 
laid the letter and key upon the desk, and waited impatiently 
until Ralph Nickleby should appear. After a few minutes, 
the well-known creaking of his boots was heard on the stairs, 
and then the bell rung. 

" Has the post come in ? " 

"No." 

" Any other letters ? " 

" One." Newman eyed him closely, and laid it on the 
desk. 



NICHOLAS NICKL EB Y. 423 

"What's this?" asked Ralph, taking up the key. 

" Left with the letter ; — a boy brought them — quarter of 
an hour ago, or less." 

Ralph glanced at the direction, opened the letter, and 
read as follows : 

" You are known to me now. There are no reproaches I 
could heap upon your head which would carry with them one 
thousandth part of the grovelling shame that this assurance 
will awaken even in your breast. 

" Your brother's widow and her orphan child spurn the 
shelter of your roof, and shun you with disgust and loathing. 
Your kindred renounce you, for they know no shame but the 
ties of blood which bind them in name with yoxx. 

" You are an old man, and I leave you to the grave. May 
every recollection of your life cling to your false heart, and 
cast their darkness on your death-bed." 

Ralph Nickleby read this letter twice, and frowning heav- 
ily, fell into a fit of musing ; the paper fluttered from his hand 
and dropped upon the floor, but he clasped his fingers, as if 
he held it still. 

Suddenl}^, he started from his seat, and thrusting it all 
crumpled into his pocket, turned furiously to Newman Noggs, 
as though to ask him why he lingered. But Newman stood 
unmoved, with his back towards him, following up, with the 
worn and blackened stump of an old pen, some figures in an 
Interest-table which was pasted against the wall, and appar- 
ently quite abstracted from every other object. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 



WHEREIN MR. RALPH NICKLEBY IS VISITED BY PERSONS WITH 
WHOM THE READER HAS BEEN ALREADY MADE ACQUAINTED. 

" What a demnition long time you have kept me ringing 
at this confounded old cracked tea-kettle of a bell, every tin- 
kle of which is enough to throw a strong man into blue 
convulsions, upon my life and soul, oh demmit," said Mr. 
Mantalini to Newman Noggs, scraping his boots, as he spoke, 
on Ralph Nickleby's scraper. 



424 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 

" I didn't hear the bell more than once," replied New- 
man. 

" Then you are most immensely and outr/geously deaf," 
said Mr. Mantalini, " as deaf as a demnition post." 

Mr. Mantalini had got by this time into the passage, and 
was making his way to the door of Ralph's office with very 
little ceremony, when Newman interposed his body ; and 
hinting that Mr. Nickleby was unwilling to be disturbed, in- 
quired whether the client's business was of a pressing nature. 

" It is most demnebly particular," said Mr. Mantalini. 
" It is to melt some scraps of dirty paper into bright, shining, 
chinking, tinkhng, demd mint sauce." 

Newman uttered a significant grunt, and taking Mr. Man- 
talini's proffered card, limped with it into his master's ofhce. 
As he thrust his head in at the door, he saw that Ralph had 
resumed the thoughtful posture into which he had fallen after 
perusing his nephew's letter, and that he seemed to have been 
reading it again, as he once more held it open in his hand. 
The glance was but momentary, for Ralph, being disturbed, 
turned to demand the cause of the interruption. 

As Newman stated it, the cause himself, swaggered into 
the room, and grasping Ralph's horny hand with uncommon 
affection, vowed that he had never seen him looking so well 
in all his life. 

"There is quite a bloom upon your demd countenance," 
said Mr. Mantalini, seating himself unbidden, and arranging 
his hair and whiskers. " You look quite juvenile and jolly, 
demmit ! " 

" We are alone," returned Ralph, tartly. " What do you 
want with me ? " 

" Good ! " cried Mr. Mantalini, displaying his teeth. 
" What did I want ! Yes. Ha, ha ! Very good. What did 
I want. Ha, ha. Oh dem ! " 

" \\' hat do you want, man ? " demanded Ralph, sternly. 

" Demnition discount," returned Mr. Mantalini, with a 
grin, and shaking his head waggishly. 

" Money is scarce," said Ralph. 

" Demd scarce, or I shouldn't want it," internipted Mr. 
Mantalini. 

" The times are bad, and one scarcely knows whom to 
trust," continued Ralph. " I don't want to do business just 
now, in fact I would rather not ; but as you are a friend — how 
many bills have you there ? " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 425 

" Two," returned Mr. Mantalini. 

" What is the gross amount ? " 

" Demd trifling. Five-and-seventy." 

" And the dates ? " 

" Two months, and four." 

"I'll do them for you — wivaA, iox you ; I wouldn't for 
many people — for five-and-twenty pounds," said Ralph, delib- 
erately. 

" Oh demmit ! " cried Mr. Mantalini, whose face length- 
ened considerably at tliis handsome proposal. 

" Why, that leaves you fifty," retorted Ralph. " What 
would you have ? Let me see the names." 

" You are so demd hard, Nickleby," remonstrated Mr. 
Mantalini. 

" Let me see the names," replied Ralph, impatiently ex- 
tending his hand for the bills. " Well ! They are not sure, 
but they are safe enough. Do j'^ou consent to the terms, and 
will you take the money .-• I don't want you to do so. I 
would rather you didn't." 

" Demmit, Nickleby, can't you — " began Mr. Mantalini. 

" No," replied Ralph, interrupting him. " I can't. Will 
you take the money — down, mind ; no delay, no going into 
the city and pretending to negotiate with some other party 
who has no existence and never had. Is it a bargain or is it 
not ? " 

Ralph pushed some papers from him as he spoke, and 
carelessly rattled his cash-box, as though by mere accident. 
The sound was too much for Mr. Mantalini. He closed the 
bargain directly it reached his ears, and Ralph told the money 
out upon the table. 

He had scarcely done so, and Mr. Mantalini had not yet 
gathered it all up, when a ring was heard at the bell, and im- 
mediately afterwards Newman ushered in no less a person 
than Madame Mantalini, at sight of whom Mr. Mantalini 
evinced considerable discomposure, and swept the cash into 
his pocket with remarkable alacrity. 

" Oh, you ai-e here," said Madame Mantalini, tossing her 
head. 

" Yes, my life and soul, I am," replied her husband, drop- 
ping on his knees, and pouncing with kitten-like playfulness 
upon a stray sovereign. " I am here, my soul's delight, upon 
Tom Tiddler's ground, picking up the demnition gold and 
silver." 



426 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



" I am ashamed of you," said Madame Mantalini, with 
much indignation. 

" Ashamed ? Of me, my joy ? It knows it is talking 
demd charming sweetness, but naughty fibs," returned Mr. 
MantaUni. " It knows it is not ashamed of its own popo- 
lorum tibby." 

Wliatever were the circumstances which had led to such a 
result, it certainly appeared as though the popolorum tibby 
had rather miscalculated, for the nonce, the extent of his lady's 
affection. Madame Mantalini only looked scornful in reply, 
and, turning to Ralph, begged him to excuse her intrusion. 

"Which is entirely attributable," said Madame, "to the 
gross misconduct and most improper behavior of Mr. Man- 
talini." 

" Of me, my essential juice of pine-apple ! " 

" Of you," returned his wife. " But I will not allow it. I 
will not submit to be ruined by the extravagance and prof- 
ligacy of any man. I call Mr. Nickleby to witness the course 
I intend to pursue with you." 

" Pray don't call me to witness anything, ma'am," said 
Ralph. " Settle it between yourselves, settle it between j^our- 
selves." 

" No, but I must beg you as a favor," said Madame Man- 
talini, " to hear me gi\e him notice of what it is my fixed 
intention to do — my fixed intention, sir," repeated Madame 
Mantalini, darting an angry look at her husband. 

" Will she calT me, ' Sir ' ! " cried Mantalini. " Me who 
doat upon her with the demdest ardor ! She, who coils her 
fascinations round me like a pure and angelic rattlesnake ! It 
will be all up with my feelings ; she will throw me into a demd 
state." 

"Don't talk of feelings, sir," rejoined Madame Mantalini, 
seating herself, and turning her back upon him. " You don't 
consider mine." 

" I do not consider j^ours, my soul ! " exclaimed Mr. Man- 
talini. 

" No," replied his wife. 

And notwithstanding various blandishments on the part of 
Mr. Mantalini, Madame Mantalini still said no, and said it 
too with such determined and resolute ill-temper, that Mr. 
Mantalini was clearly taken aback. 

" His extravagance, Mr. Nickleby," said Madame Man- 
talini, addressing herself to Ralph, who leant against his 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



427 



Kasy-chair wlLh his hands behind him, and regarded the 
amiable couple with a smile of the supremest and most 
unmitigated contempt, " his extravagance is beyond all 
bounds." 

" I should scarcely have supposed it," answered Ralph 
sarcastically. 

" I assure you, Mr. Nickleby, however, that it is," re- 
turned Madame Mantalini. " It makes me miserable. I am 
under constant apprehensions and in constant difficulty. 
And even this," said Madame Mantalini, wiping her eyes, '' is 
not the worst. He took some papers of value out of my desk 
this morning without asking my permission." 

Mr. Mantalini groaned slightly, and buttoned his trouser's 
pocket. 

"I am obliged," continued Madame Mantalini, "since our 
late misfortunes, to pay Miss Knagg a great deal of money 
for having her name in the business, and I really cannot 
afford to encourage him in all his wastefulness. As I have 
no doubt that he came straight here, Mr. Nickleby, to con- 
vert the papers I have spoken of into money, and as you 
have assisted us very often before, and are very much con- 
nected with us in this kind of matters, 1 wish you to know 
the determination at which his conduct has compelled me 
to arrive." 

Mr. Mantalini groaned once more from behind his wife's 
bonnet, and fitting a sovereign into one of his eyes, winked 
with the other at Ralph. Having achieved this performance 
with great dexterity, he whipped the coin into his pocket, and 
groaned again with increased penitence. 

" I have made up my mind," said Madame Mantalini, as 
tokens of impatience manifested themselves in Ralph's coun- 
tenance, "to allowance him." 

" To do what, my joy .'' " inquired Mr. Mantalini, who did 
not seem to have caught the words. 

" To put him," said Madame Mantalini, looking at Ralph, 
and prudently abstaining from the slightest glance at her hus- 
band, lest his many graces should induce her to falter in her 
resolution, " to put him upon a fixed allowance ; and I say 
that if he has a hundred and twenty pounds a-year for his 
clothes and pocket-money, he may consider himself a very 
fortunate man." 

Mr. Mantalini waited, with much decorum, to hear the 
amount of the proposed stipend, but when it reached his ears, 



428 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

he cast his hat and cane upon the floor, and drawing out his 
pocket-handkerchief, gave vent to his feehngs in a dismal 
moan. 

" Demnition ! " cried Mr. Mantalini, suddenly skipping 
out of his chair, and as suddenly skipping into it again, to the 
great discomposure of his lady's nerves. " But no. It is a 
demd horrid dream. It is not reality. No ! " 

Comforting himself with this assurance, Mr. Mantalini 
closed his eyes and waited patiently till such time as he should 
wake up. 

" A very judicious arrangement," observed Ralph with a 
sneer, " if your husband will keep within it, ma' am — as no 
doubt he will." 

" Demmit ! " exclaimed Mr. Mantalini, opening his eyes 
at the sound of Ralph's voice, " it is a horrid reality. She is 
sitting there before me. There is the graceful outline of her 
form ; it cannot be mistaken — there is nothing like it. The 
two countesses had no outlines at all, and the dowager's was 
a demd outline. Why is she so excruciatingly beautiful that 
I cannot be angry with her, even now ? " 

" You have brought it upon yourself, Alfred," returned 
Madame Mantalini — still reproachfully, but in a softened tone. 

" I am a demd villain ! " cried Mr. Mantalini, smiting 
himself on the head. " I will fill my pockets with change for 
a sovereign in halfpence and drown myself in the Thames ; 
but I will not be angry with her, even then, for I will put a 
note in the twopenny-post as I go along, to tell her where the 
body is. She will be a lovely widow. I shall be a body. 
Some handsome women will cry ; she will laugh demnebly." 

" Alfred, you cruel, cruel, creature," said Madame Manta- 
lini, sobbing at the dreadful picture. 

" She calls me cruel — me — me — who for her sake will be- 
come a demd, damp, moist, unpleasant body ! " exclaimed 
Mr. Mantalini. 

" You know it almost breaks my heart, even to hear you 
talk of such a thing, replied Madame Mantalini. 

" Can I live to be mistrusted 1 " cried her husband. 
" Have I cut my heart into a demd extraordinary number ot 
little pieces, and given them all away, one after another, to 
the same little engrossing demnition captivater, and can I live 
to be suspected by !ier ! Demmit, no I can't." 

" Ask Mr. Nickleby whether the sum I have mentioned is 
not a proper one," reasoned Madame Mantalini. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 429 

" I don't want any sum," replied her disconsolate husband ; 
" I shall require no demd allowance. I will be a body." 

On this repetition of Mr. Mantalini's fatal threat, Madame 
Mantalini wrung her hands, and implored the interference of 
Ralph Nickleby ; and after a great quantity of tears and talk- 
ing, and several attempts on the, part of Mr. Mantalini to 
reach the door, preparatory to straightway committing vio- 
lence upon himself, that gentleman w^as prevailed upon with 
difficulty, to promise that he wouldn't be a body. This great 
pomt attained, Madame Mantalini argued the question of the 
allowance, and Mr. Mantalini did the same, taking occasion 
to show that he could live with uncommon satisfaction upon 
bread and water, and go clad in rags, but that he could not 
support existence with the additional burden of being mis- 
trusted by the object of his most devoted and disinterested 
affection. This brought fresh tears into Madame Mantalini's 
eyes, which ha\ing just begun to open to some few of the de- 
merits of Mr. Mantalini, were only open a very little way, and 
could be easily closed again. The result was, that without 
quite giving up the allowance question Madame Mantalini 
postponed its further consideration ; and Ralph saw, clearly 
enough, that Mr. Mantalini had gained a fresh lease of his 
easy life, and that, for some time longer at all events, his deg- 
radation and downfall were postponed. 

" But it will come soon enough," thought Ralph ; " all_ 
l ove— ba h ! that I should use the cant of boys and girls^s 
fie e 1 1 ji^glTpugTi ; "though that which has its sole root in the 
admiration of a whiskered face like that of yonder baboon, 
perhaps lasts the longest, as it originates in the greater blind- 
ness and is fed by vanity. Meantime the fools bring grist to 
my mill, so let them live out their day, and the longer it is, 
the better." 

These agreeable reflections occurred to Ralph Nickleby, 
as sundry small caresses and endearments, supposed to be 
unseen, were exchanged between the objects of his thoughts. 

" If you have nothing more to say, my dear, to Mr. 
Nickleby," said Madame Mantalini, " we will take our leaves. 
I am sure we have detained him much too long already." 

Mr. Mantalini answered, in the first instance, by tapping 
Madame Mantalini several times on the nose, and then, by 
remarking in words that he had nothing more to say. 

" Demmit ! I have, though," he added almost immediately, 
drawing Ralph into a corner. " Here's an affair about 3'our 



^3o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

friend Sir Mulberry. Such a demd extraordinary out-of-the- 
way kind of thing as never was ! " 

" What do you mean ? " asked Ralph. 

" Don't you know, demmit ? " asked Mr. Mantalini. 

" I see by the paper that he was thrown from his cabriolet 
last night, and severely injujed, and that his life is in some 
danger," answered Ralph with great composure ; " but I see 
nothing extraordinary in that. Accidents are not miraculous 
events, when men live hard, and drive after dinner." 

" Whew I " cried Mr. Mantalini in a long shrill whistle. 
" Then don't you know how it was ? " 

" Not unless it was as I have just supposed," replied 
Ralph, shrugging his shoulders carelessly, as if to give his 
questioner to "understand that he had no curiosity upon the 
subject. 

'"• Demmit, you amaze me! " cried Mantalini. 

Ralph shrugged his shoulders again, as if it were no great 
feat to amaze Mr. Mantalini, and cast a wistful glance at the 
face of Newman Noggs, which had se\eral times appeared 
behind a couple of panes of glass in the room door ; it being 
a part of Newman's duty, when unimportant people called, to 
make various feints of supposing that the bell had rung for 
him to show them out ; by way of a gentle hint to such vis- 
itors that it was time to go. 

" Don't you know," said Mr. Mantalini, taking Ralph by 
the button, '' that it wasn't an accident at all, but a demd, 
furious, manslaughtering attack made upon him by your 
nephew ? " 

"What! " snarled Ralph, clenching his fists and turning 
a li\id white. 

" Demmit, Nickleby, you're as great a tiger as he is," said 
Mantalini, alarmed at these demonstrations. 

, " Go on," cried Ralph. " Tell me what you mean. What 
is this stor\' ? Who told you ? Speak," growled Ralph. " Do 
you hear me ? " 

" 'Gad, Nickleby," said Mr. Mantalini, retreating towards 
his wife, " what a demneble fierce old evil genius you are I 
You're enough to frighten my life and soul out of her little 
delicious wits— Hying all at once into such a blazing, ra\aging, 
raging passion as never was, demmit ! " 

"Pshaw," rejoined Ralph, forcing a smile. "It is but 
manner." 

" It is a demd uncomfortable, private-madhouse-sort of 
manner," said Mr. Mantalini, picking up his cane. 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 43 1 

Ralph affected to smile, and once more inquired from 
whom Mr. Mantalini had derived his information. 

"From Pyke. And a demd, fine, pleasant, gentlemanly 
dog it is," replied Mantalini. " Demnition pleasant, and a 
tip-top sawyer." 

" And what said he ? " asked Ralph, knitting his brows, 

" That it happened this way — that your nephew met him 
at a coffee-house, fell upon him with the most demneble fe- 
rocity, followed him to his cab, swore he would ride home with 
him, if he rode upon the horse's back or hooked himself on to 
the horse's tail, smashed his countenance, which is a demd 
fine countenance in its natural state, frightened the horse, 
pitched out Sir Mulberry and himself, and — " 

" And was killed ? " interposed Ralph with gleaming eyes, 
" Was he ? Is he dead .? " 

Mantalini shook his head. 

" Ugh," said Ralph, turning away. " Then he has done 
nothing. Stay ! " he added, looking round again. " He broke 
a leg or an arm, or put his shoulder out, or fractured his col- 
lar-bone, or ground a rib or two ? His neck was saved for 
the halter, but he got- some painful and slow-healing injury 
for his trouble } Did he ? You must have heard that, at 
least." 

"No," rejoined Mantalini, shaking his head again. " Un- 
less he was clashed into such little pieces that they blew away, 
he wasn't hurt, for he went off as quiet and comfortable as 
— as — as demnition," said Mr. Mantalini, rather at a loss for 
a simile. 

" And what," said Ralph, hesitating a little, " what was 
the cause of quarrel .'' " 

"You are the demdest,knowinghand," replied Mr. Manta- 
lini, in an admiring tone, "the cunningest, rummest, superlativ- 
est old fox — oh dem ! — to pretend now not to know that it was 
the little bright-eyed niece — the softest, sweetest, prettiest " 

" Alfred ! " interposed Madame Mantalini. 

" She is always right," rejoined Mr. Mantalini soothingly, 
" and when she says it is time to go, it is time, and so she 
shall ; and when she walks along the streets with her own 
tulip, the women shall say with envy, she has got a demd fine 
husband ; and the men shall say with rapture, he has got a 
demd fine wife ; and they shall both be right and neither wrong, 
upon my life and soul — oh demmit ! " 

With which remarks, and many more, no less intellectual 



432 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



and to the purpose, Mr. Mantalini kissed the fin_a;ers of his 
gloves to Ralph Nickleby, and drawing his lady's arm through 
his, led her mincingly away. 

"So, so," muttered Ralph dropping into his chair; "this 
devil is loose again, and thwarting me, as he was born to do, 
at every turn. He told me once there should be a day of 
reckoning between us, sooner or later. I'll make him a true 
prophet, for it shall surely come." 

"Are you at home.''" asked Newman, suddenly popping 
in his head. 

" No," replied Ralph, with equal abruptness. 

Newman withdrew his head, but thrust it in again. 

" You're quite sure you're not at home, are you ? " said 
Newman. 

" What does the idiot mean .' " cried Ralph, testily. 

" He has been waiting nearly ever since they first came in, 
and may have heard your voice ; that's all," said Newman, 
rubbing his hands. 

" Who has .'' " demanded Ralph, wrought by the intelligence 
he had just heard, and his clerk's provoking coolness, to an 
intense pitch of irritation. 

The necessity of a reply was superseded by the unlooked- 
for entrance of a third party — the individual in question — who, 
bringing his one eye (for he had but one) to bear on Ralph 
Nickleby, made a great many shambling bows, and sat him- 
self down in an arm chair, with his hands on his knees, and 
,his short black trousers drawn up so high in the legs by the 
exertion of seating himself, that they scarcely reached below 
the tops of his Wellington boots. 

"Why, this is a surprise !" said Ralph, bending his gaze 
upon the visitor, and half smiling as he scrutinized him atten- 
tively ; " I should know your face, Mr. Squeers." 

" Ah ! " replied, that worthy, " and you have know'd it 
better, sir, if it hadn't been for all that I've been a going 
through. Just lift that little boy off the tall stool in the back 
ofilice, and tell hini to come in here, will you, my man ? " said 
Squeers, addressing himself to Newman. " Oh, he's lifted his- 
self off ! My son, sir, little Wackford. What do you think of 
him, sir, for a specimen of the Dotheboys Hall feeding? 
Ain't he fit to bust out of his clothes, and start the seams, and 
make the very buttons fly off with his fatness ? Here's flesh ! " 
cried Squeers, turning the boy about, and indenting the 
plumpest parts of his figure with divers pokes and punches, to 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 432 

the great discomposure of his son and heir. " Here's firm- 
ness, here's solidness ! Why you can hardly get up enough 
of him between your finger and thumb to pinch him any- 
wheres." 

In however good condition Master Squeers might have 
been, he certainly did not present this remarkable "compact- 
ness of person, for on his father's closing his finger and 
thumb in illustration of his remark, he uttered a sharp cry, 
and rubbed the place in the most natural manner possible. 

"Well," remarked Squeers, a little disconcerted, "I had 
him there ; but that's because we breakfasted early this morn- 
ing, and he hasn't had his lunch yet. Why you couldn't shut 
a bit of him in a door, when he's had his dinner. Look at 
them tears, sir," said Squeers, with a triumphant air, as Master 
Wackford wiped his eyes with the cufif of his jacket, " there's 
oiliness ! " 

" He looks well, indeed," returned Ralph, who, for some 
purposes of his own, seemed desirous to conciliate the school- 
master. " But how is Mrs. Squeers, and how are you ? " 

" Mrs. Squeers, sir," replied the proprietor of Dothe- 
boys,_ " is as she always is — a motlier to them lads, and a 
blessing, and a comfort, and a joy to all them as knows her. 
One of our boys — gorging his-self with \ittles, and then turning 
ill ; that's their way — got a abscess on him last week. To 
see how she operated upon him with a penknife ! Oh Lor ! " 
said Squeers, heaving a sigh, and nodding his head a great 
many times, " what a member of society that woman is ! " 

Mr. Squeers indulged in a retrospective look, for some 
quarter of a minute, as if this allusion to his lady's excellences 
had naturally led his mind to the peaceful village of Dothe- 
boys near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire ; and he then looked at 
Ralph, as if waiting for him to say something. 

" Have you quite recovered that scoundrel's attack ? " 
asked Ralph. 

" I've only just done it, if I've done it now," replied 
Squeers. " I was one blessed bruise, sir," said Squeers, touch- 
ing first the roots of his hair, and then the toes of his boots, 
'■'ixova here \o there. Vinegar and brown paper, vinegar and 
brown paper, from morning to night. I suppose tliere was 
a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me, from 
first to last. As I laid all of a heap in our kitchen, plastered all 
over, you might have thought I was a large brown paper par- 
cel, chock full of nothing but groans. Did I groan loud, 

28 



434 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 

Wackford, or did I groan soft ? " asked Mr. Squeers, appeal- 
ing to his son. 

" Loud," replied Wackford. 

" Was the boys sorry to see me in such a dreadful condi- 
tion, Wackford, or was they glad ? " asked Mr. Squeers, in a 
sentimental manner. 

"Gl— " 

" Eh ? " cried Squeers, turning sharp round. 

" Sorry," rejoined the son. 

" Oh ! " said Squeers, catching him a smart box on the 
ear. " Then take your hands out of your pockets, and don't 
stammer when you're asked a question. Hold your noise, 
sir, in a gentleman's office, or I'll run away from my family 
and never come back any more ; and then what would be- 
come of all them precious and forlorn lads as would be let 
loose on the world, without their best friend at their elbers ! " 

" Were you obliged to have medical attendance ? " in- 
quired Ralph. 

"Ay, was I," rejoined Squeers, "and a precious bill the 
medical attendant brought in too ; but I paid it though." 

Ralph elevated his eyebrows in a manner which might be 
well expressive of either sympathy or astonishment. Just as 
the beholder was pleased to take it. 

"Yes, I paid it, every farthing," replied Squeers, who 
seemed to know the man he had to deal with too well to 
suppose that any blinking of the question would induce him 
to subscribe towards the expenses ; " 1 wasn't out of pocket 
by it after all, either." 

" No > " said Ralph. 

" Not a halfpenny," replied Squeers. " The fact is, we 
have only one extra with our boys, and that is for doctors 
when required — and not then, unless we're sure of our cus- 
tomers. Do you see .' " 

" I understand," said Ralph. 

" Very good," rejoined Squeers. " Then, after my bill 
was run up, we picked out five little boys (sons of small 
tradesmen, as was sure pay) that had never had the scarlet 
fever, and we sent one to a cottage where they'd got it. and 
he took it, and then we put the four others to sleep with him, 
and they took it, and then the doctor came and attended 
'em once all round, and we divided my total among 'em and 
added it on their little bills, and the parents paid it. Ha ! 
ha ! ha ' " 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB V. 



435 



"And a good plan too," said Ralph, eyeing the school- 
master stealthily. 

" 1 believe you," rejoined Squeers. " We always do it. 
Why, when Mrs. Squeers was brought to bed with little 
Wackford here, we ran the hooping-cough through half a 
dozen boys, and charged her expenses among 'em, monthly 
nurse included. Ha ! ha 1 ha ! " 

Ralph never laughed, but on this occasion he produced 
the nearest approach to it that he could, and waiting until 
Mr. Squeers had enjoyed the professional joke to his heart's 
content, inquired what had brought him to town. 

" Some bothering law business," replied Squeers, scratch- 
ing his head, " connected with an action, for what they call 
neglect of a boy. I don't know what they would have. He 
had as good grazing, that boy had, as there is about us." 

Ralph looked as if he did not quite understand the obser- 
vation. 

"Grazing," said Squeers, raising his voice, under the im- 
pression that as Ralph failed to comprehend him, he must be 
deaf. '' When a boy gets weak and ill and don't relish his 
meals, we give him a change of diet — turn him out, for an 
hour or so every day, into a neighbor's turnip field, or some- 
times, if it's a delicate case, a turnip field a piece- of carrots 
alternately, and let him eat as many as he likes. There ain't 
better land in the county than this perwerse lad grazed on, 
and yet he goes and catches cold and indigestion and what 
not, and then his friends brings a lawsuit against me/ Now, 
you'd hardly suppose," added Squeers, moving in his chair 
with the impatience of an ill-used man, " that people's ingrati- 
tude would carry them quite as far as that ; would you ? " 

" A hard case, indeed," observed Ralph. 

" You don't say more than the truth when you say that," 
replied Squeers. " I don't suppose there's a man going, as 
possesses the fondness for youth that I do. There's youth 
to the amount of eight hundred pound a-year, at Dotheboys 
Hall at this present time. I'd take si.xteen hundred pound 
worth, if I could get 'em, and be as fond of ever}- individual 
twenty pound among 'em as nothing should equal it ? " 

" Are you stopping at your old quarters ? " asked Ralph. 

"Yes, we are to the Saracen," replied Squeers, "and as it 
don't want very long to the end of the half-year, we shall 
continney to sto]) there, till I've collected the money, and 
some new boys too, I hope. I've brought little Wackford up, 



43^ 



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 



on purpose to show to parents and guardians. I shall put 
him in the advertisement, this time. Look at that boy — him- 
self a pupil. Why he's a miracle of high feeding, that boy 

is ! " 

" I should like to have a word with you," said Ralph, who 
had both spoken and listened mechanically for some time, 
and seemed to have been thinking. 

"As many words as you like, sir," rejoined Squeers. 
" Wackford, you go and play in the back office, and don't 
move about too much, or you'll get thin, and that won't do. 
you haven't got such a thing as twopence, Mr. Nickleby, have 
you ? " said Squeers, rattling a bunch of keys in his coat 
pocket, and muttering something about its being all silver, 

" I — think I have," said Ralph, very slowly, and produc- 
ing, after much rummaging in an old drawer, a penny, a half- 
penny, and two farthings. 

" Thankee," said Squeers, bestowing it upon his son. 
" Here ! You go and buy a tart — Mr. Nickleby's man will 
show you where — -and mind you buy a rich one. Pastry," added 
Squeers, closing the door on Master Wackford, " makes his 
flesh shine a good deal, and parents thinks that a healthy 



sign." 



With this explanation, and a peculiarly knowing look to 
eke it out, Mr. Squeers moved his chair so as to bring him- 
self opposite to Ralph Nickleby at no great distance off ; and 
having planted it to his entire satisfaction, sat down. 

" Attend to me," said Ralph, bending forward a little. 

Squeers nodded. 

" I am not to suppose," said Ralph, " that you are dolt 
enough to forgive or forget, ver}' readily, the violence that 
was committed upon you, or the exposure whicl? accompanied 
it ? " 

"Devil a bit," replied Squeeis, tartly. 

"Or to lose an opportunity of repaying it with interest, 
if you could get one ? " said Ralph. 

" Show me one, and try," rejoined Squeers. 

" Some such object it was, that induced you to call on 
me ? " said Ralph, raising his eyes to the schoolmaster's face. 

"N — n — no, I don't know that," replied Squeers. "I 
thought that if it was in your power to make me, besides the 
trifle of money you sent, any compensation " 

"Ah ! " cried Ralph, interrupting him. " You needn't go 
on." 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 43 7 

After a long pause, during which Ralph appeared ab- 
sorbed in contemplation, he again broke silence, by asking : 

" Who is this boy that he took with him ? " 

Squeers stated his name. 

" Was he young or old, healthy or sickly, tractable or 
rebellious ? Speak out, man," retorted Ralph. 

" Why, he wasn't young," answered Squeers ; " that is, 
not young for a boy, you know." 

" That is, he was not a boy at all, I suppose .'' " interrupted 
Ralph. 

" Well," returned Squeers briskly, as if he felt relieved by 
the suggestion, " he might have been nigh twenty. He 
wouldn't seem so old, though, to them as didn't know him, for 
he was a little wanting here," touching his forehead ; " nobody 
at home you know, if you knocked ever so often." 

" And you did knock pretty often,. I dare say ? " muttered 
Ralph. 

" Pretty well," returned Squeers with a grin. 

" W^ien you wrote to acknowledge the receipt of this trifle 
of money as you call it," said Ralph, " you told me his friends 
had deserted him long ago, and that you had not the faintest 
clue or trace to tell you who he was. Is that the truth >. " 

" It is, worse luck ! " replied Squeers, becoming more and 
more easy and familiar in his manner, as Ralph pursued his 
inquiries with the less reserve. " It's fourteen 3-ears ago, by 
the entr}^ in my book, since a strange man brought him to my 
place, one autumn night, and left him there : paying five 
pound five, for his first quarter in advance. He might have 
been five or six year old at that time, not more." 

" What more do you know about him t " demanded Ralph. 

" Devilish little, I'm sorry to say," replied Squeers. " The 
money was paid, for some six or eight year, and then it 
stopped. He had given an address in London, had this 
chap ; but when it came to the point, of course nobody know- 
ed any thing about him. So I kept the lad out of — out of — " 

" Charity .-' " suggested Ralph dryly. 

" Charity, to be sure," returned Squeers, rubbing his knees, 
" and when he begins to be useful in a certain sort of way, 
this young scoundrel of a Nickleby comes and carries him 
off. But the most vexatious and aggeravating part of the 
whole affair is," said Squeers, dropping his voice, and drawing 
his chair still closer to Ralph, " that some questions have 
been asked about him at last ; not of me, but, in a round- 



438 



NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 



about kind of way, of people in our village. So, that just when 
1 might have had all arrears paid up, perhaps, and perhaps — 
who "knows ? such things have happened in our business be- 
fore — a present besides for putting him out to a farmer, or 
sending him to sea, so that he might never turn up to disgrace 
his parents, supposing him to be a natural boy, as many of 
our boys are — damme, if that villain of a Nickleby don't col- 
lar him in open day, and commit as good as highway robbery 
upon my pocket." 

" We will both cry quits with him before long," said Ralph, 
laying his hand on the arm of the Yorkshire schoolmaster. 

" Quits ! " echoed Squeers. " Ah ! and I should like to 
leave a small balance in his favor, to be settled when he can. 
I only wish Mrs. Squeers could catch hold of him. Bless 
her heart ! She'd murder him, Mr. Nickleby. She would, as 
soon as eat her dinner."- 

" We will talk of this again," said Ralph. " I must have 
time to think of it. To wound him through his own affections 

and fancies . If I could strike him through this boy " 

" Strike him how you like, sir," interrupted Squeers, "only 
hit him hard enough, that's all. And with that, I'll say good- 
morning. Here ! — just chuck that little boy's hat off that 
corner-peg, and lift him off the stool, will you ? " 

Bawling these requests to Newman Noggs, Mr. Squeers 
betook himself to the little back office, and fitted on his child's 
hat with parental anxiety, while Newman, with his pen behind 
his ear, sat, stiff and immovable, on his stool, regarding the 
father and son by turns with a broad stare. 

" He's a fine boy, an't he ? " said Squeers, throwing his 
head a little on one' side, and falling back to the desk, the 
better to estimate the proportions of little Wackford. 
" Very," said Newman. 

"Pretty well swelled out, an't he?" pursued Squeers. 
" He has the fatness of twenty boys, he has." 

" Ah ! " replied Newman, suddenly thrusting his face into 
that of Squeers, " he has ;— the fatness of twenty ! — more ! 
He's got it all. God help the others. Ha ! ha ! Oh Lord ! " 
Having uttered these fragmentar)' observations, Newman 
dropped upon his desk and began to write with most marvel- 
lous rapidity. 

" Why, what does the man mean ? "cried Squeers coloring. 
"Is he drunk.?" 

Newman made no reply. 



XICIIOLAS NICK'LEB Y. 439 

" Is he mad ? " said Squeers. 

But, still Newman betrayed no consciousness of any pres- 
ence save his own ; so, Mr. Squeers comforted himself by 
saying that he was both drunk rt«^ mad ; and, with this part- 
ing observation, he led his hopeful son away. 

In exact proportion as Ralph Nickleby became conscious 
of a struggling and lingering regard for Kate, had his detesta- 
tion of Nicholas augmented. It might be, that to atone for 
the weakness of inclining to any one person, he held it neces- 
sar)- to hate some other, more intensely than before ; but such 
had been the course of his feelings. And now, to be defied 
and spurned, to be held up to her in the worst and most re- 
pulsive colors, to know that she was taught to hate and de- 
spise him, to feel that there was infection in his touch, and 
taint in his companionship — to know all this, and to know 
that the mover of it all was that same boyish poor relation 
who had twitted him in their verv' first interview, and openly 
bearded and braved him since, wrought his quiet and s t^ ealtlw 
malisfnitv to such a pitch, that there was scarcely anytliing He 
would not have hazarded \c> gratify it, if he could have seen 
his way to some immediate ixtaliaiii 11. 

But, fortunately for Nicholas, Ralph Nickleby did not ; 
and although he cast about, all that day, and kept a corner of 
his brain working on the one anxious subject through all the 
round of schemes and business that came with it, night found 
him at l