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Nickel By

Nickel By

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  • CHAPTER 10
  • CHAPTER 11
  • CHAPTER 12
  • CHAPTER 13
  • CHAPTER 14
  • CHAPTER 15
  • CHAPTER 16
  • CHAPTER 17
  • CHAPTER 18
  • CHAPTER 19
  • CHAPTER 20
  • CHAPTER 21
  • CHAPTER 22
  • CHAPTER 23
  • CHAPTER 24
  • CHAPTER 25
  • CHAPTER 26
  • CHAPTER 27
  • CHAPTER 28
  • CHAPTER 29
  • CHAPTER 30
  • CHAPTER 31
  • CHAPTER 32
  • CHAPTER 33
  • CHAPTER 34
  • CHAPTER 35
  • CHAPTER 36
  • CHAPTER 37
  • CHAPTER 38
  • CHAPTER 39
  • CHAPTER 40
  • CHAPTER 41
  • CHAPTER 42
  • CHAPTER 43
  • CHAPTER 44
  • CHAPTER 45
  • CHAPTER 46
  • CHAPTER 47
  • CHAPTER 48
  • CHAPTER 49
  • CHAPTER 50
  • CHAPTER 51
  • CHAPTER 52
  • CHAPTER 53
  • CHAPTER 54
  • CHAPTER 55
  • CHAPTER 56
  • CHAPTER 57
  • CHAPTER 58
  • CHAPTER 59
  • CHAPTER 60
  • CHAPTER 61
  • CHAPTER 62
  • CHAPTER 63
  • CHAPTER 64
  • CHAPTER 65


containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complete Career of the Nickelby Family

by Charles Dickens

A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complete Career of the Nickelby Family by Charles Dickens is a publication of the Penn-

sylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without any charge of any kind. Any person using this document file, for any purpose, and in any way does so at his or her own risk. Neither the Pennsylvania State University nor Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, nor anyone associated with the Pennsylvania State University assumes any responsibility for the material contained within the document or for the file as an electronic transmission, in any way.
THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complete Career of the Nickelby Family by Charles Dickens, the Pennsylvania State

University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18201-1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make use of them. Cover Design: Jim Manis Copyright © 2000 The Pennsylvania State University

The Pennsylvania State University is an equal opportunity university.

Charles Dickens

containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complete Career of the Nickelby Family by Charles Dickens AUTHOR’S PREFACE THIS STORY WAS BEGUN, within a few months after the publication 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 afforded a notable example. Although any man who had proved his unfitness for any other occupation in life, was free, 3

without examination or qualification, to open a school anywhere; although preparation for the functions he undertook, 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 chemist, 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 helplessness of children; ignorant, sordid, brutal men, to whom few considerate persons would have entrusted the board and lodging of a horse or a dog; they formed the worthy cornerstone of a structure, which, for absurdity and a magnificent high-minded laissez-aller neglect, has rarely been exceeded in the world. We hear sometimes of an action for damages against the 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

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY incapable pettifoggers who have pretended to form them! I make mention of the race, as of the Yorkshire schoolmasters, in the past tense. Though it has not yet finally disappeared, 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 Yorkshire schools when I was a not very robust child, sitting in bye-places near Rochester Castle, with a head full of partridge, 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 suppurated abscess that some boy had come home with, in consequence of his Yorkshire guide, philosopher, and friend, having ripped it open with an inky pen-knife. The impression made upon me, however made, never left me. I was 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 4 this book, in very severe winter time which is pretty faithfully described herein. As I wanted to see a schoolmaster 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 connexion, and with whom I concerted a pious fraud. He gave me some letters of introduction, 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 neighbourhood, the writer would be very much obliged. I went to several places in that part of the country where I understood the schools to be most plentifully sprinkled, and had no occasion to deliver a letter until I came to a certain town which shall be nameless. The person to whom it was addressed, was not at home; but he came down at night,

Charles Dickens 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 warrn 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?” 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 looking at the fire, staring round the room, and whistling a little. On my reverting to some other topic that we had been discussing, 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 5 pleasant toogather, and ar’ll spak’ my moind tiv’ee. Dinnot let the weedur send her lattle boy to yan o’ our schoolmeasthers, 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 Browdie. 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 satisfaction, during the progress of this work, to learn, from country friends and from a variety of ludicrous statements concerning himself in provincial newspapers, that more than one Yorkshire schoolmaster lays claim to being the original of Mr. Squeers. One worthy, he has reason to believe, has actually

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 committing an assault and battery on his traducer; a third, perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelvemonth, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation 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 neighbours 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, that Mr. Squeers is the representative of a class, 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 recognise something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own. 6 ‘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 children, 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, I had resolved to reprint a few of these details of legal proceedings, from certain old newspapers. One other quotation from the same Preface may serve to

Charles Dickens introduce a fact that my readers may think curious. “To turn to a more pleasant subject, it may be right to say, that there are 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 blemishes, and in another no virtues, it will seldom admit a very stronglymarked 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 honour.” 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 7 applications for loans, gifts, and offices of profit that I have been requested to forward to the originals of the Brothers Cheeryble (with whom I never interchanged any communication 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 would desire to offer a remark. If Nicholas be not always found to be blameless 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.


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-matrimonial, 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 chivalrously set to, for the mere pleasure of the 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 8

his partner, the honeymoon being over, looked out wistfully into the world, relying in no inconsiderable degree upon chance for the improvement of their means. Mr Nickleby’s income, at the period of his marriage, fluctuated between sixty and eighty pounds per annum. There are people 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 has gazed too long upon some glaring colour, refreshes his dazzled sight by looking upon a darker and more sombre tint; but everything that met Mr Nickleby’s gaze wore so black 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 presented her husband with a couple of sons, and that embarassed

Charles Dickens 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 quarterday, and then falling from the top of the Monument by accident, there came, one morning, by the general post, a blackbordered 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 believe 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 Society, and had indeed 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 allow9 ance of three shillings and sixpence, he had, in a fit of very natural exasperation, revoked the bequest in a codicil, and left it all to Mr Godfrey Nickleby; with a special mention of his indignation, 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 his money, and the little produce he could raise from his land. The two prospered 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

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY recitals produced a very different impression on the two: for, while the younger, who 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 a 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 acquisition 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 of it 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 arriving at the conclusion, that there was nothing like money. Not confining himself to theory, 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 slate10 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 his borrowers with abstract calculations of figures, or references 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 than 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 billdiscounters. Indeed, to do these gentlemen justice, many of them are to this day in the frequent habit of adopting it, with eminent 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 pocketmoney day, that is to say, on Saturday: and that whether a loan were contracted on the Monday, or on the Friday, the

Charles Dickens amount of interest should be, in both cases, the same. Indeed 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 very fairly presumed to be in great extremity, otherwise he would not borrow at all with such odds against him. This fact is interesting, as illustrating the secret connection and sympathy which always exist 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, applied 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 rec11 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 than the fumes of charcoal—it brought along with it a companion thought, that if they were intimate he would want to borrow money of him. 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 neighbouring gentleman with a dower of one thousand pounds. This good lady bore him two children, a son and a daughter, and when the son was about nineteen, and the daughter fourteen, as near as we can guess— impartial 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 repairing 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.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘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 in the way of 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 will 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 Nickleby. A mania prevailed, a bubble burst, four stock-brokers 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 tomorrow. Not an article of my old furniture, but will be sold to strangers!’ 12 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. ‘You mustn’t let yourself be cast down, sir,’ said the nurse. ‘Such things happen every day,’ remarked the lawyer. ‘And it is very sinful to rebel against them,’ whispered the clergyman. ‘And what no man with a family ought to do,’ added the neighbours. 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 times 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.

Charles Dickens

OF MR RALPH NICKLEBY, AND HIS ESTABLISHMENTS, 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 attorney, 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 impossible to mention any recognised profession to which he belonged. 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 smaller upon the left hand door-post, surrounding a brass model of an infant’s fist grasping a fragment of a skewer, and displaying the word ‘Office,’ it was clear that Mr Ralph Nickleby did, or pretended to do, business of some kind; and the fact, if it required any further circumstantial evidence, was abundantly demonstrated by the diurnal attendance, between the hours 13

of half-past nine and five, of a sallow-faced man in rusty brown, who sat upon an uncommonly hard stool in a species 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 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 taken to letting lodgings. Many of its first and second floors are let, furnished, to single gentlemen; and it takes boarders besides. It is a great resort of foreigners. The dark-complexioned men who wear large rings, and heavy watch-guards, and bushy whiskers, and who congregate under the Opera Colonnade, 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 summer’s night,

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY windows are thrown open, and groups of swarthy moustached 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 violoncellos, divide the supremacy between them. 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 transaction 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 rich. The tradesmen held that he was a sort of lawyer, and the other neighbours 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 morning, ready dressed to walk abroad. He wore a bottle-green spencer 14 over a blue coat; a white waistcoat, grey mixture pantaloons, and Wellington boots drawn over them. The corner of a smallplaited 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; but 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. However this might be, there he was; and as 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

Charles Dickens 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 process, 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 hampers, 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 everbrowns, and broken flower-pots, that are scattered mournfully about—a prey to ‘blacks’ and dirt. 15 It was into a place of this kind that Mr Ralph Nickleby gazed, as he sat with his hands in his pockets looking out of the 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 Nickleby 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 countless gettings off and on), and presented himself in Mr Nickleby’s room. He was a tall man of middle age, with two goggle eyes whereof one was a fixture, a rubicund nose, a cadaverous face, and a suit of clothes (if the term be allowable when they suited him not at all) 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.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘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) triumphed; and (as he rarely spoke to anybody unless somebody spoke to him) fell into a grim silence, and rubbed his hands slowly over each other: cracking the joints of his fingers, and squeezing them into all possible distortions. The incessant performance of this routine on every occasion, and 16 the communication of a fixed and rigid look to his unaffected 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. ‘I expect a letter from the solicitor respecting that mortgage of Ruddle’s. If it comes at all, it will be here by the two o’clock delivery. I shall leave the city about 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?’

‘By-the-bye. ‘My dear Nickleby. went to the door. has just gone home to put a clean shirt on.’ said Mr Bonney. and a very narrow white cravat tied loosely round his throat.’ ‘To the tax-gatherer?’ ‘No! Let him call again. ‘Though Newman Noggs kept his horses and hounds once. in time to address the meeting. He is a little excited by last night. who was at Crockford’s all night.’ Noggs gave vent to his usual grunt. whose deliberate manner was strongly opposed to the vivacity of the other man of business. ‘and not many years ago either. Capital.’ ‘Yes. ‘Yes. but he squandered his money. with his hair standing up in great disorder all over his head. and will certainly be with us. what a very remarkable man that clerk of yours is.’ 17 ‘It seems to promise pretty well. as much as to say ‘I thought so!’ and. smiling.’ continued Ralph. invested it anyhow. ay?’ said the other carelessly. five millions.’ said Mr Ralph Nickleby. ‘there’s not a moment to lose. I have a cab at the door. and three members of Parliament are positively coming. drawing on his gloves. and take a bottle or two of soda water. looked as if he had been knocked up in the night and had not dressed himself since. ‘When they are. I have seen two of them safely out of bed.’ ‘And when they are at a premium. in five hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each. and how to back quietly out at the right time. he always speaks the stronger for it. “United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. poor devil!’ replied Ralph.’ said Mr Ralph Nickleby. the ring being repeated. Sir Matthew Pupker takes the chair.’ said the gentleman. ushering in.’ ‘Ay. ‘It’s the finest idea that was ever started. borrowed at . taking off a white hat which was so full of papers that it would scarcely stick upon his head. but never mind that. by the name of Mr Bonney. you know what to do with them as well as any man alive. The third.” Why the very name will get the shares up to a premium in ten days. slapping the capitalist familiarly on the shoulder. who. a pale gentleman in a violent hurry.Charles Dickens ‘Yes. ‘Pretty well!’ echoed Mr Bonney. whence he presently returned.

capital five millions. bearing gigantic announcements that a Public Meeting would be holden at one o’clock precisely. I took him out of charity. and he has remained with me ever since. and then came here to borrow a pound. ‘Hear!’ cried a gentleman with a double chin. The other gentleman was plainly impatient to be gone.’ ‘Oh. chair!’ . as Mr Bonney presented himself. gentlemen. and (it being a windy day) half-a-dozen men were tacking across the road under a press of paper. ‘Chair. ‘I couldn’t lend it. of course not. of which it was desirable no mention should be made out of doors.’ said Mr Bonney with a meaning look. and. I think.’ said Mr Nickleby. Mr Bonney elbowed his way briskly upstairs. receiving in his progress many low bows from the waiters who stood on the landings to show the way. and in short made first a thorough fool of himself.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY interest. He is a little mad. followed by Mr Nickleby. ‘but he is useful enough.’ The kind-hearted gentleman omitted to add that Newman Noggs. There was a great bustle in Bishopsgate Street Within. however. poor creature—useful enough. to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning Parliament in favour of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. dived into a suite of apartments behind the great public room: in the second of which was a business-looking table. served him for rather less than the usual wages of a boy of thirteen. and then a beggar. as in his better days I had—’ ‘Done business with him. being utterly destitute. and likewise failed to mention in his hasty chronicle. perhaps Mr Nickleby forgot to mention circumstances so unimportant. in five hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each. and as they hurried 18 into the hackney cabriolet immediately afterwards. calling up a charitable look. you know. which sums were duly set forth in fat black figures of considerable size. and several business-looking people. that his eccentric taciturnity rendered him an especially valuable person in a place where much business was done. ‘Just so. He took to drinking.’ replied Ralph. as they drew up. to open the door and so forth. and had a touch of paralysis.’ ‘But as I wanted a clerk just then.

who had a little round head with a flaxen wig on the top of it. and how the government had been observed to wink when it said so. ran his fingers through his hair. and while they were clapping them. one Irish and one Scotch. and throwing the door open with a crash. from which premises they were at no loss to draw the conclusion. by turns. and knocked a hackney-coachman’s knock on the table with a little hammer: whereat several gentlemen cried ‘Hear!’ and nodded slightly to each other. in the desperate hope of something turning up which might bring them into notice. and pending the arrangement of the proceedings. Sir Matthew Pupker especially. a waiter. the empty platform. shouted ‘Sir Matthew Pupker!’ The committee stood up and clapped their hands for joy. and a fair division of the speechifying. and looking so pleasant that it seemed a perfect marvel how any man could have the heart to vote against them. that one object was the welfare and advantage of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. with a full account of what the government had said in a whisper the last time they dined with it. Sir Matthew Pupker and the two other members were relating to their separate circles what the intentions of government were. that if the government had one object more at heart than another. and smiling. and the ladies in the Music Gallery. about taking up the bill. took off his hat. When these symptoms had in some degree subsided. Meanwhile. the public in the large room were eyeing. that the wig threatened to be jerked off. or the two other members. in came Sir Matthew Pupker. all smiling and bowing. the gentlemen who were on speaking terms with Sir Matthew Pupker. every instant. fell into such a paroxysm of bows. and Mr Bonney bustled up to the top of the table. Just at this moment. and as the most agreeable diversions pall upon the . and rubbing their hands. attended by two live members of Parliament. near 19 one or other of which the gentlemen who were NOT on speaking terms with Sir Matthew Pupker or the two other members. In these amusements the greater portion of them had been occupied for a couple of hours before. feverish with agitation. All this time. tore into the room. crowded round them in three little groups. as much as to say what spirited conduct that was.Charles Dickens The new-comers were received with universal approbation. stood lingering.

the assembly left off shouting. when a loud shout attracted the attention even of the belligerents. and planted his left. Mr Punch: whose brilliant example. and what must be that occasion in the eyes of the world. This over. the sterner spirits now began to hammer the floor with their boot-heels. and what must be the wealth and respectability of his honourable friends behind him. Several very exciting skirmishes were in progress.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY taste on a too protracted enjoyment of them. and then there poured on to the platform. These vocal exertions. and lastly. emanating from the people who had been there longest. and at last. this branch of the executive occasionally follows. but entertaining nevertheless a praiseworthy desire to do something to quell the disturbance. both in the fashion of his weapons and their use. the happiness. by the coat tails and collars. of such an Institution as the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company! Mr Bonney then presented himself to move the first resolution. and having run his right hand through his hair. Sir Matthew Pupker went on to say what must be his feelings on that great occasion. naturally proceeded from those who were nearest to the platform and furthest from the policemen in attendance. the very existence of a free and great people. the cause whereof was sufficiently explained when Sir Matthew Pupker and the 20 two other real members of Parliament came to the front. but Sir Matthew Pupker being voted into the chair. and testified to each other in dumb motions that they had never seen such a glorious sight as that. in his ribs. a long line of gentlemen with their hats off. what must be the importance to the wealth. all the quiet people near the door. all looking behind them. who having no great mind to fight their way through the crowd. they underwent a relapse which lasted five minutes. and what must be the intelligence of his fellowcountrymen before him. amidst deafening shouts. in an easy manner. from a door at the side. he consigned his hat to the care of the gentleman with the double chin . immediately began to drag forth. at the same time dealing out various smart and tingling blows with their truncheons. the liberty. after the manner of that ingenious actor. At length. the comfort. and to express their dissatisfaction by various hoots and cries. in the whole course of thier public career. and uttering vociferous cheers.

It was with this object that a bill had been introduced into Parliament by their patriotic chairman Sir Matthew Pupker. debauchery. under the name of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery . 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 would prove it by bellmen at the bar of that House. the existing state of the Muffin Trade in this Metropolis and its neighbourhood. It was this melancholy state of things that the Company proposed to correct. he had found the same vices among the poorer class of people who ought to be muffin consumers. that these men corresponded with each other by secret words and signs as ‘Snooks. under heavy penalties.’ The honourable gentleman made a speech which drew tears from the eyes of the ladies. wholly underserving the confidence of the public. He would undertake to prove before a committee of the House of Commons. firstly. and had found them destitute of the slightest vestige of a muffin. as at present constituted.Charles Dickens (who acted as a species of bottle-holder to the orators generally).’ ‘Walker. by prohibiting. and he would also prove. by themselves supplying the public generally. that it considers the Muffin Boys. and that it deems the whole Muffin system alike prejudicial to the health and morals of the people. which he attributed to the debasing nature of their employment as at present exercised. and the poor at their own homes. secondly. He had found that among muffin-sellers there existed drunkenness. it was the supporters of this bill who would confer undying brightness and splendour upon England. all private muffin trading of every description. it was this bill that they had met to support. and profligacy. and to give the bellmen a monopoly. and said he would read to them the first resolution— ’That this meeting views with alarm and apprehension. He had visited the houses of the poor in the various districts of London. and subversive of the best interests of a great commercial and mercantile community. with muffins of first quality at reduced prices. and awakened the liveliest emotions in every individual present. that there existed a combination to keep up the price of muffins. which drove them to seek a false stimulant in intoxicating liquors. and this he 21 attributed to the despair engendered by their being placed beyond the reach of that nutritious article.’ ‘Ferguson.’ ‘Is Murphy right?’ and many others.

or warmth. were these things to last! This was the department of the subject that took the meeting. on his own authority. at length fell a victim to a cold in the head. that while the muffins were provided with warm clothing and blankets. and this was the style of speaking to enlist their sympathies. which recognised the expediency of immediately abolishing ‘all muffin (or crumpet) sellers.’ was moved by a grievous gentleman of semi-clerical appearance. whether male or female. the ladies wept into their pocket- . The second resolution. The men shouted. Fountain of justice. ringing hand-bells or otherwise. to wander about.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Company. beneath which he gradually sunk until he fell into a perspiration and recovered. the boys were wholly unprovided for. who went at once into such deep pathetics. food. and let the public never forget upon the latter point. which he very wisely urged were in themselves a sufficient reason for the establishment of that inestimable company. who having been exposed to this inhuman and barbarous system for no less than five years. he would add. and was now actually pursuing his occupation on crutches. that he knocked the first speaker clean out of the course in no time. It seemed that the unhappy youths were nightly turned out into the wet streets at the most inclement periods of the 22 year. this he could vouch for. having been run over by a hackney carriage. He had heard of the case of an orphan muffin boy. and straightway borne off. and another gentleman having moved that it be amended by the insertion of the words ‘and crumpet’ after the word ‘muffin. Mr Ralph Nickleby seconded the resolution. in darkness and rain—or it might be hail or snow—for hours together. in five hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each. Only one man in the crowd cried ‘No!’ and he was promptly taken into custody. (Shame!) The honourable gentleman related one case of a muffin boy. and left to their own miserable resources. boys or men. You might have heard a pin fall—a pin! a feather—as he described the cruelties inflicted on muffin boys by their masters.’ whenever it occurred. had undergone the amputation of his leg below the knee. who. but he had heard (and he had no reason to doubt the fact) of a still more heart-rending and appalling circumstance. had been removed to the hospital. it was carried triumphantly. with a capital of Five Millions. all traders in muffins (or crumpets) of whatsoever description. without shelter.

in the course whereof. there was immense laughter and much cheering. that he regretted his honourable friends had not inserted a clause rendering the purchase of muffins and crumpets compulsory upon all classes of the community. every man holding up both hands in favour of it. and moreover such a brilliant display of ladies’ pocket-handkerchiefs. carried with loud acclamations. and the object very virtuous.Charles Dickens handkerchiefs till they were moist. as he would in his enthusiasm have held up both legs also. and poured forth with such fervour. assist jokes materially. the draft of the proposed petition was read at length: and the petition said. and how desperately he meant to taunt the parliament if they rejected the bill. Then. breathing the true soul and spirit of poetry. that it made one warm to look at him. which he —opposing all half-measures. how he would claim for her equal rights in the muffin laws as in all other laws. that the petitioners were very humble. the excitement was tremendous. there came forward the Irish member (who was a young gentleman of ardent temperament. and how he yet hoped to see the day when crumpets should be toasted in her . and waved them till they were dry. as threw the grievous gentleman quite into the shade. and as patent boots. and Mr Nickleby whispered his friend that the shares were thenceforth at a premium of five-and-twenty per cent. This done. the honourable gentleman grew jocular. and a fur coat collar. to the everlasting honour and glory of that most honourable and glorious Commons of England in Parliament assembled. lemon-coloured kid gloves. in committee. as all petitions do say. therefore (said the petition) the bill ought to be passed into a law at once. and who looked something the worse about the eyes in consequence. of course. and preferring to go the extreme animal— pledged himself to propose and divide upon. came forward to tell his fellow-countrymen what a speech he meant to make in favour of that petition whenever it should be presented. and to inform them 23 also. the gentleman who had been at Crockford’s all night. and the petitioned very honourable. The resolution was. he told them how he would demand the extension of that great boon to his native country.) with such a speech as only an Irish member can make. And when the petition had been read and was about to be adopted. After announcing this determination. if he could have conveniently accomplished it.

AND HOW KINDLY HE PROPOSED TO MAKE HIS FORTUNE AT ONCE HAVING RENDERED HIS ZEALOUS assistance towards dispatching the lunch. looking up as he pursued his occupation. It was Newman Noggs.) they only charged three guineas each man for every such attendance. or at the same time so praiseworthy. ‘The letter about the mortgage has come. And. ‘Ah! Newman. and all the speeches put together did exactly what they were intended to do.’ ‘Wrong. THE READER IS INFORMED HOW HE LIKED NICHOLAS. WHO IS HEREIN INTRODUCED. the petition in favour of the bill was agreed upon. and established in the hearers’ minds that there was no speculation so promising. with various pleasant allusions to the probable amount of profits. BUT BEARS UP NOBLY AGAINST THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNICATED TO HIM. 24 . and muffin bells should ring in her rich green valleys. has it? I thought it would. (as the company was yet in its infancy. and the meeting adjourned with acclamations. when a man suddenly stopped before him. after him. which increased the good humour that the poetry had awakened. As he passed St Paul’s he stepped aside into a doorway to set his watch. and Mr Nickleby and the other directors went to the office to lunch. as the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company. Mr Ralph Nickleby took a cordial farewell of his fellow-speculators.’ replied Newman.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY lowly cabins.’ said Mr Nickleby. So. and with his hand on the key and his eye on the cathedral dial. and to remunerate themselves for which trouble. and bent his steps westward in unwonted good humour. as they did every day at half-past one o’clock. was intent upon so doing. came the Scotch member. CHAPTER 3 MR RALPH NICKLEBY RECEIVES SAD TIDINGS OF HIS BROTHER. with all that promptitude and energy which are among the most important qualities that men of business can possess.

I shouldn’t have thought it. in the corner. pausing. then?’ inquired Mr Nickleby. ‘You never are surprised. ‘What else?’ demanded the master. or inward laughter. ‘I have. ‘that’s all. and his face was curiously twisted as by a spasm. black border. and walked slowly westward with his hands behind him. too. that’s sudden thing. C. I shouldn’t be surprised if my brother were dead. Newman. quietly.’ ‘I don’t think you would. black wax. The expression of a man’s face is commonly a help to his thoughts.’ said Newman. after they had walked a few paces: looking round at the clerk as if he were his dog. Strand. N. really. ‘I know something of that hand.Charles Dickens ‘What! and nobody called respecting it?’ inquired Mr Nickleby. Newman. ‘He is dead. but the countenance of Newman Noggs. as though his thoughts were about them at that moment. fitting on his gloves to a nicety.’ said Mr Nickleby. that’s the very thing. began winding up his watch. but whether of paralysis.’ said Newman.’ Mr Nickleby snatched the letter from his assistant. Noggs shook his head.’ ‘Both!’ repeated Newman Noggs. all three here. ‘Go home!’ said Mr Nickleby. ‘This. stepping up to him. in his ordinary moods. ‘Why not. ‘And the widow. and. was a problem which no stretch of ingenuity could solve. ‘Children alive?’ inquired Noggs. and fixing a cold look upon him. ‘What has come.’ With these touch25 ing expressions of sorrow. and having now hit the time to a second. confound them.’ ‘Black wax?’ said Mr Nickleby. ‘and all three in London. Mr Nickleby replaced his watch in his fob. opened. ‘They are both alive. slunk among the crowd.’ Newman fell a little behind his master. while he was thus engaged. put it in his pocket. sir?’ demanded Mr Nickleby.’ said Newman.’ replied Mr Nickleby. sternly. ‘Why. nobody but himself could possibly explain. glancing at the letter. drawing a sealed letter slowly from his pocket. in a low voice.’ replied Newman. too. or grief.’ added Mr Nickleby. Newman. Dear me! Well. and disappeared in an instant. ‘Post-mark. . ‘It is as I expected. woman’s hand. The words were scarcely uttered when Newman darted across the road. turned upon his way. or glossary on his speech. read it.

and I never expected it. having been thrice repeated. A miniature painter lived there. Besides these works of art. ‘Her name ain’t Nickleby. ‘Mrs Nickleby. and a charming whole length of a large-headed little boy. and. you mean. flourishing a sabre. as he walked on.’ Mr Nickleby looked very indignant at the handmaid on being thus corrected. six books. and an elegantly written card of terms with an embossed border. and demanded with much asperity what she meant. and telescopes attached. and a grown boy and girl. Mr Nickleby glanced at these frivolities with great contempt. and gave a double knock. for there was a large gilt frame screwed upon the street-door. in which were displayed. which she was about to state. sitting on a stool with his 26 legs fore-shortened to the size of salt-spoons. referring to his letter as if to ascertain the number of the house he wanted.’ said the same voice. but I think it was the attic which had been a cleaning of himself. was answered by a servant girl with an uncommonly dirty face.’ replied the girl.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Reasonable. moreover. there were a great many heads of old ladies and gentlemen smirking at each other out of blue and brown skies. and one of a literary character with a high forehead.’ said the girl. stopped at a private door about half-way down that crowded thoroughfare. ‘La Creevy. ‘what a stupid thing you are! Is the second floor at home?’ ‘Somebody went out just now. ‘It’s the second floor. when a female voice proceeding from a perpendicular staircase at the end of the passage. two portraits of naval dress coats with faces looking out of them. as the support of a great hearty woman. . ‘Is Mrs Nickleby at home. and many other reflections of a similar kind. and a curtain. girl?’ demanded Ralph sharply.’ said Ralph. one of a young gentleman in a very vermilion uniform.’ Full of these. inquired who was wanted. upon a black velvet ground. ‘very reasonable! My brother never did anything for me. What are they to me! I never saw them. certainly!’ muttered Mr Nickleby to himself. which. the breath is no sooner out of his body than I am to be looked to. There was. a touching representation of a young lady reading a manuscript in an unfathomable forest. a pen and ink. Mr Nickleby made the best of his way to the Strand. Hannah.

as a yellow headdress bobbed over the banisters. ‘A miniature. in his usual blunt fashion. she is a widow.’ Miss La Creevy coughed once more—this cough was to conceal her disappointment—and said. and stepping into the first floor. she was in the habit of letting them.’ replied the lady. walking in without more parley. indeed!’ ‘I infer from what you said to your servant. ‘Oh. ‘I happen to know that she is.’ said Ralph.’ said Ralph. ma’am. and as she had no necessity for the second-floor rooms just then. what business has a poor widow in such a house as this. with a powerful emphasis on that little adjective which conveys so much. ‘Hem!’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘Show the gentleman where the bell is. Miss La Creevy replied. ma’am. ma’am. ‘A poor widow. ma’am. ma’am?’ . ma’am?’ said Ralph. ‘Well. and tell him he mustn’t knock double knocks for the second floor. ma’am. The upper part of the house belonged to her. with your leave. ‘I have no money to throw away on miniatures. at that present speaking. Seeing you on the stairs. Yes it did.’ said Mr Nickleby. was received by the wearer of the yellow head-dress. coughing delicately behind her black silk mitten. and nobody to give one to (thank God) if I had. is that Mrs La what’s-her-name?’ ‘Creevy—La Creevy. I wanted to ask a question of you. ‘I beg your pardon. ‘Yes. Have you ever sat before?’ 27 ‘You mistake my purpose. I can’t allow a knock except when the bell’s broke. A very stronglymarked countenance for the purpose. ‘Now. Indeed.’ ‘Here.’ said Ralph. Miss La Creevy was a mincing young lady of fifty.’ replied the voice. who had a gown to correspond. and then it must be two single ones. I presume.’ said the invisible female. ‘I’ll speak to you a moment.Charles Dickens ‘You had better see. but he had walked up before it spoke. ‘A widow. there was a lady from the country and her two children in them.’ replied Mr Nickleby. and was of much the same colour herself.’ said Ralph. The voice replied that the gentleman was to walk up.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy. ma’am. I’m afraid she is poor. about some lodgers here. I see. that the floor above belongs to you. and Miss La Creevy’s apartment was the gilt frame downstairs on a larger scale and something dirtier. sir.

for these encomiums on poverty irritated him. ma’am. I believe I am the only relation they have. ‘the case wears a very different appearance.’ ‘Of course it was. I am the family.’ ‘I should hope. ‘Though at the same time. or better-behaved young people cannot be. if there was any incompatibility to meet the pecuniary obligations.’ said 28 Ralph.’ continued Miss La Creevy. ‘Exceedingly true. for nicer. ‘that the lady’s family would—’ ‘No they wouldn’t.’ replied Miss La Creevy. ‘if Mrs Nickleby took the apartments without the means of paying for them. How long have they taken these lodgings for?’ ‘Only from week to week. ma’am. ma’am.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ said . at present—hem—an unprotected female. and perhaps more than I ought: of course nobody will thank me for saying what I have. turning to the door.’ ‘Then you had better get them out at the end of it.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ ‘You may understand it then.’ ‘Very well.’ replied Miss La Creevy. ‘And naturally. sir.’ said Ralph. it was very unbecoming a lady. poor thing. she seems terribly low in her spirits.’ ‘If I am to understand that. ma’am. cannot afford to lose by the apartments. ma’am. and I think it right that you should know I can’t support them in their extravagances.’ said Ralph.’ ‘Of course you can’t. though.’ added Miss La Creevy. ‘and make your arrangements accordingly. they are in everybody’s way here. ma’am. ma’am.’ ‘I know her circumstances intimately.’ said Ralph. ‘I have done my duty.’ ‘Certainly. and I should recommend you not to keep them here. who is extremely pleasant and affable.’ interrupted Ralph.’ said Ralph.’ ‘I am sure I am very much obliged to you at least. ‘I have nothing whatever to say against the lady. hastily. nor against the young people either.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Very true.’ said Miss La Creevy with another cough. ‘in fact. ma’am. ma’am—at least. who was plainly wavering between her good-nature and her interest. ‘Don’t think it. ‘Mrs Nickleby paid the first week in advance.’ replied Ralph. ‘They can’t do better than go back to the country. rubbing her hands. not at all displeased with this implied compliment to the apartments. ‘I who am. I am a relation of the family.

imperiously. ‘Now for my sister-in-law. Mr Ralph Nickleby stopped to take breath on the landing. upon an apron much dirtier. when he was overtaken by the handmaid. ‘Husbands die every day. I always do. ‘Oh. ‘Well. ma’am. and who had apparently been making a variety of unsuccessful attempts.’ said Nicholas. ma’am. and wives too. I suppose?’ ‘That is my name.’ ‘And brothers also.’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘here’s Mr Nickleby. ‘but as I have a visit to pay upstairs. sir. with a glance of indignation. ma’am.’ said Mr Nickleby. ‘Perhaps you will have the kindness to take a card of terms with you? Thank you—goodmorning!’ ‘Good-morning. ‘you are Nicholas.’ said Ralph. I shall be most happy.’ replied Ralph.’ ‘Mine was no common loss!’ said Mrs Nickleby. and my time is precious. who had been sitting by her. and leant upon the arm of a slight but very beautiful girl of about seventeen.’ ‘At any other time when you are passing. ma’am. sir. with an ill-favoured frown. as he coolly unbuttoned his spencer.’ said the girl.’ growled Ralph. making off with great speed. whom the politeness of Miss La Creevy had dispatched to announce him. 29 ‘Nickleby. A youth. .’ replied the youth. shutting the door abruptly after him to prevent any further conversation. stepped forward and saluted Ralph as his uncle. ‘It was no uncommon loss.’ said Ralph.’ A lady in deep mourning rose as Mr Ralph Nickleby entered. who appeared a year or two older. ‘Put my hat down. applying her handkerchief to her eyes. ‘Oh! Mrs Nickleby. how do you do? You must bear up against sorrow. to wipe her dirty face clean. ‘What name?’ said the girl. Bah!’ Climbing up another perpendicular flight. but appeared incapable of advancing to meet him.Charles Dickens Miss La Creevy in a gracious manner. ‘Would you do me the favour to look at a few specimens of my portrait painting?’ ‘You’re very good. I really can’t. since their last interview. ma’am. ma’am. composed with great mechanical ingenuity of nothing but corner stairs. throwing open the door.’ returned Ralph.

his heart swelling as he spoke. ‘Nicholas is very nearly nineteen. and his widow’s a martyr. and ingenuous.’ retorted the uncle.’ said Mrs Nickleby. and. ‘Upon my word! Fine beginnings. there was an emanation from the warm young heart in his look and bearing which kept the old man down. quietly. ‘and what do you mean to do for your bread. and puppies. or a broken leg.’ ‘Nicholas. recollect yourself. and surveying his nephew from head to foot with intense scorn. sir?’ ‘Not to live upon my mother. sir. he dies of a broken heart. ‘How old is this boy.’ replied the widow. ‘Nineteen. but manly and well formed. eyeing him contemptuously. wheeling back his chair. apart from all the grace of youth and comeliness. ‘We have too much reason to fear that he died of a broken heart. I believe. my dear. eh!’ said Ralph. hard-featured. The face of the old man was stern. Mrs Nickleby—fine beginnings!’ Mrs Nickleby made no other reply than entreating Nicholas by a gesture to keep silent. handsome. that of the young one. and forbidding. His figure was somewhat slight. 30 ‘You’d have little enough to live upon. the young man’s bright with the light of intelligence and spirit. ‘Dear Nicholas. ‘there’s no such thing.’ said Ralph.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Yes. ma’am. and pug-dogs likewise. or a broken nose. ‘You didn’t mention in your letter what my brother’s complaint was. or a broken head.’ urged the young lady. The old man’s eye was keen with the twinklings of avarice and cunning. and the uncle and nephew looked at each other for some seconds without speaking. have no hearts to break.’ observed Nicholas. or suffering from a broken arm. If a man can’t pay his debts. flushed with anger. ‘I shall not look to you to make it more. it’s the cant of the day.’ replied Nicholas. sir. However striking such a contrast as this may be to lookers- . open. for God’s sake?’ inquired Ralph. taking a chair. if you did. but a broken heart! —nonsense.’ said Nicholas. ‘Whatever it be.’ remonstrated Mrs Nickleby.’ ‘Pooh!’ said Ralph. I can understand a man’s dying of a broken neck. pray.’ ‘The doctors could attribute it to no particular disease. ‘Hold your tongue. shedding tears.’ ‘Some people.’ replied his uncle.

sir?’ (turning to his nephew.’ 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. and calling Nicholas ‘a boy. ‘the creditors have administered.Charles Dickens on. and he hated Nicholas from that hour.’ said Ralph. perhaps dressmaking or tambour-work will come lighter.’ 31 ‘I don’t know how it is. none ever feel it with half the keenness or acuteness of perfection with which it strikes to the very soul of him whose inferiority it marks.’ replied the weeping girl. The mutual inspection was at length brought to a close by Ralph withdrawing his eyes. ma’am. well.’ The poor girl was about to murmur something. I hope?’ ‘No. ‘I hoped. and say the latter). with a great show of disdain. walking up and down the room. how far you went in French and extras. to see what I could do for you?’ pursued Ralph. ‘No. I thought not!’ said Ralph. It galled Ralph to the heart’s core.’ said Ralph.’ said Ralph. What is your daughter fit for. ‘You have not been brought up too delicately for that. very unceremoniously. ‘We must try and get you apprenticed at some boardingschool. ‘I will try to do anything that will gain me a home and bread. impatiently. indeed. ma’am?’ ‘Kate has been well educated. my dear.’ replied Mrs Nickleby.’ replied Nicholas. you tell me. they wouldn’t on any account.’ sobbed Mrs Nickleby. ‘Well. and there’s nothing left for you?’ ‘Nothing. either by his niece’s beauty or her distress (stretch a point.’ muttered Ralph. ‘that you might have an opportunity of doing something for your brother’s children. a little softened. and if the life is too hard.’ .’ faltered Mrs Nickleby. he always seems to think he has a right to dispose of other people’s. in coming all the way to London. It was his dying wish that I should appeal to you in their behalf. ‘Tell your uncle.’ ‘Well. when her uncle stopped her.) ‘No. ‘You must try it. Have you ever done anything. ‘And you spent what little money you had. uncle. ‘This is the way my brother brought up his children. ma’am. ‘but whenever a man dies without any property of his own. bluntly.

‘The old story. and never doing. with other bitter recollections common to most married ladies. ‘Then see here. and increasing your distress. frowning on his nephew. can have better reason to feel that. ‘This caught my eye this morning. which dismal thoughts made her tears flow faster. I am sure. when I wasn’t as old as that boy by a year and a half. My brother was a thoughtless. and after unfolding it. and then to remarking.’ With this exordium. and in the excess of these griefs she (being a well-meaning woman enough. and had ruined himself in consequence. than you. ‘Are you willing to work. but that if he had confided in her they might all have been better off that day. and when the widow had finished.’ said Ralph. and nobody. sir.’ replied Nicholas haughtily. sir?’ he inquired. inasmuch as he had only acted upon it once.’ This appeal set the widow upon thinking that perhaps she might have made a more successful venture with her one thousand pounds. either during their coverture. Mr Ralph Nickleby took a newspaper from his pocket. ma’am: and if he had turned his son into the world. always thinking. he would have been in a situation to help you. and then she began to reflect what a comfortable sum it would have been just then. Mrs Nickleby concluded by lamenting that the dear departed had never deigned to profit by her advice. Mr Ralph Nickleby heard all this with a half-smile. with many sobs. he might have left you a rich woman. If my brother had been a man of activity and prudence. quietly took up the subject where it had been left before the above outbreak. and looking for a short time among the advertisements. instead of being a burden upon you. or at both periods. or afterwards. and you may thank your stars for it.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Nicholas has not long completed such education as his poor father could give him. and 32 had often told him she might have married better (as indeed she had. Mrs Nickleby. very often). ‘and he was thinking of—’ ‘Of making something of him someday. ‘Of course I am. inconsiderate man. read as follows: . save on one occasion. which was a strictly veracious statement.’ said his uncle. but weak withal) fell first to deploring her hard fate. as my father turned me.’ rejoined Mrs Nickleby. that to be sure she had been a slave to poor Nicholas. and that she never knew in his lifetime how the money went.

’ ‘But he is not a Master of Arts. Terms. sir.” ‘There!’ said Ralph. single stick (if required). they will not remain as they are. astronomy. No extras. I will undertake. Mr Squeers is in town.’ said Mr Ralph Nickleby. twenty guineas per annum. checking himself. ‘If I am fortunate enough to be appointed to this post. my dear. Youth are boarded. recommendation. mother. let him find honest employment in London. for which I am so imperfectly qualified. clothed. ‘Hush. yes. and his fortune is made. and I’ll give him a thousand pounds. furnished with pocket-money. sir. from one till four.’ said Nicholas. one week after your departure.B.’ replied Ralph. can be got over. booked. no vacations. ‘Oh! uncle. in that case (not otherwise).Charles Dickens ‘“Education. and diet unparalleled. let him get one for himself. ‘let him get that situation. ‘Let him get that situation. what will become of those I leave behind?’ ‘Your mother and sister. ‘I would if I had it. instructed in all languages living and dead. N. or knowledge of business of any kind.’ said Mrs Nickleby. algebra. mathematics. near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire. my love. at the delightful village of Dotheboys. folding the paper again.’ ‘Poor fellow!’ said the young lady. geometry. and every other branch of classical literature.’ replied Ralph. which will keep him in shoe leather.’ ‘Yes. Dotheboys Hall. arithmetic.—At Mr Wackford Squeers’s Academy.’ said Mrs Nickleby. I wish you would say something. That will be my immediate care. Snow Hill. and his fortune is made. Annual salary 5 pounds. ‘That. fortification. money. An able assistant wanted.’ interposed Mrs Nickleby. I think. provided with all necessaries. uncle!’ faltered Kate. Kate my dear. and attends daily. ‘will be provided for.’ ‘But the salary is so small. and it is such a long way off. If he don’t like that. at the Saracen’s Head. Without friends. At least. ‘that. ‘Nicholas. writing. trigonometry. tartly. ‘your uncle must know best.’ .’ 33 ‘I say. A Master of Arts would be preferred.’ repeated Ralph. and placed in some sphere of life in which they will be able to be independent. orthography. the use of the globes. by me. who had hitherto remained silent and absorbed in thought. must we be separated so soon!’ ‘Don’t tease your uncle with questions when he is thinking only for our good.

why your fortune’s made at once. ‘How happy we should be!’ cried Nicholas with enthusiasm. and Nicholas. and. to be sure!’ sneered Ralph. indeed!’ snarled Ralph. that if they lost time. and—and marry her. being interpreted. and—’ The picture was too bright a one to bear. ‘I am ready to do anything you wish me. smiled faintly. delighted with a thousand visionary ideas. and mother so happy to be with us once again. and wholly unacquainted with what is called the world—a conventional phrase which. ‘And who knows. and you’ll rise to be a partner in the establishment in no time. born and bred in retirement. Bless me.’ said Ralph. This timely reminder effectually stopped the conversation. Kate will be a beautiful woman. only think! if he were to die. eh! uncle? Who knows?’ 34 ‘Who.’ ‘He won’t do that. I see it all. ‘He will be glad to have you on my recommendation. and get his father to appoint me his travelling tutor when he left.’ said Nicholas. some more fortunate candidate might deprive Nicholas of the stepping-stone to fortune which the advertisement pointed out. Nicholas. were proceeding to dilate with all the buoyancy of untried hope on the bright prospects before them. having carefully copied the address of Mr Squeers.’ said poor Nicholas. and all these sad times forgotten. when Mr Ralph Nickleby suggested. This simple family. and I so proud to hear them say so.’ ‘To be sure. were to take a fancy to me. ‘The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again. that his good spirits and his inexperience were conjuring up before him. but when he came to see me when I was settled (as he would of course). he can but refuse. and burst into tears. fairly overpowered by it. procured me some handsome appointment. the uncle and nephew issued forth to- . Let us try our fortune with Mr Squeers at once. and so undermine all their air-built castles. Make yourself of use to him. and wringing his uncle’s hand. who would be keeping my house. this first gush of feeling over.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Then. starting gaily up. ‘Or suppose some young nobleman who is being educated at the Hall. he might fall in love with Kate. often signifieth all the rascals in it—mingled their tears together at the thought of their first separation. Eh! uncle?’ ‘Ah. and when we come back from the continent.

lonely by day.Charles Dickens gether in quest of that accomplished gentleman. coupled with a Saracen’s Head: picturing to us by a double association of ideas. or something like this. the good lady’s opinion had been not a little influenced by her brother-in-law’s appeal to her better understanding. regarding this same Snow Hill. THE YORKSHIRE SCHOOLMASTER AND HIS SNOW HILL! WHAT kind of place can the quiet townspeople who see the words emblazoned. Nicholas firmly persuading himself that he had done his relative great injustice in disliking him at first sight. cold. The name is such a good one. CHAPTER 4 NICHOLAS UNCLE (TO SECURE THE FORTUNE WITHOUT LOSS OF TIME) WAIT UPON MR WACKFORD SQUEERS. should be 35 . which. 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. he had struck so successfully on one of those little jarring chords in the human heart (Ralph was well acquainted with its worst weaknesses. on the north-country coaches. and where desperate robbers congregate. and although she had dearly loved her husband. in all the legibility of gilt letters and dark shading. take Snow Hill to be? All people have some undefined and shadowy notion of a place whose name is frequently before their eyes. and his implied compliment to her high deserts. gloomy heath. something stern and rugged! A bleak desolate tract of country. To tell the truth.—this. Snow Hill— Snow Hill too. open to piercing blasts and fierce wintry storms—a dark. that she had already begun seriously to consider herself the amiable and suffering victim of her late husband’s imprudence. and scarcely to be thought of by honest folks at night— a place which solitary wayfarers shun. he might very easily be. Miss Nickleby dutifully remarked. What a vast number of random ideas there must be perpetually floating about. and still doted on her children. though he knew nothing of its best). or often in their ears.

but by no means to be despised notwithstanding. four. rushes each day and night with mysterious and ghostlike punctuality. in his all-comprehensive look of agony. when the scene has been rendered frightful with excess of human life. and seeming to bid defiance to the very elements themselves. amidst a roar of sounds to which even the tumult of a great city is as nothing. frowns upon you from the top of the yard. holding its swift and headlong course in all weathers. 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 vendors of soup and fish and damaged fruit are now plying their trades—scores of human beings. The inn itself garnished with another Saracen’s Head. and 36 wall and pillar.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the prevalent notion of Snow Hill. the dying wretch. The reality is rather different. but which have for some time remained in undisturbed tranquillity. There. Whether this be the reason or not. is the coach-yard of the Saracen’s Head Inn. and the Compter. six. has met not one—not one—that bore the impress of pity or compassion. 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 where horses in hackney cabriolets going westward not unfrequently fall by accident. where door knockers are preferred as being more portable. and by consequence near to Smithfield also. frowning upon you from each side of the gateway. and when. in the heart of its business and animation. which it was once the pride and glory of the choice spirits of this metropolis to pull down at night. there they are. or eight strong men at a time. possibly because this species of humour is now confined to St James’s parish. when curious eyes have glared from casement and house-top. at the very core of London. its portal guarded by two Saracens’ heads and shoulders. and bell-wires esteemed as convenient toothpicks. through which the Saracen’s Head. like some grim apparition. and the bustle and noise of the city. while from the door of the hind . have been hurried violently and swiftly from the world. Near to the jail. and just on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastward seriously think of falling down on purpose. in those remote and rustic parts. in the mass of white and upturned faces. and meet beneath its walls: stands Newgate.

and a suit of scholastic black. at which times his expression bordered closely on the villainous. fitted with one such table as is usually seen in coffee-rooms. In a corner of the seat. and looking sulkily at the coffee-room clock. ‘Half-past three. if you had gone at the right time. and two of extraordinary shapes and dimensions made to suit the angles of the partition. Mr Squeers’s appearance was not prepossessing. but his coat sleeves being a great deal too long. but decidedly not ornamental: being of a greenish grey. Just before you. When you walk up this yard. with a twin expression to the large Saracens’ Heads below. and a trifle below the middle size. and in shape resembling the fan-light of a street door. he wore a white neckerchief with long ends. and the tower of St Sepulchre’s church. on your right. he appeared ill at ease in his clothes. which assorted well with his harsh voice and coarse manner.’ . especially when he smiled.Charles Dickens boot of all the red coaches that are standing therein. with evident dread and apprehension. from time to time. you will see the bookingoffice on your left. and as if he were in a perpetual state of astonishment at finding himself so respectable.’ muttered Mr Squeers. Mr Wackford Squeers with his hands in his pockets. you would have seen in addition. tied round with a scanty piece of cord. which gave him a very sinister appearance. Mr Squeers was standing in a box by one of the coffee-room fire-places. The blank side of his face was much wrinkled and puckered up. you will observe a long window with the words ‘coffee-room’ legibly painted above it. The eye he had. and a gallery of bedrooms on both sides. and on the trunk was perched—his lace-up half-boots and corduroy trousers dangling in the air—a diminutive boy. He had but one eye. who glanced timidly at the schoolmaster. ‘There will be nobody here today. so that the general appearance of the pile is decidedly of the Saracenic order. save at the ends. there glares a small Saracen’s Head. was a very small deal trunk. turning from the window. where it was brushed 37 stiffly up from a low protruding forehead. He was about two or three and fifty. darting abruptly up into the sky. and looking out of that window. and his hands planted on his knees. with his shoulders drawn up to his ears. and the popular prejudice runs in favour of two. was unquestionably useful. His hair was very flat and shiny. and his trousers a great deal too short.

and have got only three—three oughts is an ought—three twos is six—sixty pound. ‘here’s a gentleman asking for you at the bar. or I’ll murder you when the gentleman goes. ‘Nothing. ‘Then do so at once.’ replied the little boy. ‘Put your handkerchief in your pocket. sir!’ exclaimed Mr Squeers. wherefore Mr Squeers knocked him off the trunk with a blow on one side of the face. in a soft voice. did you?’ retorted Mr Squeers.’ The schoolmaster had scarcely uttered these words in a fierce whisper. rubbing his face very hard with the Beggar’s Petition in printed calico. ‘Halloa. sir. and. looking in at this juncture. ‘I took down ten boys. the little boy rubbed his face harder. ten twenties is two hundred pound. and knocked him on again with a blow on the other. 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. sir?’ ‘Ye—ye—yes. please sir. ‘Do you hear?’ As this admonition was accompanied with a threatening gesture. turning round. beyond alternately sniffing and choking. sir!’ growled the schoolmaster. ‘and then I’ll give you the rest. you little scoundrel. . ‘Oh! sneezed. gave no further vent to his emotions. ‘Wait till I get you down into Yorkshire. resuming his complaint.’ said the waiter. my young gentleman. he merely boxed his ears. when the stranger entered. the little boy screwed a couple of knuckles into each of his eyes and began 38 to cry. ‘Mr Squeers.’ sobbed the little boy. and told him not to do it again. I go back at eight o’clock tomorrow morning. ‘Then what did you say “nothing” for.’ muttered Mr Squeers. Mr Squeers looked at the little boy to see whether he was doing anything he could beat him for.’ said Mr Squeers. as if to keep the tears back. Richard. and uttered with a savage aspect. Will you hold that noise.’ ‘Show the gentleman in. ‘At Midsummer. As he happened not to be doing anything at all.’ rejoined the boy.’ said Squeers. trembling till the little trunk shook under him. I sneezed. ‘Please sir. ‘What’s that. Affecting not to see him. sir?’ ‘Nothing. sir?’ In default of a better answer to this question.’ replied Mr Squeers.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Much vexed by this reflection.

This early trial of yours that is fit to make your little heart burst. ‘The gentleman. furnished with pocket-money. I see by my young friends. where youth are boarded. I think. ‘I have been thinking. ‘I am in the oil and colour way. Mr Squeers. less than nothing.’ replied Squeers. my little gentleman? and how do you do.’ ‘It is not for me to say so. ‘all people have their trials.’ added 39 Mr Squeers. Mr Squeers?’ ‘Guineas. At the delightful village of Dotheboys. How do you do. provided with all necessaries—’ ‘It is the gentleman. small-boned little boys. solemnly. sir.’ said Mr Squeers.’ said the stranger. Herald.’ replied Mr Squeers.’ ‘Hem!’ said the other. ‘that advertised in the Times newspaper?’ ‘—Morning Post. with a persuasive smile. and your very eyes come out of your head with crying. clothed. stopping the schoolmaster in the rehearsal of his advertisement. sir. regarding the Academy called Dotheboys Hall at the delightful village of Dotheboys.’ rejoined the schoolmaster. of placing my two boys at your school. ‘Pounds for two. four . ‘but I don’t think you could possibly do a better thing. and Advertiser. washed.’ The stranger continued. and waited for further communications. sir. booked. ‘Let me see.’ said the stranger. as if he had never considered the proposition before. with an assumption of extreme surprise. I believe.’ said Mr Snawley.’ observed the stranger. and offering benevolent advice to his youthful pupil. ‘You come on business.Charles Dickens Mr Squeers feigned to be intent upon mending a pen. Mr Squeers. and a mother in Mrs Squeers. sir. Squeers inclined his head as much as to say. You are leaving your friends. ‘My dear child. sir. My name is Snawley. sir?’ ‘The same. near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire.’ said Mr Squeers. whom the applicant had brought with him. I believe. ‘Twenty pounds per annewum. ‘I don’t think it could be done. ‘Mr Squeers. Chronicle. what is it? Nothing. but you will have a father in me. ‘And a remarkably pretty name. sir?’ With this salutation Mr Squeers patted the heads of two hollow-eyed. near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire. my dear. too.

’ said Squeers.’ replied Squeers. double that.—a Taunton boy that. a pound either way shall not stand betwixt us. sir. ‘He goes down with me tomorrow. drawing himself up. There was not much in these three words.’ ‘A razor!’ exclaimed Mr Snawley.’ rejoined the other. ‘Could I say a few words with you in the next box?’ ‘By all means. ‘That’s his luggage that he is a sitting upon now. and deduct the—well. they did not.’ This was strictly true.’ replied Squeers. to attract attention. will you speak to your new playfellow a minute or two? That is one of my boys.’ ‘You are a moral man yourself. sir. sir. two hats. that Yorkshire can afford. Belling his name is.’ replied Squeers. in a slow and measured tone. ‘We don’t consider the boys’ appetites at our establishment. sir. will be theirs.’ replied Squeers. ‘I asked one of your references. ‘Oh! that doesn’t matter at all. as they walked into the next box.’ continued Squeers. You must recommend me to your connection.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY fives is twenty. looking at the poor little urchin as if he were some extraordinary natural curiosity. two pair of shoes. Each boy is required to bring. ‘Every wholesome luxury. sir.’ ‘Well. ‘every beautiful moral that Mrs Squeers can instil. two suits of clothes. sir. and make it up that way. indeed?’ rejoined Mr Snawley. ‘I rather believe I am. 40 ‘I hope I am also. for the schoolmaster and his companion .’ ‘Is he. ‘I have the satisfaction to know you are. every comfort of a home that a boy could wish for. ‘My dears.’ said Mr Snawley. ‘What for?’ ‘To shave with. two nightcaps. six pair of stockings. sir.’ rejoined Squeers with a grin.’ said Mr Snawley. sir. ‘They have come to the right shop for morals. Mr Snawley. every—in short. but there must have been something in the manner in which they were said. ‘I am glad of that.’ ‘I should wish their morals to be particularly attended to. two pocket-handkerchiefs. sir.’ said Mr Snawley.’ said Mr Snawley.’ replied the schoolmaster. sir. sir. and a razor. I hope I am a little in that line. and he said you were pious.’ ‘They are not great eaters. six shirts.

I see we may safely do so.’ ‘I see. ‘Up to what age do you keep boys at your school then?’ he asked at length. turning round again. ‘has made me anxious to put them to some school a good distance off.’ resumed Snawley. and long black gaiters.’ returned Squeers. looked as if he were quite disappointed to see him so much like other boys. nodding his head. I was wondering what the devil you were going to send them to Yorkshire for. his companion took another peep at the little boy on the trunk. Squeers nodded in the affirmative. ‘We have a good many of them. throwing himself back in his chair.’ cried Squeers. ‘Let us understand each other. that boy’s one.’ rejoined Snawley. so.’ replied Squeers. 41 ‘He is. ‘it’s expensive keeping boys at home. where there are no holidays—none of those ill-judged coming home twice a year that unsettle children’s minds so—and where they may rough it a little—you comprehend?’ ‘The payments regular. coolly. his smiling without any obvious reason was the more remarkable.Charles Dickens looked steadily at each other for a few seconds. What are these boys.’ ‘Him in the next box?’ said Snawley. and said he should hardly have thought it. . ‘They ain’t. ‘But about these boys of yours.’ said Squeers. Mr Squeers) that she might be led to squander it on them. and then exchanged a very meaning smile. ‘And this.’ replied Snawley. I am afraid (women are so very foolish.’ ‘Oh! Is that it?’ said the schoolmaster. and bearing in his countenance an expression of much mortification and sanctity. ‘That explains it at once. meeting the gaze of the schoolmaster’s one eye. I understand now.’ pursued Snawley. Snawley was a sleek. Ha! ha! Oh. Mr Squeers. I’m only their father-in-law.’ ‘I thought they might be. I am not their father. or until such time as they run away. and waving his hand. which would be their ruin.—natural children?’ ‘No. clad in sombre garments.’ said Squeers. ‘The fact is. and. flat-nosed man. ‘Just as long as their friends make the quarterly payments to my agent in town. and as she has a little money in her own right. you know.’ ‘You see I have married the mother. and no questions asked. you wanted to speak to me?’ ‘Yes.

and hope they may never be sent for. liberality. ‘This is my nephew. and that’s what I like. ‘Won’t you be seated?’ ‘Why. when another voice was heard inquiring for Mr Squeers. and seemed very much astonished at the outward appearance of the proprietor of Dotheboys Hall: as indeed he was.’ said Ralph Nickleby.’ said Squeers. taking up a pen. said he was very well. ‘There was an advertisement of yours in the papers this morning?’ ‘There was. religious principles. suiting the action to the word.’ said Squeers.’ replied the father-in-law. hesitating.’ replied the schoolmaster. ‘will you allow me to ask you whether you consider me a highly virtuous. as we understand each other. as a person whose business it is to take charge of youth. Mr Nicholas Nickleby. closely followed by Nicholas. who had by this time got back to the box by the fire-place. the schoolmaster had next to perform the still more agreeable office of entering the receipt of the first quarter’s payment in advance. ‘Then.’ 42 ‘That’s your sort!’ said Squeers. Nicholas bowed. ‘Morals strictly attended to. sir.’ said the father-in-law. and placing his hat on the table before him. exactly. and well-conducted man in private life.’ rejoined the other. you place the strongest confidence in my unimpeachable integrity.’ ‘How do you do. if I make you a reference?’ ‘Not the least in the world. presenting himself. exemplary. ‘Nothing could be better. except a circular at Christmas. and ability?’ ‘Certainly I do. rubbing his hands. sir.’ rejoined Squeers. ‘what is it?’ ‘Only a matter of business. This way. reciprocating the schoolmaster’s grin. I think I will. and whether. which he had scarcely completed. ‘Perhaps you won’t object to say that. though. ‘None. ‘this is doing business. ‘Not too much writing home allowed.’ said Squeers. .THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘That’s it. sir.’ replied Ralph.’ ‘Strictly. sir?’ said Squeers. if you please. ‘Here he is.’ Having entered Mr Snawley’s address. to say they never were so happy. I suppose?’ said the father-in-law.

washed. the attention. as if he meant anything but smiling. pointing to the little boy on the trunk and the two little boys on the floor. and—’ ‘I make no doubt of it.’ interrupted Ralph. ‘no doubt of it at all. clothed. 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 bedroom on the very night he died—the best dictionary sent up for him to lay his head upon—I don’t regret it though. that I consider Mr Squeers a gentleman highly virtuous. according to the custom of little boys when they first become acquainted. ‘I remember very well.’ ‘You are very right. ‘It’s in the advertisement.’ interrupted Ralph.’ rejoined Ralph.’ said Wackford 43 Squeers. ‘I feel bound to assure you. ‘You paid me a small account at each of my half-yearly visits to town. I think. which is situated. sir. ‘I did. who unfortunately—’ ‘—unfortunately died at Dotheboys Hall.’ said Ralph. well conducted. sir. ‘Ah! Mrs Squeers. Suppose we come to business?’ . finishing the sentence. sir.’ rejoined Squeers. looking narrowly at the schoolmaster. we know all about that. for some years. sir. sir. ‘These are only some pupils of mine.’ replied Squeers. sir. was as partial to that lad as if he had been her own. who had been staring at each other without uttering a word.Charles Dickens ‘Perhaps you recollect me?’ said Ralph. is a parent who is kind enough to compliment me upon the course of education adopted at Dotheboys Hall. exemplary. and I am proud to have this opportunity of assuring you. sir. where youth are boarded. ‘And in the matter of fact besides. and looked round at the strangers present. ‘For the parents of a boy named Dorker. sir. It is a pleasant thing to reflect that one did one’s duty by him.’ interrupted Mr Snawley. sir.’ Ralph smiled. furnished with pocket-money—’ ‘Yes. at the delightful village of Dotheboys.’ replied Squeers. sir. checking the torrent of recommendation. it is in the advertisement. booked. testily. and writhing their bodies into most remarkable contortions. ‘This gentleman. near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire.

” is the very first lesson we instil into our commercial pupils. ‘Very good. sir.’ repeated Master Belling again. ‘we had better transact our own. sir.”’ repeated Master Belling. ‘My nephew Nicholas. good-naturedly. sir.’ replied Squeers.’ said Squeers. addressing Mr Squeers. ‘Very good indeed. no less by the contrast between the simplicity of the nephew . 44 and I hope easily concluded. ‘Here he is!’ said Ralph. soon broached. ‘Tell the gentleman. ‘Well.’ said Squeers.’ ‘P. and to my not being a Master of Arts?’ ‘The absence of a college degree is an objection.’ ‘If you please.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘With all my heart. hot from school.’ said Squeers. ‘Never—perform—business!’ ‘Very well. ‘I am afraid the young man won’t suit me.’ said Squeers. does he?’ said Ralph. ‘it’s brief enough. sir?’ ‘Precisely so.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘Never. ‘He recollects what it is.’ suggested Nicholas. perhaps. and nothing fermenting in his pocket. sir. Master Belling. perplexed with such an application from a youth of Nicholas’s figure. ‘You and I will perform a little business on our private account by-and-by. you will be teaching all the young noblemen in Dotheboys Hall in less than a week’s time. do you hear?’ ‘Yes. with everything he learnt there.’ resumed Ralph. sir.’ answered Squeers. fermenting in his head. ‘go on. You have advertised for an able assistant. ‘“Never postpone business. Don’t be cast down. ‘And you really want one?’ ‘Certainly.’ said Squeers. ‘I know better. always remember that.’ ‘I fear.’ said Squeers.’ said Ralph.’ ‘I am afraid.’ rejoined Squeers. darting a withering look at the culprit. ‘Perform—business!’ said Master Belling. and considerably puzzled. ‘“Never.’ repeated Master Belling. is just the man you want.’ ‘And just now.’ said Ralph.’ said Squeers. ‘Yes. my dear.’ ‘Yes. he will. ‘that you object to my youth. unless this gentleman is more obstinate than I take him to be. looking as grave as he could.

‘This is a boy. ‘I do.’ rejoined Squeers.’ observed the schoolmaster. half imitating the sneer with which the old gentleman was regarding his unconscious relative. the question is. sir. it is. Isn’t that a question for consideration?’ ‘Yes. or thereabouts. and installed in. than by the incomprehensible allusion to the young noblemen under his tuition. ‘Good. ‘He does. ‘I recommend him to this splendid establishment of yours. from that moment. . of course. thoroughly nominated to. for some time to come at all events.Charles Dickens and the worldly manner of the uncle. ‘I’ll put this matter in its true light in two seconds.’ replied Squeers. and think of the use he may be to you in half-a-dozen ways! Now. answering a nod of Ralph’s head with a nod of his own. in the same 45 dry. shook his uncle’s hand warmly. eagerly. of course. you observe. whether. ‘So do I. Mr Nickleby. has no resources whatever. Nicholas. or whatever you like to call him. thinking it as well to back his new friend occasionally.’ said Nicholas. Do you see that?’ ‘Everybody must see that.’ said Mr Snawley.’ The two words were had apart.’ said Squeers. ‘Your uncle’s recommendation has done it.’ said Wackford Squeers. or a young man.’ said Ralph.’ said Ralph. the office of first assistant master at Dotheboys Hall. of eighteen or nineteen. ‘His father is dead. ‘If any caprice of temper should induce him to cast aside this golden opportunity before he has brought it to perfection. Look at him. and wants something to do. in a couple of minutes Mr Wackford Squeers announced that Mr Nicholas Nickleby was. overjoyed at his success. ‘Look here. ‘Let me have two words with you. I consider myself absolved from extending any assistance to his mother and sister. ‘That I see. and could almost have worshipped Squeers upon the spot.’ said Ralph. hard manner.’ rejoined Ralph.’ said Ralph. as an opening which will lead him to fortune if he turns it to proper account. he won’t serve your purpose better than twenty of the kind of people you would get under ordinary circumstances. or a lad.’ ‘If you’ll have the goodness. or a youth. he is wholly ignorant of the world. or a hobbledehoy.

‘So.’ said Nicholas. as we take these boys with us.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘Certainly.’ said Ralph. He found Golden Square in due course. pointing to the parcel. ‘the coach starts. Do you think you could find your way to Golden Square first?’ 46 ‘Certainly. ‘What’s that?’ inquired Noggs.’ said Squeers. all these bookworms are. I have paid. . ‘And your fare down. then.’ Nicholas cheerfully undertook the errand. you’ll have nothing to do but keep yourself warm. and bidding his worthy uncle an affectionate farewell.’ said Newman.’ said Ralph. ‘What of that? Porson was an odd-looking man.’ ‘Take care you don’t. producing a small parcel. if you please. Mr Nickleby.’ growled Ralph. You must be here at a quarter before. sir. was opening the door with a latch-key. and mounting upon his high stool.’ replied his uncle.’ thought Nicholas. straight down by his sides. ‘I can easily inquire. where he thrust him into a chair. which that warmhearted old gentleman acknowledged by a growl. ‘You had better go home now. gazing fixedly upon him. and emerged from the Saracen’s Head gateway. he had not found half enough. ‘I shall be here in the morning to see you fairly off. and pack up what you have got to pack. Without another word he led Nicholas into the passage. when they took leave of the schoolmaster. Mr Noggs.’ replied Nicholas. as from a tower of observation. ‘and you’re to have the goodness to wait till he comes home. and so was Doctor Johnson.’ ‘At eight o’clock tomorrow morning. indeed. sat. ‘and tell him to wait till I come home. that he could scarcely find words to thank him.’ ‘Uncle!’ cried Noggs. with his arms hanging. ‘Papers from my uncle. ‘I never shall forget this kindness.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘He is an odd-looking man. ‘No skulking!’ ‘Thank you. who had stepped out for a minute or so to the public-house. ‘Mr Nickleby. as he reached the steps.’ said Nicholas in explanation. and thence into the official pantry at the end of it. hastened away to execute his commission.’ Here was another instance of his uncle’s generosity! Nicholas felt his unexpected kindness so much.’ replied Nicholas. sir.’ ‘Leave these papers with my clerk. ‘Come in.

under the impression that Newman Noggs was deaf. could not refrain from breaking into a smile as he inquired whether Mr Noggs had any commands for him. Dotheboys Hall. he sat down again. It was a great exertion for Newman Noggs. and cracked his finger-joints as if he were snapping all the bones in his hands. laying the parcel on a table beside him. At first. the other party being wholly unknown to him. and nobody knows to this day how he ever came to make it. Newman Noggs made no reply. in a most ghastly manner. and thrusting his head forward so as to obtain a nearer view of Nicholas’s face. ‘No answer. smiling horribly all the time. out loud. scanned his features closely. Nicholas had not the least objection in the world. he should like to know what his uncle was going to do for him. bade him goodmorning. without once stopping. as his companion. and (his sanguine imagination warming as he spoke) entered into a fervent and glowing description of all the honours and advantages to be derived from his appointment at that seat of learning. on further consideration.Charles Dickens ‘There is no answer. This was such a very singular proceeding on the part of an utter stranger. what’s the matter—are you ill?’ said Nicholas. ‘But. decided that he was in liquor. but went on shrugging his shoulders and cracking his finger-joints. suddenly breaking off. speaking very loud. out of the tops of his eyes. . who had a sufficiently keen sense of the ridiculous. without uttering a syllable. continued the same close scrutiny of his companion’s face. upon which Nicholas rose. but. and looking steadfastly at nothing. so.’ said Nicholas. Newman placed his hands upon his knees.’ said Nicholas. but folding his arms. and. that if the young gentleman did not object to tell. that Nicholas. after throwing himself into a variety of uncouth attitudes. thrust his hands under the stool. but he drew a long 47 breath and actually said. but on the contrary was rather pleased to have an opportunity of talking on the subject which occupied his thoughts. Newman said nothing. Nicholas thought the mysterious man was in a fit. and his appearance was so extremely peculiar. and remarking that he required no rest. Noggs shook his head and sighed.

that the little preparations for his journey were made mournfully indeed. Kate and her mother had feigned to dine when Nicholas was out. Thus. So. and so little time to do it in. Nicholas Nickleby would have commenced his expedition under most happy auspices. Nicholas insisted on leaving behind. and. took place on the sad night which preceded his departure. or of what was home once—no matter which. A hundred things which the anxious care of his mother and sister deemed indispensable for his comfort. or might be convertible into money if occasion required. use. A hundred affectionate contests on such points as these. they let them have their way.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY under which circumstances he deemed it prudent to make off at once. Nicholas slept well till six next morning. He wrote a few 48 CHAPTER 5 NICHOLAS STARTS FOR YORKSHIRE. and then there came supper. with some little delicacy provided for the occasion. dreamed of home. and forcing a melancholy laugh. for they could not suppress them. do what they would. There was so much to be done. so many kind words to be spoken. and wept more silently. as they might prove of some after . and the cracking of his fingers sounded louder that ever. thank God! in sleep—and rose quite brisk and gay. The box was packed at last. they lingered on till the hour of separating for the night was long past. The poor lady nearly choked himself by attempting to partake of it. He looked back when he had got the street-door open. Kate grew busier and busier. and even that was a relief. AND WHAT BEFELL THEM ON THE ROAD IF TEARS DROPPED into a trunk were charms to preserve its owner from sorrow and misfortune. and almost suffocated himself in affecting a jest or two. and as a set-off against the expense of which. and then they found that they might as well have given vent to their real feelings before. Newman Noggs was still indulging in the same extraordinary gestures. for things that are changed or gone will come back as they used to be. and such bitter pain in the hearts in which they rose to impede their utterance. as the termination of every angerless dispute brought them nearer and nearer to the close of their slight preparations. OF HIS LEAVE-TAKING AND HIS FELLOW-TRAVELLERS.

starting and putting her hand to her curl-papers. ‘I heard something of it last night. Mr Nickleby.’ ‘Well. now?’ inquired Nicholas. ‘I’m waiting for the light to carry out an idea. I am sorry to say. Mr Nickleby?’ said Miss La Creevy. I am very sorry for it. I persuaded her to give me a sitting or . ‘To carry out an idea. smiling.’ ‘You don’t mean to say that you are really going all the way down into Yorkshire this cold winter’s weather.’ ‘I do. Necessity is my driver. who was expected to bequeath him property if he was like the family.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ ‘So are you. putting down the box and looking in. ‘It’s the fine arts that bring me out of bed. Your sister is a very pretty young lady. shouldered his box and crept softly downstairs. but perfect aquilines. ‘Bless us!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy. and there are flats of all sorts and sizes when there’s a meeting at Exeter Hall. Miss La Creevy.’ repeated Miss La Creevy. ‘as much on your mother’s and sister’s account as on yours.’ said Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Is that you. to say the goodbye which he was afraid to pronounce himself. ‘Needs must. indeed. at his sister’s door. when somebody drives. that’s all I can say. are scarce. and we generally use them for uniforms or public characters. I’ll endeavour to sketch them for you.’ returned the lady.’ ‘Indeed!’ said Nicholas. Mr Nickleby. destined for his grandmother in the country.’ replied Miss La Creevy. ‘It is I. I have only to look out of window and wait till I get one.’ replied Nicholas. with half his scanty stock of money. that depends in a great measure on the pattern. Mr Nickleby. Hannah?’ cried a voice from Miss La Creevy’s sitting-room. and laying them. and that is an additional reason why she should have somebody to protect her. ‘If I should meet with any in my travels.’ 49 ‘Does it take long to get a nose.Charles Dickens lines in pencil.’ Miss La Creevy had got up early to put a fancy nose into a miniature of an ugly little boy. you know. whence shone the light of a feeble candle. ‘You’re up very early. ‘and that’s the great convenience of living in a thoroughfare like the Strand. ‘Why. When I want a nose or an eye for any particular sitter. ‘Snubs and Romans are plentiful enough. and that is only another name for the same gentleman.

’ said the good-natured miniature painter. Regarding. and couldn’t have believed it possible. now and then. she held up an ivory countenance intersected with very perceptible sky-blue veins. ranged in a row on the opposite seat. Snow Hill.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY two. and Miss La Creevy evinced no greater symptoms of displeasure than declaring. that she had never heard of such a thing. been spending the night in a stable. and regarded it with so much complacency. Mr Squeers . Having terminated the unexpected interview in this satisfactory manner. although he had no waistcoat to cover it with. that if he gave Miss La Creevy one little kiss. with the three little boys before noticed. presenting his hand. so he walked slowly on. ‘I think you will. perhaps she might not be the less kindly disposed towards those he was leaving behind. and seen the box safely deposited in the coach-office. ‘If you ever have an opportunity of showing Kate some little kindness. from the appearance of his other garments. Nicholas hastily withdrew himself from the 50 house. and I wish you well. with no small curiosity and interest. By the time he had found a man to carry his box it was only seven o’clock. and that he should be compelled to journey so far in search of one. and thinking. He found that learned gentleman sitting at breakfast.’ ‘Depend upon that. ‘and God bless you. all the busy preparations for the coming day which every street and almost every house displayed. and taking his breakfast at a pump. for the street-door case.’ As Miss La Creevy spoke. as she adjusted her yellow turban. Mr Nickleby.’ said Nicholas. Having dismissed his attendant.’ It was very little that Nicholas knew of the world. but he guessed enough about its ways to think. and had evidently. he looked into the coffee-room in search of Mr Squeers. that Nicholas quite envied her. So. ‘Ah! she’ll make a sweet miniature. and very probably with not half as light a heart in his breast as the man had. Nicholas speedily arrived at the Saracen’s Head. and two others who had turned up by some lucky chance since the interview of the previous day. that it seemed rather hard that so many people of all ranks and stations could earn a livelihood in London. he gave her three or four with a kind of jocose gallantry. a little in advance of the porter.

the milk will be drownded. but he bowed with all becoming reverence. sir?’ inquired the waiter. with a sigh.Charles Dickens had before him a small measure of coffee. to be sure. ‘Very good. ‘Serve it right for being so dear. ‘the boy on the left hand nearest the window may take a drink.’ At this fresh mention of the bread and butter.’ replied the waiter. the five little boys looked very eager.’ said Squeers. but he was at that moment intent on preparing breakfast for the little boys. William. ‘here’s richness! Think of the many beggars and orphans in the streets that would be glad of this.’ ‘Never you mind that. A shocking thing hunger. the boy next him will go in. sir. isn’t it. Are you ready?’ ‘Yes. ‘Oh! that’s the milk and water.’ cried all the little boys with great eagerness. and a cold round of beef. and don’t be eager after vittles. You ordered that thick bread and butter for three. a breakfasting you see!’ Nicholas did not see that anybody was breakfasting. and slanting it gently. ‘Why. ‘What a rare article milk is. is it. ‘This is twopenn’orth of milk. William?’ said Squeers. waiter?’ said Mr Squeers.’ ‘You needn’t hurry yourself.’ said Squeers. so as to get an accurate view of the quantity of liquid contained in it. Mr Nickleby. sir. looking down into a large blue mug. will you?’ ‘To the wery top. ‘When I say number one. with their eyes. don’t forget the bread and butter presently. in London!’ said Mr Squeers. ‘there’s plenty of time. and looked as cheerful as he could. ‘Just fill that mug up with lukewarm water. and recognised Nicholas. sir. did you?’ ‘Coming directly. Mr Nickleby?’ ‘Very shocking. a plate of hot toast. smacking his lips. little boys. boys. Mr Squeers took a large bite out of the cold beef. Conquer your passions.’ As he uttered this moral precept. except Mr Squeers. sir. putting the mug before the children. and followed the waiter out. and so till we come to number five.’ said Nicholas. ‘That’s twopenn’orth. and when I say number two. which is the last boy. .’ replied Mr Squeers.’ pursued Mr Squeers. meanwhile Mr Squeers tasted the milk and water. ‘Ah!’ said that gentleman. 51 ‘Sit down. ‘Here we are. is it.

‘Oh! here you are. jumping up and producing a little basket from under the seat. dividing their gaze between the mug. turning to Nicholas. the horn was heard. but he had no time to reflect upon them. and then every boy leaves off. Mr Ralph Nickleby. ‘keep ready till I tell you to begin. boys! You’ll want it on the road!’ Nicholas was considerably startled by these very economical arrangements. Mr Nickleby. . ‘Number one may take a drink. Nicholas murmured something—he knew not what—in reply. ‘Here are your mother and sister. looking hastily round. the boys began to eat voraciously. ‘I thought it wouldn’t be long. Subdue your appetites. in here. and you’ve conquered human natur.’ said Squeers.’ said Squeers. for the horn 52 will blow in a minute or two. and the little boys. and every morsel which Mr Squeers took into his mouth. and all these offices were in his department. dividing the bread and butter for three into as many portions as there were children. when he had finished. and their boxes had to be brought out and put in. calmly getting on with his breakfast. ‘put what you haven’t had time to eat. ‘And now.’ ‘Where?’ cried Nicholas.’ said the schoolmaster. when his uncle. for the little boys had to be got up to the top of the coach. the bread and butter (which had by this time arrived). remained with strained eyes in torments of expectation. when Mr Squeers gave the signal for number two. and looked smilingly on. He was in the full heat and bustle of concluding these operations. and in desperate haste: while the schoolmaster (who was in high good humour after his meal) picked his teeth with a fork. my dears.’ Permission being thus given to fall to. In a very short time. and speaking with his mouth very full of beef and toast. who gave up at the same interesting moment to number three. ‘you had better look sharp with your breakfast.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘That’s right. sir. and Mr Squeers’s luggage was to be seen carefully deposited in the boot. ‘Thank God for a good breakfast. and the process was repeated until the milk and water terminated with number five.’ said Squeers. accosted him. This is the way we inculcate strength of mind. and had just drunk enough to make him wish for more.’ Number one seized the mug ravenously. sir!’ said Ralph.’ said the schoolmaster.

‘Very good.Charles Dickens ‘Here!’ replied his uncle. ma’am. embracing her son. ‘Poor dear boy—going away without his breakfast too. heedless of the unconcerned lookers-on in the coach-yard. they were paying a hackney coach as I came up. what do you say to that. because he feared to distress us!’ ‘Mighty fine certainly. ‘I think you’d better get up behind. Kate Nickleby.’ ‘I should never have forgiven myself if I had not seen him. I took a penny loaf and a ha’porth of milk for my breakfast as I walked to the city every morning.’ said Ralph. ‘I wish Mrs Squeers took gals. though. sir. ‘Having too much money and nothing at all to do with it. ‘Do you wish to be introduced to Mr Squeers. if I live as long.’ ‘Dear Nicholas.’ said Squeers. my dear. miss.’ whispered Kate.’ ‘We were afraid of being too late to see him before he went away from us.’ said Mrs Nickleby. I haven’t been in a hackney coach of my own hiring.’ retorted Ralph in his cold sarcastic manner. ‘I’m sure I heard you say as much. ma’am. here’s my niece: Nicholas’s sister!’ ‘Very glad to make your acquaintance. my dear?’ ‘That the schoolmaster! No. that he was as near being soundly pummelled as he had ever been in his life. raising his hat an inch or two. 53 I’m afraid of one of them boys falling off and then there’s twenty pound a year gone.’ returned Ralph. I never pay a hackney coach. whose quick ears had caught the inquiry.’ said Mrs Nickleby. ma’am. with some surprise. with great testiness. for thirty years. ‘Mr Squeers. I merely said that you were paying a hackney coach.’ said Squeers. coming up at the moment buttoning his greatcoat. ma’am? Breakfast! Bah!’ ‘Now. I never hire one. Ha! ha! ha!’ If the proprietor of Dotheboys Hall could have known what was passing in his assistant’s breast at that moment. having a quicker perception of her brother’s emo- . I don’t know. whether she mightn’t grow jealous if we had. touching her brother’s arm. uncle. and we had you for a teacher. ‘who is that vulgar man?’ ‘Eh!’ growled Ralph. ‘you’re the best judge of course. shrinking back. he would have discovered. Oh no!’ replied Kate. ‘When I first went to business. Nickleby. and I hope I shan’t be for thirty more.

’ replied Noggs. and the horses giving the last impatient rattle to their harness. or master. A minute’s bustle. love. Bless you. The little boys’ legs being too short to admit of their feet resting upon anything as they sat. That’s all. Read it. or whatever the proper name may be. who was saying a few earnest words to Squeers. and still heavier guard.’ replied Nicholas. At this moment. a few notes from the horn. Quite ready. a hasty glance of two sorrowful faces below. and there stood Newman Noggs. ‘I suppose the Yorkshire folks are rather rough and uncultivated. and thus prevented Mr Squeers from being impressed with the fact in a peculiarly disagreeable manner. ‘Hush!’ rejoined Noggs. and goodbye! Mother. that’s all. farewell! Thank you heartily for all you have done and all you mean to do. led him gently aside. They are looking this way. Nicholas mounted nimbly to his seat. and the hard features of Mr Ralph Nickleby—and the coach was gone too. look forward to our meeting again someday! Uncle. ‘Is my employer. ‘What’s this?’ inquired Nicholas. pointing to Mr Ralph Nickleby. when the coachman and guard were comparing notes for the last time before starting. Nicholas felt somebody pulling softly at his leg. He looked down. Nobody knows. as the heavy coachman. a swaying of the vehicle to one side.’ ‘Stop!’ cried Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas quickly. itinerant newsmen making the last offer of a morning paper. ‘who is this man? What kind of place can it be that you are going to?’ ‘I hardly know. a cry of all right. and it is time I was in my place. who pushed up into his hand a dirty letter. pressing his sister’s hand.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY tions.’ urged Kate. sir!’ With these hasty adieux. a short distance off: ‘Take it. and the little boys’ bodies .’ ‘But this person. ‘No. Kate. when porters were screwing out the last reluctant sixpences. Nicholas cried stop. ‘My dear Nicholas. a banging of the coach doors. on the subject 54 of the way-bill. climbed into their seats.’ said the young lady. and waved his hand as gallantly as if his heart went with it. and rattling over the stones of Smithfield. again. ‘and I was an ass to take his coarseness ill. but Newman Noggs was gone.

‘If we put some of these youngsters in the middle. These are some of my boys. and proposed to take the other corner of the seat. he was not a little relieved when the coach stopped at the Peacock at Islington. Between the manual exertion and the mental anxiety attendant upon this task. ‘Mr Nickleby. I presume?’ ‘Yes. classical.Charles Dickens being consequently in imminent hazard of being jerked off the coach. and a more than half expression of surprise. ‘catch hold of that basket. got up behind. Nicholas had enough to do over the stones to hold them on.’ replied the worthy pedagogue.’ said the freshcoloured gentleman.’ ‘I have not the least objection I am sure. We don’t do things by halves at our shop.’ ‘Six children. in great haste. and say a hundred pound a year for the lot. Three children.’ . and they get paternal treatment and washing in. Belling and the youngest Snawley can sit between me and the guard. I dare say. ‘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. with no mistake at all about it. with a very good-humoured face.’ ‘Oh!’ said the gentleman. of an establishment where those six boys can be brought up in an enlightened. sir.’ replied Squeers.’ replied the stranger. He was still more relieved when a hearty-looking gentleman. eh?’ ‘If you’ll have the goodness. ‘you are the Mr Squeers mentioned here. ‘they’ll be safer in case of their going to sleep.’ said Squeers. sir. amd a good scholar. and commercial. sir. I am. explaining to the stranger. ‘that’ll be the very thing. for twenty guineas a year each—twenty guineas. ‘books as two. sir?’ exclaimed Squeers.’ ‘Upon my word. liberal. All manner of learning my boys take down. and all boys. Let me give you a card. the expense is never thought of. and a very fresh colour. sir—or I’d take all the boys together upon a average right through. glancing at the card. sir. a gentleman’s son. glancing at Nicholas with a half-smile.’ said the gentleman.’ said Squeers. that’s one of my assistants. Far from it. and moral manner. sir. ‘Mr Wackford Squeers is my name.’ said the new-comer. Mr Nickleby. take three of them boys between you and the gentleman. ‘these are advantages indeed. sir—Mr Nickleby. and I’m very far from being ashamed of it. mathematical. 55 ‘Yes.

and giving himself a plentiful shower of blows on the chest and shoulders. sir. but for his part he had never found it so. ‘Snawley. he put the horn into a little tunnel of a basket fastened to the coach-side for the purpose. bestowing various gruff encomiums on the beauty of the turn-out. junior. if you don’t leave off chattering your teeth. he surmised that the roads were pretty heavy arter that fall last night. say how that snufftaking was bad for the eyes. ‘All right. having done which. that wasn’t responsible for the payment of five pound five a quarter. ‘All right behind there. and took the liberty of asking whether any of them gentlemen carried a snuff-box. that everybody should speak as they found.’ rejoined Squeers. after which. who stood. ‘Off she goes!’ And off she did go—if coaches be feminine—amidst a loud flourish from the guard’s horn.’ rejoined Squeers. and putting on a pair of horn spectacles (the writing being crabbed) read the direction half-a-dozen times over. he remarked with a mysterious air that he had heard a medical gentleman as went down to Grantham last week. sir. Dick?’ cried the coachman. with the tears running down your face.’ said the guard as he clambered up. genelmen. Satisfactory replies being made to these queries. he demanded of every person separately whether he was going right through. no.’ ‘Highly considerate. After . put up his spectacles again. Nobody attempting to controvert this position. with the cloths over their arms. and if not. 56 When the guard (who was a stout old Yorkshireman) had blown himself quite out of breath. not if you went down on your knees. and shaking with the cold. and what he said was. observed it was uncommon cold. but more especially of the helpers. and then lounged admiringly stablewards. It happening that nobody did. and stared at everybody in turn. ‘It’s my great aim and end to be considerate.’ said the passenger. I’ll warm you with a severe thrashing in about half a minute’s time. and the calm approval of all the judges of coaches and coach-horses congregated at the Peacock. and asked me. ‘The most unexceptionable references are given and required. I wouldn’t take a reference with any boy. to do it. watching the coach till it disappeared.’ ‘Sit fast here.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘You may say that. he took a small brown-paper parcel out of his hat. where he was going. he consigned the parcel to its old place.’ was the reply. thrusting his hands into his great-coat pockets.

Nicholas and the good-tempered man found so many things to talk about. as their feelings prompted. The little pupils having been stimulated with the remains of their breakfast. which tasted very like toast-and-water put into a brandy bottle by mistake. shivered. A stage or two further on. which he scrutinised with a critical air as they were passed upon the road. and further invigorated by sundry small cups of a curious cordial carried by Mr Squeers. a great deal of snow fell from time to time. who loudly lamented. and Mr Squeers. and made the guard solemnly promise to stop every green chariot he saw coming. So the day wore on. The weather was intensely and bitterly cold. he took another blow at the horn by way of refreshment. the time passed with them as rapidly as it could. and falling into a solemn silence. looked carelessly at the familiar objects which met his eye on every side as the coach rolled on. with many fervent asseverations. and the wind was intolerably keen. while the five little boys were put to thaw by the fire. folded his arms as well as he could in so many coats. had a small lamp lighted which she carried in reticule. partook. . the four front outsides. and cried. of which the box. Lastly. and regaled with sandwiches. and composed himself to sleep directly. that officer undertook. that between 57 conversing together. the one inside. the fastidious lady. which. and a great to-do occasioned by the taking up. being horses and droves of cattle. At Eton Slocomb there was a good coach dinner. woke.Charles Dickens this. finding there was a solitary gentleman inside. 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. of a very fastidious lady with an infinite variety of cloaks and small parcels. the non-arrival of her own carriage which was to have taken her on. under such adverse circumstances. at a roadside inn. having now exhausted his usual topics of conversation. and being after much trouble shut in. the horses were put into a brisk canter and the coach was once more in rapid motion. for the behoof of the outsides. there is reason to suppose that he derived great benefit from the process. and. Nicholas. the good-tempered man. as it was a dark night and he was sitting with his face the other way. and cheering up the boys. the lamps were lighted. to do. the only things he seemed to care for. went to sleep.

can’t ye len’ a hond? Dom it. and while— confused by their plunging and the loud screams of the lady inside—he hesitated. and prepared. matter eneaf for one neight. and dismal enough they were. and its old churches rose. AFFORDS AN OPPORTUNITY TO A COUPLE OF GENTLEMEN TO TELL STORIES AGAINST EACH OTHER WHICH THE IN ‘WO HO!’ CRIED THE GUARD. ‘Matther mun. pillowed themselves against the luggage. who had been asleep for a short time.’ replied the guard. he’s gane mad wi’ glory I think. was suddenly roused by a violent jerk which nearly threw him from his seat.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY The night and the snow came on together. again to encounter the piercing blast which swept across the open country. Twenty miles further on. and was fast increasing every moment. two of the front outside passengers. for the night. I’d ha’ dean it if all my boans were brokken. on his legs in a minute. the vehicle turned easily over. CHAPTER 6 OCCURRENCE OF THE ACCIDENT MENTIONED IN THE LAST CHAPTER. and the tread of the horses’ feet. or about halfway between it and Newark. with many half-suppressed moans. There was no sound to be heard but the howling of the wind. frowning and dark. ‘dang the wall-eyed bay. Grasping the rail.’ . he found that the coach had sunk greatly on one side. whether to jump off or not. carse t’coorch is over. and running to the leaders’ heads. for an instant. wisely availing themselves of their arrival at one of the best inns in England. Here. turned in. and leaving the light and warmth of the town behind them. The streets of Stamford were deserted as they passed through the town. dang ye! Wo ho!’ ‘What’s the matter?’ demanded Nicholas. at the George at Grantham. 58 though it was still dragged forward by the horses. were rendered inaudible by the thick coating of snow which covered the ground. when Nicholas. They were little more than a stage out of Grantham. for the noise of the wheels. and relieved him from all further uncertainty by flinging him into the road. The remainder wrapped themselves more closely in their coats and cloaks. from the whitened ground. looking sleepily up. ‘Is there ony genelmen there as can len’ a hond here? Keep quiet.

but in summoning assistance to their relief. and the remaining passengers without any injury at all—thanks to the softness of the snow-drift in which they had been overturned.’ As the man spoke. that the two front outsides had escaped with black eyes. to the stable they had just left. the appearance of things was not long in mending. the animals were no sooner released than they trotted back. cumin’. and walked back with the rest. Cumin’. will’ee. which was distant not a mile behind. they’ll gang whoam fast eneaf!’ In truth. That’s it. my lod. that’s all. . and a careful investigation being instituted. However. a man on horseback galloped down. It had its effect. Well deane. disengaging one of the coach-lamps. seizing the horn. a large faggot and a plentiful supply of coals being heaped upon the fire. Hang on tiv’em sumhoo. she prudently thought better of it. ‘while ar coot treaces. ‘Can you blo’ a harn?’ asked the guard. staggering to his feet. In fact. for lights 59 gleamed in the distance. it appeared that the lady inside had broken her lamp. before the passengers were well collected together.Charles Dickens ‘Here!’ cried Nicholas. she must be carried on some gentleman’s shoulders to the nearest public-house. These facts were no sooner thoroughly ascertained. ‘Then just blo’ away into that ‘un as lies on the grund. Mr Squeers with a portmanteau bruise on his back. and a chair or two.’ replied Nicholas.’ cried the guard. the box with a bloody nose. awoke the echoes far and wide with one of the most extraordinary performances on that instrument ever heard by mortal ears. ‘I’m ready. Let’em goa noo. 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. the coachman with a contusion on the temple.’ ‘Hoold ‘em toight. They found on reaching it. but being forewarned that if she did. than the lady gave several indications of fainting. with much deliberation. and the gentleman his head. I’m only a little abroad. not only in rousing such of their fall. however. fit to wakken the deead. Dean’t make that noise. wooman. Dang ‘em.’ said the man. he proceeded to wrench open the uppermost door of the coach. ‘I dare say I can. and people were already astir. ‘while I stop sum o’ this here squealing inside. while Nicholas.

and looked at the pupils with as much benignity as he could possibly affect. handed round the cards as directed.’ replied the lady. you would most probably have had no brains left to teach with.’ ‘So well. very well. who lost no opportunity of advertising gratuitously. ma’am?’ said the merry-faced gentleman.’ Expressing himself to this effect. Mr Squeers. sir. I hope?’ ‘The subject is a very painful one to my feelings. while Nicholas. hand the lady them cards. insinuating himself into the warmest corner. I should have done it myself if I had come to in time. ma’am. placed his hands upon his knees. ‘you did very right to catch hold of them horses. ‘No mental inconvenience. and offer these to the gentleman. but I am very glad you did it. Mr Nickleby.’ re- . ‘In one sense they are.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and. ‘They are all under the same parental and affectionate treatment. as though he were charitably desirous to change the subject.’ This remark called up a discourse relative to the promptitude Nicholas had displayed.’ said the merry-faced gentleman. of course. and he was overwhelmed with compliments and commendations.’ replied Squeers. Perhaps they might know of some parents that would be glad to avail themselves of the establishment. diving into his greatcoat pocket for cards. Mr Nickleby. ‘that if they had not been firmly checked when they were.’ observed Squeers: ‘every man is glad when he escapes from danger. You did it very well. addressing the fastidious lady. who did not seem to approve very much of the patronising tone adopted by Squeers. Mrs Squeers and myself are a mother and father to every one of ‘em. ‘I hope you suffer no inconvenience from the overturn.’ 60 ‘Are they all brothers. ‘Well. which was a most agreeable exchange for the cold and darkness out of doors. sir?’ inquired the lady who had carried the ‘Davy’ or safety-lamp. 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. ‘I am very glad to have escaped. the room was warm and light. ‘No bodily inconvenience. blushing with shame. by the time they had washed off all effaceable marks of the late accident.’ said Squeers.

he turned with a smile to the grey-headed gentleman. with which both he and the grey-haired gentleman appeared to be well acquainted. ‘I merely intended to inquire—’ ‘I hope no inquiries will be made. ‘or I shall be compelled to throw myself on the protection of the other gentlemen. ‘That’s a pity. ‘As the guard has gone on horseback to Grantham to get 61 another coach. Even the box-passenger caught the infection. ‘and as he must be gone a couple of hours at the very least. and a footman. and after dispensing it all round. led the conversation to the antiquities of York. the attentions of the good woman of the inn were redoubled. This latter personage took upon himself the office of tapster when the punch was ready. for some time.Charles Dickens plied the lady with strong emotion. pray direct a boy to keep watch outside the door—and if a green chariot passes in the direction of Grantham. ‘I cannot indeed.’ said the merry-faced gentleman. He was not past the middle age. looking merrier still. it seemed to have been prematurely turned by care or sorrow. who was a man of very genteel appearance. most probably in silk stockings. immediately inquired whether there was not very good society in that neighbourhood. I propose a bowl of hot punch. and growing wonderfully deferential. smiling in his turn.’ The people of the house were evidently overcome by this request. and appeared to be prepossessed by the frank good-nature of the individual from whom it emanated. and asked if he could sing. Landlord. ‘Is there nobody here who can sing a song to lighten the time?’ . sir?’ This question was addressed to the broken-headed inside. not to refer to it. When this topic flagged. in silence. that it would have a coachman with a gold-laced hat on the box. and when the lady charged the boy to remember. What say you. but his hair was grey. behind. dressed in mourning.’ said the lady.’ ‘Dear me. He readily acceded to the proposal. there was: in a manner which sufficiently implied that she moved at the very tiptop and summit of it all. ‘and I beg you as a gentleman.’ replied gentleman. to stop it instantly.’ said the owner of the good-humoured countenance. to which the lady replied yes.’ said the good-tempered gentleman when they had been all sitting round the fire. as a means of identifying the expected green chariot.

but tossed her head contemptuously. ‘for I hold that in this. that they couldn’t remember the words of anything without the book. you’ll tell us a story?’ 62 ‘Nay. the propriety of making an attempt for the general benefit.’ ‘Indeed!’ said the grey-haired gentleman. for the joint sake of the little community. I will. they should endeavour to render themselves as pleasant. let it be so. the grey-headed gentleman thus went on: ‘A great many years ago—for the fifteenth century was scarce two years old at the time. I should ask you.’ ‘After you. and King Henry the Fourth sat upon the throne of England—there dwelt. ‘Some little Italian thing out of the last opera brought out in town. smiling. as in all other cases where people who are strangers to each other are thrown unexpectedly together.’ said the president with great respect. in all cases.’ As the lady condescended to make no reply. ‘Perhaps the lady would not object. the subjects of my tale.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY The passengers. the third a year younger than the second. ‘Perhaps. during which the fastidious lady drank a glass of punch unobserved. I fear the turn of my thoughts is not calculated to lighten the time you must pass here. protested that they could not. ‘I’m glad to hear it. We were speaking of York Minster just now. would be most acceptable I am sure. the second a year younger. and so forth. one and all. one or two voices urged upon the president himself. ‘These five sisters were all of surpassing beauty. with pleasure. and murmured some further expression of surprise regarding the absence of the green chariot. and shall judge. My story shall have some reference to it. but you have brought this upon yourselves. ‘I would if I could. as you can’t sing.’ ‘I wish the maxim were more generally acted on. as possible. five maiden sisters. Let us call it The Five sisters of York After a murmur of approbation from the other passengers.’ said he of the good-tempered face.’ returned the other. that they wished they could. The eldest was in her twenty-third year. and a merry twinkle in his eye. ‘Well. and the fourth a year . in the ancient city of York.’ said the grey-headed gentleman.

Alice. is not more graceful than were the clusters of rich brown hair that sported round her brow. the caged birds sang when they heard her voice. But they dwelt in an old wooden house—old even in those days—with overhanging gables and balconies of rudely-carved oak. could fail to love her! ‘You may seek in vain. for the spot on which these sisters lived. when one of those black monks emerged from the . Devoted attachment to her sisters. our hearts could but retain their early youth and freshness. dignity and grace were in their every movement. to which fraternity it belonged. a fair creature of sixteen! The blushing tints in the soft bloom on the fruit. the faint image of Eden which is stamped upon them in childhood. with dark flashing eyes and hair of jet. and a fervent love of all beautiful things in nature.Charles Dickens younger than the third. paid yearly dues to the black monks of St Benedict. chafes and rubs in our rough struggles with the world. dear Alice. and the five sisters. which stood within a pleasant orchard. while our bodies grow old and withered. They were tall stately figures. or the delicate painting on the flower. and soon wears away: too often to leave nothing but a mournful blank remaining. now. The brightest flowers in the garden were reared by her. Her gleesome voice and merry laugh were the sweetest music of their home. or the deep blue of her eye. if the four elder sisters were lovely. what living thing within the sphere of her gentle witchery. whence a stout archer might have winged an arrow to St Mary’s Abbey. and pined when they missed its sweetness. were its pure affections. of what avail would be our sorrows and sufferings! But. and was surrounded by a rough stone wall. are not more exquisite than was the blending of the rose and lily in her gentle face. and dusty antiquaries tell of them as of a fable. ‘But. how beautiful was the youngest. living on its fair domains. ‘It was a bright and sunny morning in the pleasant time of summer. The vine. The old abbey flourished then. 63 ‘The heart of this fair girl bounded with joy and gladness. She was its very light and life. ‘If we all had hearts like those which beat so lightly in the bosoms of the young and beautiful. in all its elegant luxuriance. what a heaven this earth would be! If. and the fame of their great beauty had spread through all the country round. for their very names have passed away.

and fair in truth they were. turning to the eldest sister as he spoke. with his eyes bent upon the ground. Heaven above was blue. Even a monk might have loved them as choice masterpieces of his Maker’s hand. 64 ‘“Save you. What sympathy should a holy preacher have with either? ‘With eyes bent upon the ground. fell upon his ears ere he had advanced many paces. the lark soared high above the waving corn. ‘The monk answered not. and raising his eyes higher than was his humble wont. The noise of soft voices in conversation. blushing beneath the stern look of the recluse. and bent his steps towards the house of the fair sisters. and the eldest motioned him to a mossy seat beside them. father. to see all nature beaming in brightness and sunshine. ‘“And what joy and cheerfulness it wakes up within us. the religious man moved slowly forward until he reached a small postern in the wall of the sisters’ orchard. approving angels were gratified. then. save by a grave inclination of the head. alas! that the few bubbles on the surface of eternity—all that Heaven wills we should . no doubt. through which he passed. at no great distance. the five sisters seated on the grass. passing her fingers through the tresses of the smiling girl. “still wasting the precious hours on this vain trifling.” added Alice. ‘“Ye were merry. and man is but a shadow. The beauty of the earth is but a breath. ‘The sisters saluted the holy man with becoming reverence. Alas. but the holy man walked gloomily on. and the sisters pursued their task in silence. ‘“Still wasting the precious hours. ‘“You know how light of heart sweet Alice is. fair daughters!” said the friar.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY abbey portal.” said the monk. with Alice in the centre: all busily plying their customary task of embroidering. But the good friar shook his head. Everything looked gay and smiling.” replied the eldest sister. the river glistened like a path of diamonds in the sun.—at which. and the deep buzz of insects filled the air. and earth beneath was green. or only raised enough to prevent his stumbling over such obstacles as lay in his way. and of merry laughter. the birds poured forth their songs from the shady trees. he descried. and bumped himself down on a very hard stone.” said the monk at length. closing it behind him. daughters.

the sick peasants have been tended. “we have prayed at matins. allured by its temptations and dazzled by its glitter.Charles Dickens see of that dark deep stream—should be so lightly scattered!’ ‘“Father. and soften our hearts to affection and love. in later times. as did each of the others. “Heaven rest her soul!” ‘“Amen!” cried the friar in a deep voice. and bent them mildly on the friar. Day after day has been employed upon this senseless task. resting his chin upon his hands. the device was of a complex and intricate description. when she should be no more. . in holy ties. we went forth into the world. as did the others. and the pattern and colours of all five were the same. to minister to the pride of your frail and giddy sex. Daughters. they would prove the happiest and most peaceful of our lives. and the worm exults as he beholds it. And so saying she resumed her work.—all our morning tasks have been performed. we ever forgot that love and duty which should bind. in her busy task. ‘“Our dear mother. but Alice raised hers. and that if. and mingled with its cares and trials—if. is there no better way to pass the fleeting hours?” ‘The four elder sisters cast down their eyes as if abashed by the holy man’s reproof. I hope our occupation is a blameless one?’ ‘“See here.” said the elder sister.” urged the maiden. unless it be that one day it is destined for some vain ornament. and yet it is not half accomplished. “an intricate winding of gaudy colours. The sisters bent gracefully over their work. somewhat proudly.” said the friar. ply them in all discretion and cheerfulness.” faltered the fair Alice. she said that if in harmless mirth and maidenly pursuits we passed those hours together. in our leisure hours. taking the frame from her hand. pausing. father. “was living when 65 these long tasks began.” said the maiden. our daily alms have been distributed at the gate. ‘“Our dear mother. that each sister had before her. the children of one loved parent—a glance at the old work of our common girlhood would awaken good thoughts of bygone days. looked from one to the other in silence. ‘It was a kind of sampler of large size. The shade of each departed day falls upon our graves. without purpose or object. and bade us.” ‘“Alice speaks truly. to know that we are hastening thither. the monk.

” cried Alice. hand in hand with Alice. and left us. the veil!” ‘“Never. and turning your faces steadily towards that goal. Nature’s own blessings are the proper goods of life. if you list. devote your lives to Heaven! Infancy. who had often urged the same point before. kissing her fair forehead. The veil. “Barter not the light and air of heaven. to its holy guardianship. and not for Alice. but had never met with so direct a repulse. “you hear our final resolve. Let us take shelter until evening!” With a reverence to the friar. for the cold cloister and the cell. but. and not on stone walls and bars of iron! Dear sisters. when our cold hearts cease to beat. directed that no constraint should be imposed upon our inclinations. and the freshness of earth and all the beautiful things which breathe upon it. and cheats the senses of their votaries. sisters. ‘The holy man.” he said at length. oh. the lady rose and walked towards the house. and that there were dwellings for peace and virtue beyond the convent’s walls. Let us hear no more of this. “to shun all such thoughts and chances. avoid the cloud which takes its rise among the pleasures of the world. let our last look be upon the bounds which God has set to his own bright skies. childhood. the other sisters followed. rising with dignity. The same pious care which enriched the abbey of St Mary. only shun the gloom and sadness of a cloister. Alice. orphans. ‘“Take comfort. as with one accord. walked some .” said the eldest.” 66 ‘The tears fell fast from the maiden’s eyes as she closed her impassioned appeal. Think how human dust rolls onward to the tomb. let us live and die. “The veil shall never cast its shadow on thy young brow. and we may share them sinlessly together. but that we should be free to live according to our choice. we pray you.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘“How much better. and. the prime of life. cried that their lot was cast together.” said the eldest lady. daughters. in the peaceful shelter of the church. sisters? For yourselves you speak. and old age. ‘“Father. To die is our heavy portion. it is nearly noon. let warm hearts be beating near. or for me. and we shall be happy. wither as rapidly as they crowd upon each other. Sisters. How say you. let us die with life about us.” ‘The sisters. in this green garden’s compass. and hid her face in the bosom of her sister.

daughters!” 67 ‘With these words he disappeared through the postern. at others. and directing an angry glance by turns at Alice and the eldest sister.Charles Dickens little distance behind. ‘“Stay!” said the monk. and a female form glided hurriedly forth. and there weep for the dreams of youth. When that hour arrives—and. and next day rode away. faster indeed than many tales that are told. and on the next. and the sisters hastening into the house were seen no more that day. affliction. The time will one day come. and the same trees cast their pleasant shade upon the orchard grass. and the gleaming of the moon on caps of steel. but a change had come over their dwelling. and his lips moving AS IF in prayer. he quickened his pace. Then. and the next again. as if eager to demand tidings of the weary messenger. ‘Time passed away as a tale that is told. The house of the five sisters stood where it did. These things are Heaven’s will. As the sisters reached the porch. raising his right hand in the air. Sometimes. and hear from me what these recollections are. A goodly train of knights and ladies lodged one night within the abbey walls. and seemed to bring . in after life. and the evening’s soft repose. Find me the cell which shall be colder than the fire of mortals grows. the five sisters still walked. jaded coursers were spurred up to the gate. when dimmed by calamity and trial. “The Virgin’s blessing be upon you. come it will—turn from the world to which you clung. and.” said the friar. The memory of earthly things is charged. The sisters too were there. and called upon them to stop. horsemen began to come less frequently. mark me. and awaken—if in mercy they slumbered—by means of idle toys. “Stay. subduing his voice as he looked round upon the shrinking girls. with two of the fair sisters among them. with dreary change and wasting sorrow. of which number I fear this may be one. with bitter disappointment. with his eyes bent upon the earth. and next day the sun shone brightly. to the refuge which you spurned. there was the clash of armour. when a glance at those unmeaning baubles will tear open deep wounds in the hearts of some among you. or worked. death. not mine. which you would cherish above eternity. in their quiet orchard. or beguiled the time by cheerful conversation. and strike to your inmost souls. and lovely as at first. ‘But nature will smile though priests may frown. And in the morning’s glare.

‘And Alice—where was she? In Heaven. and knight or lady. and now . whose instinct brought them forth to swell and fatten in the rain. ‘“They are here. by stealth. or his eyes rest upon the beautiful figures of the five sisters. and again he entered by the postern. when the same black monk walked slowly on. The boughs of the trees were bent and broken. They were stately yet. A blight had fallen on the trees and shrubs. The bat skimmed in fantastic flights through the heavy air. Again he paused near the sisters’ house. ‘There was a sullen darkness in the sky. but the flush and pride of beauty were gone. sisters. they were cast abroad. and footsore peasants slunk to the gate after sunset. and the wind. No light feet had pressed it for many. sighed heavily from time to time. Four sisters sat there. ‘With the indifference or abstraction of one well accustomed to the change. and the ground was alive with crawling things. a mournful silence fell upon it. horse or armour. within a stone’s-throw of the abbey. and the sun had gone angrily down. and at length they ceased to come at all. and when morning came. Their black garments made their pale faces whiter still. ‘No longer were the friar’s eyes directed to the earth. tinting the dull clouds with the last traces of his wrath. and time and sorrow had worked deep ravages. All was silent and deserted. many a day. ‘But not again did his ear encounter the sound of laughter. and entered a low. a vassal was dispatched in haste to the abbey at dead of night. as though foretelling in grief the ravages of the coming storm. the monk glided into the house. at length beginning to break the unnatural stillness that had prevailed all day. there were sounds of woe and wailing in the sisters’ house. dark room. ‘The monk—even the monk—could bear with some grief here. and there were furrows in their blanched faces which years could never plough.” said the elder lady in a trembling voice. and motioned them to continue their speech. and did their errand there.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY bad tidings when they did. Once. and after this. for it was long since these sisters had met. “I have never borne to look upon them since. was seen about it no more. and roamed from point to point. as if the gloom and desolation of the scene found a quick response in 68 his own bosom. and the grass had grown long and rank. with folded arms. He took his seat in silence.

and let the convent be their grave!” ‘The sisters asked for three days to deliberate. morning came again. that night. her pent-up tears made way. and though the boughs of the orchard trees drooped and ran wild upon the ground. lies buried on a plain whereof the turf is red with blood. and she sobbed “God bless her!” ‘The monk rose and advanced towards them. ‘“The gallant youth who looked into thine eyes. and. . “drew ye from your peaceful home to scenes of revelry and splendour. and wrung her hands. weeping bitterly. when the feelings of the other sisters gushed forth at sight of it. but there was yet the spot on which they had so often sat together. with a meaning look. There was every walk and nook which Alice had made glad.Charles Dickens 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. opening a cabinet. and felt. ‘The monk turned to the second sister. “to fritter away the time in gewgaws which shall raise up the pale ghosts of hopes of early years. and in the minster nave was one flat stone beneath which she slept in peace. heap penance and mortification on their heads. completed long before. brought forth the five frames of work. once brightly burnished. and the restless ambition of—proud and fiery men. lie rotting on the ground. But. keep them down.” ‘She glanced at the monk as she spoke. and. have sent ye back. it was the same orchard still. but her hand trembled as she produced the last one. and are as little distinguishable for his.” he said in a low voice.” said the monk. as though the veil were indeed the fitting shroud for their dead joys.” he continued. widowed maidens. when change and sorrow were but names. Her step was firm. ‘“There is little need. and humbled outcasts. turning to the two other sisters. as are the bones that crumble in the mould!” ‘The lady groaned. Bury them. The same policy. and hung upon thy very breath when first he saw thee intent upon this pastime. Do I speak truly?” ‘The sobs of the two sisters were their only reply. “It was almost the last thing she touched in health.” cried the elder lady. 69 ‘“The policy of courts. The grass was coarse and high. ‘“It was. Rusty fragments of armour.

gently. the familiar patterns were reflected in their original colours. ‘It is a tale of life. after many years. 70 ‘That stone has worn away and been replaced by others. Only three were seen in the customary place. ‘Do you think the sisters who loved her so well. bring the dark shade of sadness on one angel’s face? No. but there are lights too.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘And could they. and. These were fitted into a large window until that time bare of ornament. to artists of great celebrity in those times. ‘For many hours in every day. and when the sun shone brightly. the sisters paced slowly up and down the nave. a faithful copy of their old embroidery work. and many generations have come and gone since then. then but two. caused to be executed. for a long time afterwards.’ ‘And died early. but one solitary female bent with age. if we choose to contemplate them.’ ‘THAT’S A MELANCHOLY TALE. Time has softened down the colours. but the same stream of light still falls upon the forgotten tomb. ‘There are shades in all good pictures. perhaps. and life is made up of such sorrows.’ said the merry-faced gentleman. had she been less happy. and when all Heaven turned to hear them. look upon her grave.’ said the other.’ said the first speaker. remembering how her young heart had sickened at the thought of cloistered walls. as she had so well loved to see it. and the stone bore five plain Christian names. in five large compartments of richly stained glass. to this day. in garbs which would chill the very ashes within it? Could they bow down in prayer. ‘They sent abroad. would have grieved the less if her life had been one of gloom and sadness? If any- . of which no trace remains. with much feeling. ‘The youngest sister in your tale was always light-hearted.’ said the gentleman with the merry face. emptying his glass. and having obtained the church’s sanction to their work of piety. an old window called the Five Sisters. and throwing a stream of brilliant light upon the pavement. the stranger is shown in York Cathedral. fell warmly on the name of Alice. or knelt by the side of the flat broad stone. but in a grave and sad tone of voice. courteously. and. ‘She would have died earlier. At length she came no more.’ returned the other.

who seemed desperately apprehensive that he was going to relate something improper. ‘the good in this state of existence preponderates over the bad. Our recollections are unfortunately mingled with much that we deplore.Charles Dickens thing could soothe the first sharp pain of a heavy loss. it does. that those I mourned. If our affections be tried. if he had it in his power. had prepared themselves for a purer and happier world. is the best and purest link between this world and a better. ‘can anybody doubt it? Take any subject of sorrowful regret. ‘Believe!’ retorted the other. by being innocently happy here. and with many actions which we bitterly repent. of Grogzwig in Germany. ‘Well.’ said the gentleman who had told the story. began The Baron of Grogzwig ‘The Baron Von Koeldwethout. But come! I’ll tell you a story of another kind. then. still in the most chequered life I firmly think there are so many little rays of sunshine to look back upon.’ After a very brief silence. and glancing slyly at the fastidious lady. I needn’t say that he lived in a castle. and loving all about them. The sun does not shine upon this fair earth to meet frowning eyes. but of a softened kind. however sad. is pain. and memory. neither need I say that he lived in an old castle. To remember happiness which cannot be restored. because that’s of course.’ interposed the other. The recollection of past pleasure may become pain—’ ‘It does.’ 71 ‘Possibly you are correct in that belief.’ said the grey-haired gentleman after a short reflection. for what German baron ever lived in a new one? There were many strange cir- . ‘I am inclined to think you are. the merry-faced gentleman sent round the punch.’ ‘I believe you are right. depend upon it.’ ‘Why. and see with how much pleasure it is associated. our affections are our consolation and comfort. let miscalled philosophers tell us what they will. was as likely a young baron as you would wish to see. 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. it would be—with me—the reflection.’ replied the other.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY cumstances 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 neighbouring 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, because 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. ‘Talking of the baron’s ancestor puts me in mind of the baron’s great claims to respect, on the score of his 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 72 other man of his time; and I only wish that he had lived in these latter days, that he might have had more. It is a very hard thing upon the great men of 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 reasonably 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 know—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! He was a fine swarthy fellow, with dark hair and large moustachios, 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 lacquered 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 afterwards.

Charles Dickens ‘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 fiveand-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 quarrelling 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 Nimrod or Gillingwater, and slaughtered “another fine bear,” and brought him home in triumph, the Baron Von Koeldwethout sat moodily at the head of his table, eyeing the smoky roof of the hall with a discontended aspect. He swal73 lowed huge bumpers of wine, but the more he swallowed, the more he frowned. The gentlemen who had been honoured 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 unchangeable. ‘“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 demand her in marriage of her father, ere the sun goes down tomorrow. If he refuse our suit, we will cut off his nose.”

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘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 preoccupied 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, however, when an early messenger bore the request of Von Koeldwethout 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 horseman 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 venerable baron caught his child to his arms, and shed a wink of joy. ‘There was great feasting at the castle, that day. The fourand-twenty Lincoln greens of Von Koeldwethout exchanged 74 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 gaily 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 themselves, 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 courtyard beneath, where the unconscious Lincoln greens were taking a copious stirrup-cup, preparatory to issuing forth after a boar or two.

Charles Dickens ‘“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 things), and not according to their own. All I need say, just now, is, that the Baroness Von Koeldwethout somehow 75 or other acquired great control over the Baron Von Koeldwethout, 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 revelry, 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 honour 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 young baron, and so on, every year, either a baron or baroness (and one year both together), until the baron found himself 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 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the good lady ever did anything material towards contributing to her child’s recovery, still she made it a point of duty to be as nervous as possible at the castle of 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 wife was at least no worse off than the wives of other barons, the Baroness Von Swillenhausen begged all persons to take notice, that nobody but she, sympathised with her dear daughter’s sufferings; upon which, her relations and friends remarked, 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, though the Swillenhausen family had looked upon them as inexhaustible; and just when the 76 baroness was on the point of making a thirteenth addition to the family pedigree, Von Koeldwethout discovered that he had no means of replenishing 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 huntingknife 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 sharp 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 upstairs 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

Charles Dickens 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. ‘“I’ll 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 Grogzwig 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 present troubles and past days of bachelorship, and about the Lincoln 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 themselves with drinking. His mind was running upon bears and boars, when, in the process of draining his glass to the bottom, he 77 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 cadaverous face, shadowed by jagged and matted locks of coarse black hair. He wore a kind of tunic of a dull bluish colour, 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 armour; 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. “I should ask that question. How did you get here?” ‘“Through the door,” replied the figure.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘“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 scornfully. ‘“I am the Genius of Despair and Suicide,” said the apparition. “Now you know me.” ‘With these words the apparition turned towards the baron, as if composing himself for a talk—and, what was very remarkable, 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?” 78 ‘“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,” replied 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 inquired whether he took any active part in such little proceedings 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 his stake, and examining the ferule. “Be as quick as you can, will you, for

Charles Dickens 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 huntingknife with 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.” ‘Whether the genius unintentionally committed himself in saying this, or whether he thought the baron’s mind was so 79 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 opinions 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.”

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘“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 I, 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 his 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 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: 80 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 grey-headed gentleman 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,

Charles Dickens during his nap, both the Baron of Grogzwig and the greyhaired 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. the chaise. Get in, Nickleby.’ Nicholas obeyed. Mr. Squeers with some difficulty inducing the pony to obey also, they started off, leaving the cartload 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 Dotheboys 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 intelligence 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. 81

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 themselves by looking at the coach as it changed horses, while he ran into the tavern and went through the leg-stretching process 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 labouring 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 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Squeers eyed his companion slyly, at the conclusion of this little dialogue, and finding that he had grown thoughtful and appeared in nowise disposed to volunteer any observations, 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 impatient cries, Nicholas had time to observe that the school was a long, cold-looking house, one storey high, with a few straggling out-buildings behind, and a barn and stable adjoining. After the lapse of a minute or two, the noise of somebody unlocking the yard-gate was heard, and presently a tall lean boy, with a lantern in his hand, issued forth. ‘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 fire,’ answered Smike, with humility. ‘Fire! what fire? Where’s there a fire?’ demanded the schoolmaster, sharply. 82 ‘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 crowding 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, presented itself to him in most alarming colours; 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 had never experienced before. ‘Now then!’ cried Squeers, poking his head out at the frontdoor. ‘Where are you, Nickleby?’ ‘Here, sir,’ replied Nicholas. ‘Come in, then,’ said Squeers ‘the wind blows in, at this

Charles Dickens door, fit to knock a man off his legs.’ Nicholas sighed, and hurried in. Mr Squeers, having bolted the door to keep it shut, ushered him into a small parlour 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, was about half a head taller than Mr Squeers, and was dressed in a dimity night-jacket; with 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 Squeery?’ said this lady in a playful manner, and a very hoarse voice. ‘Quite well, my love,’ replied Squeers. ‘How’s the cows?’ ‘All right, every one of ’em,’ answered the lady. 83 ‘And the pigs?’ said Squeers. ‘As well as they were when you went away.’ ‘Come; that’s a blessing,’ said Squeers, pulling off his greatcoat. ‘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 always 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 try what can be done.’ Pending these little endearments, Nicholas had stood, awkwardly enough, in the middle of the room: not very 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 gentleman. ‘Oh,’ replied Mrs Squeers, nodding her head at Nicholas,

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and eyeing him coldly from top to toe. ‘He’ll take a meal with us tonight,’ said Squeers, ‘and go among the boys tomorrow morning. You can give him a shakedown here, tonight, 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 humour 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 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 letters to different boys, and other small documents, which he had brought down in them. The boy glanced, with an anxious and timid expression, at the papers, as if with a sickly hope 84 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 garments 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 very little boys, and which, though most absurdly short in the arms and legs, was quite wide enough for his attenuated 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 neckerchief. He was lame; and as he feigned to be busy in arranging 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.

Charles Dickens ‘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 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. 85 ‘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 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?’ 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 Nicholas. ‘A very little, for I’m not hungry.’ Well, it’s a pity to cut the pie if you’re not hungry, isn’t it?’ said Mrs Squeers. ‘Will you try a bit of the beef?’

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘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.’ So Nicholas had a glassful, and being occupied with his own reflections, drank it, in happy innocence of all the foregone 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 86 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 yourself 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 popular rumour in the neighbourhood asserted that Mr Squeers, being amiably opposed to cruelty to animals, not unfrequently purchased for by 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 bed-

Charles Dickens stead, 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 stiff 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 Nicholas the ghost of a small glassful of the same compound. This done, Mr and Mrs Squeers drew close up to the fire, and sitting with their feet on the fender, talked confidentially in whispers; while Nicholas, taking up the tutor’s assistant, read the interesting legends in the miscellaneous 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 bedroom tomorrow, Nickelby,’ said Squeers. ‘Let me see! Who sleeps in Brooks’s’s bed, my dear?’ 87 ‘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.’ ‘Full!’ thought Nicholas. ‘I should think he was.’ ‘There’s a place somewhere, I know,’ said Squeers; ‘but I can’t at this moment call to mind where it is. However, we’ll have that all settled tomorrow. Good-night, Nickleby. Seven o’clock in the morning, mind.’ ‘I shall be ready, sir,’ replied Nicholas. ‘Good-night.’ ‘I’ll come in myself and show you where the well is,’ said Squeers. ‘You’ll 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 tomorrow 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 you take care, young man, and get first wash. The teacher ought always to have it; but they get the better of him if they can.’

He grew less desponding. to bear whatever wretchedness might be in store for him. growing gradually calmer. In the hurry of leaving London. but it at once brought back to him the recollection of the mysterious behaviour of Newman Noggs. with something like renewed cheerfulness. I should forget how to wear a whole coat now. in Silver Street. lest Nicholas should help himself in the night. Once. and had not occurred to him since. at the sign of the Crown. He was preparing for bed. sat himself down in a chair. but. Newman Noggs. and that remembering the helplessness of his mother and sister. they know where I live. was written upon very dirty paper. If ever you want a shelter in London (don’t be angry at this. or he would not have done me a kindness when there was no hope of return. nobody was ashamed— never mind that. 88 ‘Dear me!’ said Nicholas. You can come at night. when a sealed letter fell from his coat pocket. Excuse errors. took half-a-dozen turns up and down the room in a condition of much agitation and excitement. ‘what an extraordinary hand!’ It was directed to himself. I know the world. You do not. and in such cramped and crippled writing as to be almost illegible. being left alone. or you would not be bound on such a journey. Golden Square. he would give his uncle no plea for deserting them in their need. and the lady having seized it with great precipitation. Good resolutions seldom fail of producing some good effect in the mind from which they spring. they retired together. I have forgotten all my old ways. he contrived to read as follows:— My dear young Man. It is at the corner of Silver Street and James Street. I once thought I never should). for a time.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Mr Squeers then nudged Mrs Squeers to bring away the brandy bottle. and—so sanguine and buoyant is youth—even hoped that affairs at Dotheboys Hall might yet prove better than they promised. After great difficulty and much puzzling. and mentally resolved that. . with a bar door both ways. My spelling may have gone with them. he would endeavour. Nicholas. it had escaped his attention. come what come might. It’s all over. Your father did not.

‘Here’s a pretty go. and proceeded to dress himself by the light of the taper. for I was a gentleman then. I was indeed. will you?’ 89 CHAPTER 8 OF THE INTERNAL ECONOMY OF DOTHEBOYS HALL A RIDE OF TWO HUNDRED and odd miles in severe weather. ‘the pump’s froze. . which Mr Squeers carried in his hand. not much interested in the intelligence.’ ‘Not wash myself!’ exclaimed Nicholas.’ ‘Indeed!’ said Nicholas. tumble up. but ‘tumbled up’ at once.’ replied Squeers. were of an agreeable and happy kind. not a bit of it. is one of the best softeners of a hard bed that ingenuity can devise. Now. and whispered their airy nothings in his ear. ‘So you must be content with giving yourself a dry polish till we break the ice in the well. and a voice he had no difficulty in recognising as part and parcel of Mr Squeers. ‘Ah! that has it. ‘and ready iced too. Don’t stand staring at me. there is good ale at the King’s Head. ‘You can’t wash yourself this morning. but do look sharp. ‘Past seven.’ replied Squeers. sitting up in bed. You may say Mr Noggs there. but after he had folded this letter and placed it in his pocket-book. Perhaps it is even a sweetener of dreams. for those which hovered over the rough couch of Nicholas. IT MAY BE A VERY undignified circumstances to record. If you should go near Barnard Castle.’ said that gentleman. He was making his fortune very fast indeed. Nickleby. and I am sure they will not charge you for it. will you?’ Nicholas needed no further admonition. ‘Has morning come already?’ asked Nicholas. ‘Yes. when the faint glimmer of an expiring candle shone before his eyes.’ rejoined Squeers tartly. Nicholas Nickleby’s eyes were dimmed with a moisture that might have been taken for tears. Nickleby. and can get a bucketful out for the boys. come. admonished him that it was time to rise.S.’ said Mr Squeers. ‘No. Say you know me.Charles Dickens P.

and it proving fruitless. just to purify them. Nicholas huddled on his clothes. and pushed by Mrs Squeers. young man. still habited in the primitive nightjacket which had displayed the symmetry of her figure on the previous night. ‘Drat the things. was injudicious. ‘yes.’ ‘Purify fiddlesticks’ ends. with much ease and lightness. meanwhile. A few words passed between them while they were thus engaged. and that Mrs Squeers said what Mr Squeers said. Nickleby. was ‘stuff. ‘Come in. .’ A vast deal of searching and rummaging ensued. We purify the boys’ bloods now and then. why how you talk!’ retorted Mrs Squeers sharply. ‘isn’t it brimstone morning?’ ‘I forgot.’ ‘My dear. but as their voices were partially stifled by the cupboard. let him understand. that we don’t want any foolery about the boys. ‘If the young man comes to be a teacher here. and so I tell you plainly. ‘Don’t think. when the voice of his amiable consort was heard in the passage.’ ‘Never mind it. which she wore.’ observed Squeers in a soothing manner. and further ornamented with a beaver bonnet of some antiquity.’ said the lady. all that Nicholas could distinguish was. it does them good and us good at the same time. Squeers. that we go to the expense of flower of brimstone and molasses. Mrs Squeers came in. ‘I can’t find the school spoon anywhere. my love. that Mr Squeers said what Mrs Squeers had said. it certainly is. and that’s fair enough I’m sure. opened the shutters and blew the candle out.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Offering no further observation. you’ll find yourself mistaken. on the top of the nightcap before mentioned.’ said his lady. because if you think we carry 90 on the business in that way. So. at once. Smike was called in.’ ‘No consequence.’ Having given this explanation. ‘it’s of no consequence.’ said Squeers. in which Mr Squeers assisted. my dear. opening the cupboard. Mrs Squeers put her head into the closet and instituted a stricter search after the spoon.’ said Squeers frowning. ‘Hem!’ ‘Oh! nonsense.’ rejoined Mrs Squeers. my dear.’ rejoined Squeers. They have the brimstone and treacle. partly because if they hadn’t something or other in the way of medicine they’d be always ailing and giving a world of trouble. demanding admittance. and partly because it spoils their appetites and comes cheaper than breakfast and dinner.

and persuade his own mind that he was a very good fellow. that I don’t believe half the mothers going. That woman.’ said Squeers. even at home. ‘I do not know her equal. sir. that both Mr and Mrs Squeers viewed the boys in the light of their proper and natural enemies. but Squeers was. when I am up in London. as if he really had a notion of someday or other being able to take himself in.’ Nicholas sighed involuntarily at the thought of the agreeable domestic prospect thus opened to him. interrupting the progress of some thoughts to this effect in the mind of his usher. ‘that to them boys she is a mother. or. will you?’ . But she is more than a mother to them. She does things for them boys. so that he took nothing very advantageous by his motion. in other words.’ ‘I should think they would not. and that Squeers covered his rascality. saving creetur that you see her now. active. and behaved in unison accordingly. that Mrs Squeers waged war against the enemy openly and fearlessly.’ said Squeers. ‘let’s go to the schoolroom. ‘Indeed. enabled him to suggest that possibly Mrs Squeers might have the spoon in her pocket. As Mrs Squeers had previously protested. The only difference between them was. fortunately. would do for their own sons. 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. together with a promise of a sound thrashing if he were not more respectful in future.’ answered Nicholas. pushing the drudge before her. sir!’ observed Nicholas. and lend me a hand with my school-coat. ‘I don’t know her equal. the fact was. is always the same—always the same bustling. that she was quite certain she had not got it.Charles Dickens and boxed by Mr Squeers. as indeed turned out to be the case. Nickleby. On this point they were both agreed. Now. 91 ‘It’s my way to say. ‘But come. which course of treatment brightening his intellects. however.’ said Squeers when his consort had hurried away. with a spice of his habitual deceit. lively. Nickleby. Smike received another box on the ear for presuming to contradict his mistress.’ continued Squeers. too much occupied with his own reflections to perceive it. Nickleby. ‘A most invaluable woman. ten times more. that.

a detached desk for Squeers. the hare-lip. at first. children with the countenances of old men. and Squeers. Nickleby!’ It was such a crowded scene. there were vicious-faced boys. the crooked foot. and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring. led the way across a yard. The ceiling was supported. all crowded on the view together. with . With every kindly sympathy and affection blasted in its birth. Nicholas stared about him. the place resolved itself into a bare and dirty room. the remainder being stopped up with old copy-books and paper. really without seeing anything at all. whereof a tenth part might be of glass. its beauty gone. There were a couple of long old rickety desks. and the walls were so stained and discoloured. with leaden eyes. deformities with irons upon their limbs. brooding. faded from the mind of Nicholas as he looked in dismay around! Pale and haggard faces. and lonesome even in their loneliness. dogged suffering. boys of stunted growth. By degrees. with every young and healthy feeling flogged and starved down. darkened with the scowl of sullen. There were little faces which should have been handsome. and another for his assistant. with a couple of windows. from the earliest dawn of infancy. there was childhood with the light of its eye quenched. had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. ‘There. to a door in the rear of the house. and damaged. weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known. But the pupils—the young noblemen! How the last faint traces of hope. like malefactors in a jail. which he took down from a peg in the passage. and inked. ‘this is our shop. arming himself with his cane. in every possible way. the remotest glimmering of any good to be 92 derived from his efforts in this den. lank and bony figures. and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents had descended. or of young lives which. like that of a barn. two or three forms. that it was impossible to tell whether they had ever been touched with paint or whitewash.’ said the schoolmaster as they stepped in together.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Nicholas assisted his master to put on an old fustian shooting-jacket. that. there were the bleared eye. and there were so many objects to attract attention. by cross-beams and rafters. and others whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies. however. cut and notched. and its helplessness alone remaining.

choking the last boy in her hurry. giving the desk a great rap with his cane. presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle. and two in old trousers.Charles Dickens every revengeful passion that can fester in swollen hearts. and another file. under heavy corporal penalties. Look sharp!’ Smike shuffled out with the basin. who was fitting upon him a pair of new boots that 93 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. what an incipient Hell was breeding here! And yet this scene. as would have been irresistibly ridiculous. ‘is that physicking over?’ ‘Just over. and tapping the crown of his head with the wooden spoon to restore him. which might have been originally manufactured for some gigantic top. in a less interested observer than Nicholas. ill-assorted. to be treacled. had its grotesque features. you Smike. with great vigour. take away now. to take in the whole of the bowl at a gasp. but for the foul appearance of dirt. there was a long row of boys waiting.’ said Squeers. who had just escaped from the infliction. and disease. The whole were attired in such motley. eating its evil way to their core in silence. of which delicious compound she administered a large instalment to each boy in succession: using for the purpose a common wooden spoon. huddled together for companionship. ‘Here. and wiped her hands . under the hands of Smike. Besides these.’ said Mrs Squeers. ‘Now. disorder. three of them in very large leather breeches. with which they were associated. and Mrs Squeers having called up a little boy with a curly head. painful as it was. at no great distance from these was seated the juvenile son and heir of Mr Squeers—a striking likeness of his father—kicking. In another corner. and which widened every young gentleman’s mouth considerably: they being all obliged. with countenances of no pleasant anticipation. which made half the little boys nearly jump out of their boots. extraordinary garments. for he was regarding the appropriation with a look of most rueful amazement. making a variety of wry mouths indicative of anything but satisfaction. were the little boys who had arrived on the preceding night. a something tighter fit than drawers are usually worn. Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks. which. might have provoked a smile.

in a solemn voice. as if he had a perfect apprehension of what was inside all the books. which looked like diluted pincushions without the covers. ‘This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy. during which Mr Squeers looked very profound. assisted by the hungry servant. and could say every word of their contents by heart if he only chose to take the trouble. beckoning Nicholas to stand beside . he sat himself down. Nicholas distended his stomach with a bowl of porridge.’ said Squeers. may the Lord make us truly thankful!’—and went away to his own. Obedient to this summons there ranged themselves in front of the schoolmaster’s desk. Having further disposed of a slice of bread and butter. and was called porridge. and as his chief amusement was to tread upon the other boys’ toes in his new boots. and the boys took their places and their books. and when they had eaten their porridge by means of the bread. that gentleman called up the first class. Nickleby. and seemed to lack the spirit to move about. or hearty mirth. There was none of the noise and clamour of a 94 schoolroom. ‘For what we have received. After some half-hour’s delay. The only pupil who evinced the slightest tendency towards locomotion or playfulness was Master Squeers. none of its boisterous play. poured a brown composition. together with a number of little wooden bowls which were arranged upon a board. the boys ate the bread itself. The children sat crouching and shivering together. Into these bowls. of which latter commodity the average might be about one to eight learners. half-a-dozen scarecrows. A few minutes having elapsed. for much the same reason which induces some savages to swallow earth—lest they should be inconveniently hungry when there is nothing to eat. Mrs Squeers. one of whom placed a torn and filthy book beneath his learned eye. to wait for school-time. hurried out after him into a species of wash-house. A minute wedge of brown bread was inserted in each bowl.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY upon it. and had finished their breakfast. out at knees and elbows. allotted to him in virtue of his office. whereupon Mr Squeers said. Mr Squeers reappeared. where there was a small fire and a large kettle. He could not but observe how silent and sad the boys all seemed to be. his flow of spirits was rather disagreeable than otherwise.

‘And a very good way it is.’ said Squeers. ‘So he is. not remarking the emphasis of his usher. win. ‘We’ll get up a Latin one. der. Nickleby.’ answered Nicholas. and said he saw it was.’ said Squeers.’ rejoined Squeers. ‘We go upon the practical mode of teaching. you know. ney. where’s the first boy?’ ‘Please.’ rejoined Squeers. ‘Now. tin. ‘A horse is a quadruped. ‘I believe you. as if he were not altogether certain what he might think of him by this time. to be sure. bottinney. bot. When he has learned that bottinney means a knowledge of plants. and rub him down well. half cunning and half doubtful.’ replied a small voice. he dismissed the first class to their experiments in practical philosophy. sir. by no means disconcerted.Charles Dickens him. verb active. Nickleby?’ 95 ‘I believe there is no doubt of that.’ . you must begin to be useful. indeed!’ said Nicholas abstractedly. sir. then. to scour. a knowledge of plants. ‘Ain’t it. he goes and knows ‘em. to make bright.’ replied the boy. ‘go and look after my horse. bottin. and eyed Nicholas with a look. ‘Of course there isn’t. ‘To be sure. ‘So it is. till somebody tells you to leave off. Idling about here won’t do. sir. as everybody that’s gone through the grammar knows. a casement. just take them fourteen little boys and hear them some reading.’ answered Nicholas. after a pause.’ So saying. noun substantive. ‘That’s the way we do it.’ said Squeers. ‘So he is. the regular education system. It’s just the same principle as the use of the globes. d-e-r. ‘As you’re perfect in that. and they want the coppers filled. turning to the boy. Nickleby. at any rate. and quadruped’s Latin for beast. what’s horse?’ ‘A beast. Now. t-i-n. clean. he’s cleaning the back-parlour window.’ said the temporary head of the philosophical class. for it’s washing-day tomorrow. When the boy knows this out of book. ‘Third boy. That’s our system. sir. because. n-e-y.’ resumed Squeers. Nicholas shrugged his shoulders in a manner that was scarcely perceptible. The rest of the class go and draw water up. Where’s the second boy?’ ‘Please. he’s weeding the garden. Nickleby: what do you think of it?’ ‘It’s very useful one. or else where’s the use of having grammars at all?’ ‘Where. or I’ll rub you down. winder. he goes and does it. too. W-i-n. C-l-e-a-n.’ he said.’ said Squeers. and hand that over to you. B-o-t.

the accounts which had been left unpaid. the boys. After this. in the midst of which Mr Squeers went on to say: ‘Boys. In this exciting occupation. having previously had their appetites thoroughly taken away by stir-about and potatoes. stable. after every half-yearly visit to the metropolis. there was another hour of crouching in the schoolroom and shivering with cold. I’ve been to London. perhaps. ‘Let any boy speak a word without leave.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Mr Squeers said this. garden. the boys gave three feeble cheers at this refreshing intelligence. hesitating recital of those stories of engrossing interest which are to be found in the more antiquated spelling-books. Such cheers! Sights of extra strength with the chill on. possibly. and a deathlike silence immediately prevailed. regarding the relations and friends he had seen. and then school began again. or that his assistant did not say enough to him in praise of the establishment. either that he must not say too much to his assistant. entered the room and proclaimed silence. It was Mr Squeer’s custom to call the boys together. to eat it there in peace. of which Nicholas was graciously permitted to take his portion to his own solitary desk. as if it had suddenly occurred to him. the boys were recalled from house-window. ‘and I’ll take the skin off his back. sat down in the kitchen to some hard salt beef. or. with a small bundle of papers in his hand. and have returned to my family and you. because the boys acquired strength of mind from the suspense of the morning. The children were arranged in a semicircle round the new master. drawling.’ According to half-yearly custom. Be this as it may. At one o’clock. and Mrs S. following with a pair of canes.’ This special proclamation had the desired effect. the letters he had brought down. and he was soon listening to their dull. and make a sort of report. the news he had heard. as strong and well as ever.’ said Mr Squeers mildly. the morning lagged heavily on. the bills which had been paid. when Mr Squeers. and the school were assembled in full conclave. This solemn proceeding always took place 96 in the afternoon of the day succeeding his return. . and cow-yard. because Mr Squeers himself acquired greater sternness and inflexibility from certain warm potations in which he was wont to indulge after his early dinner. and so forth.

Charles Dickens ‘I have seen the parents of some boys. quite white from the rapid beating of his heart. but it’s not my fault. when he had quite done. Oh! you won’t hold that noise. sir—at least I don’t know what it is.’ said Squeers. he caught up the boy’s hand by the cuff of his jacket. you won’t rub that off in a hurry. crying. ‘Bolder. ‘I can’t help it. than to hesi- . and as the last thrashing did you no good. indeed. for all parties. speaking very slowly. administering a cut with the cane to expedite the reply.’ said Squeers. which of course is a very pleasant thing to reflect upon. won’t you? Put him out. where to have him. with warts all over his hands. sir?’ As Squeers spoke.’ continued Squeers.’ said Squeers. ‘Come here. ‘you’re an incorrigible young scoundrel. Smike. his own. ‘There.’ The drudge knew better from long experience. Boys are very like men to be sure. tucking up his wristbands. sir.’ rejoined twenty officious voices.’ With this. that there’s no prospect at all of their going away. sir?’ demanded the schoolmaster. stepped from his place to the master’s desk. An unhealthy-looking boy. ‘and they’re so glad to hear how their sons are getting on. turning over his papers. what’s this. looking very grim. ‘rub away as hard as you like. as the saying goes.’ said Squeers. and wholly disregarding a piteous cry for mercy.’ said Squeers. if 97 you father thinks that because—why. Where is Bolder?’ ‘Here he is. but the greater part of the young gentlemen having no particular parents to speak of.’ ‘Bolder. ‘I have had diappointments to contend against. and raised his eyes imploringly to Squeers’s face. ‘Bolder. Mr Squeers fell upon the boy and caned him soundly: not leaving off. please sir. until his arm was tired out. sir. ‘They will come. it’s the dirty work I think. ‘What do you call this.’ Two or three hands went to two or three eyes when Squeers said this. Bolder. and surveyed it with an edifying aspect of horror and disgust.’ rejoined the boy. were wholly uninterested in the thing one way or other. and moistening the palm of his right hand to get a good grip of the cane. ‘Bolder’s father was two pound ten short. for he was considering. indeed. we must see what another will do towards beating it out of you.

’ said Squeers. Would have sent the two pair of stockings as desired. will you take the money?’ The worthy lady pocketed the eighteenpence with a most business-like air.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY tate about obeying. to be no other than his maternal parent. so he bundled the victim out by a sidedoor. Mrs Squeers.’ It was affecting in one sense. supported by Mrs Squeers.’ said Squeers. and not object to sleeping five in a bed. ‘Oh!’ said Squeers: ‘Cobbey’s grandmother is dead. proceeded with the business by calling out ‘Mobbs. and look upon them as his only friends. She likewise thinks Mr Squeers is too good for this world. and hopes Graymarsh will put his trust in Providence.’ whereupon another boy rose. and Mr Squeers perched himself again on his own stool. for Graymarsh’s maternal aunt was strongly supposed. but hopes he may long be spared to carry on the business. ‘Mobbs’s step-mother.’ Another boy stood up. above all. when he had possessed himself of the contents. but is short of money. and sends her respectful compliments to Mrs Squeers. however. so forwards a tract instead. Cobbey. as coolly as possible. ‘took to her bed on hearing that he wouldn’t eat fat. Hopes. ‘Graymarsh. and Squeers passed on to the next boy. ‘a delightful letter. and the schoolmaster looked over the letter as before. Stand up. except eighteenpence.’ said Squeers. and Graymarsh resumed his seat. who occupied another at his side.’ said Squeers. ‘Graymarsh’s maternal aunt. ‘is very glad to hear he’s so well 98 and happy. which is all the news his sister sends. without alluding to this part of the story (which would have sounded immoral before boys). and thinks she must be an angel. Ah!’ said Squeers. folding it up. ‘Now let us see. and has been very ill ever . Stand up. ‘he’s the next. my dear.’ Another boy stood up. and his uncle John has took to drinking. by her more intimate friends. Very affecting indeed. and eyed the letter very hard while Squeers made a mental abstract of the same. that he will study in everything to please Mr and Mrs Squeers. Squeers. which no Christian should. which will just pay for that broken square of glass. Graymarsh. and that he will love Master Squeers. ‘A letter for Cobbey.

Charles Dickens since. and given a double-bladed knife with a corkscrew in it to the Missionaries. and by it Nicholas sat down. during which he had moistened the palm of his right hand again. and where a meal of bread and cheese was served out shortly after dark. after his good master had asked a blessing on it. with which view. he would have been almost happy to meet it. a few slovenly lessons were performed. rubbing his eyes in anticipation of good cause for doing so. in particular. leaving Nicholas to take care of the boys in the school-room. She wishes to know. all of which the same lady stated to be too large. with as good cause as a boy need have. There was a small stove at that corner of the room which was nearest to the master’s desk. ‘won’t do. after a terrible pause. some enclosing money. This business dispatched. 99 Mr Squeers then proceeded to open a miscellaneous collection of letters. as caps and so forth. which Mrs Squeers ‘took care of. His head. for he is too kind and too good to set anybody against anybody—and it has vexed her so much. The cruelty of which he had been an unwilling witness. which she had bought on purpose for him. and with what feelings he could turn up his nose at the cow’s-liver broth. so depressed and self-degraded by the consciousness of his position. Mobbs. and hopes Mr Squeers will flog him into a happier state of mind.’ and others referring to small articles of apparel. where he expects to go to. This was told her in the London newspapers—not by Mr Squeers. the coarse . must have been singularly elastic. Mobbs can’t think. come to me!’ Mobbs moved slowly towards the desk. for hats and caps of all dimensions were alike to him.’ said Squeers. she has also stopped his halfpenny a week pocketmoney. by an early post. She is sorry to find he is discontented. or too small. since everything that came into the school fitted him to a nicety. that if death could have come upon him at that time. and calculated for nobody but young Squeers. which is sinful and horrid. and he soon afterwards retired by the side-door. which was very cold. who would appear indeed to have had most accommodating limbs. and Squeers retired to his fireside.’ ‘A sulky state of feeling. if he quarrels with his vittles. Cheerfulness and contentment must be kept up.

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. to reciprocate it. His uncle had deceived him. shrunk back. he loathed himself. and felt. picking a few stray cinders from the hearth and planting them on the fire. This was the probable destination of his sister Kate. the sights and sounds about him. who was on his knees before the stove. but still living in the world. for the moment. as though the mere consciousness of his present situation must. others depended too much on his uncle’s favour. as he possibly could. bound hand and foot. this was a terrible idea—but no. He had paused to steal a look at Nicholas. he might do some good. and tried to persuade himself that the feeling extended no farther than between them. announcing the safe conclusion of his journey. prevent his raising his head again. for the present.’ said Nicholas kindly.’ 100 . there was the portrait-painter. he all at once encountered the upturned face of Smike. by this time. he thought. He hoped that by remaining where he was. the filthy place. 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. ‘Are you cold?’ ‘N-n-o. Having pretty good reason. and of it. even there. But. but when he recollected that. He was willing to believe that Ralph Nickleby had conceived a personal dislike to himself.’ ‘You are shivering. and saying as little about Dotheboys Hall. through all time to come. to admit of his awakening his wrath just then. as if expecting a blow. and the resolution he had formed on the preceding night remained undisturbed. all contributed to this state of feeling. at all events. his mother was by. too—simple enough.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and ruffianly behaviour of Squeers even in his best moods. his resolve was taken. being there as an assistant. One reflection disturbed him far more than any selfish considerations arising out of his own position. and when he saw that he was observed. he had no great difficulty in arriving at this conclusion. As he was absorbed in these meditations. He had written to his mother and sister. ‘You need not fear me. and saying that little as cheerfully.

‘No. dear.’ ‘My friends. and he was such a timid. 101 . It was with a heavy heart that Nicholas soon afterwards—no. and talked to him. he said they smiled. and shouldn’t know them.’ There was such an obvious fear of giving offence in his manner. alive or dead.’ ‘Hush!’ said Nicholas. ‘Be a man.’ said Nicholas gently. pain and fear for me.’ he replied.’ rejoined the other. ‘Poor fellow!’ If he had struck the drudge. they would frighten me. not retired. younger than any that are here now! Where are they all!’ ‘Whom do you speak of?’ inquired Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. shivering. drawing closer to his questioner’s side. But. laying his hand upon his shoulder. ‘Tell me.’ ‘By years!’ cried Smike. if they did. you know. ‘I am used to it. God help you. for I don’t know what it is.’ replied the youth. there was no retirement there—followed—to his dirty and crowded dormitory. he would have slunk away without a word. covering his face with his cracked and horny hands. ‘What faces will smile on me when I die!’ cried his companion.’ replied Smike quickly. ‘Oh dear. Pain and fear. he knew not what to say. No hope. no hope!’ The bell rang to bed: and the boy. none for me. and he died at last lifting his head to kiss them. ‘no. ‘Oh dear. Do you hear?’ ‘Yes. now. ‘I was with him at night. that Nicholas could not help exclaiming. Do you remember the boy that died here?’ ‘I was not here. you are nearly one by years. ‘myself—my—oh! what sufferings mine have been!’ ‘There is always hope. and when it was all silent he cried no more for friends he wished to come and sit with him. broken-spirited creature. oh dear!’ he cried. it will. crept away as if anxious to avoid notice. ‘Who will talk to me in those long nights! They cannot come from home. how many of them! How many of them since I was a little child.Charles Dickens ‘I am not cold.’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘but what of him?’ ‘Why. ‘My heart will break. yes. wishing to rouse the poor half-witted creature to reason. subsiding at the sound into his usual listless state. It will. he burst into tears. but began to see faces round his bed that came from home.

from the latter a remarkable expression of the right eye. Miss Squeers may be presumed to have been possessed of it. it may be as well to apprise the reader. on the approach of their honoured parent.’ ‘What do you hate him for. AND MR SQUEERS. but short like her father. ‘Of the young man—the new teacher—who else could I mean?’ ‘Oh! that Knuckleboy. which.’ said Squeers. ‘what do you think of him by this time?’ ‘Think of who?’ inquired Mrs Squeers. that Miss Fanny Squeers was in her three-and-twentieth year. MRS SQUEERS. AND OF VARIOUS MATTERS AND PERSONS CONNECTED NO LESS WITH THE SQUEERSES THAN NICHOLAS NICKLEBY WHEN MR SQUEERS LEFT the schoolroom for the night. as there is no reason to suppose that she was a solitary exception to an universal rule. drawing up his chair. and accomplished daughter. If there be any one grace or loveliness inseparable from that particular period of life. ‘Well. but in a smaller apartment in the rear of the premises. And. my dear. from the former she inherited a voice of harsh quality. to his own fireside. Mrs Squeers being engaged in the matronly pursuit of stocking-darning. thank Heaven. in this place. which was situated—not in the room in which Nicholas had supped on the night of his arrival. who (as she often remarked) was no grammarian. 102 . and the young lady and gentleman being occupied in the adjustment of some youthful differences. ‘I hate him. her having heard nothing of Nicholas. where his lady wife. She was not tall like her mother. my dear?’ asked Squeers.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY CHAPTER 9 OF MISS SQUEERS. something akin to having none at all. subsided into a noiseless exchange of kicks beneath it. and had only just returned to the parental roof. MASTER SQUEERS. until Mr Squeers himself now made him the subject of conversation. by means of a pugilistic contest across the table. To this circumstance may be referred. as has been before remarked. he betook himself. his amiable son. Miss Squeers had been spending a few days with a neighbouring friend.’ said Mrs Squeers impatiently. were in the full enjoyment of each other’s society.

till such time as little Wackford is able to take charge of the school. and a great deal too much I dare say. and. as the word peacock. 103 . sternly. ‘He is cheap. my dear. some of which were of a figurative kind. the young man is very cheap.’ urged Squeers. when excited. ‘I don’t see that you want him any more than the dead.’ Mrs Squeers. but rather to bear a latitude of construction according to the fancy of the hearers. ‘I’ll tell you. ‘What of that. and a thing not commonly seen. as if in mild deprecation of this outbreak.’ ‘Well. ‘But we do want him.’ ‘Am I to take care of the school when I grow up a man. ain’t it?’ ‘Quite enough for him. haughty. in the excess of his delight.’ retorted Mrs Squeers. to make use of a plurality of epithets. Mrs Squeers. ‘I only ask from curiosity. ‘Hem!’ said Squeers. a vicious kick which he was administering to his sister. then. if you please.’ replied Squeers in a pacific tone. can’t you? Isn’t it done every day by all the masters about? I’ve no patience with you. You can put on the cards and in the advertisements. if you want to know. and I’ll have a man under me to do the same with our blacks. my dear. “Education by Mr Wackford Squeers and able assistants. Because he’s a proud. suspending. and furthermore the allusion to Nicholas’s nose. to see that his blacks don’t run away. Neither were they meant to bear reference to each other.’ ‘Haven’t you!’ said Squeers. I’ll take my own way. isn’t it?’ replied his wife. ‘Five pound a year. that’s enough. ‘Now I’ll tell you what.’ ‘Not a bit of it.’ said Squeers. so much as to the object on whom they were bestowed. father?’ said Wackford junior. as will be seen in the present case: a peacock with a turned-up nose being a novelty in ornithology. A slave driver in the West Indies is allowed a man under him. moreover. consequential. if he knew it.’ said Mrs Squeers.Charles Dickens ‘What’s that to you?’ retorted Mrs Squeers. my dear. was accustomed to use strong language. ‘Don’t tell me. turned-up-nosed peacock.” without having any assistants. In this matter of having a teacher. ‘If I hate him.’ rejoined Mrs Squeers. it’s dear if you don’t want him. which was not intended to be taken in its literal sense. or get up a rebellion.

reverting to Nicholas. your father has got some nonsense in his head that he’s the son of a poor gentleman that died the other day. though he thought I didn’t.’ Now. at once restored cheerfulness to the conversation. isn’t he?—especially as he don’t like it. ‘Oh my eye. but a proud one. and saw in it a foreshadowing of his future eminence. I hope it’ll bring his pride down. ‘Nickleby. spelling the name according to some eccentric system which prevailed in his own mind. that’s what I consider him.’ observed Mrs Squeers. one time. as the head of the family was about to reply. He looked as black as thunder. father. The infantine appeal to their common sympathies.—any usher at all being a novelty. ‘Supposing he is. a being of whose existence the wildest imagination could never have dreamed— that Miss Squeers. I saw him. that gave himself such airs. ‘your mother always calls things and people by their wrong names. ‘The son of a gentleman!’ 104 .’ said Squeers. grasping his father’s cane. won’t I make ‘em squeak again!’ It was a proud moment in Mr Squeers’s life. started up as if he had more than got it in his mind to make a rush at you.’ said Mrs Squeers. who seldom troubled herself with scholastic matters.’ replied Mr Squeers. ‘Who is the man?’ ‘Why.’ ‘Well. in a shout of approving laughter.’ ‘Never mind that. my son. inquired with much curiosity who this Knuckleboy was. I watched him when you were laying on to little Bolder this afternoon. ‘I see them with right eyes. and that’s quite enough for me. ‘He’s a nasty stuck-up monkey. ‘he is as well stuck up in our schoolroom as anywhere else. and harmony to the company.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘You are. a proud usher in a Yorkshire school was such a very extraordinary and unaccountable thing to hear of. in a sentimental voice. He pressed a penny into his hand.’ said Mrs Squeers. ‘there’s something in that. father. and gave vent to his feelings (as did his exemplary wife also). when he witnessed that burst of enthusiasm in his young child’s mind. ‘Oh. won’t I give it to the boys!’ exclaimed the interesting child. and.’ said Mrs Squeers.’ said Squeers. and it shall be no fault of mine if it don’t.’ ‘No matter for that.’ said Miss Squeers. all the while.

’ ‘I don’t intend to. I hate him worse than poison. as I think he has. If he’s a gentleman’s son at all. it would be all the same a hundred years hence.’ said Mrs Squeers vehemently. with which axiom of philosophy. she had broken many and many a one.’ interposed Mrs S. he’s a fondling. regarding the outward appearance and demeanour of Nicholas. and his straight legs— upon which last-named articles she laid particular stress. as she herself significantly phrased it. until she retired for the night. and much more conversation on the same subject. when she questioned the hungry servant. ‘and if he has a touch of pride about him.Charles Dickens ‘Yes. to which queries the girl returned such enthusiastic replies. ‘something quite out of the common. as she frequently remarked when she made any such mistake. to take the trouble to hide it.’ ‘I say again. If he was. and of course there’s no occasion.’ And so Miss Squeers made up her mind that she 105 . she hoped she had tamed a high spirit or two in her day. my love.’ Mrs Squeers chuckled vastly on the receipt of these flattering compliments. the general 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.’ but. as quick as you can. my dear. ‘I don’t know anybody who can show dislike better than you. ‘He’s nothing of the kind. that in conjunction with her estimable husband. she was in the constant habit of consoling the boys when they laboured under more than ordinary ill-usage.’ ‘Mrs Squeers intended to say ‘foundling. Miss Fanny Squeers carefully treasured up this. I assure you.’ said Squeers. indeed.’ returned Squeers. that’s my opinion. with him. ‘If you dislike him. It is but due to her character to say. it would be no business of ours. coupled with so many laudatory remarks touching his beautiful dark eyes. and if he likes to learn the boys anything besides minding them. ‘for his father was married to his mother years before he was born. I don’t believe there’s woman in all England that can bring anybody’s spirit down.’ said Squeers. and his sweet smile. or. for we make a very good friend by having him here. and said. and she is alive now. ‘That’s right. but I don’t believe a word of it. minutely. in answer to the above remark. I have no objection I am sure.

sir?’ asked Miss Squeers. pointing to the pen. ‘Shall it be a hard or a soft nib?’ inquired Nicholas. then round the schoolroom. ‘I thought my father was—or might be—dear me. and went accidentally into the schoolroom to get a pen mended: where. as if dubious of the propriety of advancing any nearer to an utter stranger. blushing once more. to give Nicholas to understand that her heart was soft. and glancing. ‘He said about an hour.’ replied Miss Squeers. ‘Thank you! I am very sorry I intruded. ‘He has a beautiful smile. and her father absent. with bashful hesitation. and smiling.’ exclaimed the young lady.’ said Nicholas. and exhibited great confusion. If I hadn’t thought my father was here. how very awkward!’ ‘Mr Squeers is out. by no means overcome by the apparition.’ With which words. smiling to prevent himself from laughing outright. in spite of himself. ‘perhaps I can supply his place. ‘Which did you say?’ asked Nicholas. ‘I beg your pardon. ‘I never knew anything happen so cross. Miss Squeers sighed. as though in some measure reassured by the presence of forty boys.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY would take a personal observation of Nicholas the very next day. the young lady watched the opportunity of her mother being engaged.’ faltered Miss Squeers. and back again. I declare. from the pen in her hand. ‘If that is all you want. I wouldn’t upon any account have—it is very provoking—must look so very strange. ‘Oh! as soft as possible. and finally sidled up to Nicholas and delivered the pen into his hand. unexpected though it was. to Nicholas at his desk. at the affected embarrassment of the schoolmaster’s daughter.’ replied Nicholas—politely of course. and that the pen was wanted to match. I was thinking of something else for the moment. with a most winning mixture of reserve and condescension.’ Miss Squeers glanced at the door. In pursuance of this design. It might be. 106 . ‘Do you know will he be long.’ murmured Miss Squeers. ‘Dear me. seeing nobody but Nicholas presiding over the boys. she blushed very deeply. if you please.’ said Nicholas. I am sure.’ thought Miss Squeers. but without any indication of being stricken to the heart by Miss Squeers’s charms.

Miss Squeers was in love with Nicholas Nickleby. when he gave it to Miss Squeers.’ ‘Really. Now. To account for the rapidity with which this young lady had conceived a passion for Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas. and out of her teens (which is also a great matter). Miss Squeers and the miller’s daughter. and possess her friend with a similar secret. that whoever was first engaged to be married. whereat five-and-twenty little boys laughed aloud: being positively for the first and only time that half-year. it may be necessary to state.’ said Nicholas. closing the schoolroom door.’ said Nicholas. Take care! You are biting the nib off now. been more than commonly anxious to return the compliment. ‘so embarrassing that I scarcely know what I—very sorry to give you so much trouble. Miss Squeers stopped also. ‘Very awkward of me.’ ‘Not the least trouble in the world.’ said Miss Squeers. 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. either in consequence of finding it hard to please herself. ‘Not at all. and when he stooped to pick it up. had 107 . ‘The next I make for you. had. was a miller’s daughter of only eighteen. since. opening the door for the young lady’s retreat.’ replied Miss Squeers. ‘it was my fault. as she walked away. sir. resident in the nearest market town. before communicating it to any living soul. In fact. who had contracted herself unto the son of a small corn-factor. being fast friends. ‘I never saw such legs in the whole course of my life!’ said Miss Squeers. and rushed into Miss Squeers’s bedroom with the gratifying intelligence. should straightway confide the mighty secret to the bosom of the other. or harder still to please anybody else. Miss Squeers being five years older. came out express. Miss Squeers dropped it. I hope will be made less clumsily. in fulfilment of which pledge the miller’s daughter. and bespeak her as bridesmaid without loss of time.Charles Dickens Upon these instructions Nicholas made the pen. according to a custom prevalent among young ladies. when her engagement was formed. but. and they knocked their heads together. had covenanted together some two years before. It was all my foolish—a—a—good-morning!’ ‘Goodbye. that the friend from whom she had so recently returned.

depend on it. my dear. and discovering. having slight misgivings on the subject. The little interview with Nicholas had no sooner passed. putting on her bonnet. ‘If you had only seen his looks and smiles! I never was so overcome in all my life. ‘Most extraordinary. ‘Isn’t it an extraordinary thing?’ said Miss Squeers. and the whole courtship was in consequence as flat and common-place an affair as it was possible to imagine. by the fame of her many charms. if I 108 . grew so exceedingly confidential. emphasising the adjective strongly. made her way. ‘How I should like to see him!’ exclaimed the friend.’ replied Miss Squeers. for the friend’s father and mother were quite agreeable to her being married. a favourite leer of the corn-factor. to her friend’s house. ‘So you shall. than Miss Squeers. as nearly as she could. on which unhappy circumstance she dwelt at great length. ‘I should consider myself one of the most ungrateful creatures alive. counterfeiting. but a gentleman’s son of high descent)—who had come down as teacher to Dotheboys Hall.’ replied the friend. induced. and woo and win her.’ replied Miss Squeers. under most mysterious and remarkable circumstances— indeed. Then. she dilated on the fearful hardship of having a father and mother strenuously opposed to her intended husband. revealed how that she was—not exactly engaged. as Miss Squeers more than once hinted she had good reason to believe. ‘Tilda. ‘Very like that—only more genteel. however. ‘then he means something.’ rejoined Miss Squeers. was by no means ill pleased to be confirmed by a competent authority. on further conversation and comparison of notes.’ Miss Squeers. ‘Ah!’ said the friend.’ ‘Did he look in this way?’ inquired the miller’s daughter. to seek her out.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY never had an opportunity so to do. which were all so very complimentary as to be quite conclusive. ‘But what has he said to you?’ ‘Don’t ask me what he said. upon a solemn renewal of divers old vows of secrecy. and. that she intrusted her friend with a vast number of things Nicholas had not said. as above described. but going to be—to a gentleman’s son—(none of your corn-factors. and that of the corn-factor. with great precipitation. a great many points of resemblance between the behaviour of Nicholas. inasmuch as she had no such secret to disclose.

therefore. and having fully discussed it. the friends parted. and carrying besides a large white top-coat to wear in the night-time. and willingly communicated to Nicholas that he was expected to take his tea in the parlour that evening. for the next day but one. at five o’clock. they went downstairs in full state with the long gloves on. It so fell out. She had scarcely completed these arrangements to her entire satisfaction. it was Squeers’s custom to drive over to the market town. throwing in some striking improvements in the way of ringlets down the neck. when the friend arrived with a whity-brown parcel—flat and three-cornered—containing sundry small adornments which were to be put on upstairs. and to be sure she was dressed out to the best advantage: with her hair—it had more than a tinge of red. and stop till ten or eleven o’clock at a tavern he much affected. or the worked apron or the long gloves. on pretence of urgent business. and some sandwiches. every evening. and dun the relations of two old ones for the balance of a small account. all ready for company. When Miss Squeers had ‘done’ the friend’s hair. and which the friend put on. or any of the numerous devices which were to be as so many arrows to the heart of Nicholas. I think mother’s going away for two days to fetch some boys. and on the next day but one. and she wore it in a crop—curled in five distinct rows. taking with her a small bundle containing something in a bottle. was fixed that very afternoon. the friend ‘did’ Miss Squeers’s hair. talking incessantly. to fetch three new boys.Charles Dickens denied you. Mrs Squeers got up outside the coach.’ This was a charming idea. with which baggage she went her way. to say nothing of the blue sash which floated down her back. that Mrs Squeers’s journey. and then. 109 . or the green gauze scarf worn over one shoulder and under the other. As the party was not in his way. he readily yielded his full assent thereunto. and when she does. To be sure Miss Squeers was in a desperate flutter as the time approached. when they were both touched up to their entire satisfaction. and have him to meet you. up to the very top of her head. but rather afforded a means of compromise with Miss Squeers. and arranged dexterously over the doubtful eye. as it stopped to change at Greta Bridge. to some distance. Whenever such opportunities as these occurred. I’ll ask you and John up to tea.

‘We are only waiting for one more gentleman. ‘Ah! I know what it is.’ ‘I do so palpitate. It was matter of equal moment to Nicholas whether they were waiting for one gentleman or twenty. I dare say. You may go on just as you would if you were alone. ‘Oh ‘Tilda!’ ‘Hush!’ said ‘Tilda. but he turned the matter off very coolly—not caring. all unconscious of his conquest. ‘There he is!’ cried Miss Squeers. and looking in. ‘Hem! Say.’ said the young lady.’ said Miss Squeers. And in walked Nicholas.’ cried Miss Squeers faintly. and hearing Nicholas sigh. the hungry servant brought in the tea-things. being out of spirits. soon afterwards. but you won’t mind that. dear. somebody tapped at the room door. about anything just then—and went through the ceremony of introduction to the miller’s daughter with so much grace.’ replied the friend. ‘He will be here by the time the tea’s drawn. ‘I am ashamed of you.’ said that young gentleman. over 110 . and glanced from time to time. that that young lady was lost in admiration. particularly. ‘I have not been used to it.’ ‘’Tilda. you know.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Where’s John.’ replied the friend. applying her hand to the left side of her sash.’ ‘Come in. so he received the intelligence with perfect unconcern. and. looked out of the window and sighed involuntarily. ‘I understood from Mr Squeers that—’ ‘Oh yes. ‘don’t mind me a bit.’ said Miss Squeers. ‘Only gone home to clean himself. come in. ‘Tilda.) Nicholas opened his eyes at this. to see how the tea was getting on. and not seeing any especial reason why he should make himself agreeable.’ interposed Miss Squeers. she took it into her head to rally the lovers on their lowness of spirits.’ observed Miss Squeers. ‘But if it’s caused by my being here. it’s all right. taking off the teapot lid. ‘Tilda?’ said Miss Squeers. Miss Squeers’s friend was of a playful turn.’ (This was said archly. ‘Good-evening.’ said Miss Squeers. ‘Father don’t tea with us. and. As luck would have it.’ and here the two friends burst into a variety of giggles. While they were talking thus. ‘You’ll soon get the better of it. for I’m quite as bad.’ rejoined the friend. colouring up to the top row of curls.

he no sooner formed this resolution than he saluted Miss Squeers and the friend with great gallantry. The ladies were in the full delight of this altered behaviour on the part of Mr Nickleby.’ We blush to tell it. hastening to do the honours. with his mouth full. that. and helped himself to food. and drawing a chair to the tea-table. it’s of no use looking like a goose. and having now bestowed his customary mark of recognition on every person in company. ‘Mr Nickleby—Mr John Browdie.’ said Miss Matilda Price (which. so he grinned twice more.’ ‘Servant. for some reason or other. sir. gradually fell into one of irrepressible laughter—occasioned. who from a state of unmixed astonishment. and a clean shirt. struck him as being so keenly ridiculous. together with a white waistcoat of similar dimensions. ‘Yours to command. bean’t she?’ said Mr Browdie. sir. the better of his sad thoughts. for the time. despite his miserable condition. and partly by the preposterous appearance and behaviour of the two girls. taken together. ‘Weel. 111 . Mr Browdie was not a gentleman of great conversational powers.Charles Dickens the tops of their pocket-handkerchiefs. whereof the collar might have belonged to some giant ancestor.’ replied Nicholas.’ interposed Miss Squeers. These two causes of merriment. forming. but his youthful spirits and vivacity getting. at Nicholas. ‘Old wooman awa’. by-the-bye. who was something over six feet high. ‘Well. with his hair very damp from recent washing. and seem expected. I may as well accommodate myself to the company. with a face and body rather above the due proportion than below it. he laughed till he was thoroughly exhausted. to be amiable.’ thought Nicholas. when the expected swain arrived. was the name of the miller’s daughter). ‘Well. ‘as I am here. grinned at nothing in particular. partly by the bare notion of his being in love with Miss Squeers. 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.’ said John with a grin that even the collar could not conceal.’ said John. John. ‘I beg your pardon. making fearful ravages on the bread and butter. the chief ornament of his person.

my lass. and coloured.’ said Miss Price.’ The recollection of the last teacher’s leanness seemed to afford Mr Browdie the most exquisite delight. scornfully. ‘say something kind to her. ‘cod he wur a learn ‘un. ‘Tilda. ‘let ‘un gang on.’ ‘That’s right. ‘Na.’ replied Mr Browdie. Ho! ho! ho!’ ‘You are facetious. Ye’ll be nowt but skeen and boans if you stop here long eneaf. ‘only half a word.’ said Mr Browdie.’ said Mr Browdie. after he had sat staring at Nicholas a long time over the empty plate. or speak to you again. John. laughing boisterously. to enable you to understand that your remarks are offensive.’ said Nicholas in a towering passion. ‘but if they are. I dean’t care aboot ‘un. It was quite a sight to behold how he and Nicholas emptied the plate between them. the effect of the double intercession was. that Miss Squeers was overcome and shed tears.’ ‘Weel. ‘was there. sir.’ whispered Miss Price. ‘Absurd. Nicholas bit his lip. and such was the imposing nature of the ceremonial. have the goodness to—’ ‘If you say another word. that he and John Browdie shook hands across the table with much gravity. ‘they dean’t put too much intiv’em.’ It now became Miss Squeers’s turn to intercede with Nicholas. and went to work at the bread and butter with increased vigour.’ replied Miss Squeers. sobbing. ‘Nothing. I expect. stopping her admirer’s mouth as he was about to interrupt. for he laughed until he found it necessary to apply his coat-cuffs to his eyes. as if he thought that really was something to laugh at. ‘Ye wean’t get bread and butther ev’ry neight.’ replied Nicholas. he wur. and she’ll soon come round. I’ll never forgive you. Fanny?’ said Miss Price. let ‘un gang on.’ said the corn-factor. but affected not to hear the remark. ‘There never was any danger. Mr Nickleby?’ ‘None at all. which she did with many symptoms of alarm and horror.’ shrieked Miss Price. mun. Mr Browdie. Mr Browdie gave a grin of special width. ‘but t’oother teacher. ‘Ecod.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Miss Squeers nodded assent. ‘I don’t know whether your perceptions are quite keen enough.’ said Nicholas. bestowing a hearty kiss on Miss Matilda. Here! Shall John and I go 112 . I dean’t know. ‘What’s the matter.

we’re going to have a game at cards. quite alarmed at the proposition. pettishly. but he had not time to enlighten himself by reflection. I think nothing at all. and come back presently?’ ‘Not on any account. for she was pretty. who had no other distinct impression on his mind at the moment. I am ashamed at you.Charles Dickens into the little kitchen. ‘Tilda.’ rejoined Nicholas.’ Pronouncing these last words aloud. Mr Nickleby?’ inquired Miss Price. and a coquette too in her small way. ‘Look at her.’ ‘Fickle!’ cried Nicholas. quite unconscious of his heinous offence. and always were. beckoning him aside. ‘With all the pleasure in life. very easily.’ retorted Miss Price. than that Miss Squeers was an ordinary-looking girl. which were all reasons why she should be gratified to think she had made an impression on him. and the candle snuffed. don’t call me a dear girl.’ ‘No. she tripped away and rejoined the big Yorkshireman.’ ‘My dear girl. ‘but men are always fickle. that I can make out. they sat down to play speculation. ‘There are only four of us. dressed so beautiful and looking so well— really almost handsome. looking slyly at Nicholas. and speaking with some degree of contempt—’you are a one to keep company.—’or Fanny will be saying it’s my fault. Come. which represented his own counters.’ ‘What do you say. two against two. ‘What on earth should you do that for?’ ‘Well. This was wholly unintelligible to Nicholas.’ said Miss Price—smiling a little though.’ replied Nicholas. nor I neither. I can’t make this out. ‘Come. And so saying.’ said Miss Squeers. and always will be. and her friend Miss Price a pretty one.’ said Miss Price. and she supposed him the property of somebody else. for the hearth being by this time swept up. and 113 . ‘I am not a one to keep company at all—here at all events.” rejoined Miss Price. what have I got to do with her dressing beautifully or looking well?’ inquired Nicholas. ‘so we had better go partners. and Nicholas was good-looking. he amalgamated into one common heap those portions of a Dotheboys Hall card of terms.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said Nicholas. ‘what do you suppose? You don’t mean to say that you think—’ ‘Oh no.

haven’t you. The deal fell to Nicholas. ‘you had better attend to your partner. nearly blew the candle out.’ ‘You’ll have a bad wife. affecting to take the question in a literal sense. and giggled convulsively. though. and Nicholas Nickleby’s happy unconsciousness of making anybody uncomfortable. ‘I am in excellent spirits.’ The Yorkshireman flattened his nose. I should like to have you for a partner always. I was thinking you seemed out of sorts. while this conversation was carrying on! It would have been worth a small annuity to have beheld that.’ remarked Miss Price. as if to keep his hand in. if you always win at cards. love. ‘No. biting her lips.’ ‘Thank you for reminding her. ‘Only a dozen and eight. Mr Nickleby.’ To see how Miss Squeers tossed her head.’ exclaimed coquettish Miss Price. indeed.’ replied Miss Price. that the gust of wind raised by the multitudinous curls in motion. once or twice. and trembling with very jealousy. I think. let alone Miss Price’s evident joy at making them jealous.’ ‘Never mind me. ‘I never had such luck. ‘I am sure I shall have a good one in that case. ‘’Tilda has won something she didn’t expect.’ said Miss Price. 114 . ‘shall we make a bank against them?’ The Yorkshireman assented—apparently quite overwhelmed by the new usher’s impudence—and Miss Squeers darted a spiteful look at her friend. really. ‘Not if your wish is gratified. I think. ‘So she had. and Miss Squeers tossed her head with such indignation. and the hand prospered. ‘It’s all along of you. ‘Oh no!’ ‘That’s well. and the cornfactor flattened his nose.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY those allotted to Miss Price.’ ‘I wish you had. ‘How dull you are tonight!’ sneered Miss Squeers. ‘We intend to win everything.’ replied Miss Price. ‘Your hair’s coming out of curl. with his clenched fist. respectively.’ replied Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. ‘Mr Browdie.’ ‘Me!’ cried Miss Squeers.’ said Miss Squeers hysterically. maliciously. till he had an opportunity of exercising it upon the features of some other gentleman. after another hand or two. dear.’ said he. dear?’ said Miss Squeers.’ tittered Miss Squeers.

’ ‘We’ll talk to you. Miss Price had brought it about. ‘Cum whoam. if you don’t choose to talk to us. by half an hour’s gaiety and thoughtlessness. you know.Charles Dickens ‘We have all the talking to ourselves. cum whoam.’ said Miss Price. striking the table heavily with his fist.’ ‘Weel. then!’ said the Yorkshireman.’ tittered Miss Squeers. wouldn’t it. and in part from an impotent desire to lacerate somebody’s countenance with her fair finger-nails. ‘what I say’s this—Dang my boans and boddy. and do yon loight an’ toight young whipster look sharp out for a brokken head.’ ‘Mercy on us. next time he cums under my hond. if I stan’ this ony longer. dear. looking good-humouredly round the table as he took up the cards for a fresh deal. ‘Thank you.’ retorted Miss Squeers. why don’t you say something?’ ‘Say summat?’ repeated the Yorkshireman. Miss Squeers burst into a shower of tears. the gratification of her own vanity. in affected astonishment. rallying her dear friend. ‘we do it in default of having anybody else to talk to. So the means employed. if you’ll say anything. tell ‘e. in deferring the celebration of their expected nuptials. a wish to convince the corn-factor of the great danger he ran.’ replied the Yorkshireman. Mr Browdie? He! he! he!’ ‘Nay. sternly. ‘You do it so well. and the end produced. ‘Tilda.’ said Nicholas. by indulging in three motives of action: first. ‘Or you can talk to each other. Do ye gang whoam wi’ me. without good grounds for so doing. in receiving the compliments of a smart young man: and thirdly. majestically. were alike 115 . what’s all this?’ cried Miss Price. Miss Squeers had brought it about. arising in part from desperate vexation. This state of things had been brought about by divers means and workings.’ said Nicholas. it seems. ‘that it would be a pity to interrupt. having no good title: secondly. while Nicholas had brought it about. ‘John. and not sit there so silent and glum. ‘Ay. by aspiring to the high state and condition of being matrimonially engaged. and a very sincere desire to avoid the imputation of inclining at all to Miss Squeers. And as he delivered the reply.’ said Miss Price. a desire to punish her friend for laying claim to a rivalship in dignity.

in rejoinder.’ rejoined Miss Price. They were no sooner gone. ‘You pay me a great compliment when you say so.’ answered the miller’s daughter.’ ‘I scorn your words. I’m sure!’ exclaimed Miss Price. and will jostle each other in the race to the altar. as if in fresh amazement. Miss Price. and she had thought so a long time. producing that change of countenance which children call making a face.’ ‘Ah! There’s no love lost between us. ‘I shall not come to you to take lessons in the art. making another face. ma’am. in melodramatic performances. who exchanged with Nicholas. you know you will. Minx.’ exclaimed Miss Squeers with dignity. and here’s Fanny in tears now!’ exclaimed Miss Price. ‘Well.’ Miss Squeers. ‘because that’s quite unnecessary.’ said Miss Squeers. ‘You needn’t take the trouble to make yourself plainer than you are. ‘And who cares whether you are sure or not. ‘’Tilda. ma’am!’ retorted Miss Squeers. in which Miss Price entirely coincided: observing that it was very true indeed. inform each other they will meet again. ‘I hate you. and pleasant dreams attend your sleep!’ With this parting benediction. as they have done from its beginning. that peculiarly expressive scowl with which the cut-and-thrust counts. congratulated herself upon not being possessed of the envious feeling of other people. whereupon Miss Squeers made some general remark touching the danger of associating with low persons.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the most natural in the world.’ said Miss Price. when I’m gone. tying her bonnet strings with a jerk.’ said Miss Price. for young ladies will look forward to being married. at parting. followed by the huge Yorkshireman.’ said Miss Squeers. curtseying very low. ‘You’ll cry your eyes out. miss. down to the very end of time. ‘You are monstrous polite. I assure you. ‘What can be the matter?’ ‘Oh! you don’t know. than Miss Squeers fulfilled the prediction of her quondam friend by giving vent to a most 116 . and thanked God that she hadn’t got the bold faces of some people. ‘Wish you a very good-night. and will avail themselves of all opportunities of displaying their own attractions to the best advantage. however. in reply. Miss Price swept from the room. of course you don’t know. ma’am?’ retorted Miss Squeers. ma’am. turned very red. Pray don’t trouble yourself to inquire. ma’am. ‘Why.

’ he murmured.Charles Dickens copious burst of tears. I am sure. rather doubtful what to do.’ ‘It will be your genius that makes it so. by Miss La Creevy’s chief friends and patrons. as I might have done. and made two new enemies. ‘I think I have caught it now.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ replied Kate. when he had groped his way to the dark sleeping-room. but all was quiet. certainly. what is around me now!’ So saying. and towards the full perfection of which. or scratched. 117 . it is a just punishment for having forgotten. he walked off very quietly while Miss Squeers was moaning in her pocket-handkerchief. I have set these people by the ears. ‘I was glad. ‘to grasp at any relief from the sight of this dreadful place. Well. but feeling uncertain whether the fit would end in his being embraced. and crept into his poor bed. I needed none. this would not have happened. then. Kate Nickleby sat in a very faded chair raised upon a very dusty throne in Miss La Creevy’s room. Nicholas stood looking on for a few seconds. Heaven knows. giving that lady a sitting for the portrait upon which she was engaged. a bright salmon flesh-tint which she had originally hit upon while executing the miniature of a young officer therein contained.’ He listened for a few minutes. ‘of my cursed readiness to adapt myself to any society in which chance carries me. he felt his way among the throng of weary-hearted sleepers.’ thought Nicholas. If I had sat mute and motionless. to be quite a novelty in art: as indeed it was. smiling. ‘This is one consequence. Miss La Creevy had had the street-door case brought upstairs. ‘The very shade! This will be the sweetest portrait I have ever done. in order that she might be the better able to infuse into the counterfeit countenance of Miss Nickleby. even for an hour. where. and considering that either infliction would be equally agreeable. CHAPTER 10 HOW MR RALPH NICKLEBY PROVIDED FOR HIS NIECE AND SISTER-IN-LAW ON THE SECOND MORNING after the departure of Nicholas for Yorkshire. and uttering various dismal lamentations and incoherent words. or the presence of its vile master. and which bright salmon flesh-tint was considered.

and all the ladies who are playing with little parasols. ‘Why. ‘They are beyond anything you can form the faintest conception of. with their fists doubled up on round tables. In fact. ‘It’s a very nice subject—a very nice subject. that. and the smirk for private ladies and gentlemen who don’t care so much about looking clever. though I don’t allow that it is of such very great importance in the present case. or marble slabs. something depends upon the mode of treatment. 118 . that it must be either serious or smirking.’ ‘The remuneration can scarcely repay you. ‘there are only two styles of portrait painting. I have no doubt. sinking her voice to a confidential whisper. Miss La Creevy. laughing. Sometimes they say. how very serious you have made me look. are serious.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy.’ observed Kate. because the sitters are always either the one or the other. with immovable complacency.’ said Kate. you are right there. humouring her good-natured little friend.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘No. and we always use the serious for professional people (except actors sometimes). and keeping down noses with all one’s force. ‘What with bringing out eyes with all one’s power. my dear. Miss La Creevy!” and at others. ‘Why. and adding to heads. indeed— though. no. I won’t allow that. and taking away teeth altogether. or it’s no portrait at all. Ah! The difficulties of Art. and Miss La Creevy went on painting and talking. the serious and the smirk.’ replied Miss La Creevy. you have no idea of the trouble one little miniature is. and that’s the truth. my dear. there’s no pleasure in painting them. how very smirking!” when the very essence of a good portrait is. you know.’ ‘Indeed!’ said Kate. ‘and then people are so dissatisfied and unreasonable. “Oh. ‘in the main you are right there.’ said Miss La Creevy. my dear.’ answered Miss La Creevy. “La. are great.’ ‘And not a little. ‘Look at the Royal Academy! All those beautiful shiny portraits of gentlemen in black velvet waistcoats. nine times out of ten.’ said Kate. it does not.’ Kate seemed highly amused by this information. or little children—it’s the same rule in art.’ ‘They must be. ‘Certainly. or little dogs. my dear.’ said Miss La Creevy. only varying the objects— are smirking.’ replied Miss La Creevy. of course.

for I don’t consider it legitimate. who hire a uniform coat to be painted in. ‘when do you expect to see your uncle again?’ ‘I scarcely know. and glancing round the room. availing herself of a pause in the discourse. for this state of uncertainty is worse than anything. only clerks and that. and send it here in a carpet bag. ‘He is very rich.’ said Miss La Creevy. I believe. more intently. Miss La Creevy applied herself. after a long silence. but I believe so.’ replied Kate. or has had 119 .’ ‘No!’ ‘Bless your heart. an interval of full a minute and a half. they may throw it in. at the time. ‘I don’t know that he is. but because it’s our custom sometimes to tell sitters what part we are upon. child?’ inquired Miss La Creevy. ‘Rough!’ cried Miss La Creevy.’ ‘Ah. oh yes—they’re not real military men. ‘a porcupine’s a featherbed to him! I never met with such a cross-grained old savage. ‘Number of what. ‘Character portraits. as though she plumed herself greatly upon not resorting to these lures to catch sitters. ‘he was disappointed in early life. to her task: only raising her head occasionally. ‘Soon I hope. to look with unspeakable satisfaction at some touch she had just put in: and now and then giving Miss Nickleby to understand what particular feature she was at work upon.’ rejoined Kate. but I don’t do that myself. you know. I think I have heard. I have heard. Some artists. ‘that you should make it up for painting.’ remarked Miss La Creevy. looking up from her work. I had expected to have seen him before now. at the moment.’ Drawing herself up.’ said Miss La Creevy. and charge seven-and-sixpence extra for hire and carmine. ‘When a man’s a bear. my dear.’ she expressly observed. you may depend upon it he is.’ said Kate.’ ‘I suppose he has money. timidly.’ ‘And when.’ ‘His manner is rough. of course not. ‘keep a red coat. you know. he is generally pretty independent.Charles Dickens ‘What a number of officers you seem to paint!’ said Kate. in order that if there’s any particular expression they want introduced.’ observed Kate. to wit. hasn’t he?’ inquired Miss La Creevy. who was an odd little mixture of shrewdness and simplicity. or he wouldn’t be so surly. ‘not.’ ‘It is only his manner.

be to him?’ ‘I don’t know what it would be to him. coming forward at once. made no remark. depends upon the fortunes of my dear brother. mightn’t he. and some person knocked at the wainscot. 120 . sounds oddly enough.’ said Kate. ‘and Heaven forbid that I should be the cause of your doing so! But. my bread and remain with my mother. ‘but it would be that to me I would rather die than take. The person complied.’ replied Kate. as to enable me by his recommendation—only by his recommendation—to earn.’ observed the miniature painter. whoever it is!’ cried Miss La Creevy.’ ‘Well. my dear. I could not bear to live on anybody’s bounty—not his particularly. I confess. but anybody’s. that’s very right and proper.’ ‘Come in. ‘This of a relation whom you will not hear an indifferent person speak ill of. I should feel begging a far less degradation. and be a little fortune to her afterwards? What would a hundred a year for instance. Whether we shall ever taste happiness again. in my behalf. but seeing that her young friend was distressed. without feeling it himself. make you and your mama some nice little allowance that would keep you both comfortable until you were well married. ‘I only ask of him. gave to view the form and features of no less an individual than Mr Ralph Nickleby himself.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY his temper soured by some calamity. ‘A dependence upon him. as if she doubted whether Ralph himself were not the subject of dislike. now. literally. I should be sorry to think ill of him until I knew he deserved it. there was a rustling behind the screen which stood between her and the door. I—I—only mean that with the feelings and recollection of better times upon me. I shall be contented.’ As she ceased to speak. and Nicholas only tells us that he is well and cheerful.’ ‘Well!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy.’ ‘I dare say it does. and.’ Miss La Creevy looked slyly at her companion.’ ‘Heyday!’ cried Miss La Creevy. with energy. ‘that he will move so little out of his way.’ said Kate.’ continued Kate. whose tears fell while she spoke. speaking more gently. but if he will do this. ‘would embitter my whole life. ‘indeed I am sure it must.

Mr Nickleby. he had a trick of almost concealing his eyes under their thick and protruding brows. moving away. considering with the pencil end of her brush in her mouth. though I say it who am the painter. ma’am.’ said Ralph. they both felt certain that some part.’ replied Miss La Creevy. can’t pay for them. with a very sprightly air. where Mrs Nickleby received him with many expressions of regard. my dear. and bowing gravely to Miss La Creevy. or if they do.’ When the man of business had a more than commonly vicious snarl lurking at his heart. Work. that I was unable to make you hear. ma’am. and tried to keep down the smile which parted his thin compressed lips. ‘You were talking so loud. Have you let your lodgings. we must all work. more than half expecting to find you here. yes. ‘She’ll have no time to idle over fooleries after tomorrow. As he did so now.’ ‘Put it up at once. ma’am?’ ‘I have not put a bill up yet.’ said Ralph.’ said Ralph. ma’am. sir. and looking contemptuously at the portrait. on my way upstairs. ladies. for an instant. they won’t want the rooms after this week. we’ll lose no more time. Now.’ said Ralph. closed the door and followed upstairs. ma’am.’ cried Ralph. and proceeded to the object of his visit. and then displaying them in their full keenness. of their recent conversation.’ ‘Don’t trouble yourself to show it to me. work. ‘I have found a situation for your daughter. ma’am.’ said Miss La Creevy. it will be a very nice portrait too. Is it nearly finished?’ ‘Why.Charles Dickens ‘Your servant. ‘Is that my niece’s portrait. and puckered up the bad lines about his mouth. if you’re ready. ma’am?’ ‘Yes it is. Stopping them somewhat abruptly. sir. Ralph waved his hand with an impatient gesture. looking sharply at them by turns. had been overheard. addressing his niece. if not the whole.’ With an assumption of kindness which sat worse upon him even than his usual manner. Mr Ralph Nickleby motioned to the young lady to precede him. ‘and between you and me and the post. ‘I have no eye for likenesses. ‘Two sittings more will—’ ‘Have them at once. ‘I called in. 121 .

‘If it hadn’t been for me. “that after your uncle has provided.’ ‘I fear it is so indeed. I will say that that is only just what I have expected of you. ‘An absence of business habits in this family leads.’ ‘I fear he was. at last. in that most ready manner. to a great waste of words before business—when it does come under consideration—is arrived at. ‘Now. ma’am. he will not leave us until he has done at least the same for you.’ said Ralph. ‘Well.’ What strange creatures we are! The slight bait so skilfully thrown out by Ralph. ma’am. until.” I said to Kate. with the very meaning of the word.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Well. why don’t you thank your—’ ‘Let me proceed. ‘I am most anxious that he should.’ said Ralph with a scarcely perceptible sneer. let your uncle proceed. “Depend upon it. only yesterday morning at breakfast. as near as I remember.’ observed Mrs Nickleby. we are bound not to be selfish. ‘Your poor brother—’ ‘My poor brother. I verily believe. ‘Your uncle’s time is very valuable. with her handkerchief to her eyes. ma’am. ‘had no idea what business was—was unacquainted. but to take into consideration the important nature of his occupations in the city. was dangling on the hook yet. I don’t know what would have become of him. interrupting his sister-in-law in the full torrent of her discourse. At every small deprivation or discomfort which presented itself in the course of the four-and-twenty hours to remind her of her straitened and altered circumstances. and however desirous you may be—and naturally desirous. my love. still. apparently. my dear. at all.’ ‘I am very much obliged to you.’ interposed Ralph tartly.’ replied Mrs Nickleby with a sigh. my dear. with many small nods and frowns.’ replied Mrs Nickleby. pray.’ said Mrs Nickleby. my dear.” These were my very words. you had better allow your uncle to say what he has to say. ‘Kate. as I am sure any affectionate relations who have seen so little of your uncle as we have. if you are anxious that he should. mama. on their first interview. she had come to persuade herself that of all her late husband’s creditors she 122 . peevish visions of her dower of one thousand pounds had arisen before Mrs Nickleby’s mind. without interruption.’ said Mrs Nickleby. must naturally be to protract the pleasure of having him among us. Kate.’ rejoined Kate. for Nicholas.

Charles Dickens 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. ‘Sad experience, you know, brother-in-law.—Kate, my dear, put that down 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 objected to his proposition, went on to say: ‘The situation that I have made interest to procure, ma’am, is with —with a milliner and dressmaker, in short.’ ‘A milliner!’ cried Mrs Nickleby. ‘A milliner and dressmaker, ma’am,’ replied Ralph. ‘Dressmakers 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 become persons of great wealth and fortune.’ Now, the first idea called up in Mrs Nickleby’s mind by the words milliner and dressmaker were connected with certain wicker baskets lined with black oilskin, which she remembered 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 speaking, than she nodded her head and said ‘Very true,’ with great appearance of satisfaction. ‘What your uncle says is very true, Kate, my dear,’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘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 white and green trimming, 123

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 hackney 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 impatience. ‘The lady’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.’ ‘Have you nothing to say to your uncle, my love?’ inquired 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-inlaw by giving him, with many tears, a detailed account of the dimensions of a rosewood cabinet piano they had possessed in their days of affluence, together with a minute description 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 return 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 walk to business with, every morning.’ So saying, he led Kate off, 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.’ 124

Charles Dickens ‘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 begin to cry,’ growled Ralph; ‘I hate crying.’ ‘It’s very foolish, I know, 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 coloured 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 country girl shrunk through the crowd that hurried up and down the streets, 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 doggedly on, elbowing the passengers aside, and now and then exchanging a gruff salutation with some passing acquaintance, who turned to look back upon his pretty charge, with looks expressive 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 rugged villainy of the other; to have hung upon the guileless thoughts of the 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—the widow,’ said Kate emphatically. ‘You will live, to all intents and purposes, here,’ rejoined Ralph; ‘for here you will take your meals, and here you will 125

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 slipped from my lips, I did not mean it indeed,’ urged Kate. ‘I hope not,’ said Ralph. ‘But my question, uncle; you have not answered it.’ ‘Why, I anticipated something of the kind,’ said Ralph; ‘and—though I object very strongly, mind—have provided 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 arrived without any further conversation at the dressmaker’s door, which displayed a very large plate, with Madame Mantalini’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 shows-rooms were on the firstfloor: a fact which was notified to the nobility and gentry by the casual exhibition, near the handsomely 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 descriptions, 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 126

Charles Dickens room, and, seeing somebody there, as suddenly popped it out again. ‘Here. Hollo!’ cried Ralph. ‘Who’s that?’ At the sound of Ralph’s voice, the head reappeared, and the mouth, displaying a very long row of very white teeth, uttered in a mincing tone the words, ‘Demmit. What, Nickleby! 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 very copious watch-chain wound round his body. Moreover, he had whiskers and a moustache, both dyed black and gracefully curled. ‘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 forgetfulness. ‘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 sittingroom 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 delight at the achievement. ‘This cursed high room takes one’s breath away. These infernal sky parlours—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 127

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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. The dressmaker was a buxom person, handsomely dressed and rather good-looking, but much older than the gentleman in the Turkish trousers, whom she had wedded 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 had married on his whiskers; upon which property he had previously subsisted, in a genteel manner, for some years; and which he had recently improved, after patient cultivation by the addition of a moustache, which promised to secure him an easy independence: his share in the labours 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 business. ‘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.’ 128

Charles Dickens ‘Just so, Mr Nickleby,’ replied Madame Mantalini, surveying Kate from head to foot, and back again. ‘Can you speak French, child?’ ‘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. ‘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 poetical strain. ‘Then you will, if you persevere in that mode of speaking,’ 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 obstinacy, and grind them to powder in the process, it would emit a pleasanter sound in so doing, than did these words in the rough and bitter voice in which they were uttered by Ralph. Even Mr Mantalini felt their influence, and turning affrighted 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 129

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 overtime.’ 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 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?’ ‘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 unwilling to leave to Mr Mantalini the sole honour of showing them downstairs. Ralph relieved her from her perplexity by taking his departure without delay: Madame Mantalini making many gracious inquiries why he never came to see them; and Mr Mantalini anathematising the stairs with great volubility 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; ‘now you’re provided for.’ Kate was about to thank him again, but he stopped 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 130

Charles Dickens almshouses on the borders of Cornwall, which had occurred to him more than once)—but as you want to be together, 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 empty that belongs to me, which I can put you into till it is let, 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. Goodbye. You know your way? Straight on.’ 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 money-getting. Kate walked sadly back to their lodgings in the Strand.


MISS NICKLEBY’S REFLECTIONS, as she wended her way homewards, 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 establishment by any means encouraging. It was with many gloomy forebodings and misgivings, therefore, that she looked forward, 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 abundance 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 married 131

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY to advantage, she could not exactly remember. However, 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 compass of an ordinary lifetime; but the good lady set that question entirely at rest, by informing them that she had a presentiment 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-quarters out of every ten, determining it the wrong way. ‘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 recommended to, to make me a scarlet cloak at the time when scarlet 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 argument 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 sorry to leave you, my kind friend,’ 132

Charles Dickens 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 sprightliness 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 ivory or canvas, sat down in a corner, and had what she termed ‘a real good cry.’ But no crying, or talking, or hoping, or fearing, could keep off the dreaded Saturday afternoon, or Newman Noggs either; who, punctual to his time, limped up to the door, and breathed a whiff of cordial gin through the keyhole, exactly as such of the church clocks in the neighbourhood as agreed among themselves about the time, struck five. Newman waited for the last stroke, and then knocked. ‘From Mr Ralph Nickleby,’ said Newman, announcing his errand, when he got upstairs, 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.’ ‘Oh yes, I understand you, Mr Noggs,’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘Our thoughts are free, of course. Everybody’s thoughts are their own, clearly.’ ‘They wouldn’t be, if some people had their way,’ muttered Newman. ‘Well, no more they would, Mr Noggs, and that’s very true,’ rejoined Mrs Nickleby. ‘Some people to be sure are such—


THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 very 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, notwithstanding the abruptness of his speech), looked at him more closely, she recollected having caught a passing glimpse of that strange figure before. ‘Excuse my curiosity,’ she said, ‘but did I not see you in the coachyard, on the morning my brother went away to Yorkshire?’ Newman cast a wistful glance on Mrs Nickleby and said ‘No,’ most unblushingly. ‘No!’ exclaimed Kate, ‘I should have said so anywhere.’ ‘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 very, 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 having 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 conditions, 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 footpassengers, 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 were so bespattered with mud, that it would have appeared to have been uninhabited for years. 134

Charles Dickens 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 deposited everything, 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 superstitious, I should be almost inclined to believe that some dreadful 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 everything—’ This was Mrs Nickleby’s usual commencement of a general lamentation, running through a dozen or so of complicated 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 furniture. ‘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 yes135

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY terday, to lie down upon, if it hadn’t been for his thoughtfulness!’ ‘Very kind, indeed,’ replied Kate, looking round. Newman Noggs did not say that he had hunted up the old furniture they saw, from attic and cellar; or that he had taken in the halfpennyworth of milk for tea that stood upon a shelf, or filled the rusty kettle on the hob, or collected the woodchips from the wharf, or begged the coals. But the notion 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. ‘We need detain you no longer, I think,’ said Kate. ‘Is there nothing I can do?’ asked Newman. ‘Nothing, thank you,’ rejoined Miss Nickleby. ‘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 road homewards.

WHEREBY THE READER WILL BE ENABLED TO TRACE THE FURTHER COURSE OF MISS FANNY SQUEER’S LOVE, AND TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER IT RAN SMOOTH OR OTHERWISE. IT WAS A 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 136

Charles Dickens spirit which were plainly visible in her countenance. Being, however, 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 gentleman’s anger; which, having vented itself in a variety of kicks and cuffs, subsided sufficiently to admit of his being persuaded to go to bed. Which he did with his boots on, and an umbrella under his arm. The hungry servant 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 tonight, 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 being at all surprised at any outbreak of ill-temper on the part of Miss Squeers. Having a half-perception of what had occurred 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 dress herself out so, and go on in such a manner to get noticed, that— oh—well, if people only saw themselves!’ ‘What do you mean, Phib?’ asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little glass, where, like most of us, she saw—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 137

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 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 allow 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 patronising abbreviation, ‘if she was 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 ‘Tilda 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 particularly—’ ‘Oh 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?’ demanded Miss Squeers. ‘Never mind, miss,’ replied the girl; ‘I 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?’ 138

Charles Dickens ‘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 him, 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 dependant, was almost as great a relief to her spleen as if the whole had been gospel truth. Nay, more. We have such extraordinary powers of persuasion when they are exerted over ourselves, 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 feelings. This happy state of mind had some influence in bringing about a reconciliation; for, when a knock came at the frontdoor next day, and the miller’s daughter was announced, Miss Squeers betook herself to the parlour 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 satisfaction. ‘This,’ rejoined Miss Price. ‘After we left here last night John and I had a dreadful quarrel.’ 139

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘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 did,’ rejoined her companion. ‘That’s not it.’ ‘Oh!’ said Miss Squeers, relapsing into melancholy. ‘Go on.’ ‘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 miserable, and wished themselves single again with all their hearts; to which condolences Miss Squeers added others equally calculated to raise her friend’s spirits and promote her cheerfulness 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!’ ‘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 I was dead too. There!’ ‘Oh! you’ll think very differently in another five minutes,’ said Matilda. ‘How much better to take him into favour again, 140

Charles Dickens 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. ‘Oh! ‘Tilda, how could you have acted so mean and dishonourable! 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 afterwards 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. Indeed, the quarrel, from slight beginnings, rose to a considerable height, and was assuming a very violent complexion, when both parties, falling into a great passion of tears, exclaimed simultaneously, that they had never thought of being spoken to in that way: which exclamation, 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 occasion in question making the fifty-second time of repeating the same impressive ceremony within a twelvemonth. Perfect amicability being thus restored, a dialogue naturally 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 necessary, 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 upstairs 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


THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY in raptures with all the frocks, and had been stricken quite dumb with admiration of a new pink scarf, Miss Squeers said in high good humour, that she would walk part of the way with her, for the pleasure of her company; and off 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 of her family. It happened that that particular time, comprising the short daily interval which was suffered to elapse 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 towards them, she evinced many symptoms of surprise and consternation, 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 feelings at a high pressure, her friend made no further 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, affecting alarm at her friend’s threat, but really actuated by a malicious 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 support her on the other side. How do you feel now, dear?’ 142

Charles Dickens ‘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!’ ‘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 amazement. ‘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,’ exclaimed 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 puppy—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, ‘I have brought him to it, at last. Answer for me, dear,’ she whispered to her friend. 143

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Does she think so?’ rejoined Miss Price; ‘of course she does.’ ‘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 laboured under, or committed. I have scarcely 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 say this, not to hurt her feelings, but to impress her with the real state of my own —unless it be the one object, dear to my heart as life itself, of being one day able 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 straightforward declaration, 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 her. 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 mortification; 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 144

Charles Dickens slight, or insult, or deprivation, which could not but have some effect on the most insensible person, and must be 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 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 possibility 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 man should feel only too much honoured 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 outrageous. ‘Let him 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 food, dirty lodging, and the being compelled to witness 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. There was another and deeper system of annoyance which made his heart sink, and nearly drove him wild, by its injustice and cruelty. The wretched creature, Smike, since the night Nicholas had spoken kindly to him in the schoolroom, 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 sup145

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ply, and content only to be near him. He would sit beside him for hours, looking patiently into his face; and a 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 his attachment 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-humour 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 schoolroom, 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 endeavouring to master some task which a child of nine years old, possessed of ordinary powers, could have conquered with ease, but which, to the addled brain of the crushed boy of nineteen, was a sealed and hopeless mystery. 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 solitary 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, no.’ ‘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. He was weeping. 146

Charles Dickens ‘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, shaking 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, will you go—will 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 find you.’ ‘You would,’ replied Nicholas, with the same humane intention, ‘and 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 in his, and, hugging them to his breast, uttered a few broken sounds which were unintelligible. Squeers entered at the moment, and he shrunk back into his old corner.






THE COLD, FEEBLE DAWN of a January morning was stealing in at the windows of the common sleeping-room, when Nicholas, 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 colour; 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 living 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 man would who missed something his eye was accustomed to meet, and had expected to rest upon. He was still occupied in this 148

Charles Dickens search, and had half risen from his bed in the eagerness of his quest, when the voice of Squeers was heard, calling 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?’ 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 upstairs. ‘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. ‘Come,’ said Squeers, evidently frightened, though he endeavoured to look otherwise, ‘you won’t save him this way. Where is he?’ ‘At the bottom of the nearest pond for aught I know,’ rejoined Nicholas in a low voice, and fixing his eyes full on the master’s face. 149

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Damn you, what do you mean by that?’ retorted Squeers in great perturbation. Without waiting for a reply, he inquired of the boys whether any one among them knew anything 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, everybody 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 suggestion. 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 favourable 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 shall be glad to have 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?’ ‘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 nothing 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.’ 150

Charles Dickens ‘Which no doubt you would have been devilish sorry 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 a 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 schoolroom, 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 excited 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, boys!’ ‘Ah! Now, boys,’ said Mrs Squeers, mimicking, as nearly as she could, the voice and manner of the usher. ‘Follow your leader, boys, 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.’ ‘If I catch him,’ said Squeers, ‘I’ll only stop short of flaying him alive. I give you notice, boys.’ ‘If you catch him,’ retorted Mrs Squeers, contemptuously; ‘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 151

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the room, when she confronted her spouse alone. ‘He is off,’ said Mrs Squeers. ‘The cow-house and stable are locked up, so he can’t be there; and he’s not downstairs 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 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 pony-chaise, intent upon discovery and vengeance. Shortly afterwards, Mrs Squeers, arrayed in the white top-coat, and tied up in various shawls and handkerchiefs, issued forth in another chaise and another direction, taking with her a good-sized bludgeon, several odd pieces of strong cord, and a stout labouring man: all provided and carried upon the expedition, with the sole object of assisting in the capture, and (once caught) insuring the safe custody of the unfortunate 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 wandering 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 152

Charles Dickens the tender mercies of the Yorkshire school; but the unhappy 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, and unsuccessful. ‘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 besides 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 vapourings here, Mr Puppy, but be off to your kennel, for it’s past your bedtime! Come! Get out!’ Nicholas bit his lip and knit his hands involuntarily, for his fingerends 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 contemptuous look at the tyrant, and walked, as majestically as he could, upstairs: not a little nettled, however, to observe that Miss Squeers and Master Squeers, and the servant girl, were enjoying the scene from a snug corner; the two former indulging 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 bedclothes 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 153

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY stopped. The voice of Mrs Squeers was heard, and in exultation, ordering a glass of spirits for somebody, which was in itself a sufficient sign that something extraordinary had happened. 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 themselves of an incumbrance of which it was their wont to complain so loudly; but their surprise will cease when they are informed that the manifold services of the drudge, if performed 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, 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, having refreshed himself with his dinner, and further strengthened himself by an extra libation or so, made his appearance (accompanied by his amiable partner) with a countenance of portentous import, and a fearful instrument of flagellation, strong, supple, wax-ended, and new,—in short, 154

Charles Dickens 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 favourite blow to the desk, and regarding with gloomy satisfaction 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 compassion 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 indignation 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 anything to say for himself. ‘Nothing, I suppose?’ said Squeers, with a diabolical grin. Smike glanced round, and his eye rested, for an instant, on 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. 155

complied. and see it done.’ repeated Nicholas.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Driven to do it. Aghast and stupefied by the boldness of the interference. cried ‘Stop!’ in a voice that made the rafters ring. ‘Wretch. almost beside himself with rage. gazed upon Nicholas with looks that were positively frightful.’ said Nicholas. You have brought it upon yourself.’ exclaimed Mrs Squeers. Look to yourself. ungrateful. ‘You have disregarded all my quiet interference in the miserable lad’s behalf. for the moment. nothing daunted.’ Mrs Squeers. ‘what does he mean by that?’ ‘Stand aside.’ ‘Must not go on!’ cried Squeers. and I have the strength of ten such men as you. and seizing Smike as he spoke. ‘This must not go on. Squeers released his hold of Smike. My blood is up. taking Smike’s head under her arm. almost in a shriek.’ said Nicholas. I will prevent it. my dear. ‘touch him at your peril! I will not stand by. ‘you have returned no answer to the letter in which I begged forgiveness for him. it was mine. but astonishment had actually. one desperate cut had fallen on his body—he was wincing from the lash and uttering a scream of pain—it was raised again. flushed with passion. Squeers caught the boy firmly in his grip. I suppose—eh?’ ‘A nasty. and again about to fall—when Nicholas Nickleby. for by Heaven I will not spare you. and offered to be responsible that he would remain quietly here. ‘No!’ thundered Nicholas. ‘Who cried stop?’ said Squeers. ‘Oh! it wasn’t your fault. Don’t blame me for this public interference. being out of breath with her exertions. ‘and my indignation is aggravated by the dastardly cruelties practised on helpless infancy in this foul 156 . obstinate. fiercely. brutish. ‘I say must not. falling back a pace or two. were you?’ said Squeers. and.’ replied Squeers. and administering a cuff at every epithet. if you drive me on!’ ‘Stand back. not I. ‘We’ll try and find out.’ rejoined Nicholas. bereft him of speech. with his eyes starting out of his head.’ cried Squeers.’ Squeers continued to gaze upon him.’ ‘Sit down. suddenly starting up. stepping forward. brandishing his weapon. beggar!’ screamed Squeers. ‘I have a long series of insults to avenge. ‘shall not. turning savagely round. pig-headed. sneaking dog.’ said Nicholas. ‘I.

and pinning him by the throat. and after launching a shower of inkstands at the usher’s head. who had been peeping through the keyhole in expectation of a very different scene. and ascertained. beat the ruffian till he roared for mercy. Having brought affairs to this happy termination. The boys—with the exception of Master Squeers. with many shrieks for aid. in a violent outbreak of wrath. as he left the room. but. After a brief consideration. spat upon him. finding that nobody offered to 157 . and concentrating into that one moment all his feelings of rage. that Squeers was only stunned. he packed up a few clothes in a small leathern valise. lay at his full length on the ground. coming to his father’s assistance. beat Nicholas to her heart’s content. Have a care. felt the blows no more than if they had been dealt with feathers. and flung Squeers from him with all the force he could muster. He looked anxiously round for Smike. becoming tired of the noise and uproar. with the recollection of his having refused her proffered love. which raised up a bar of livid flesh as it was inflicted. but he was nowhere to be seen. in the full torrent of his violence. and. who. scorn. and thus imparting additional strength to an arm which (as she took after her mother in this respect) was. hung on to the tail of her partner’s coat. and struck him a blow across the face with his instrument of torture. stunned and motionless. the consequences shall fall heavily upon your own head!’ He had scarcely spoken. hand or foot. and indignation. harassed the enemy in the rear—moved not. at every blow. darted in at the very beginning of the attack. at no time. one of the weakest. Nicholas sprang upon him. and not dead (upon which point he had had some unpleasant doubts at first). to his thorough satisfaction. Nicholas left his family to restore him. The violence of his fall precipitated Mrs Squeers completely over an adjacent form. wrested the weapon from his hand. while Miss Squeers. when Squeers. Nicholas. he threw all his remaining strength into half-a-dozen finishing cuts. and retired to consider what course he had better adopt. and with a cry like the howl of a wild beast. Smarting with the agony of the blow. for if you do raise the devil within me. but Mrs Squeers. animating herself. and endeavoured to drag him from his infuriated adversary. and feeling that his arm grew weak besides. and Squeers striking his head against it in his descent.Charles Dickens den.

it was my fault. mun? it be all brokken loike.’ thought Nicholas. young genelman. he discovered.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY oppose his progress. do what I will. but I returned it to the giver. he had only four shillings and a few pence in his pocket. ‘ah! that I weel. I believe. there appeared some reason to expect that such a result would follow from the encounter. he bent down from the saddle. which seemed to have been recently cut from some stout sapling. very sternly between the horse’s ears. marched boldly out by the front-door. as he arrived at the conclusion that there was no remedy for this unfortunate state of things. and was something more than two hundred and fifty miles from London. to be no other than Mr John Browdie. they did not appear in a very encouraging light. he beheld a horseman coming towards him. struck into the road which led to Greta Bridge. ‘I am in no mood for more noise and riot. to his infinite chagrin. whom. ‘Servant. ‘Weel. hesitating.’ said Nicholas. among other things.’ ‘It is a cut. for John Browdie no sooner saw Nicholas advancing. who. When he had cooled sufficiently to be enabled to give his present circumstances some little reflection.’ 158 . ‘Yours. ‘we parted on no very good terms the last time we met. and no idea that I was doing so. turning scarlet as he spoke.’ said John. clad in cords and leather leggings. after a moment’s pause. looking meanwhile. but I had no intention of offending you. ‘Come!’ he said. Lifting up his eyes. ‘Yes.’ said Nicholas. whither he resolved to direct his steps. we ha’ met at last. frankly. ‘and yet. and shortly afterwards. at Nicholas. was urging his animal forward by means of a thick ash stick. I was very sorry for it. than he reined in his horse by the footpath. Will you shake hands?’ ‘Shake honds!’ cried the good-humoured Yorkshireman.—’a blow. as he came on at his leisure.’ observed John. what account of the morning’s proceedings Mr Squeers transmitted to his most affectionate uncle.’ replied Nicholas. and waited until such time as he should come up. I shall have an altercation with this honest blockhead. on nearer approach. and gave Nicholas’s fist a huge wrench: ‘but wa’at be the matther wi’ thy feace. afterwards.’ at the same time.’ In truth. making the stirrup ring under a smart touch of the ash stick. and perhaps a blow or two from yonder staff. that he might ascertain. and with good interest too.

‘dean’t say thot.’ With these expressions of delight. no less heartily. that the horse quite shied at it. mun. Where there’s a will.’ ‘Yes. for I intend walking. and inquired if he knew how much the coaches charged to carry passengers so far. yoongster. ‘but I can make it enough. John Browdie laughed and laughed again—so loud that the echoes. ‘Every step of the way. in a tone of compassion.’ John Browdie made no verbal answer to this remark. after many entreaties that he would accept of more (observing. sent back nothing but jovial peals of merriment—and shook Nicholas by the hand meanwhile. ‘Beatten the schoolmeasther! Ho! ho! ho! Beatten the schoolmeasther! who ever heard o’ the loike o’ that noo! Giv’ us thee hond agean.’ he said. ‘but it is of no great consequence to me. When his mirth had subsided. to go straight to London. in his eyes. that I have been ill-treated.’ ‘Noa!’ interposed John Browdie. you know. tellee. Hoo much cash hast thee gotten?’ ‘Not much. he shook his head doubtfully. ‘Well deane! I loike ‘un for thot.’ said Nicholas. but putting his hand in his pocket. very likely.’ ‘What!’ cried John Browdie. and so goodbye!’ ‘Nay noo. a’ warrant.’ Nicholas could by no means be prevailed upon to borrow more than a sovereign. and am leaving this place in consequence. ‘tak’ eneaf to carry thee whoam. there’s a way. with which loan Mr Browdie. ‘No. with such an ecstatic shout. colouring. far and wide. I do not.’ said Nicholas. and insisted that Nicholas should borrow from him whatever he required for his present necessities. pulled out an old purse of solid leather. he inquired what Nicholas meant to do. I have. ‘by that man Squeers. did ‘ee though?’ exclaimed John Browdie.’ ‘The fact is. reining in his impatient horse. on his informing him. not very well knowing how to make the avowal. 159 . seemed a mere dwarf. for he was a giant in strength and stature.’ replied Nicholas. Thee’lt pay me yan day.Charles Dickens ‘Noa. in amazement. and Nicholas.’ ‘Gang awa’ to Lunnun afoot!’ cried John.’ replied the honest countryman.’ said Nicholas. ‘stan’ still. ‘I should be many steps further on by this time. ‘Dean’t be afeard. ‘the fact is. and I have beaten him soundly. Beatten the schoolmeasther! Dang it. I loov’ thee for’t.’ replied Nicholas.

he stumbled upon an empty barn within a couple of hundred yards of the roadside. It was Smike indeed. He lay. rising betimes next morning.’ replied Smike. and. he stretched his weary limbs. Nicholas watched the horse and rider until they disappeared over the brow of a distant hill. and bless thee. and went off at a smart canter: looking back. rose. ‘keep a good heart. clinging to his 160 . pressing his stick on Nicholas. Passing through that town in search of some cheap resting-place. John Browdie set spurs to his horse. in a warm corner of which. ‘To go with you—anywhere—everywhere—to the world’s end—to the churchyard grave. He did not travel far that afternoon. ‘Tak’ that bit o’ timber to help thee on wi’. hastily raising him. ‘Why do you kneel to me?’ said Nicholas. and then set forward on his journey. Beatten the schoolmeasther! ‘Cod it’s the best thing a’ve heerd this twonty year!’ So saying. mun. for the purpose of avoiding the thanks which Nicholas poured forth. which had been all connected with his recent sojourn at Dotheboys Hall. and indulging. from time to time. When he awoke next morning. and waving his hand cheerily. and tried to recollect his dreams. ‘Strange!’ cried Nicholas. he could put the surplus by. after daylight. till he had an opportunity of remitting it carriage free). was fain to content himself. that if he didn’t spend it all. as if to encourage him on his way. and there had been a heavy fall of snow. but the track uncertain and difficult to find. which not only rendered the way toilsome. advanced. ‘can this be some lingering creation of the visions that have scarcely left me! It cannot be real—and yet I—I am awake! Smike!’ The form moved.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY with a touch of Yorkshire caution. in another series of loud laughs. at a cottage. as Nicholas stood gazing after him. with more delicacy than might have been expected from him. 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. he sat up. and soon fell asleep. for by this time it was nearly dark. save by experienced wayfarers.’ he added. made his way before night to Boroughbridge. where beds were let at a cheap rate to the more humble class of travellers. and dropped upon its knees at his feet. and giving his hand another squeeze. that night.

’ ‘May I—may I go with you?’ asked Smike. and. extended the other to his delighted charge. it seemed. here and there. till one or both of us shall quit it for a better. ‘I will be your faithful hard-working servant. some taller stack than the rest. and had feared to appear before. from having had nothing better to look at than the chimneys over the way. indeed. and so they passed out of the old barn. ‘your hard fate denies you any friend but one. jerking their bodies hither and thither with a gait which none but town fowls are ever seen to adopt. ‘Poor fellow!’ said Nicholas. Their tops are battered.Charles Dickens hand.’ added the poor creature. and which any country cock or hen would be puzzled to understand. are perfectly in keeping with the crazy habitations of their owners. seems to mediate taking revenge for half a century’s neglect. I only want to be near you. had never lost sight of him all the way. Dingy. and.’ ‘I am a friend who can do little for you. together. tumble-down street. but Nicholas had awakened more suddenly than he looked for. ‘these will do very well. drawing his rags together. kindly. CHAPTER 14 HAVING THE MISFORTUNE TO TREAT OF NONE BUT COMMON PEOPLE. which seem to have stared each other out of countenance years ago. and toppling over the roof. there is a bygone. taking his stick in one hand. faded.’ ‘And you shall. timidly. had watched while he slept. and blackened with smoke. and broken. I will. he strapped his burden on his shoulders. IS NECESSARILY OF A MEAN AND VULGAR CHARACTER IN THAT QUARTER of London in which Golden Square is situated. by crushing the inhabitants of the garrets beneath. He had not intended to appear now. Come!’ With these words. ill-plumed. and when he halted for refreshment. inclining heavily to one side. lest he should be sent back.’ said Nicholas. oh do let me. and he is nearly as poor and helpless as yourself. ‘Let me. The very chimneys appear to have grown dismal and melancholy. You are my home—my kind friend—take me with you. I want no clothes. and he had had no time to conceal himself.’ cried Nicholas. ‘How came you here?’ He had followed him. drowsy 161 . pray. ‘And the world shall deal by you as it does by me. with two irregular rows of tall meagre houses. The fowls who peck about the kennels.

while every doorway is blocked up. On the second story. but a curious visitor who had to climb his way to the top. when occasion required. from the baby in arms and the half-pint pot. and rendered nearly impassable. announcing that there was yet one room to let within its walls. The common stairs of this mansion were bare and carpetless.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY flutterers. sent. by a motley collection of children and porter pots of all sizes. from a large brewery hard by. of which one. and porter pots. belonging to the back-room. The windows are. might have observed that there were not wanting indications of the progressive poverty of the inmates. in forlorn search of some hidden eatable in the mud. which was perhaps a thought dirtier than any of its neighbours. and can scarcely raise a crow among them. The only one with anything approaching to a voice. the spare furniture dwindled down to a couple of old deal chairs. but they are now let off. and every door has almost as many plates or bellhandles as there are apartments within. being ornamented with every variety of common blind and curtain that can easily be imagined. In the parlour of one of these houses. and bottomless. and caught in all its freshness the first gust of the thick black smoke that poured forth. kept an old mahogany table—real mahogany—on the landing-place outside. To judge from the size of the houses. is an aged bantam at the baker’s. they have been. to get a livelihood in the streets. and the garret landing-place displayed no cost162 . The story above. to the full-grown girl and half-gallon can. for the same reason. boasted no greater excess than a wormeaten wash-tub. hung a bill. by the week. from stone to stone. in floors or rooms. night and day. sufficiently diversified in appearance. which exhibited more bell-handles. being flush of furniture. tenanted by persons of better condition than their present occupants. Thus. which was only taken in. 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. although their rooms were shut. at one time. though on what story the vacant room could be—regard being had to the outward tokens of many lodgers which the whole front displayed. the first-floor lodgers. they hop. and even he is hoarse. was shorn of a leg. in consequence of bad living in his last place. children. like many of the neighbouring children.

and. ‘Does it rain?’ asked Newman. and Mr Crowl. the speaker. in the same pettish tone. ‘I am wet through.Charles Dickens lier articles than two crippled pitchers.’ said Newman. ‘You have not turned saving. stepping in to light his candle. and some broken blacking-bottles. at this time of day. he knocked at the partition which divided the two garrets. ‘To the Kenwigses?’ asked Crowl.’ ‘It doesn’t take much to wet you and me through. whether Mr Noggs had a light. Mr Noggs!’ said the man in the nightcap.’ observed Mr Crowl. Having adopted in its place a dirty cotton nightcap. and conveyed a reply in the affirmative. elderly and shabby. coarse. threw on half the stock: which Noggs very deliberately took off again. and groped about in the dark till he found a remnant of candle. as though it were a sufficient refutation of the charge. and that makes it the more vexatious. whose harsh countenance was the very epitome of selfishness. This person wore a wig of short. stopped to unlock the door of the front attic. in a loud voice. Newman Noggs pointed to the bottom of a cupboard. emptying the glass which Noggs had pushed towards him. Newman pointed to the empty glass. into which. laying his hand upon the lappel of his threadbare coat. Mr Crowl. Newman nodded assent. It was on this garret landing-place that a hard-featured squarefaced man. having surmounted the task of turning the rusty key in its still more rusty wards. inquired where he kept his coals. and it seemed moreover as though the speaker had uttered them from the interior of a mug or other drinking vessel. ‘Well. 163 . he walked with the air of legal owner. which he took off with his hat. raked the scanty fire nearly out of the grate. I hope?’ said Crowl. Uttering a low querulous growl. but they were in the voice of Newman. and briefly said that he was going downstairs to supper. ‘A nasty night. The sounds that came back were stifled by the lath and plaster. ‘Does it?’ replied the other pettishly. without saying a word. seizing the shovel. and inquired. red hair. and hung upon a nail.

Mrs Kenwigs had invited a few select friends to cards and a supper in the first floor. not having the courage to say no—a word which in all his life he never had said at the right time. 164 . and was the constant theme of all the gossips in the street. and of a very genteel family. I’ll tell you what —I’ll sit by your fire till you come back again. was quite a lady in her manners. and in grateful commemoration of the same. and had flaxen hair. hanging in luxuriant pigtails down their backs. ‘If I didn’t—thinking that you were certain not to go. comprising a suite of two rooms. ‘They would have me. The lodgers to whom Crowl had made allusion under the designation of ‘the Kenwigses. having an uncle who collected a water-rate. inasmuch as he occupied the whole of the first floor. the two eldest of her little girls went twice a week to a dancing school in the neighbourhood. with Newman Nogg’s means. and wore little white trousers with frills round the ankles—for all of which reasons. either to himself or anyone else—gave way to the proposed arrangement. Mrs Kenwigs. being of a flaming colour and made upon a juvenile principle. as circumstances would admit of his being made.’ said Newman. and even three or four doors round the corner at both ends. had bestowed Mrs Kenwigs upon Mr Kenwigs. but what’s to become of me?’ urged the selfish man. tied with blue ribbons. who was looked upon as a person of some consideration on the premises. too. but. Mrs Kenwigs was considered a very desirable person to know. and Mrs Kenwigs younger and more blooming than on the very first Sunday he had kept company with her. who never thought of anybody else. ‘It’s all your fault. and make up my mind to spend the evening with you!’ ‘I was obliged to go. and had put on a new gown to receive them in: which gown. because you said you wouldn’t— tell Kenwigs I couldn’t come.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Think of that now!’ said Crowl.’ ‘Well. and many more equally valid but too numerous to mention.’ Newman cast a despairing glance at his small store of fuel. It was the anniversary of that happy day on which the Church of England as by law established. besides which distinction. a turner in ivory.’ were the wife and olive branches of one Mr Kenwigs. Mr Crowl immediately went about making himself as comfortable. was so successful that Mr Kenwigs said the eight years of matrimony and the five children seemed all a dream.

Then. first of all. in private. who. had not the pride of housewifery upheld her. as bearing the reputation of a rake. supposed to entertain honourable designs upon the lady last mentioned. who had known Mr Kenwigs when he was a bachelor. To these were added a newly-married couple. that if it hadn’t happened that the supper was cooking at the back-parlour grate at that moment. however. could have sustained. that that lady assured her visitors. because it was but right that they should have a treat on such a day. came in a low book-muslin dress and short kid gloves. and one more young lady. not to say improper. who was quite a beauty. There was only one drawback upon the pleasure of seeing such friends. and everything was ready. and the collector himself having promised to come. and who—it was the most convenient thing in the world—living in the twopair back. she had a world of trouble with the preparations. and turned of sixty. and all the things that had to be got out of the way were got out of the way. and a sister of Mrs Kenwigs’s. more. and secondly. and was much esteemed by the ladies. Mr Kenwigs and Mrs Kenwigs. to match this young lady. besides whom. being of a delicate and genteel constitution. and had the greatest turn for the stage that was ever known. Then. who was a genteel person to ask. and that was. being able to sing and recite in a manner that brought the tears into Mrs Kenwigs’s eyes. and so stately that you would have supposed she had a cook and housemaid at least. because their going to bed. than she. There were also an elderly lady from the back-parlour. perhaps was the great lion of the party. At last. indeed. gave up her bed to the baby. who ‘went on’ in the pantomime. There were. being the daughter of a theatrical fireman. in presence of the company. The party was admirably selected. and Mr Noggs. next to the collector. and nothing to do but order them about. was a young man. because he had been a gentleman once. there was another young man. and four olive Kenwigses who sat up to supper. fortune smiled upon the occasion. there was a young lady who had made Mrs Kenwigs’s dress. who had visited Mr and Mrs Kenwigs in their courtship. who was very fat.Charles Dickens Beautiful as Mrs Kenwigs looked when she was dressed though. all the things that had to be got together were got together. that the lady in the back-parlour. which so exasperated Mrs Kenwigs. would have been inconvenient. and got a little girl to watch it. she certainly 165 . firstly.

‘George. when the people don’t pay. but putting Mrs Kenwigs out of the question (if I could put Mrs Kenwigs out of the question on such an occasion as this). abashed. and that he knows.’ said Mr Kenwigs. to look easy and unembarrassed.’ ‘It was only my joke. run down and let your uncle in. At the conclusion of these observations. I have the honour to be connected with the collector by marriage. the company spoke very loudly. and not of himself.’ whispered Mr Kenwigs. that would never do.’ said Kenwigs. ‘that if we began without him.’ ‘He’s so particular.’ said the friend. and kiss him directly you get the door open. my dear. ‘My dear.’ Adopting Mr Kenwigs’s suggestion. ‘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. ‘It goes to his heart. ‘Morleena. a ring was heard at the bell.’ ‘The kindest-hearted man as ever was.’ returned his wife. my dear. Mrs Kenwigs’s relation is a public man.’ said Mr Kenwigs. I should be out of his will for ever. ‘wouldn’t it be better to begin a round game?’ ‘Kenwigs.’ rejoined Mr Kenwigs.’ ‘Dear!’ cried the married lady. Hem! Let’s be talking. ‘That’s him. which drew forth evidences of acute feeling from Mrs Kenwigs. ‘I am surprised at you. Would you begin without my uncle?’ ‘I forgot the collector.’ replied Mrs Kenwigs. and I cannot allow these remarks in my— ’ Mr Kenwigs was going to say ‘house. and almost as soon as they had begun to do so. greatly excited. and had the intended effect of impressing the company with a deep sense of the collector’s dignity. I believe. ‘George.’ observed the bachelor friend. to be forced to cut the water off. and that he can bear. George. A man in public life expects to be sneered at—it is the fault of his elewated sitiwation.’ said Mrs Kenwigs.’ said Kenwigs. intending a joke. I set my face against it.’ but he rounded the sentence with ‘apartments’. solemnly. with a face that might have been carved out of 166 . a short old gentleman in drabs and gaiters. ‘and yet as good a creature as ever breathed. ‘You’ve no idea what he is. if you please. ‘oh no.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY would have requested its representative to withdraw. ‘none of that. turning to the other married lady.

’ said the collector. sir. ‘Mr Lillyvick. returning the compliment. wholly out of the question. ‘George. will you sort the counters?’ 167 .’ These were not mere words of ceremony. without his double knock. Now. for two quarters’ due. I am SO glad to see you.’ said Mr Cutler. Drury Lane. my dear. Mr Snewkes—Mr Lillyvick. had heard of him very often indeed. 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. summonses. uncle. His attention in calling had been quite extraordinary. ‘So glad!’ ‘Many happy returns of the day. which the appearance of her distinguished relation occasioned. kissing the collector affectionately on both cheeks.’ said Kenwigs.Charles Dickens lignum vitae. having kept house in Mr Lillyvick’s parish. you know. It was pleasant to see how the company looked on. kissing— actually kissing—an agreeable female. Mr Cutler. 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.’ said Mrs Kenwigs.’ ‘Proud to know you. he couldn’t have been more humble.’ said Kenwigs. in case it should prove a daughter. uncle?’ said Mrs Kenwigs. Mr Lillyvick. who knew his place. are very anxious for the honour of—thank you—Mr and Mrs Cutler. without his intimidation. was led playfully in by Miss Morleena Kenwigs. Here was a collector of water-rates. ‘Oh. sir. this was an interesting thing. notices that he had called. Very glad to make two public characters acquainted! Mrs Kenwigs. addressing the collector. ‘lady from downstairs—Mr Lillyvick. ‘Anywheres. ‘I am not particular. I think. ‘some friends here. without his book. Mr Lillyvick. ‘I’ve heerd of you very often.’ Not particular! What a meek collector! If he had been an author. and leaving taxes. for anything that appeared to the contrary. for. in the full glow of family pride. my dear. for the special distinction of her eldest child. Mr Lillyvick—Miss Petowker of the Theatre Royal.’ replied the collector. without his pen and ink. Miss Green—Mr Lillyvick. quite absorbed in the sight. my dear. or announcements that he would never call again.

and the greater part of the guests sat down to speculation. and to no one more so than to the lady and gentleman of the house. that private society adopted the principle of schools. and making so many condescending speeches to the owners. that they were delighted with his amiability. and the spirits. and as all should be fish that comes to a water-collector’s net. Mr Lillyvick being stationed in a 168 . with the assistance of Newman Noggs. Everybody having eaten everything. the cloth was laid with much elegance. not to be taken away again. while Newman himself. After a great deal of trouble. especially if the school principle were carried out to the full extent. fork. which doubtless would be a great accommodation in many cases. more than once. and plucked up amazingly: to the immense delight and satisfaction of the whole body of admirers. the party composed themselves for conviviality. looked after the supper-table. as a matter of delicacy. than those which arose from the incessant demand for clean knives and forks. Mr Lillyvick was intent upon the game in progress. being arranged in order. whereat the eyes of Newman Noggs glistened. the table was cleared in a most alarming hurry. was humoured in his request to be taken no notice of. with water both hot and cold. and required that every guest should bring his own knife. (who. smiling good-humouredly all the while. whereof two of the most rebellious were summarily banished. and thought in their hearts that he deserved to be Chancellor of the Exchequer at least. the dear old gentleman was by no means scrupulous in appropriating to himself the property of his neighbours. he abstracted whenever an opportunity presented itself. were served. and the articles were expected. on the contrary. no more serious difficulties occurring. the worthy Mr Lillyvick vented a great many witticisms. Very well and very fast the supper went off. and with great noise. at all times and seasons. While the ladies were thus busying themselves. in a whisper.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Mrs Kenwigs. potatoes and greens. and the administration of many slaps on the head to the infant Kenwigses. at sight of which. as he performed sundry little acts of kindness for the children. Mrs Kenwigs. and Miss Petowker of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. which. and was merely spoken about. and a pair of boiled fowls. did as he was desired. a large piece of pork. which made poor Mrs Kenwigs wish. as the decayed gentleman). apple-pie. and spoon.

‘Dear me—ah!’ This reflection was echoed by all present.” I said. which. who said ‘Ah!’ first.’ said all the ladies. in good truth.Charles Dickens large armchair by the fireside. and the little Kenwigses. ‘I was younger then. the loveliness of the children by no means justifying her apprehensions. ‘I remember her.’ said the collector.’ interposed Mrs Kenwigs.’ sobbed Mrs Kenwigs. This done.’ afterwards. ‘oh! they’re too beautiful to live. ‘“Love him.”’ ‘“Adore him. ‘so they are! it’s very natural you should feel proud of that. ‘Certainly not. “Mother.” I think. were distributed among the company. Mrs Kenwigs meanwhile clasping them alternately to her bosom. than Mrs Kenwigs was overpowered by the feelings of a mother.’ said Mr Lillyvick. firmly. and it don’t signify. and their faces to the fire. when she first acknowledged to her mother a partiality for Kenwigs. and that there was no occasion at all for Mrs Kenwigs to distress herself. and ‘dear me. the ladies and gentlemen united in prophesying that they would live for many.’ said the collector.’ ‘I can—not help it. being also composed. to prevent the possibility of Mrs Kenwigs being again overcome by the blaze of their combined beauty. but don’t give way. screamed until the eight flaxen tails vibrated again. and the four little Kenwigses disposed on a small form in front of the company with their flaxen tails towards them. ‘I remember my niece. and fell upon the left shoulder of Mr Kenwigs dissolved in tears.’ tittered Mrs Kenwigs.’ added everybody. with attitudes expressive of distraction. sobbing. the anxious mother permitted herself to be soothed into a more tranquil state. on that very afternoon. an arrangement which was no sooner perfected. ‘Oh. “I love him. dear. ‘They are so beautiful!’ said Mrs Kenwigs. my dear. there did not appear to be. At length.” she says. ‘This day eight year. uncle. all four little girls raised a hideous cry. which Miss Petowker herself might have copied. 169 . don’t. ‘No. and burying their heads in their mother’s lap simultaneously. surveying his audience with a grave air.’ said Mr Kenwigs after a pause. many years. much too beautiful!’ On hearing this alarming presentiment of their being doomed to an early death in the flower of their infancy.

‘it will only worry my uncle. on the ground that he was beneath the family. and the three other little girls were successively hoisted up to the collector’s countenance. at this crisis. ‘It would have been your own fault if you had not. ‘Kenwigs will excuse my saying. but highly praiseworthy.’ said Mr Lillyvick: ‘perhaps it was natural. the objection was not only natural. do let Morleena go through that figure dance before Mr Lillyvick. perhaps it wasn’t. inasmuch as it proved. and subjected to the same process. that.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Perhaps you are right. sir. The family did take notice of him.’ replied Mrs Kenwigs. ‘Into strong conwulsions.’ cried her mother. ‘kiss your dear uncle!’ The young lady did as she was requested. in no way displeased at the reminiscence. no. uncle.” she says.” my dear. my dear. and would disgrace it. ‘Oh dear. Mrs Kenwigs. in the presence of friends. and there was no help for it. upright.’ 170 . Kenwigs?’ ‘Certainly.’ ‘No. ‘I shared in that feeling. ‘After they were married. which was afterwards repeated on them by the majority of those present. shake hands.’ A gentle murmur seemed to say.’ replied that gentleman. ‘I thought it was “adore. respectable sort of man.’ ‘I am proud to do it. sir.’ said Mr Lillyvick.’ retorted Mr Lillyvick. I was one of the first to say that Kenwigs must be taken notice of. and on my representation.’ remarked Mr Lillyvick.’ said Mr Kenwigs. submissively. regarding them with a rigid look. You remember. well-behaved.’ A general exclamation of astonishment burst from the company. in consequence. what a high family Mrs Kenwigs came of. much affected.’ replied Mrs Kenwigs. ‘“Mother. and I am bound to say—and proud to say— that I have always found him a very honest. ‘So am I. in one of Mr Lillyvick’s station. sir. and instantly falls into strong conwulsions.’ rejoined Mr Lillyvick. ‘A very happy life I have led with your niece. ‘while Mr Noggs is making that punch to drink happy returns in. “I love him!” “What do I hear?” cries her mother. beyond all doubt. ‘I came round to him in time.’ said Miss Petowker. that there was a very great objection to him. ‘Morleena Kenwigs. Kenwigs.’ repeated Mr Lillyvick.’ said Kenwigs.”’ ‘“Love. Kenwigs.

but they had settled to have a little pressing on both sides. besides.’ said Mrs K.’ observed Mrs Kenwigs.’ said Miss Petowker. I would have her out at the Opera instantly.’ Mrs Kenwigs sighed.—only think of the young dukes and marquises. reproachfully. ‘anything in my humble power I shall be delighted to do. looking at her husband. ‘I only know—’ faltered Miss Petowker. ‘You know. because it looked more natural.’ There was a great clapping of hands and stamping of feet. Miss Petowker hummed a tune. sir?’ ‘That I am sure I shall’ replied the collector. afterwards. ‘but if she grew up what she is now. ‘You will be very much pleased. ‘that I dislike doing anything professional in private parties.—’it may be no 171 . ‘Still. ‘of such genius as that. that you might as well be going through it in your own room.’ said the collector. you know—’ ‘There’s a good deal in that.’ replied Mrs Kenwigs.Charles Dickens ‘It can’t worry him. I’ll tell you what. in acknowledgment of the reception. and observed that he was doubtful about it.’ ‘Very right. gently inclined her head several times. ‘Well then.’ said Miss Petowker. having previously had the soles of her shoes chalked. won’t you. and was received with unbounded applause. the occasion—’ ‘I can’t resist that. and looked at Mr Kenwigs. of which this was the prescribed order. ‘if she took a proper pride in herself. if uncle can persuade Miss Petowker to recite us the Blood-Drinker’s Burial.’ ‘Oh.’ interrupted Miss Petowker. comprising a great deal of work for the arms. but not here!’ said Mrs Kenwigs. The company being all ready. ‘What of?’ inquired Miss Petowker.’ Mrs Kenwigs and Miss Petowker had arranged a small programme of the entertainments between them.’ submitted Miss Petowker. who shook his head. ‘We are all so very friendly and pleasant. ‘not of her failing?’ ‘Oh no. ‘Morleena shall do the steps. ‘If I was blessed with a—a child—’ said Miss Petowker. and Morleena danced a dance. blushing. It was a very beautiful figure.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. I am sure. at this proposition. ‘Kenwigs is afraid. with as much care as if she were going on the tight-rope. the subject whereof. glancing at the punch-mixer.

The ecstasies consequent upon the effort had not yet subsided. when a hasty knock was heard at the room-door.’ Newman reflected for a few seconds. for I peeped into the room as I came down. isn’t it?’ replied Crowl.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY rule to be sure—but I have never found any inconvenience or unpleasantness of that sort.’ Mr Kenwigs. went through the performance with extraordinary spirit. and that he would take the subject into his serious consideration. ‘and they are queer-looking people. and taking up her position at the other end of the room. muttering that he would be back directly. who was not best pleased at the prospect of losing his fire. Shall I tell them to go away?’ ‘No.’ said Crowl. in his nightcap. all covered with rain and mud. ‘Why. with becoming gallantry. and Newman (who had not been thoroughly sober at so late an hour for a long long time. it’s only me. said that settled the question at once. He was as good as his word.’ and catch her in his arms when she died raving mad. it is a queer hour. with the bachelor friend posted in a corner. who immediately divined that the baby had fallen out of bed. and seizing.) had not yet been able to put in a word of announcement. ‘Want me? By name?’ asked Newman. that the punch was ready. too. looking in. to which end. unless a draught was to get into the room—it’s Mr Noggs that’s wanted. that young lady let down her back hair. in an exceedingly short time.’ replied Crowl. much astonished. and I don’t think the candle will set fire to the bed-curtain. and to the great terror of the little Kenwigses. Miss Petowker was entreated to begin the Blood-Drinker’s Burial. which elicited a shriek from Mrs Kenwigs. ‘People? How many?’ ‘Two. ‘By name. sharply. ‘Mr Newman Noggs.’ said Newman. for. This being resolved upon. 172 . a lighted candle and tumbler of hot punch from the table. who were all but frightened into fits.’ ‘Me!’ cried Newman.’ rejoined Crowl. rising. without a word of apology or explanation. and then hurried away. he burst into the room. ‘Who is that?’ demanded Mr Kenwigs. as pat as need be. darted away like a madman. to rush out at the cue ‘in death expire. ‘The baby is very comfortable. and so is the girl. ‘Don’t be alarmed. and it’s fast asleep.

footsore and nearly shoeless. at once . looking in each other’s faces with much perplexity and some fear. with a wistful glance at the shabby clothes he wore himself. Newman’s first act was to compel Nicholas.’ he added. never having tasted anything stronger than aperient medicine in his whole life. stretched their necks forward. upon his young friend grasping 173 CHAPTER 15 ACQUAINTS THE READER WITH THE CAUSE AND ORIGIN OF THE INTERRUPTION DESCRIBED IN THE LAST CHAPTER. for one night. and indeed from the very grasp of the water-rate collector. He bore his prize straight to his own back-garret. exhibited various odd manifestations of surprise and delight. with lively marks of pleasure visible in his countenance. at the moment of its unexpected abstraction. to pour the remainder down the throat of Smike. to cast myself upon your slender means for aid and shelter. both perfectly worn out by their unwonted and protracted exertion.Charles Dickens ‘What the deuce is the matter with him?’ exclaimed Crowl. ‘You are wet through. who.’ said Newman. or at least such as will serve my turn well. ‘If you look so distressed to see me. with gentle force. in my bundle. where. and turned up his eyes most emphatically when it was all gone. passing his hand hastily over the coat which Nicholas had thrown off. wet. AND WITH SOME OTHER MATTERS NECESSARY TO BE KNOWN NEWMAN NOGGS SCRAMBLED in violent haste upstairs with the steaming beverage. at being compelled. ‘Hark! Is there any noise above?’ The guests rose in great confusion. nearly boiling as it was. but. and listened attentively.’ Newman did not look the less distressed to hear Nicholas talking in this strain. throwing the door open. and. during the passage of the liquor down his throat. to swallow half of the punch at a breath. who was eyeing the contents of the tumbler. ‘and I—I— haven’t even a change. you will add to the pain I feel already.’ replied Nicholas. the cause and partner of his toil. jaded. which he had so unceremoniously snatched from the table of Mr Kenwigs. and disfigured with every mark of fatiguing travel. dirty. and his next. ‘I have dry clothes. sat Nicholas and Smike.

a supper of bread and cheese. and these viands being flanked by a bottle of spirits and a pot of porter.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY him heartily by the hand. the travellers partook of their frugal fare. and Nicholas.’ replied Newman. who had hitherto been restrained by the extreme anxiety of his friend that he should refresh himself after his journey. ‘Is she still engaged in the business which she wrote to tell me she thought she should like so much?’ Newman opened his eyes rather wider than usual. In the present instance. As Nicholas had husbanded his scanty stock of money. and that Smike should invest himself in his solitary coat (which no entreaties would dissuade him from stripping off for the purpose). but. and went about making such arrangements as were in his power for the comfort of his visitors. with some cold beef from the cook’s shop. that Nicholas should change his clothes. with more satisfaction than one of them at least had derived from many a better meal. ‘And my sister. Such preparations as Newman had it in his power to make. the pantomime con174 . as an express preliminary. at all events. after the inroads of Crowl upon the fuel. for the accommodation of his guests during the night.’ ‘They are living in the city still?’ inquired Nicholas. they were not made without much bustling and running about. and kindness of feeling towards himself. These were simple enough. was soon placed upon the table. on any consideration. and as he had insisted. now pressed him with earnest questions concerning his mother and sister. there was no ground for apprehension on the score of hunger or thirst. poor Newman’s means halting at a very considerable distance short of his inclinations. with extreme alacrity. ‘They are. ‘Well. They then drew near the fire. with his accustomed taciturnity. so well that it was not yet quite expended. and assuring him that nothing but implicit confidence in the sincerity of his professions. slight as they were.’ said Newman. which Newman Noggs had made up as well as he could. according to the action of the head that accompanied it. ‘both well. would have induced him. but merely replied by a gasp. was interpreted by his friends as meaning yes or no. which. Mr Noggs brightened up again.’—added Nicholas. occupied no very great time in completing. even to have made him acquainted with his arrival in London.

I deemed it expedient to come to you.’ rejoined Nicholas.Charles Dickens sisted of a nod. entreated him to speak out without more pressing. ‘You would sleep the better.’ replied Newman. and what purpose can be gained by trifling with the matter for a few minutes. I could take no other part than I have taken. impatiently. when half the time would put me in possession of all that has occurred? Tell me at once.’ ‘What purpose would that answer?’ urged Nicholas. and finally fixed his eyes on Nicholas with a grim and ghastly stare. tamely and passively. and whatever consequences may accrue to myself from it. as though he were trying his utmost to speak. ‘Before I would make an effort to see them.’ said Newman. I should have hated myself. ‘but you will not break my rest. hesitating.’ ‘Tomorrow morning. ‘You see that I am prepared to hear the very worst that malice can have suggested. if I starve or beg in consequence. ‘What has he heard?’ urged Nicholas. pray. I should inflict an injury upon them which I can never repair. and merited the contempt of every man in existence.’ said Newman. ‘Now listen to me. ‘I should sleep the worse. ‘Sleep! Exhausted as I am. then you may rouse my indignation or wound my pride. Why should you conceal it from me? I must know it sooner or later. and not a shake. Mr Noggs took. ‘Why. 175 . Thus adjured. by gratifying my own selfish desire. The black-hearted scoundrel!’ With this gentle allusion to the absent Mr Squeers. but could make nothing of it. Nicholas repressed his rising wrath. to the disgrace of the basest and most inhuman cowardice! I tell you. laying his hand on Newman’s shoulder. if I had stood by.’ answered Nicholas. and relating to Newman exactly what had passed at Dotheboys Hall. What has my uncle heard from Yorkshire?’ Newman opened and shut his mouth. so Nicholas took the answer as a favourable one.’ ‘And if I should tell you everything. lest. I shall never regret doing as I have done— never. for if the scene were acted over again. What is a little poverty or suffering. unless you tell me everything. colouring. several times. and standing in no common need of rest. ‘hear it tomorrow. I cannot hope to close my eyes all night.’ said Nicholas.

Having. the doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen. 176 . ‘Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides. dashed her to the earth. Newman Noggs accordingly read as follows: ‘Dotheboys Hall.’ replied Nicholas. ‘My dear young man. and drove her back comb several inches into her head. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low. ‘Sir. and after sundry extraordinary demonstrations of reluctance. and would have done it myself!’ Newman accompanied this very unusual outbreak with a violent blow upon the table.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY from an old trunk. especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. ‘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. Shall I read it?’ ‘If you please.’ said Newman. he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence. I took a hasty copy of it. if you take everybody’s part that’s ill-treated—Damn it. and my pa is one mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. in the heat of the moment. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. ‘Thursday Morning. ‘your uncle received this letter. he had mistaken it for the chest or ribs of Mr Wackford Squeers. which appeared to have been scrawled over in great haste. Mr Noggs went straight to the point. ‘My pa requests me to write to you. a sheet of paper. by this open declaration of his feelings. I am proud to hear of it. We have a medical certifiket that if it had. quite precluded himself from offering Nicholas any cautious worldly advice (which had been his first intention). as if. you know—as to getting on in the world. while he was out. ‘We are in a state of mind beyond everything. ‘The day before yesterday. the tortershell would have affected the brain. delivered himself in the following terms. you mustn’t give way to—this sort of thing will never do.

‘P. but to myself—that I should state the truth. sat mute and dispirited. I pity his ignorance and despise him. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned. ‘Quite.Charles Dickens I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather and I hope will excuse mistakes. He is away from town. gazed with a kind of grotesque pity at the boy of desperate character therein referred to. planting himself before his impetuous young friend. ‘They must not. ‘He had hardly read it when he 177 . ‘Yes.’ rejoined Nicholas firmly.’ ‘Are you sure of this?’ asked Nicholas. and a garnet ring belonging to my ma. ‘Hear me speak. ‘The monster having sasiated his thirst for blood ran away. and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. and I know that letter will not be answered before he returns.’ said Nicholas. with a most woe-begone and heart-stricken look. ‘to Golden Square.’ said Newman. He will not be back for three days. but it may suit the purpose. and pacing the narrow room with rapid strides. Hoping to hear from you when convenient ‘I remain ‘Yours and cetrer ‘Fanny Squeers. during which Newman Noggs. as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported. ‘I must go out at once. and moreover. Nobody who knows me would believe this story of the ring. which will not keep cool. It is due—not to him. than that he had been the unfortunate cause of heaping trouble and falsehood upon Nicholas. chafing violently.’ ‘They must.S. and that you will let the thief and assassin go. I have a word or two to exchange with him. after a few moments’ reflection. having no more distinct perception of the matter in hand.’ A profound silence succeeded to the reading of this choice epistle.’ rejoined Newman. as he folded it up.’ said Nicholas. taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had excited to rebellyon. indeed. who. as he prepared to leave the house. ‘Mr Noggs. ‘He is not there. or gratify the hatred of Mr Ralph Nickleby to feign to attach credence to it.’ ‘Go out!’ cried Newman. and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long which will save us trouble and be much more satisfactory.’ said Newman.

of which the two partook in great harmony. ‘not even to my mother or sister? If I thought that they—I will go there—I must see them. ready to oppose any egress from the apartment by force. and employed themselves in hazarding a great variety of conjectures relative to the cause of Mr Noggs’ sudden disappearance and detention. he knows it as well as you or I.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. ‘He has had punch already. in a loud voice. if necessary. and as the water in the kettle was by this time boiling. Which is the way? Where is it?’ ‘Now. angrily.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY was called away. Guessing at the real truth. Do not seem to have been tampering with anybody. in his earnestness. Meanwhile. I know the man. and a cracked mug-full for the joint accommodation of himself and Smike.’ ‘You mean well to me. like any other man—’make no effort to see even them. we’d better send up and ask if he won’t take a little more punch. ‘I’m surprised at you. precipitately. remained buried in melancholy meditation. sir?’ asked Mr Kenwigs.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. resumed his seat with much satisfaction. go straight to him.’ said Mr Kenwigs. ‘it’s not impossible. ‘Making such a remark as that. Perhaps. with becoming submission to the collector of water-rates.’ said Newman. sir. When he returns. ‘Lor. and should know him better than I can.’ ‘What’s the matter. ‘Suppose it should be an express sent up to say that his property has all come back again!’ ‘Dear me. the company below stairs.’ ‘Kenwigs!’ said Mr Lillyvick. who had stood during the foregoing conversation with his back planted against the door. Trust him for that. after some consideration. and speak as boldly as you like.’ Newman. ‘Well. speaking for the moment. be advised by me. made a glassful of spirits and water for Nicholas. has he not. leaning his head upon his hand.’ ‘Are you certain?’ demanded Nicholas. while Nicholas. after listening attentively and not hearing any noise which would justify them in interfering for the gratification of their curiosity. sir? I consider 178 .’ replied Nicholas. Its contents are known to nobody but himself and us. let it be so. returned to the chamber of the Kenwigses. till he comes home. in that case. I’ll tell you what.

and if you don’t like it. it’s past my regular time for going to bed. where was this to end! ‘I am very sorry. that’s all. in a stupor of dismay. ‘Morleena. only fanned the flame in attempting to extinguish it. and had now fairly burst out. A gentleman has a glass of punch before him to which he is just about to set his lips.’ Here was an untoward event! The collector had sat swelling and fuming in offended dignity for some minutes. The great man—the rich relation—the unmarried uncle—who had it in his power to make Morleena an heiress. regardless of the siren. highly disrespectful to this company. This may be good manners—I dare say it is—but I don’t understand it. sir. not to say a water-collector. I don’t care if I never do.Charles Dickens the way in which that punch was cut off. not being skilful in such matters. sir.’ said that gentleman. my hat!’ upon the fourth repetition of which demand. and so I don’t mind telling you. and that is my mind. without a “with your leave”. with a cry that might have softened a water-butt. It may be the custom to allow such things in this house. staring vacantly at the collector. but it’s not the kind of behaviour that I’ve been used to see displayed.’ ‘Out of temper! What the devil do you mean by that piece of impertinence. ‘You should have prevented it. while the four little girls (privately instructed to that ef179 . with much sharpness. if I may use the expression. But still Mr Lillyvick. Mr Kenwigs. Gracious Powers. child—give me my hat. sir. then. and I can find my way home without making it later. Mrs Kenwigs sunk back in her chair. ‘I didn’t suppose that such a little thing as a glass of punch would have put you out of temper. or “by your leave”. ‘Morleena. with her most bewitching smile. humbly.’ retorted Mr Lillyvick. and what’s more. the other guests were scarcely less overpowered by the great man’s irritation. ‘I didn’t think of it. It’s my way to speak my mind.’ interposed Miss Petowker. and the very baby a legatee—was offended. The back-parlour sat with her mouth wide open. Mr Kenwigs?’ said the collector. and carries that glass of punch away. you’re not going.’ ‘Oh. when another gentleman comes and collars that glass of punch. perfectly scandalous. scandalous. cried obdurately. Kenwigs. ‘Don’t tell me you’re sorry.’ The company were quite paralysed by this domestic crash. Mr Lillyvick. Kenwigs.’ said Mr Kenwigs. I am sure.

and an irrepressible murmur of applause broke from the company who had witnessed his magnanimity.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY fect) clasped their uncle’s drab shorts in their arms. ‘I’m not wanted here.’ said Mr Lillyvick. at the same time. and beg him to love you all his life through. and I’ve always said so. for he had shown his power. ‘Out of temper!’ ‘Oh! I cannot bear to see him look so. ‘There. and prayed him. for the sake of your niece.’ cried her mother.’ cried Mrs Kenwigs. in addition to all.’ sobbed Mrs Kenwigs. and held out his hand. ‘unless you wish to kill me. ‘Go down upon your knees to your dear uncle. to remain. ‘It’s so dreadful in families. glancing angrily at Kenwigs. gained great credit for disinterestedness and virtue. in a torrent of affection. being again reinstated in his old post of lion.’ ‘Morleena Kenwigs. He gave up his hat. The worthy gentleman then became once more the life and soul of the society. and. in compliance with this injunction. biped lions are rarely sulky longer than when their appetite for distinction remains unappeased.’ ‘I shouldn’t wonder if some people were to say I did. uncle. Mr Lillyvick stood higher than ever.’ ‘Oh. ‘and let me tell you. at my husband. Quadruped lions are said to be savage. ‘Why should I stop here.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. was summarily caught up and kissed by Mr Lillyvick. was finally accommodated with a much larger tumbler of punch than that 180 . that if I had gone away without another word. as the company added their entreaties to those of his nephew-in-law. from which high station the temporary distraction of their thoughts had for a moment dispossessed him. it would have made no difference respecting that pound or two which I shall leave among your children when I die. Kenwigs.’ Miss Morleena approaching to do homage. that you won’t object to be reconciled. hinted at his property and testamentary intentions.’ The collector’s features relaxed. my dears?’ said Mr Lillyvick. and thereupon Mrs Kenwigs darted forward and kissed the collector. Oh!’ ‘Mr Lillyvick. only when they are hungry. for he’s more a angel than a man. in imperfect English. do not speak so cruelly. ‘I hope. to show you how much out of temper I was.’ said Kenwigs.

I don’t wish to alarm Mrs Kenwigs. and brought away a fever or some unpleasantness of that sort. and so I couldn’t help catching a word here. under any circumstances.. certainly.’ ‘Well. if I was her’—’To be 181 . was about to enter a general protest against the payment of rates or taxes. until it became matter of some doubt whether the tears which coursed down her face were the result of feelings or sal volatile. which providentially stopped him. ‘I say! I beg everybody’s pardon for intruding again. is. which might be catching for the children. mysterious. to have been chosen and elected mouthpiece to the company. having expressed their sympathy. that it needed all the tender attentions of Miss Petowker. such condolences as ‘Poor dear!’—’I should feel just the same. into a little chorus of soothing expressions. according to custom. of the Theatre Royal. that they have been talking so loud. The ladies. so it is. certainly seemed to refer to their having bolted from some place or other.’ Mrs Kenwigs was so overpowered by this supposition. ‘and the behaviour of Mr Noggs himself. sir. that they quite disturbed me in my room.’ said Crowl. isn’t it? Noggs has lived in this house. ‘but what a queer business this is. and all I heard. fell. now going on for five years. ‘Why the fact is. who had been listening at Newman’s door with all his might and main. have run away from somewhere.’ said Crowl. ‘and I’ll tell you what’s more—I think these two geniuses. to restore her to anything like a state of calmness. to say the least of it. within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. who seemed. when he was checked by a timely whisper from Kenwigs.’ said the collector. ‘You have no reason to suppose that they have run away from anywhere without paying the rates and taxes due.Charles Dickens which Newman Noggs had so feloniously made off with. among which. with a look of some contempt. Drury Lane. I hope?’ Mr Crowl.’ rejoined Growl. whoever they are.’ ‘It’s a strange time of night to be called away. singly and separately. but I hope they haven’t come from any jail or hospital. and several frowns and winks from Mrs K. ‘the fact is. looking in at this happy juncture. sir?’ demanded the collector. not to mention the assiduity of Mr Kenwigs. and nobody has ever been to see him before. who held a fat smelling-bottle to his lady’s nose.’ ‘What makes you think that. by a tacit understanding. and a word there.

blessed. in his hurry. and the wails and lamentations of the four little girls. opining that a strange cat had come in. to the great consternation and confusion of the company. with great inflexibility and steadiness of purpose. made for the door. In short. in which the infant Kenwigs was at that moment enshrined. ‘Mr Kenwigs. he delivered the baby (whom. and a thousand other assurances. from an upper story.’ cried Nicholas. there’s no harm done. Let me go-o-o-o!’ Pending the utterance of these frantic cries. it’s all over. and looking much bewildered by his tumble. They were no sooner audible. This was nothing less than the sudden pouring forth of a rapid succession of the shrillest and most piercing screams. that Mr Kenwigs was on the point of repairing to Mr Noggs’s room. and ran back to assist Mr Kenwigs. and had indeed swallowed a preparatory glass of punch.’ were among the most prominent. it’s all out. wringing her hands. before he had found time to open his mouth to ask what was the matter.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY sure. blessed baby!’ screamed Mrs Kenwigs. and alighted on the nearest landing-place.’ ‘My baby. the opinion of the company was so clearly manifested. and sucked the baby’s breath while the girl was asleep. he had carried upside down). and to all appearance from the very twopair back. and holding her back by force. making every blessed louder than the last. he encountered Nicholas. pray compose yourselves.’ and with these. to demand an explanation. and most frequently repeated. see what it is. that the anxious father was thrown down six stairs. my blessed. when the attention of all present was diverted by a new and terrible surprise. Reassured by this cheering intelligence. sweet. at the door of which. make haste!’ cried the sister. who darted out with such violence. blessed. ‘here it is. than Mrs Kenwigs. laying violent hands upon Mrs Kenwigs. Mr Kenwigs rushed upstairs to the room whence the sounds proceeded. with the child in his arms. which had been productive 182 . and shrieking dismally. ‘Don’t be alarmed. dear. running down. innocent Lillyvick—Oh let me go to him. or I can never hold you. to Mrs Kenwigs. ‘My own darling. the company in some degree recovered from their fears. it’s a very trying thing’—and ‘Nobody but a mother knows what a mother’s feelings is. who was rubbing his head very hard. ‘Oh don’t twist about so.

‘It is a mere nothing.’ This brief explanation over. ‘Not very likely. being tired I suppose. I think. who. ‘I have done nothing to found any very strong claim upon your eloquence. in time to prevent her setting fire to anything else. with which she was to have been rewarded. being escheated to the Kenwigs family. You may depend upon it that the child is not hurt.’ replied Nicholas. after receiving sundry small slaps and pushes from the more energetic of the ladies. instead of Mrs Kenwigs. sir. The attention of the company was then directed. in the perturbation of his spirits. and squeezed to his mother’s bosom. to kiss Miss Petowker several times. I am sure. impressively shaking her forefinger at the small unfortunate. ‘the little girl. who might be thirteen years old.’ exclaimed Mrs Kenwigs. and brought it here to convince you. and the worthy Mr Lillyvick had been actually seen. for I took it off the bed myself. for a long time. and was looking on with a singed head and a frightened face. to the little girl who had had the audacity to burn her hair off. ‘I heard her cries. ‘I am sure I don’t know. addressing young Lillyvick’s deliverer. ‘—In my absence.’ simpered Miss Petowker. ‘And whatever we are to say to you. by a natural transition.’ ‘He might have been burnt to death. which must have reached him before he had been in any danger. as calmly as if nothing distressing were going forward. thus. the bachelor friend had. supported in his arms Mrs Kenwigs’s sister. behind the room-door.’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘and ran down. and who. sir. if it hadn’t been for you. as he was christened after the collector! rejoiced in the names of Lillyvick Kenwigs.Charles Dickens of some most singular instances of a total want of presence of mind.’ continued Nicholas.’ ‘You will let us drink your health. who was watching the child.’ ‘You need say nothing at all. was partially suffocated under the caresses of the audience. ‘for there was abundance of assistance here.’ said Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas. returning to Mrs Kenwigs. until he roared again. with a 183 . fell asleep. anyvays. and set her hair on fire. by all means. sir!’ said Mr Kenwigs motioning towards the table. the infant. was mercifully sent home: the ninepence.’ ‘Oh you malicious little wretch!’ cried Mrs Kenwigs.

after making a very extraordinary impression upon the company. as a great concession.’ observed Mr Kenwigs.’ replied the collector.’ said the collector. and feels it as strong as I do—that I consider his being called Lillyvick one of the greatest blessings and Honours of my existence. ‘Uncommon gentlemanly. with a sweet smile.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. from joining in the festivities. ‘What a delightful young man!’ cried Mrs Kenwigs. my dear. than a promoter of it. because it made Mr Lillyvick the great head and fountain of the baby’s importance. name unknown. and should be most indifferent company—a far greater check upon your merriment. really. one of these days. who had signalised himself. ‘I have had a very fatiguing journey. ‘No. I’ll return to my friend. who went upstairs again.’ ‘He has a very nice face and style.’ said Mr Kenwigs.’ said Mr Kenwigs. I do say— and Mrs Kenwigs is of the same sentiment. The good gentleman felt the delicacy and dexterity of the touch. when he found nothing serious had occurred. I trust he may not turn out—well—no matter—my love to you. I don’t mind saying. and as may be considered. in these terms. my dear. Nicholas took a most winning farewell of Mrs Kenwigs and the other ladies.’ Excusing himself. ‘I hope a baby as will never disgrace his godfather. Mr Lillyvick?’ ‘Yes. with manners that I hope his character may be equal to. ‘He certainly has. I may be able to deserve. ‘no. Good-night.’ This was a politic stroke of the Kenwigses. ‘Who. ‘is a good-looking young man enough. ‘And I hope a worthy namesake. ‘The greatest blessing. really.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. very gentlemanly—in appearance. and long life to the baby!’ ‘Your namesake. ‘He is gentlemanly. by his coolness and alacrity.’ ‘The greatest blessing. and at once proposed the health of the gentleman. in arter years. even if I kept awake. of a piece with the Lillyvicks whose name he bears.’ murmured his lady. Mr Noggs. ‘A blessing that I hope.’ ‘I hope you don’t see anything against him. and retired. that night.’ added Miss Petowker. which I think very doubtful. willing to propitiate the collector.’ observed Mr Lillyvick. uncle?’ inquired Mrs Kenwigs. ‘Don’t you think so. ‘There’s some184 . correcting himself. Kenwigs. If you will allow me.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY smile. with a dubious shrug of his shoulders.

by thanking every lady and gentleman. it was established triumphantly. hesitating. and how they wished that Mr and Mrs Kenwigs had a wedding-day once a week. seriatim. and how they marvelled to find it so late. he had long since fallen asleep. and all that sort of thing?’ ‘Aristocratic?’ suggested the collector. and nobody caring to dispute the position. the collector made a move by pulling out his watch. by this time. drowsily. dear. and smiled at each other. expecting to have heard that it was half-past ten at the very latest.’ but the ladies resolved unanimously that Nicholas had an aristocratic air. whereat some of the guests were surprised and others shocked. As to Nicholas. quite unconscious of the impression he had produced.’ replied Miss Petowker. that Newman was equally at a loss to determine whether he himself was quite sober. and many remarks how they had never spent such a delightful evening. isn’t there?’ The gentleman held their peace. ‘Ah! aristocratic. for the favour of their company. and in course of time found. their owners went away. after a vast deal of shaking of hands. and requesting rather urgently to be put to bed. what’s that word again?’ ‘What word?’ inquired Mr Lillyvick. and play at coaches with other people’s money. and this office they performed with such extreme good-will.Charles Dickens thing in his appearance quite—dear. and the little Kenwigses (who had for some time previously held their little eyes open with their little forefingers) becoming fractious. as who should say. Mr and Mrs Kenwigs replied. ‘What do you call it. ‘something very aristocratic about him. ‘Why—dear me. and a great deal more of the same kind. how stupid I am. ‘Well! there’s no accounting for tastes. when Lords break off doorknockers and beat policemen. To all of which flattering expressions. and hats and bonnets being groped for under the tables. and completely intoxicated as his new acquaintance. The punch being. and whether he had ever seen any gentleman so heavily. leaving Mr Newman Noggs and Smike to empty the spirit bottle between them. and acquainting the company that it was nigh two o’clock. and how they wondered by what hidden agency Mrs Kenwigs could possibly have managed so well.’ replied Miss Petowker. drunk out. 185 . and hoping they might have enjoyed themselves only half as well as they said they had.

The vacant apartment to which the bill in the parlour window bore reference. and as familiarity breeds contempt. Although a man may lose a sense of his own importance when he is a mere unit among a busy throng. he resolved to banish them from his thoughts by dint of hard walking. next morning. For the letting of this portion of the house from week to week. ACCEPTS AN ENGAGEMENT AS TUTOR IN A PRIVATE FAMILY THE FIRST CARE OF NICHOLAS. reclaimed from the leads. Nicholas became the tenant. taking up his hat. without trenching upon the hospitality of Newman Noggs. and overlooking a soot-bespeckled prospect of tiles and chimney-pots. As they by no means improved on better acquaintance. and paid the first week’s hire in advance. on reasonable terms. and leaving poor Smike to arrange and rearrange the room with as much delight as if it had been the costliest palace. and to keep a sharp lookout that the lodgers didn’t run away. and mingled with the crowd which thronged them. he sat himself down to ruminate upon his prospects. with equal facility. which. to look after some room in which. on inquiry. until better times dawned upon him. The unhappy state of 186 . were sufficiently confined and dingy. So. all utterly regardless of him. out of a small fund raised by the conversion of some spare clothes into ready money. he being deputed by the landlord to dispose of the rooms as they became vacant.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY CHAPTER 16 NICHOLAS SEEKS TO EMPLOY HIMSELF IN A NEW CAPACITY. who would have slept upon the stairs with pleasure. appeared. he could contrive to exist. it by no means follows that he can dispossess himself. lest he should at any time be tempted to run away himself. he betook himself to the streets. Of this chamber. to be a small backroom on the second floor. was. of a very strong sense of the importance and magnitude of his cares. and having hired a few common articles of furniture from a neighbouring broker. the parlour lodger was empowered to treat. like the prospect outside his window. As a means of securing the punctual discharge of which last service he was permitted to live rent-free. so that his young friend was accommodated. AND BEING UNSUCCESSFUL.

before this temple of promise. and then back. Nicholas knew at once that some half-dozen strong young women. When he had completed his survey he walked on a little way. in characters of gold. and stepped in. He had a thick ledger lying open before him. he made up his mind. behind which sat a lean youth with cunning eyes and a protruding chin. announcing vacant places of every grade. and gliding almost imperceptibly back into his old train of thought again. after pausing irresolutely several times before the door of the General Agency Office. who were sitting upon a form in one corner. from a secretary’s to a foot-boy’s. he caught himself. fitted up with a gauze blind and an inner door. and then on again. instinctively. and with the fingers of his right hand inserted between the leaves. 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. seemed to be only waiting her directions to refer to some entries contained within its rusty clasps. Nicholas halted. As there was a board outside. and in the window hung a long and tempting array of written placards. contrasting their condition with his own. were in attendance for that purpose: especially as the poor things looked anxious and weary. He found himself in a little floor-clothed room. with a high desk railed off in one corner. whereon was inscribed. he chanced to raise his eyes to a blue board. whose performances in capital-text darkened the window. and ran his eye over the capital-text openings in life which were so profusely displayed. each with pattens and an umbrella. which acquainted the public that servants-of-all-work were perpetually in waiting to be hired from ten till four.’ It was a shopfront. 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. and when he tried to dislodge it by speculating on the situation and prospects of the people who surrounded him. until—having sat himself down in a corner. walk as fast as he would. and remarked that he would wait until the other customers had been served—the fat lady 187 .Charles Dickens his own affairs was the one idea which occupied the brain of Nicholas. at length. as he was making his way along one of the great public thoroughfares of London. Occupied in these reflections. in a few seconds. for places and situations of all kinds inquire within. ‘General Agency Office.

‘That won’t do. No man. with the exception of dinner for Mr and Mrs Gallanbile. ‘Well!’ ‘Read out an easy place or two.”’ ‘I’ll take the address of that place. in shepherd’s-plaid boots. ‘“Russell Place. twelve guineas. impressively. being a work of piety and necessity. Mr Gallanbile being devoted to the Observance question. Serious family—”’ ‘Ah! you needn’t mind reading that. Tom.’ said Tom. and see very little company.”’ said Tom. and nursemaid. ‘“Three serious footmen.”’ ‘Oh Lor!’ tittered the client. ‘I’ll take the other direction. turning over the leaves.’ interposed a genteel female. if it don’t do. ‘Cook.’ interrupted the client.”’ said Tom. Note. she will be expected to improve the footman. after a little whispering with her friend. ‘Three? did you say?’ asked the client in an altered tone. ‘I don’t know but what it mightn’t suit me pretty well. will you?’ ‘“Mrs Wrymug. if godly.’ replied Tom. if the footman is more serious than the cook. is exempted. No tea. if you please. Five servants kept. no sugar.’ said the fat lady.’ said the client. Read another. Russell Square.’ remarked Tom. young man. in order to prevent the sinfulness of the cook’s dressing herself. if you please. Wages. If the cook is more serious than the footman. No followers. each female servant required to join the Little Bethel Congregation three times every Sunday—with a serious footman. ‘“Pleasant Place.”’ ‘I don’t think that’ll answer as well as the other. which. offers eighteen guineas.’ 188 .THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY resumed the dialogue which his entrance had interrupted. Cold dinner in the kitchen on the Sabbath. reading.’ said the client. tea and sugar. Two in family. No victuals whatever cooked on the Lord’s Day. ‘“Family of Mr Gallanbile. young man.”’ said Tom. ‘Three serious footmen. ‘Cook. ‘“Cook. young man.’ said the fat lady. turning over some leaves of the ledger. MP Fifteen guineas. who appeared to be the client. ‘“Mrs Marker. Mr Gallanbile dines late on the day of rest. and servants allowed to see male cousins. ‘Pick out very light ones. Finsbury. I can but come back again. tea and sugar found. still airing herself as aforesaid. he will be expected to improve the cook. housemaid.’ ‘Here’s another. .

Having received a card of reference to some person on the books. so much so. Her attendant—for she had one—was a red-faced. who. in one so young. ‘She’ll have a nice life of it. She raised her veil. ‘Where have you sent her to?’ asked the fat lady. as requested. from a certain roughness about the bare arms that peeped from under her draggled shawl. slovenly girl.’ replied Tom. but very quietly attired. though shaded by a cloud of sadness. and whose appearance both surprised and interested him. but exquisitely shaped.’ observed the fat lady. if she goes there. and the half-washed-out traces of smut and blacklead which tattooed her countenance. she made the usual acknowledgment. went away accompanied by her friend. and the genteel client. and glided away.’ replied Tom. might have looked poor and shabby. in a very low tone of voice. taking a pinch of snuff from a tin box. who. the young lady was gone. 189 . Tom?’ asked the fat lady. to request the young man to turn to letter S. that it seemed as though her dress. meanwhile. ‘Tomorrow morning. made an inquiry. mending his pen. and. round-eyed. in whose favour he immediately retired. of very slight and delicate figure. having satisfied the fat lady with a small fee. walking timidly up to the desk.Charles Dickens Tom made out the address. for an instant. that he would have followed them out. which. had he not been restrained by what passed between the fat lady and her bookkeeper. was doubly remarkable. if it had been worn by one who imparted fewer graces of her own to it. It is not a matter of such complete and utter improbability as some sober people may think. As Nicholas opened his mouth. and let him know what secretaryships remained undisposed of. there came into the office an applicant. 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 was a young lady who could be scarcely eighteen. and disclosed a countenance of most uncommon beauty. ‘Mrs Clark’s. indeed. ‘When is she coming again. This girl followed her mistress. She was neatly. or companion to a lady. while she preferred the inquiry. relative to some situation as governess. before Nicholas had recovered from the first effects of his surprise and admiration.

sir. no doubt. to keep his papers and correspondence in order. ‘but Manchester Buildings isn’t a large place. when she comes tomorrow morning?’ Nicholas looked at the ugly clerk. ‘I don’t know what the number is. and Nicholas was exactly the sort of young man that Mr Gregsbury wanted. as secretary or amanuensis to a gentleman. but without troubling himself to question it. ‘Any such!’ rejoined the mistress. the great member of parliament. Nicholas did not feel quite assured of the force of this reasoning. he winked towards Nicholas. Mr Gregsbury.’ answered that young gentleman. setting at defiance. sternly. he took down the address. ‘You didn’t see her.’ observed the fat lady. and if the worst comes to the worst it won’t take you very long to knock at all the doors on both sides of the way till you find him out.’ said Tom. wasn’t she?’ ‘What girl?’ demanded Nicholas. ‘Oh yes. and as he said it. intended for a rather flattering compliment. An’t there.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Tom made no other reply than thrusting his tongue into his cheek. and pointing the feather of his pen towards Nicholas—reminders which elicited from the fat lady an inquiry. as if he had a mind to reward his admiration of the young lady by beating the ledger about his ears. ‘but they must be pretty good ones. or the justice of this conclusion. ‘a-dozen-such. what can we do for you?’ Nicholas briefly replied. eh?’ whispered Tom. it appeared that the dozen secretaryships had dwindled down to one. and resolved to wait upon Mr Gregsbury without delay. those an190 . but he refrained. of Manchester Buildings. as he said he’d settle them himself with the party. I say. but with which Nicholas was most ungratefully disgusted. shutting one eye. what a good-looking gal that was. of ‘Now. and cocking his chin in the air. Westminster. ‘I don’t know what the terms are.’ Inexperienced as he was. because he’s a member of parliament. don’t you wish you was me. Upon reference to the book. wanted a young man. Tom?’ ‘I should think so. in his indignation. I know—what gal. with a degree of familiarity which he. and strode haughtily out of the office. you didn’t—I say. that he wanted to know whether there was any such post to be had.

from whose windows. there frown long melancholy rows of bills. There are legislators in the parlours. by the steams of moist acts of parliament and frouzy petitions. Within the precincts of the ancient city of Westminster. Nicholas. and a short and narrow neck—and in this respect it may be typical of the fate of some few among its more adventurous residents. and the houses swarm with legislators. the place is rendered close. In damp weather. 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. general postmen grow faint as they enter its infected limits. and knock at head all such matter-of-fact and un-poetical characters. the small apartments reek with the breath of deputations and delegates. which has no outlet but its awkward mouth—a casebottle which has no thoroughfare. above all the earth. and within half a quarter of a mile of its ancient sanctuary. in the first floor. as declined to exalt. ‘To Let’. and almost as many misdirections. All the livelong day. may be heard the rattling of latch-keys in their respective keyholes: with now and then—when a gust of wind sweeping across the water which washes the Buildings’ feet. there is a grinding of organs and clashing and clanging of little boxes of music. after wrig191 . for Manchester Buildings is an eel-pot. and here. bent his steps towards the place whither he had been directed. who.Charles Dickens cient laws of chivalry. It is all comprised in one street of gloomy lodging-houses. shrill voice of some young member practising tomorrow’s speech. with many wrong turns. This is Manchester Buildings. impels the sound towards its entrance—the weak. ranged on ministerial and opposition benches in the session which slumbers with its fathers. in vacation-time. which say. in the garrets. and shabby figures in quest of franks. In busier periods of the year these bills disappear. which not only made it proper and lawful for all good knights to hear the praise of the ladies to whom they were devoted. ‘To Let’. and many inquiries. but rendered it incumbent upon them to roam about the world. the sanctuary of the smaller members of Parliament in modern days. in the third. as plainly as did the countenances of their occupiers. in the second. at all hours of the night. flit restlessly to and fro like the troubled ghosts of Complete Letter-writers departed. is a narrow and dirty region.

he waited until they had made their way in. or give their heads a relentless shake. and made off. and that they are fain at last to back out. whatever happened. one man would whisper his neighbour. no wiser. From time to time. with equal courtesy. ‘Mr Gregsbury lodges here. to all appearance. that. shabby boy. it leads to nothing beyond itself. This was odd enough: but what was more embarrassing was. find that it. not one whit more famous. and were determined not to be put off. blocking up the window. that they couldn’t think of such a thing on any account. and as he felt his own position a peculiarly uncomfortable one.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY gling themselves into Parliament by violent efforts and contortions. without thinking of it. Nicholas was on the point of seeking some information from the man next him. but they did it. like Manchester Buildings. gentleman. who were. with the address of the great Mr Gregsbury in his hand. or a little group would whisper together. It’s all right. than the boy shut the door. than they went in. when a sudden move was visible on the stairs. and all along the narrow stairs. and making the dark entry darker still. who looked as if he had slept underground from his infancy. and a voice was heard to cry. that the gentlemen nearest the street would go first. the gentlemen nearest the street retorted. and then the whisperers would nod fiercely to each other. as very likely he had. no richer. waiting in silent expectation of some coming event. have the goodness to walk up!’ So far from walking up. Come in!’ Nicholas thought he might as well get in while he could. As there was a stream of people pouring into a shabby house not far from the entrance. the gentlemen on the stairs began to walk down with great alacrity. as if they were bent upon doing something very desperate. is no thoroughfare for them. The servant was a very pale. As a few minutes elapsed without anything occurring to explain this phenomenon. ventured to inquire if he knew where Mr Gregsbury lived. and to entreat. too. so in he walked. was a confused crowd of persons with great importance depicted in their looks. ‘Now. and then making up to the servant. and he had no sooner done so. ‘Mr Gregsbury?’ said he. inasmuch as the other gentlemen pressing some half-dozen (among 192 . that all along the passage. Into Manchester Buildings Nicholas turned. with extraordinary politeness.

pushed them. gentlemen. or abroad. sir. ‘you are welcome.’ For a gentleman who was rejoiced to see a body of visitors. my dear friend. my worthy friend.’ ‘My conduct. He was a tough. and closing up behind. regulated by a sincere regard for the true and real interests of this great and happy country. a pompous manner. burly. but into the very sitting-room of Mr Gregsbury.’ replied the plump old gentleman. and no other. and a statesmanlike habit of keeping his feelings under control. whether I look merely at home. in short. more than filling the apartment. we are. I am very sorry to see you here. ‘Gentlemen.’ said Mr Gregsbury. looking towards the speaker. every requisite for a very good member indeed.’ said Mr Gregsbury. which they were thus compelled to enter with most unseemly precipitation. her roads with locomotives. the press behind them. tossing a great bundle of papers into a wicker basket at his feet. and throwing himself back in his chair with his arms over the elbows. with a loud voice.’ ‘Yes. ‘or is that my old friend Pugstyles?’ ‘I am that man. Mr Gregsbury. but perhaps this was occasioned by senatorial gravity. I see by the newspapers. I am rejoiced to see you. looking round upon the deputation with gracious magnanimity—’my conduct has been. has rendered this deputation from your constituents imperatively necessary. Mr Gregsbury looked as uncomfortable as might be. her skies with balloons of a power and magnitude hitherto unknown in the history of aeronautics in this or any other nation—I say. sir. ‘Pugstyles. ‘Now. ‘Do my eyes deceive me.’ said Mr Gregsbury. and planting himself in the front. bursting out of the throng.Charles Dickens whom was Nicholas) forward. ‘Give me your hand. 193 . Mr Gregsbury. ‘but your conduct. not merely up the stairs.’ said Mr Pugstyles. her streets with cabs.’ said a plump old gentleman in a violent heat. whether I behold the peaceful industrious communities of our island home: her rivers covered with steamboats. Pugstyles. ‘you are dissatisfied with my conduct.’ ‘I am very sorry to be here. a tolerable command of sentences with no meaning in them. and. thick-headed gentleman.’ said Mr Gregsbury. Whether I look at home. and without the means of retreat. and ever will be.’ said Mr Gregsbury.

‘Question number one. for his purpose. stretching my eyes farther. that as an explanation of Mr Gregsbury’s political conduct. it did not enter quite enough into detail.’ remarked Mr Pugstyles. I am a Briton!”’ The time had been. calmly. my time is yours—and my country’s—and my country’s—’ said Mr Gregsbury. but now. ‘to ask you a few questions. And whether you did not submit to be coughed and groaned down in the very first debate of the session. whereupon nearly every other member of the deputation pulled a written paper from HIS pocket. I admit the full justice of the remark. my heart swells. I clasp my hands.’ ‘If you please. when I call to mind her greatness and her glory. My form dilates.’ ‘We wish. gentlemen. the deputation received it with chilling coldness. This done. my bosom burns. I am proud of this free and happy country. 194 . to check Mr Pugstyles off. ‘The meaning of that term—gammon. Mr Pugstyles put on his spectacles. and referred to a written paper which he drew from his pocket. my eye glistens. that in event of your being returned. exclaim. If it means that I grow a little too fervid. or perhaps even hyperbolical. as he read the questions. my dear Pugstyles. it savoured rather too much of a ‘gammon’ tendency. and have since made no effort to effect a reform in this respect? Whether you did not also pledge yourself to astonish the government. that. in extolling my native land. “Thank Heaven.—Whether. This permission being conceded. and one gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud. when this burst of enthusiasm would have been cheered to the very echo. you would immediately put down the practice of coughing and groaning in the House of Commons.’ said Mr Gregsbury. contemplate the boundless prospect of conquest and possession—achieved by British perseverance and British valour—which is outspread before me. and made them shrink in their shoes. ‘is unknown to me. you did not give a voluntary pledge previous to your election. and turning my eyes to the broad expanse above my head. sir. Mr Pugstyles proceeded to business. and make them shrink in their shoes? And whether you have astonished them.’ said Mr Gregsbury. sir. my breast heaves. The general impression seemed to be. or not?’ ‘Go on to the next one.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY or.

in your own memorable words. ‘that on receiving a requisition to that 195 . threw himself further back in his chair. sir. who had only seen him at canvassing or election time.—Whether. sir. to play the very devil with everything and everybody?’ With this comprehensive inquiry. desert him and vote upon the other side. He didn’t appear like the same man. ‘I am requested. made a triangle with his two thumbs and his two forefingers.’ At this unexpected answer. to express a hope. now he was all starch and vinegar. and whether you did not. ‘Nothing to say on that. sir?’ asked Mr Pugstyles. came forward again. you did not likewise give a voluntary pledge that you would support your colleague on every occasion. resumed his list of inquiries. the night before last. swelled into a very earnest and general remonstrance.’ replied Mr Gregsbury. ‘Whether. then he was all milk and honey.Charles Dickens ‘Have you any explanation to offer with reference to that question. and.’ said Mr Gregsbury. a hoarse murmur arose from the deputation. again made a monosyllabic demonstration. either. blew his nose.’ said Mr Gregsbury. that it was your firm and determined intention to oppose everything proposed. The deputation. replied (smiling as he said it). to place a motion on the books every day. with a distant bow. as did all his backers. you did not state upon the hustings. were struck dumb by his coolness.’ said Mr Pugstyles. emphatically. But men are so different at different times! ‘Question number three—and last. by growling out ‘Resign!’ Which growl being taken up by his fellows. in short. to divide the house upon every question. leaning his elbows on the table. and afterwards at the member. ‘Nothing whatever. The members of the deputation looked fiercely at each other. ‘Dear Pugstyles’ having taken a very long stare at Mr Gregsbury over the tops of his spectacles. ‘I deny everything. to move for returns on every subject. Mr Gregsbury reflected. sir. sir?’ asked the spokesman. and tapping his nose with the apex thereof. Mr Pugstyles folded up his list of questions. ‘Question number two. ‘Certainly not. and the same gentleman who had expressed an opinion relative to the gammoning nature of the introductory speech. because the wife of a leader on that other side had invited Mrs Gregsbury to an evening party?’ ‘Go on.’ said Mr Pugstyles.

but moved only by high and great constitutional considerations. Mr Gregsbury read the following reply. ‘What do you do here.’ 196 . good-morning. whereof copies had been made to send round to the newspapers. Nicholas stepped forward. whose powers and resources are. under any circumstances?’ asked the spokesman. you will not object at once to resign your seat in favour of some candidate whom they think they can better trust. And the deputation.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY effect from a great majority of your constituents. as merry fellows will. and which I fondly hope to bequeath to my children. ‘My Dear Mr. ‘Will you do me the favour to present my compliments to the constituent body. sir. ‘Then. Mr Gregsbury smiled. ‘What’s that?’ said Mr Gregsbury. to attract the member’s notice. and shook his head. and acquaint them with this circumstance? ‘With great esteem. of the intricate and arduous study of politics. when they think they have said or done a more than commonly good thing. ‘Heaven bless you!’ said Mr Gregsbury. Pray follow the deputation. fearing he might otherwise overhear some soliloquy intended to have no listeners. filed off as quickly as the narrowness of the staircase would allow of their getting down. which I will not attempt to explain. Pugstyles. and intend doing so. in sharp accents. for they are really beneath the comprehension of those who have not made themselves masters. ‘a spy upon my privacy! A concealed voter! You have heard my answer. which. I sincerely believe. ‘My dear Mr Pugstyles. angrily. coughed twice or thrice. untarnished and unsullied. and bowed. Actuated by no personal motives.’ ‘Then you will not resign. he was so engrossed in this self-congratulation. sir.’ said Pugstyles. ‘&c.&c. The last man being gone. I would rather keep my seat. he had composed in the form of a letter.’ To this. anticipating the request. illimitable—I value that noble independence which is an Englishman’s proudest boast. sir?’ asked Mr Gregsbury. until that young gentleman. ‘Next to the welfare of our beloved island—this great and free and happy country. as I have. with many growls and scowls. that he did not observe that Nicholas had been left behind in the shadow of the window-curtains. Mr Gregsbury rubbed his hands and chuckled.

‘Ah! What is it?’ retorted the member. correspondence?’ ‘Good.—politely enough. Nicholas replied in the affirmative. I am sorry to say. that there were no objections to his outward appearance. ‘The arrangement of papers and documents?’ ‘Very good. then?’ Nicholas related how he had been forced up by the deputation. ‘And where the devil have you come from. with his head on one side. considering. eyeing him in some doubt. as if to make certain. and put it in print. sir. with anything at present.’ ‘What’s that?’ inquired Mr Gregsbury.’ 197 .’ replied Nicholas. but I do not.’ said Nicholas. before he asked any further questions. sir. looking shrewdly at him. ‘Sit down.Charles Dickens ‘I should have done so.’ replied Nicholas. do you?’ he said at length. MP. ‘Then how came you here. smiling.’ said Nicholas.’ said Mr Gregsbury. ‘wishing to offer myself as your secretary. I presume. ‘I brought this card from the General Agency Office. ‘They include. ‘now what can you do?’ ‘I suppose. and understanding that you stood in need of one. eh?’ ‘I have no connection. ‘A secretary’s duties are rather difficult to define. sir?’ was the question which followed it. ‘How did you find your way up here. ‘Well. was it?’ said Mr Gregsbury.’ said Nicholas. ‘You have no connection with any of those rascally papers have you?’ said Mr Gregsbury. ‘You didn’t get into the room. and Mr Gregsbury stared at him for a long time. is it?’ said Mr Gregsbury. ‘Oh!’ said Mr Gregsbury. ‘I wish to be employed in that capacity. perhaps.’ ‘That’s all you have come for. ‘That was the way. but quite at his ease. if I had belonged to it.’ interposed Mr Gregsbury.’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘You want to be my secretary. to hear what was going forward. ‘What is it?’ replied Nicholas.’ Nicholas took a chair. sir?’ was the natural inquiry of Mr Gregsbury. ‘that I can do what usually falls to the lot of other secretaries.

and which the designation of his office is usually understood to imply. to run his eye over all accounts of public meetings. Then.’ said Mr Gregsbury. he would have to copy 198 . and then glancing warily round the room.’ said Nicholas. sir. and without overstepping that line of duties which he undertakes to perform. at this instant. I should require to be crammed. sir?’ said Nicholas.’ replied Mr Gregsbury with a solemn aspect. There are other duties. ‘I am not able.’ ‘This is all very well. ‘Then. and very proper. doubtful whether he had heard aright. and supposed suicide of a potboy.” or anything of that sort. with newspaper paragraphs on passing events. Do you understand?’ ‘I think I do. sir.’ repeated Mr Gregsbury. ‘May I beg your pardon again. with a half-smile.’ ‘I beg your pardon. consistently with his own respectability. ‘it would be necessary for him to make himself acquainted. ‘My meaning. Mr—what is your name?’ ‘Nickleby.’ interposed Nicholas. when you have made one of more than usual importance. so far as it goes—so far as it goes. upon which I might found a question to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. from day to day. ‘the copying of your speech for some public journal.’ ‘Certainly. after a moment’s reflection.’ rejoined Mr Gregsbury. and accounts of the proceedings of public bodies. which a secretary to a parliamentary gentleman must never lose sight of. such as “Mysterious disappearance.’ said Nicholas. perhaps. ‘What else?’ ‘Really. but it doesn’t go far enough. ‘—To be crammed.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Occasionally. all leading articles.’ replied Nicholas. if I inquire what you mean. and possibly. ‘My secretary would have to make himself master of the foreign policy of the world. or anything of that kind. beyond the general one of making himself as agreeable and useful to his employer as he can. and to make notes of anything which it appeared to him might be made a point of. Mr Nickleby.’ Mr Gregsbury looked fixedly at Nicholas for a short time. sir. said in a suppressed voice: ‘This is all very well. Mr Nickleby. sir. in any little speech upon the question of some petition lying on the table. sir. the writing from your dictation. to recapitulate any other duty of a secretary. as it is mirrored in the newspapers. is perfectly plain.

and to send the manuscript in a frank to the local paper.’ replied Nicholas. and the Emperor of Russia. ‘and which one can’t be expected to care a curse about. for giving poor grubbing devils of authors a right to their own property. and to pick out a few results.’ said Nicholas. now and then. with a touch now and then about the exportation of bullion. so that I might come out pretty well on timber duty questions. You see?’ Nicholas bowed. to go through a few figures in the printed tables. in such cases as this. because posterity can’t be expected to know anything about me or my jokes either—do you see?’ ‘I see that. might belong to one man. Do you take me?’ ‘I think I understand. which it’s only necessary to talk fluently about. I should like to say. with perhaps half-a-dozen lines of leader. because nobody understands it. being man’s. I should like to make a joke about posterity. and all that kind of thing. that I was always to be found in my place in parliament. and so forth. being God’s. ‘Besides which. For instance. sir. to the effect. if any preposterous bill were brought forward. 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 secretary to get together a few little flourishing speeches.’ continued Mr Gregsbury. ‘With regard to such questions as are not political.’ said Mr Gregsbury. and never shrunk from the responsible and arduous duties. ought as a matter of course to belong to the people at large—and if I was pleasantly disposed.—you understand?—that the creations of the pocket. warming. ‘I should expect him. and as much as I remembered of the answer (including a little compliment about independence and good sense). or one family. and could never do me any harm.’ continued Mr Gregsbury. ‘to put it 199 . but that the creations of the brain. and so on. ‘You must always bear in mind. and finance questions. of a patriotic cast. it might take with the house.Charles Dickens the question. and say that those who wrote for posterity should be content to be rewarded by the approbation OF posterity. where our interests are not affected. that I for one would never consent to opposing an insurmountable bar to the diffusion of literature among the people. 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. and bank notes.

‘Door. with his hand to his face. in case I forgot anything.’ said Nicholas. mildly. ‘Fifteen shillings a—’ ‘Pray do not suppose that I quarrel with the sum.’ rejoined Mr Gregsbury. and find yourself. sir. sir?’ inquired Mr Gregsbury. sir. turning his back upon him. ringing. and that you consider fifteen shillings a week too little. as the boy appeared. young man?’ cried Mr Gregsbury. ‘I am sorry you have. during great debates. and saying to the people about—’You see that gentleman. and looked like a man who had been most profligately liberal. but is determined not to repent of it notwithstanding. ‘Do you decline it. and. Mr Gregsbury once more threw himself back in his chair.’—with any other little eulogium that might strike you at the moment. because it comes out very well at election-time. Matthews!’ 200 . and are not voters. and they are so very heavy that I fear to undertake them. now and then. ‘That is as much as to say that you had rather not accept the place.’ replied Nicholas. and you could be as funny as you liked about the authors. ‘Not much! Fifteen shillings a week not much. winding up with great rapidity.’ ‘Do you decline to undertake them. ‘I am sorry I have troubled you unnecessarily.’ replied Nicholas. sitting in the front row of the gallery. and should want fresh cramming. sir. ‘Door. ‘Fifteen shillings a week is not much. But the duties and responsibilities make the recompense small. to me it is a great deal. There!’ With this handsome offer. that whatever it may be in itself. however good my will may be. Matthews!’ said Mr Gregsbury. sir?’ ‘I have no alternative but to do so. and his arm twisted round the pillar—that’s Mr Gregsbury— the celebrated Mr Gregsbury.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY very strong about the people. because I believe the greater part of them live in lodgings. ‘I fear they are too great for my powers. for he was out of breath—’and for salary. ‘for I am not ashamed to confess.’ said Mr Gregsbury.’ replied Nicholas.’ said Mr Gregsbury.’ said Nicholas. And for salary. to prevent any dissatisfaction—though it’s more than I’ve been accustomed to give —fifteen shillings a week. with his hand on the bell-rope. I don’t mind saying at once in round numbers. except waiting in the lobby every night. This is a hasty outline of the chief things you’d have to do.

‘small things offer—they would pay the rent. in this wide waste of London. Lying indolently here. he gave Newman an account of his proceedings.’ said Nicholas. Smike had scraped a meal together from the remnant of last night’s supper. be he member or no member. but I am sanguine.’ said Newman.Charles Dickens ‘Good-morning. ‘If I could do anything. no. until Ralph Nickleby returns. I should think it no disgrace to work. by him. ‘and am proportionately disappointed.’ ‘I don’t know. with the plate which the poor fellow had assiduously filled with the choicest morsels. and tumbling lazily downstairs before him. like a half-tamed sullen beast. 201 . any honest means by which I could even defray the weekly hire of this poor room. ‘Yes. and toad-eater to a mean and ignorant upstart. and so much pride as constitutes self-respect. no. might have remained at home for all the good I have done.’ said Newman. ‘Door. Except—’ added Nicholas hastily. The occurrences of the morning had not improved Nicholas’s appetite.’ ‘What could I hardly be expected to undergo?’ asked Nicholas. He was sitting in a thoughtful attitude. to feel pride or squeamishness now. between assistant to a brutal pedagogue.’ ‘I hardly know whether I should tell you what I heard this morning.’ replied Nicholas. ‘except such squeamishness as is common honesty.’ said Newman.’ ‘Couldn’t expect to do much in one morning. ‘Come back?’ asked Newman.’ said Nicholas. ‘Maybe so. and was anxiously awaiting his return. however slight. you could hardly be expected to undergo it—no. and more—but you wouldn’t like them. With a sad and pensive air. and ushered him into the street. Heaven knows. or not. sir. and see if I shrink from resorting to them! Undergo! I have undergone too much. and I have eased my mind by confronting him. The boy beckoned Nicholas. and. and did expect. ‘Show me. untouched. ‘anything. the dinner remained untasted. ‘tired to death: and. opened the door. after a short silence. he retraced his steps homewards. my friend. Matthews!’ cried Mr Gregsbury. I should feel happier. distracts me.’ said Nicholas. I see little to choose.’ Saying which. raising his eyes. when Newman Noggs looked into the room. by his side. what is worse.

and the whole life. with great alacrity.’ Moved by this entreaty. with joyful steps. to inform Mrs Kenwigs of his friend’s acquiescence.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Has it reference to what you said just now?’ asked Nicholas. adventures. ‘For God’s sake consider my deplorable condition. per each Miss Kenwigs. Mr Noggs. never were born into this world. brought back word that they would be happy to see him in the first floor as soon as convenient. at great length that morning. Newman stammered forth a variety of most unaccountable and entangled sentences.’ ‘There. or maternal pride. and that I am ready to begin whenever she pleases. and bearing the name of Johnson.’ said Nicholas. for such clever children.’ said Newman. involved in some misfortunes which he was not at liberty to explain. current coin of the realm. that Nicholas was a tutor of great accomplishments. that Mrs Kenwigs had examined him. a vote in my own behalf. or ambition. without delay. hard pressed and driven into a corner. ‘Which. Tell the worthy mother so. and soon returning. and one shilling over. until such time as the baby might be able to take it out in grammar. upon the instant. ‘that’s all. Nicholas. I do believe. but being. that Newman had parried these questions as long as he could. at length. that Mrs Kenwigs had. while I promise to take no step without taking counsel with you. sent out to secure a second-hand French 202 . unless I am very much mistaken. That Mrs Kenwigs. ‘It has. It’s beneath you. I know. ‘of course I shall. had taken secret conference with Mr Kenwigs. give me. I accept the offer at once. touching the origin of his acquaintance with. tell it me. my good friend. at least. or all four powerful motives conjointly. and had finally returned to propose that Mr Johnson should instruct the four Miss Kenwigses in the French language as spoken by natives. or maternal love. but I thought that perhaps you might—’ ‘Might!’ cried Nicholas. at the weekly stipend of five shillings.’ ‘Then in Heaven’s name.’ observed Mrs Kenwigs in making the proposition. and pedigree of. ‘will not be very long.’ Newman hastened. the upshot of which was. and. impelled by gratitude. my dear fellow. being at the rate of one shilling per week. had gone so far as to admit.

for he had not known what Nicholas was. And here it may be observed. and very much to be commended. accepted the offer with the alacrity already described. he was received by Mrs Kenwigs with a genteel air. or interpose to redress a wrong offered to another. Mr Johnson?’ said Mrs Kenwigs. we are disposed to look upon such gentleman as being rather incumbrances than otherwise in rising families: happening to be acquainted with several whose spirit prevents their settling down to any grovelling occupation. highly excited at the prospect of this addition to their gentility. therefore. not unlike an Italian iron. and only displays itself in a tendency to cultivate moustachios. than to teach French to the little Kenwigses for five shillings a week. that Nicholas was not. supported on four crooked pegs. for the supply of his necessities. and painted in ingenious resemblance of red wafers set in blacking. for our own part. Nicholas. ‘How do you do. and look fierce. sir?’ said Mr Lillyvick—rather sharply. a young man of high spirit.’ ‘How do you do. Here. which invariably distinguish gentlemen of high spirit. and the baby in a dwarf porter’s chair with a deal tray before it. and deeming it a greater degradation to borrow. too. and here. as boldly and freely as any knight that ever set lance in rest. and although moustachios and ferocity are both very pretty things in their way. and that the family. rather than at the expense of low-spirited people. we confess to a desire to see them bred at the owner’s proper cost. In truth. not being a high-spirited young man according to common parlance. he found Mr Lillyvick and Miss Petowker. and betook himself to the first floor with all convenient speed. wished the initiatory lesson to come off immediately. ‘Uncle— Mr Johnson. but he lacked that peculiar excess of coolness and great-minded selfishness. in the ordinary sense of the word. and it was rather an aggravating circumstance if a tax 203 . amusing himself with a toy horse without a head.Charles Dickens grammar and dialogues. the four Miss Kenwigses on their form of audience. He would resent an affront to himself. from Newman Noggs. on the previous night. which had long been fluttering in the sixpenny box at the bookstall round the corner. kindly intended to assure him of her protection and support. the said horse being composed of a small wooden cylinder.

and do as I tell you. if Mr Johnson is ready to commence.’ ‘I don’t know. scarcely able to repress a smile. because ma says it’s sinful.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. ‘that that will not make them proud. then.’ replied Nicholas. I desire that you don’t boast of it to the other children. doubtfully.” Do you hear.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. ma. you don’t say no more than “We’ve got a private master comes to teach us at home. or elsewhere. which has born them superior to common people’s children.’ said the collector. ma. that Mrs Kenwigs thought 204 . the last war.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. ‘Mr Johnson is engaged as private master to the children.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. I presume it is a sensible one. now?’ ‘Yes. ‘What sort of language do you consider French. uncle?’ ‘I am ready to hear. It may be a cheerful language. sir?’ said the collector. certainly.’ said Mrs Kenwigs. my dear. and admits of elegant conversation about everything. drawing herself up. certainly. ‘So you said just now. I should be sorry to contradict anybody. assuming the air of a profound critic. fifty times. Morleena?’ ‘Yes.’ said the collector. my dear.’ said Mr Lillyvick.’ ‘Was it a dismal one in your time?’ asked Nicholas. ‘and as it has a name for everything. Morleena?’ ‘Yes. ‘Then mind you recollect. but we ain’t proud. ‘Very.’ ‘It’s very much changed since my time. sir—fifty times!’ Mr Lillyvick was waxing so cross.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. ‘I should say it was. with some vehemence of manner. talking in such a dismal manner. ‘Do you call it a cheerful language. but I can only say that I’ve heard the French prisoners. that I have. ‘a pretty language. Do you hear. ‘very much. sir?’ ‘How do you mean?’ asked Nicholas.’ replied Miss Kenwigs again.’ replied Nicholas. and ought to know how to speak it. but that they will bless their own good fortune.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY collector had been too polite to a teacher. ‘Do you consider it a good language. who were natives. ‘It’s the war time that I speak of. ‘and that if you must say anything about it. a sensible language?’ ‘A pretty language. that it made one miserable to hear them.’ replied Miss Kenwigs. ‘But I hope. ‘And when you go out in the streets. uncle. Ay. ‘Shall Mr Johnson begin.

‘I have no wish to prevent them. towards the west end of London. with their tails all one way. that Morleena would have it all by heart in no time. in silent admiration. as if by stealth.Charles Dickens it expedient to motion to Nicholas not to say anything.’ This permission being conceded. traverse our streets.’ replied Nicholas. discontentedly.’ ‘I suppose the children may begin. the only gasp of wholesome air and glimpse of sunlight which cheer their monotonous existence during the long train of hours that make a working day. ‘Ah!’ said Mr Lillyvick. making towards the scene of their daily labour. that he deigned to break silence by asking. and Mr Lillyvick regarded the group with frowning and attentive eyes. that Kate Nickleby. amid the noise and bustle of the streets. they may begin. ‘What’s the water in French. is to produce. and it was not until Miss Petowker had practised several blandishments. At this early hour many sickly girls. taking the book. ‘I thought as much. sir?’ ‘L’Eau. As she drew nigh to the more fashionable quarter of the town. and many sad forebodings which no effort could banish. Kate marked many of this class as they passed by. like that of the poor worm. the finery that bedecks the thoughtless and luxurious. and Morleena at the top: while Nicholas. Lo. to soften the excellent old gentleman. and catching. my dear. broken only by the whispered assurances of the latter. began his preliminary explanations. uncle?’ said Mrs Kenwigs. on the morning appointed for the commencement of her engagement with Madame Mantalini. ‘Oh yes.’ replied the collector. lying in wait for something upon which he could open a fresh discussion on the language. left the city when its clocks yet wanted a quarter of an hour of eight. eh? I don’t think anything of that language—nothing at all. shaking his head mournfully. CHAPTER 17 FOLLOWS THE FORTUNES OF MISS NICKLEBY IT WAS WITH A HEAVY HEART. the four Miss Kenwigses sat in a row. and threaded her way alone. hurrying like herself to their painful occu205 . whose business. in their hurried walk. Miss Petowker and Mrs Kenwigs looked on. with patient toil.

communicating by folding-doors with the apartment in which she had first seen the mistress of the establishment. in the hope that some other female might arrive and spare her the embarrassment of stating her business to the servant.’ said the man.’ Having made this promise with much affability. ‘Is Madame Mantalini in?’ faltered Kate. She arrived at Madame Mantalini’s some minutes before the appointed hour.’ said Kate. who had been putting on his striped jacket as he came upstairs.’ said the footman. ‘I am—I am— to be employed here. ‘Eh?’ replied the man. not to trip over a heterogeneous litter of pastry-cook’s trays. plainly bespeaking a late party on the previous night. ‘Not often out at this time. ‘You’re to walk upstairs then.’ replied the man in a tone which rendered “Miss. touching the handle of one in the door-post. in these terms.’ ‘I came by her own appointment. the man led the way to the second story.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY pation. ‘I’ll tell her presently. waiters full of glasses. please. ‘Madame Mantalini wants to see you—this way—take care of these things on the floor. of which the most attractive feature was. and piles of rout seats which were strewn about the hall. and was now intent on fastening his apron. and honouring the inquirer with a stare and a broad grin. knocked timidly at the door: which. ‘Let me see.’ said the man. in their unhealthy looks and feeble gait. I forgot—Miss Nickleby. and after walking a few times up and down. after some delay. is it?’ ‘Yes. lamps. and saw.” ‘Can I see her?’ asked Kate. was opened by the footman. miss.” something more offensive than “My dear. though. and ushered Kate into a back-room. holding the door in his hand.’ ‘Oh! you should have rung the worker’s bell. a half-length portrait in oil.’ Cautioning her. ‘If you’ll wait here a minute. of Mr Mantalini. and thus displaying to advantage a 206 . but too clear an evidence that her misgivings were not wholly groundless. There was not much to amuse in the room. he retired and left Kate alone.’ replied Kate. whom the artist had depicted scratching his head in an easy manner. no. ‘Lord.

and as the conversation was loud and the partition thin.’ rejoined Madame. was it on me all the time!’ cried Mantalini. seemed 207 . sulkily.’ ‘You were flirting with her during the whole night. ‘It’s very easy to talk. demnebly. ‘I am not.’ And then. ‘Oh. for it spoils its loveliness. There was. and it should not be out of humour.’ retorted Mr Mantalini.’ replied Mr Mantalini.’ said Mr Mantalini. in a sort of lazy rapture. ‘Not so easy when one is eating a demnition egg. demmit.’ ‘Bless the little winking twinkling eye. always. and yolk of egg does not match any waistcoat but a yellow waistcoat.’ said Mr Mantalini. ‘It shall be brought round in any way it likes best. the gift of Madame Mantalini before her marriage.’ returned Madame Mantalini. unworthy. my soul.’ returned Madame. ‘If you will be odiously. naughty.’ said Mr Mantalini. Mantalini. ‘that you ought not to waltz with anybody but your own wife. and makes it cross and gloomy like a frightful. the sound of voices in conversation in the next room. breaking an egg. with his egg-spoon in his mouth. evidently pouting. bewitching little demd countenance.’ resumed Madame. and I will not bear it. ‘No. who. and not brought round at all if it likes that better.Charles Dickens diamond ring.’ ‘You were. apparently desirous to lead the conversation back to the point from which it had strayed. ‘Do not put itself out of humour. ‘It is a pretty. ‘you will be very miserable— horrid miserable—demnition miserable. demd hobgoblin. with a sob.’ said Madame. demd unthankful little fairy. ‘I had my eye upon you all the time. however. my life. no. ‘for the yolk runs down the waistcoat.’ ‘She will not take poison and have horrid pains.’ said Mrs Mantalini. outrIgeously jealous.’ said Madame Mantalini. there was a sound as though Mr Mantalini were sipping his coffee. demmit!’ ‘And I say once more. ‘Then you are an ungrateful. will she?’ said Mantalini. Kate could not help discovering that they belonged to Mr and Mrs Mantalini. by the altered sound of his voice. if I take poison first.’ ‘I am not to be brought round in that way. ‘I am miserable.

’ returned her husband. 208 . ‘there is a horse for sale at Scrubbs’s. and crest. ‘We must have some more. when these endearments ceased.’ replied Madame. playfully. I will ride him in the park before the very chariots of the rejected countesses. ‘How much have we in hand?’ ‘Very little indeed. it is a demd thing. ‘She will not take poison. which Madame Mantalini returned. my existence’s jewel?’ said Mantalini. mane.’ cried Madame. and taken up his position nearer to his wife.’ ‘And why didn’t you?’ asked Madame. demmit.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY to have moved his chair. she observed that she would see what her desk contained. and legs. Ha! ha! Demmit.’ said Madame coaxingly. and walked into the room where Kate was seated. which it would be a sin and a crime to lose—going. the other two will say “He is married. demmit. The demd old dowager will faint with grief and rage.’ ‘You can’t want any more just now. it is all up!” They will hate each other demnebly. he has made away with himself. after a little jingling of keys. ‘You told me one before!’ ‘Two!’ cried Mantalini.’ said Mantalini. ‘I am glad of that. ‘And what about the cash. my senses’ joy. may not all the countesses and dowagers in England be—’ Mr Mantalini did not finish the sentence. ‘My life and soul.’ interposed Madame. at a morning concert. but he gave Madame Mantalini a very loud kiss. and tail.’ Madame Mantalini’s prudence. after which. if she had any.’ ‘For actually nothing. ‘we must have some discount out of old Nickleby to carry on the war with. there seemed to be some more kissing mixed up with the progress of the breakfast. ‘A hundred guineas down will buy him. all of the demdest beauty. was not proof against these triumphal pictures. for nothing.’ ‘For nothing. ‘Why didn’t I!’ replied her husband. and rising for that purpose. the demdest little fascinator in all the world. and wish you dead and buried. ‘Two demd fine women.’ replied Mantalini. real countesses and splendid fortunes. and while that little fascinator is my wife. opened the folding-door. ‘Had I not seen. because she had a demd fine husband who might have married two countesses and a dowager—’ ‘Two countesses.

’ said Madame Mantalini.’ cried Madame. She then requested Kate to follow her. ‘How came you here?’ ‘Child!’ cried Mantalini. ma’am. I think. Madame Mantalini led the way down a flight of stairs. ‘He forgets everything. ‘The servant must have forgotten to let you know that I was here. ‘Mantalini. ‘this is the young person I spoke to you about.’ said Kate. to Miss Nickleby. bustling.’ said her husband. my soul. and through a passage. and as dull and quiet as a room need be. and never can. ‘Oh. full of importance. who turned away. Appeased by this compliment. which she dexterously transformed into a gracious 209 . and various other processes known only to those who are cunning in the arts of millinery and dressmaking. and grimacing aside. to a large room at the back of the premises where were a number of young women employed in sewing. and after several feints on the part of Mr Mantalini to attract the young lady’s attention.Charles Dickens ‘Dear me. altering. and never shall.’ ‘You really must see to that man. ‘you forget yourself. with as much good breeding as could have been displayed by the very best society in a crowded ball-room. hurrying in. cast of features. whispered to each other sundry criticisms upon the make and texture of Miss Nickleby’s dress. presented herself. making up. child!’ exclaimed Madame Mantalini. turning to her husband.’ Miss Knag bestowed a reverential smile upon Madame Mantalini. they went away: leaving that gentleman extended at full length on the sofa. the lady of the business took some papers from her desk which she handed over to Mr Mantalini. Miss Knag. On Madame Mantalini calling aloud for Miss Knag. over-dressed female. kissing his wife’s hand.’ said Mantalini.’ said Madame. her complexion. here some time. cutting out. a short. It was a close room with a skylight. with his heels in the air and a newspaper in his hand.’ ‘I don’t forget you. addressing Madame Mantalini. and all the young ladies suspending their operations for the moment. recoiling in surprise. who received them with great delight. ‘How came—eh!— oh—demmit. and personal appearance.’ ‘I will twist his demd nose off his countenance for leaving such a very pretty creature all alone by herself. how d’ye do?’ ‘I have been waiting.

for the present at all events. Madame Mantalini. I do not know how. highly celebrated in those days for their humour. that how. It is so gentle.’ said Madame Mantalini. 210 . ‘I think that. already. or when. for you have so much taste in all those matters. so sarcastic. for when my dear brother was alive (I kept house for him. Madame Mantalini.’ interrupted Miss Knag. that even you can imagine. ‘So it will. ‘She will not be able for the present to be of much use in any other way. Miss Knag. still. it will be better for Miss Nickleby to come into the show-room with you. and try things on for people. that is so like you. I think. we had to supper once a week two or three young men. she was sure the young person would try to do her best—impressed with which conviction she (Miss Knag) felt an interest in her. and said that certainly. will not be offended at my saying that. you possibly could have acquired all you know—hem—Miss Nickleby and I are quite a pair. Madame Mantalini’s is the most remarkable—hem.” I say to the young ladies. only I am a little darker than Miss Nickleby. who lived in Cheltenham. and yet so good-natured (as I was observing to Miss Simmonds only this morning). “I ever heard. when she hears that our family always have been celebrated for small feet ever since— hem—ever since our family had any feet at all. and—hem—I think my foot may be a little smaller. and I do not care who knows it.’ returned Miss Knag. indeed. that really. or where. and her appearance will—’ ‘Suit very well with mine. Madame Mantalini. Madame Mantalini—”Of all the ready humour. Miss Nickleby). Madame Mantalini. as I often say to the young ladies. ‘Well now. I am sure. and had a most excellent business as a tobacconist—hem—who had such small feet. ‘Ha! ha! ha! Of club feet! Oh very good! As I often remark to the young ladies. that they were no bigger than those which are usually joined to wooden legs—the most symmetrical feet. although it was a great deal of trouble to have young people who were wholly unused to the business.’ said Madame. when. Miss Nickleby. and to be sure I might have known that you would not be long in finding that out. of all the ready humour—hem—I ever heard anywhere”— and I have heard a good deal.’ ‘They must have had something of the appearance of club feet.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY one for Kate. I had an uncle once. “Well I must say.

but that every now and then. I have seen him twice. and prevent anybody else from striking into the conversation. by any means.’ ‘He is a very fine man. ‘No.’ replied Kate.’ ‘Isn’t he a charming creature?’ ‘Indeed he does not strike me as being so. you do astonish me. and one of those people who are best described by the axiom. and that lady. my dear!’ cried Miss Knag. that Miss Knag still aimed at youth. others. was variously interpreted by her acquaintance.’ said Madame Mantalini. some holding that Miss Knag dealt in exaggeration. full-whiskered dashing gentlemanly man.’ ‘Have you seen Mr Mantalini?’ inquired Miss Knag. laying aside her bonnet. ‘but as my opinion is of very little importance to him or anyone else. ‘Charming creature. goodness gracious mercy. I think. since these are facts which require no comment. I do not regret having formed it.’ ‘I dare say I am very foolish.”’ Here Miss Knag paused to take breath. clear ‘hem!’ the import and meaning of which. to introduce a loud. with such teeth and hair. ‘You’ll take care that Miss Nickleby understands her hours. and that she was weak and vain. ‘I hardly know yet.’ replied Kate. and so forth. and introduced the monosyllable when any fresh invention was in course of coinage in her brain.Charles Dickens or by what means she acquired it. ‘Why. rubbing her hands together. ‘Yes. shrill. ‘and so I’ll leave her with you. Miss Nickleby?’ said Miss Knag. and no farther. although she had shot beyond it. It may be further remarked. that when she wanted a word. she threw it in to gain time. and while she pauses it may be observed—not that she was marvellously loquacious and marvellously deferential to Madame Mantalini. was a moral impossibility. don’t you think so?’ asked one of the 211 . that you may trust them as far as you can see them. You’ll not forget my directions. years ago. and—hem—well now. that to forget anything Madame Mantalini had directed. sailed away. is to me a mystery indeed. isn’t she. where’s your taste? Such a fine tall. she was accustomed. and shall be slow to change it.’ said Kate. elevating her hands. dispensing a general good-morning among her assistants. Miss Knag?’ Miss Knag of course replied. in the torrent of her discourse. ‘I have seen very little of her.

‘Her father. could not quite restrain her tears. who was anxious.’ replied the other softly. ‘So dusty and hot. with a bitter sigh. ‘I do indeed. that mourning is sometimes the coldest wear which mortals can assume. that it not only chills the breasts of those it clothes. inquired whether she did not find black very uncomfortable wear. She had felt it acutely. during which most of the young people made a closer inspection of Kate’s appearance. without the slightest depression of her voice. ‘And drives very beautiful horses. well! There it is at once you know.’ replied Kate.’ answered Kate. and compared notes respecting it. in an audible voice.’ answered Kate. to change the subject. and feeling it at the moment. ‘For what relation. how can you possibly pronounce 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. and the offer being accepted. After a short silence. for every reason. one of them offered to help her off with her shawl. Miss Simmonds?’ 212 . but I never saw them. doesn’t he?’ inquired another. ‘I dare say he may. ‘Her father. ‘I did not think of it. eh?’ said Miss Knag.’ replied Kate. adjusting her dress for her. freezes up their sources of good-will and kindness. There are few who have lost a friend or relative constituting in life their sole dependence. Miss Simmonds?’ asked Miss Knag.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY young ladies. who have not keenly felt this chilling influence of their sable garb. leaves nothing but bared and rotten hearts exposed. and left Miss Knag in possession of the field. that Kate. for anything I could say to the contrary.’ observed the same speaker. ‘Never saw them!’ interposed Miss Knag. ‘Ah! A long illness. ‘Oh. and withering all the buds of promise they once so liberally put forth. You are in mourning for some near relation?’ ‘For my father. ‘Indeed he may be.’ said her companion. ‘I am very sorry to have wounded you by my thoughtless speech. made no further remark. but extending its influence to summer friends. Kate might have said.

when a baked leg of mutton. the knowledge that it pained her to be questioned. be enabled to support it better. until the noise of carriages rattling through the streets. not unreasonably. and of loud double knocks at doors. when any new ‘young person’ came. Kate’s part in the pageant was humble enough. to know who Kate was. The meal over. were served in the kitchen. have supposed herself beneath the reach of any arrogance. and so forth. announced the equipage of some great lady—or rather rich one. her duties being limited to holding articles of costume until Miss Knag was ready to try them on. ‘I don’t know. and what she was. then. but. the tasks were plied until half-past one. with potatoes to correspond. and now and then tying a string. So common an occurrence would be hardly deserving of mention. although it might have been very naturally increased by her appearance and emotion. and the young ladies having enjoyed the additional relaxation of washing their hands. In silence. at a time like this. and upon whom Kate was deputed to wait.Charles Dickens ‘Hush. reluctantly commanded silence. She was awkward—her hands were cold—dirty—coarse—she could do nothing right. accompanied by Miss Knag.’ replied the girl. and was again performed in silence. and all about her. Kate shed many bitter tears when 213 . ‘or I might perhaps. finding it hopeless to attempt extracting any further particulars just then. according to invariable custom. One of these double knocks at Madame Mantalini’s door. gave token that the day’s work of the more fortunate members of society was proceeding in its turn. and bade the work proceed. and Miss Knag. they wondered how Madame Mantalini could have such people about her.’ said Kate. but it happened that the lady and daughter were both out of temper that day.’ There had existed not a little desire in the room. for there is occasionally a distinction between riches and greatness—who had come with her daughter to approve of some court-dresses which had been a long time preparing. the work began again. or fastening a hook-and-eye. was sufficient to repress even this curiosity. but for its effect. requested they might see some other young woman the next time they came.’ ‘Our misfortune was very sudden. turning away. and officered of course by Madame Mantalini. and the poor girl came in for her share of their revilings. She might. or bad humour.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY these people were gone. but she had felt no degradation in working for her bread. and feign to participate in all the sanguine visions of her companion. when Kate. Philosophy would have taught her that the degradation was on the side of those who had sunk so low as to display such passions habitually. ‘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. the headmaster of Westminster School. now I come to think of it. from having to disguise her real feelings. for the first time. and how soon she would be undeceived. it is true.’ Poor Kate! she little thought how weak her consolation was. to join her mother at the street corner. hastened from the confinement of the workroom. and walk home:—the more sadly. mama. but I think she was. you know! Why. your poor dear papa’s cousin’s sister-inlaw—a Miss Browndock—was taken into partnership by a lady that kept a school at Hammersmith. and felt. and her honest feeling was hurt. living in the same street. you might have Doctor Nickleby. often take its rise in the fact of uncommon people being below theirs? In such scenes and occupations the time wore on until nine o’clock. She had. “Mantalini and Nickleby”. until she found herself exposed to insolence and pride. whether that Miss Browndock was the same lady that got the ten thousand pounds prize in the lottery. 214 . quailed at the prospect of drudgery and hard service. ‘Bless my soul. humbled by her occupation. and to find him writing in such good spirits! It consoles me for all we may undergo. to think that he is comfortable and happy.’ ‘Dear Nicholas!’ cried Kate. indeed. by-the-bye. Kate. May not the complaint. and made her fortune in no time at all.’ said Mrs Nickleby. taking from her reticule her brother’s letter from Dotheboys Hall. I am sure she was. how well it would sound!—and if Nicholas has any good fortune. how happy it makes me. jaded and dispirited with the occurrences of the day. to hear he is doing well. I forget. ‘In all our misfortunes. and without cause: but she was too young for such consolation. that common people are above their station.

’ said Miss Knag. Madame Mantalini. ‘that Miss Nickleby is a very creditable 215 . hard. and bodily fatigue.Charles Dickens CHAPTER 18 MISS KNAG. MAKES UP HER MIND TO HATE HER FOR EVERMORE. and change the scene of his operations. but who pamper their compassion and need high stimulants to rouse it. leads to. and you shall find in him the very soul of poetry and adventure. to a mountain road. are constantly within the sight and hearing of the most unobservant person alive. from a thicklypeopled city. are disregarded by persons who do not want thought or feeling. having no stirring interest for any but those who lead them. In short. when only too many demands upon the legitimate exercise of the same virtues in a healthy state. and the less of real. indeed. properly nourished and exercised. should deprive it of any interest with the mass of the charitable and sympathetic. which. as Kate was taking her weary way homewards on the first night of her novitiate. THE CAUSES WHICH LED MISS KNAG TO FORM THIS RESOLUTION THERE ARE MANY LIVES of much pain. but dress him in green velvet. if it does not necessarily include. AFTER DOTING ON KATE NICKLEBY FOR THREE WHOLE DAYS. but lest the very dulness. by a minute and lengthened description of the establishment presided over by Madame Mantalini. charity must have its romance. which. hardship. the better. and suffering. ‘Well. now. struggling work-a-day life there is in that romance. The life to which poor Kate Nickleby was devoted. as the novelist or playwright must have his. scarcely to be thought of by persons of refinement. and hence it is that diseased sympathy and compassion are every day expended on out-of-theway objects. all the others. was a hard one. scarcely less excitement than the votaries of pleasure in theirs. There are not a few among the disciples of charity who require. unhealthy confinement. I would rather keep Miss Nickleby herself in view just now. in their vocation. with a high-crowned hat. So it is with the one great cardinal virtue. A thief in fustian is a vulgar character. than chill them in the outset. It must have its romance. which made up its sum and substance. in consequence of the unforeseen train of circumstances already developed in this narrative.

’ remarked Madame Mantalini. Miss Nickleby has not done anything very remarkable today—that I am aware of.’ replied Miss Knag. dear!’ said Miss Knag. very good! Ha. ‘Well. I should be only so much the more her friend.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY young person—a very creditable young person indeed— hem—upon my word. Madame Mantalini. glancing with affected carelessness at her assistant. Oh. and that’s the truth of it. I have seen some young women when they had the opportunity of displaying before their betters. ‘because if youth were any excuse.’ said Miss Knag.’ suggested Madame. ‘and awkward! Well. why really you know. Madame Mantalini. ‘but you must allow a great deal for inexperience. you wouldn’t have—’ ‘Quite so good a forewoman as I have. dear—well—but you’re always right. I say nothing about that.’ said Madame Mantalini in reply. we might hope to cure it. ha. before it has time to rise to one’s lips. you know.’ ‘Poor dear thing. If it was. how you do contrive to be always right. but as it’s her misfortune. and that if she was twice as indifferent-looking. for you know what one’s going to say. is to me a mystery indeed. very— hem—very unassuming young woman to assist in the fitting on. and laughing heartily in her sleeve. ‘I think her one of the most ordinary girls I ever met with.’ ‘Beyond putting a very excellent client out of humour. at least. reddening. always. very well-behaved. it does very extraordinary credit even to your discrimination that you should have found such a very excellent.’ rejoined Miss Knag most complacently. ‘it’s not her fault. behave in such a—oh. when so many people are so often wrong. and twice as awkward as she is. all I can say is. and as I very often tell the young ladies. ‘and that’s the fact. I never did know anybody like you.’ ‘And youth?’ inquired Madame.’ ‘Her uncle told me she had been considered pretty. I suppose. ‘Oh. ‘I consider Miss Nickleby the most awkward girl I ever saw in my life.’ observed Madame Mantalini. ha!’ ‘For myself.’ 216 . ‘Oh. as the man said about the blind horse. that I quite love the poor girl. Madame Mantalini. Madame Mantalini. Madame Mantalini.’ ‘Ordinary!’ cried Miss Knag with a countenance beaming delight. Madame Mantalini. we ought to respect it.

which has rendered me more painfully conscious of my own defects. ‘how very awkward you have been all day. the motives that dictated it. actually. ‘I take quite a lively interest in you.’ said Miss Knag. which was the more remarkable. Miss Knag had conceived an incipient affection for Kate Nickleby. would be to remain perfectly quiet before company. glancing at the reflection of herself in a mirror at no great distance. that she saw she would never do for the business. and perhaps her feelings took the same shape. would keep her as much as possible in the background. next day. bestowing a kiss upon Kate at the conclusion of the second day’s work. it should not rather have been the interest of a maiden aunt or grandmother. But Miss Knag wore clothes of a very youthful pattern. I dare say not. ‘But how much better 217 . ‘But now. ‘I love her—I quite love her—I declare I do!’ Of such a highly disinterested quality was this devoted friendship. that if Miss Knag did feel a strong interest in Kate Nickleby. my dear soul. and so superior was it to the little weaknesses of flattery or ill-nature. and that all she would have to do. ‘a sister’s interest. and to shrink from attracting notice by every means in her power. and this short conversation with her superior increased the favourable prepossession to a most surprising extent. has not improved me. upon my word. ‘Bless you!’ said Miss Knag. in a most uncommon flow of good humour. for that she (Miss Knag). that being the conclusion to which the difference in their respective ages would have naturally tended. ‘No. she had entertained certain inward misgivings that they would never agree. This last suggestion was so much in accordance with the timid girl’s own feelings and wishes. no. as when she first scanned that young lady’s face and figure. that she readily promised implicit reliance on the excellent spinster’s advice: without questioning.’ ‘I fear your kind and open communication. that the kind-hearted Miss Knag candidly informed Kate Nickleby. or indeed bestowing a moment’s reflection upon. but that she need not give herself the slightest uneasiness on this account.’ rejoined Miss Knag.’ sighed Kate.’ said Miss Knag. by increased exertions on her own part.Charles Dickens In fact. It’s the most singular circumstance I ever knew.’ Undoubtedly it was singular. after witnessing her failure that morning.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY that you should know it at first. ‘and that’s what I very often tell my brother. ‘The city!’ cried Miss Knag. and as it’s quite dark. and I shall be quite—hem—quite pleased to know her. is pity’s small change in general society. and so be able to go on. my dear. ‘that mama—my mother.’ answered Kate. isn’t it?’ ‘Very. one after another. which. so they must. ‘I couldn’t have believed it possible that any young woman could have lived there. ‘must live where they can.’ said Kate. ‘I fear. my dear. ‘for you must go very near our house. very proper indeed!’ rejoined Miss Knag with that sort of half-sigh. accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head. ‘I’ll walk with you part of the way.’ Kate would willingly have excused herself from this flattering companionship. What a nice thing it is to think that it should be so.’ ‘You needn’t make the least apology. with St Anthony’s fire in her face. straight and comfortable! Which way are you walking. ‘Reduced—I should say poor people. took her arm with an air which plainly showed how much she felt the compliment she was conferring. under any circumstances whatever. I shall be glad of your company. ‘I dare say she is a very respectable old person. I tell him. These sort of people. but Miss Knag having adjusted her bonnet to her entire satisfaction. hesitating.’ replied Kate. ‘Goodness gracious me! now do you really live in the city?’ ‘Is it so very unusual for anybody to live there?’ asked Kate. smiling sweetly as she spoke.’ replied Kate. for three days together.’ said Miss Knag.’ said Miss Knag. regarding herself with great favour in the glass as she tied her bonnet. when our servants go away ill.’ ‘Ah! very true.’ 218 . I mean—is waiting for me. and he thinks the back-kitchen’s rather too damp for ‘em to sleep in. correcting herself hastily. are glad to sleep anywhere! Heaven suits the back to the burden. for she was afraid of appearing proud. half smiling.’ replied Miss Knag. and they were in the street before she could say another word. and our last servant went to the hospital a week ago. my love?’ ‘Towards the city.

and he was very busy making his fortune. brightening up. that your poor papa went bail for. doing the last new carriage customer at second-hand. ‘She always was clever. You don’t know what it is to lose a husband. and sent us a pair of snow shoes. to have a child. acknowledged the introduction with condescending politeness. ‘It is a great blessing to me. I’ll be bound. ‘always. in a special state of amiability. who. ‘Oh! of course. and whose bringing-up might very well have excused a little of both at first. that a gentleman who used to visit very much at our house —Mr Watkins.’ said Miss Knag. who afterwards ran away to the United States.’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘You will like her better when you know how good she is.’ said Mrs Nickleby. that she didn’t know what it was to lose one. I have no doubt. arm in arm: with Miss Knag in the middle. so she said.’ said poor Mrs Nickleby. I recollect when she was only two years and a half old. from a baby. Kate had no alternative but to make her known to Miss Knag. glancing proudly at her daughter. You remember the letter? In which he said that he was very sorry he couldn’t repay the fifty pounds just then. with such an affectionate letter that it made your poor dear father cry for a week. ‘And will improve still more.’ and said it with an air intending to signify that she should like to catch herself marrying anybody—no.Charles Dickens As poor Mrs Nickleby was cooling—not her heels alone.’ ‘Hem!’ cried Miss Knag. but her limbs generally at the street corner. to point the joke. because his capital was all out at interest. ‘though it is nothing new to me. ‘I have taken such a fancy to your daughter.’ added Mrs Nickleby. that even strangers should like Kate. after she had proceeded a little distance in dignified silence. squeezing Kate’s arm in her own. indeed I don’t. ‘Kate has improved even in this little time. Miss Knag. in my misfortunes.’ said Mrs Nickleby.’ said Miss Knag. you know. my dear. Mrs Nickleby. she knew better than that.’ As Miss Knag had never yet known what it was to gain one. but that he didn’t forget you 219 .’ replied Miss Knag. ‘I am delighted to hear it. you can’t think. very nearly as a matter of course. who knows neither pride nor vanity. ‘No. in some haste. it followed. no. Kate. The three then walked away. ‘That she will.

what of him?’ ‘Why. ‘or you’ll drive me crazy.’ Having quoted this extraordinary and most disinterested testimony to her daughter’s excellence. Kate?’ ‘Yes. Mrs Nickleby. finding that the discourse was turning upon family greatness. mama. the full tide of which. 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. as if she were making a tremendous effort to recollect something of paramount importance. Miss Knag will understand. the most delightful and accomplished woman.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY were his god-daughter. perfectly crazy. I don’t indeed. with a small reminiscence on her own account. lost no time in striking in. by-the-bye. I know it was he who said so. yes. ‘Don’t talk of lending money. and what’s more. Mrs Nickleby 220 . and couldn’t have had the slightest motive for doing it. but she had that one failing of lending money. ‘that Mr Watkins—he wasn’t any relation. to the Watkins who kept the Old Boar in the village. He did indeed. Mrs Nickleby (here Miss Knag rubbed her own nose sympathetically).’ After concluding this effort of invention without being interrupted. because I recollect. Miss Knag fell into many more recollections. and it’s much the same—that Mr Watkins said. I don’t think. and he wasn’t at all fond of children.’ said Miss Knag. my dear. I know. his borrowing twenty pounds of her poor dear papa the very moment afterwards. 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. no less interesting than true. that we should ever get them back again. but it was one of the two. Miss Knag. my dear. if we were to live till—till—hem—till the very end of time. and carried it to such an extent that she lent— hem—oh! thousands of pounds. all our little fortunes. Mrs Nickleby. when you were only two years and a half old. perhaps. I do believe. with the most striking and exquisite —hem—the most exquisite nose that ever was put upon a human face.’ said Mrs Nickleby slowly. that you were one of the most astonishing children he ever saw. as well as if it was only yesterday. yes. I don’t remember whether it was the Old Boar or the George the Third. You must remember. that ever was seen. and Miss Knag. that Mr Watkins. Mrs Nickleby stopped to breathe. My mama— hem—was the most lovely and beautiful creature.

Mrs and Miss Nickleby. usually boasts. indeed!’ said Mr Mortimer Knag. and then snuffed himself from a box in his waistcoat pocket. Mortimer. the only difference between them being.’ ‘Oh. at the moment. ‘Past ten. wearing spectacles. and so both ladies went on talking together in perfect contentment. ‘Ah!’ Having given utterance to these ejaculations with a very profound and thoughtful air. at length sailed smoothly down by adding an under-current of her own recollections. ‘It’s only one of our young ladies and her mother. very amicably.Charles Dickens in vain attempting to stem. Mr Knag slowly snuffed two kitchen candles on the counter. week.’ With another sigh Mr Knag took up the kitchen candles from the counter. who was an ornamental stationer and small circulating library keeper. In this manner they walked on. to be in the middle of an account of her twentysecond offer from a gentleman of large property. in a by-street off Tottenham Court Road. and the warehouse was a shop about the size of three hackney coaches. and who let out by the day. she insisted upon their all going in to supper together. sister. Mrs Nickleby whispered her daughter that she thought he must be literary. employed in the ab221 . ‘Well—yes—I believe supper is ready. or year. ‘Thomas. heaving a deep sigh as he restored to its parent shelf the book he had been reading. and preceded the ladies with mournful steps to a back-parlour. As Miss Knag happened. swinging at his door-post. consulting his watch. ‘Ah!’ said Mr Knag once more. and two more in the window. month. until they arrived at Miss Knag’s brother’s. or thereabouts.’ Thomas was a boy nearly half as tall as a shutter.’ said Mr Knag. perfectly satisfied to be talking and caring very little whether anybody listened or not. and talked very loud. where a charwoman. the newest old novels. and in they went. and garnished with much less hair than a gentleman bordering on forty. whereof the titles were displayed in pen-and-ink characters on a sheet of pasteboard. There was something very impressive in the ghostly air with which all this was done. that whereas Miss Knag addressed herself to Kate. ‘Don’t go away. close the warehouse. and as Mr Knag was a tall lank gentleman of solemn features. Mrs Nickleby kept on in one unbroken monotonous flow.’ said Miss Knag as they entered the shop.

‘A miserable wretch. to my house. ‘I’m only too glad not to speak in this house. and so I make bold to tell you. pray?’ inquired Mrs Nickleby. at the same moment. ‘Is there any fire downstairs for some hot water presently?’ ‘No there is not. sir. ‘how very often I have begged you not to come into the room with your bonnet on!’ ‘I can’t help it. ‘There’s been a deal o’cleaning to do in this house. and my little Charley fell down a airy and put his elber out. turning sharp round. but as I can’t I won’t. Mr Knag. and if I could make coals I would.’ replied Mrs Blockson. and if you don’t like it. was putting the supper out. and remunerated with certain eighteenpences to be deducted from her wages due. 222 . ‘By your leave. ‘What is the matter with that gentleman. sir.’ With these parting words. if I was to be hung this minute. afore the clock strikes ten tomorrow. leaving the door wide open.’ said the charwoman.’ replied the substitute. ‘Will you hold your tongue—female?’ said Mr Mortimer Knag.’ ‘I don’t want any remarks if you please. indeed. ‘and as I had two twin children the day before yesterday was only seven weeks. excepting when and where I’m spoke to. ‘Mrs Blockson.’ ‘Then why isn’t there?’ said Miss Knag. greatly disturbed by the sound. ‘Because there arn’t no coals left out.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY sence of the sick servant.’ exclaimed Mr Knag. and that’s the truth. bridling up on the shortest notice.’ ‘I’m very glad to find that you don’t call yourself out of your name. and with regard to being a female. Mem. for one week’s work. I must trouble you to look out for somebody else. I should wish to know what you considered yourself?’ ‘A miserable wretch. for it don’t hardly pay me. flung himself into the ‘warehouse.’ retorted the charwoman. I shall take it as a favour if you’ll send nine shillings.’ and groaned aloud. sir. plunging violently into this dialogue. with a strong emphasis on the personal pronoun. last Monday.’ said Miss Knag. Mr Knag. ‘and so I won’t tell you no stories about it. striking his forehead. the good woman quitted the room with great ease of manner. Miss Knag.’ said Mrs Blockson.’ said Miss Knag. reproachfully. Miss Knag.

if it hadn’t happened as it has.Charles Dickens ‘Is he ill?’ inquired Kate. but as the gloomy one was within ear-shot. and I am quite sure that he is.’ continued Miss Knag. as I often say. The fact is. for instance—quite distracts him. and very naturally—that he took to scorning everything. the last servant could not have been much accustomed to any other fire than St Anthony’s. of course. and the fire wanted making up. ‘Yes. as indeed—hem—as indeed all our family have. because. writing another book. that he did find so much in the books he read.’ ‘Bless me!’ exclaimed Mrs Nickleby. really alarmed. He was once most devotedly attached to—hem—to Madame Mantalini. having 223 . ‘a most melancholy history. as we all are. He’s so wrapped up in high life. because if he hadn’t been disappointed he couldn’t have written about blighted hopes and all that. and became a genius. To judge from all appearances. applicable to his own misfortunes. to have the benefit of my—hem—of my experience. I mean every novel that—hem—that has any fashion in it. but. Of course it’s a great advantage to him. it is impossible to divine. few authors who write about such things can have such opportunities of knowing them as I have. ‘another book. and confidently hoped to marry her. and the difficulty of making the water warm.’ ‘Another book!’ repeated Kate. He is a wonderfully accomplished man—most extraordinarily accomplished—reads—hem—reads every novel that comes out. He has a most romantic heart. in all his little fashionable descriptions. ‘Hush!’ replied Miss Knag. and the fact is. her disclosures stopped here. I don’t believe his genius would ever have come out at all. finding that a pause was left for somebody to say something. Mrs Nickleby. ‘and received great encouragement too. nodding in great triumph.’ How much more communicative Miss Knag might have become under more favourable circumstances. and the disappointment was a dreadful blow. that the least allusion to business or worldly matters—like that woman just now. ‘Yes. and did find himself in every respect so much like the heroes—because of course he is conscious of his own superiority.’ said Miss Knag. at this very present moment. and the guests. in three volumes post octavo. I think his disappointment a great thing for him. of course. but a little brandy and water was made at last.

in a pouting manner. At this high point. and encountered the lively young lady’s eye just at the very moment when she kissed the old lord.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY been previously regaled with cold leg of mutton and bread and cheese. it received a check no less violent than sudden. chased the old lord behind a cheval-glass. pending the salutation. The bonnets were no sooner fairly on. much to the wonderment of Madame Mantalini’s young ladies who had never beheld such constancy in that quarter. or ‘Mantalini. while Madame Mantalini and the other young lady looked. and the young lady’s sister. Now.’ and ‘great impertinence. and Mrs Nickleby by debating within herself whether the dressmaking firm would ultimately become ‘Mantalini. all the way home. to witness the ceremony of trying on two nuptial bonnets which had been ordered the day before. than with his own address in getting such a fine woman for his wife. and presented herself in the show-room.’ said Madame Mantalini. who was tinged with curiosity. upon which the young lady. who was a very lively young lady. Miss Knag’s friendship remained for three whole days. in a shrill treble. Miss Knag. Miss Knag darted hastily upstairs with a bonnet in each hand. said nothing. through the speaking-pipe. but on the fourth. came with the young lady. Nickleby. in a charming state of palpitation. which communicated with the workroom. with the recollection of her last glimpse of Mr Mortimer Knag deeply abstracted in the shop. and the young lady. who was going to marry a young lady of no family in particular. Kate amusing herself. and Nickleby’. soon afterwards took leave. before. no less with the nuptial bonnets and their wearers. than Miss Knag and Madame Mantalini fell into convulsions of admiration. but mumbled and chuckled in a state of great delight. and Madame Mantalini announcing the fact. murmured something about ‘an old thing. Knag. and then and there kissed him.’ and finished by darting a look of 224 . discreetly. But. intended to demonstrate her enthusiasm in the cause. and Knag’. stepped accidentally behind the glass. the old lord. another way. ‘A most elegant appearance.’ said Miss Knag. who was a very old lord. which thus occurred. It happened that an old lord of great family. ‘I never saw anything so exquisite in all my life. seeing the old lord in this rapturous condition.

‘and my lord. and in all reasonable time was replaced by Kate.’ said the sister. my lord.’ repeated the superior. ‘Ma’am.’ ‘She is universally admired.’ interposed Madame Mantalini with a gracious smile.’ ‘Oh yes.’ said the young lady. ‘Miss Knag. ha. no. ‘Not by any means. a new life! ha.’ 225 . ha! a new life. ha!’ It was a satisfactory thing to hear that the old gentleman was going to lead a new life. ‘Pray have up that pretty young creature we saw yesterday.’ said the young lady. ‘I hope you don’t think good looks a disqualification for the business. Miss Knag vanished without another word. ‘I hate being waited upon by frights or elderly persons. child!’ said the lord’s chosen bride.’ replied the old lord. trembling. whenever I come.Charles Dickens displeasure at Miss Knag.’ ‘By all means. being a great admirer of beauty. it was some minutes before he could find breath to remark that the girl was too pretty for a milliner. ‘You needn’t return. Ha. my lord. send up Miss Nickleby. ‘Of all things in the world.’ replied Madame Mantalini. do. as she will be in a week or two. ‘the lovely young creature. ‘Why. The mere exertion of protracted chuckling reduced him to a fearful ebb of coughing and gasping. by all means. I’m going to be married.’ ‘Everybody is talking about her. for it was pretty evident that his old one would not last him much longer. ‘She is not quite so accustomed to her business.’ said the old lord.’ replied the old lord. Madame Mantalini. ha. no. how you colour. throwing herself languidly on a sofa. must positively see her. ‘I am afraid you have been giving her some of your wicked looks. and lead a new life. what did you say last?’ asked Miss Knag. Let me always see that young creature. Madame Mantalini. no. ‘or you would have left it long ago.’ said Madame Mantalini.’ said the intended.’ said Madame Mantalini. ‘No.’ ‘I beg your pardon. in the same careless manner.’ said the lord’s intended. simpering. sharply. and smiling contemptuously. ‘Madame Mantalini. I beg. ‘no. You needn’t return. 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 of countenance all the time.

however. ‘Foh!’ said Madame Mantalini.’ ‘Matter!’ cried Miss Knag. ‘Nay. How dare you?’ This playful inquiry was accompanied with another poke. There. and then the old lord caught the parasol. while three or four of the young ladies in close attendance upon her. and other restoratives. who had remained during the whole scene with her eyes modestly fixed upon the ground. would have borne ample testimony. and. bolt upright. you bad man. I wouldn’t leave you behind with that pretty girl. let him go first. The circumstances of the little kingdom had greatly changed. evidently much flattered by this suspicion. ‘I won’t have you talk so. ‘What is the matter? What has happened? tell me. receiving another tap with the parasol for his wickedness. where his sprightly body was hoisted into the carriage by two stout footmen. ‘what is the matter?’ This inquiry produced in Miss Knag violent symptoms of a relapse.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘You naughty creature. preserving all the dignity and greatness of Madame Mantalini’s representative. tottered downstairs to the door. take them away. and said it was ‘a shame. and hasten joyfully downstairs to Miss Knag’s dominion. darting angry looks at Kate. my dear. Madame Mantalini.’ said the lively lady. which induced the other lady to come to the rescue.’ The old lord. ‘You will see that those little alterations are made. during the short period of her absence. to her having fainted desperately. and we shall be quite sure of him. that worthy soul was reposing on a large box. I can’t think.’ ‘What is a shame?’ demanded Kate. vinegar. was only too happy to avail herself of the permission to retire. my dear.’ said the lady. and another. ‘how he ever gets into a carriage without thinking of a hearse. In place of Miss Knag being stationed in her accustomed seat. stepping hastily forward. 226 . poking the peer with her parasol. all at once. take the things away. applied more vinegar and hartshorn. together with the presence of hartshorn. and several young ladies. and some very pretty sportiveness ensued. even without the derangement of the head-dress and front row of curls. you positively shall go first. Jane. and wouldn’t give it up again. ‘Bless me!’ said Kate.’ Kate. to the great consternation of the assembled maidens. not for half a second. I know you too well. bathed in tears. coming. bestowed a grotesque leer upon Kate as he passed.

cried. no. ‘You! a chit. you nasty creature!’ ‘Gracious!’ cried Kate. as Miss Knag laughed. it was evident. and that for their part they despised them. and after that. I do feel it. who disgraces us with all her proceedings. ‘For fifteen years. and that they felt so angry. Thank God. an upstart nobody! Oh. after which. don’t now!’ 227 . stamping first her right foot and then her left with remarkable energy. and making an effort to tear her front off. till now. ha!’ Now. more emphatically than before. ‘pray don’t say so. you bold-faced thing!’ At this crisis.’ said Miss Knag. as much as to say how very good that was! ‘Here she is. although I am disgusted. 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. a child. they called out. the—oh. and nodded their heads a little. they did.Charles Dickens ‘matter! Fie upon you. and makes proper people blush for themselves.’ Miss Knag here relapsed into softness. ladies—the beauty. and smiled sarcastically to each other. suddenly becoming convulsive.’ exclaimed Miss Knag. they hardly knew what to do with themselves. been exposed to the arts. indeed! Ha. getting off the box. almost paralysed by the violence with which the adjective had been jerked out from between Miss Knag’s closed teeth. Miss Knag laughed. which immediately communicated itself to all the young ladies.’ continued Miss Knag. in witness whereof. sobbing in a most affecting manner. the vile arts. ‘for fifteen years have I been the credit and ornament of this room and the one upstairs. But I feel it. and considered them beneath their notice. that it was a shame.’ replied the chorus. ‘Have I lived to this day to be called a fright!’ cried Miss Knag. murmured that she ought to be superior to such things. Miss Knag was unable to repress a virtuous shudder. ‘Oh no. of a creature. ‘here she is—everybody is talking about her—the belle. ‘have I offended you?’ ‘You offended me!’ retorted Miss Knag. and introducing Kate with much ceremony and many low curtseys to the delighted throng. that something struck her as being exceedingly funny. and the young ladies renewing their attentions. ‘I have never in all that time.

as usual. or seeming to rise. she gave way. dear.’ cried Miss Knag. at first. ‘I detest and hate her. and declared herself quite well again. at the street corner. slumbered. composed her head-dress. as a prisoner would a few delicious hours’ respite from slow and wearing torture. had its amount been trebled. never let anybody who is a friend of mine speak to her. Miss Knag screamed once. She had then turned red and pale by turns. Poor Kate had regarded these proceedings. THE BILE AND RANCOUR of the worthy Miss Knag undergoing no diminution during the remainder of the week. and looked calmly on without deigning a reply. Nevertheless. no 228 . She hailed the arrival of Saturday night. and the honest ire of all the young ladies rising. Never let her speak to me again. wrestling with the supernumeraries. but her surprise was soon redoubled. shivered. but rather augmenting with every successive hour. she was not a little surprised to find her in conversation with Mr Ralph Nickleby. AND OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE COMPANY ENTERTAINED THEMSELVES. as the true motives of this altered behaviour developed themselves. When she joined her mother. woke. and felt that the poor pittance for her first week’s labour would have been dearly and hardly earned. CHAPTER 19 DESCRIPTIVE OF A DINNER AT MR RALPH NICKLEBY’S. although she walked proudly to her seat. gurgled in her throat several times. it will be readily imagined that that young lady’s daily life was none of the most cheerful or enviable kind. AT DINNER. and once or twice essayed to speak. in perfect bewilderment. she retired a few paces. an impudent artful hussy!’ Having denounced the object of her wrath. if she could have seen them fall. and both waxing very hot every time Miss Nickleby was called upstairs. BEFORE DINNER. in secret. hiccuped thrice. in exact proportion to the good spinster’s indignation.’ answered the chorus. came to. but. a slut.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Have I deserved to be called an elderly person?’ screamed Miss Knag. to some such bitter tears as would have gladdened Miss Knag’s inmost soul. ‘I hate her. ‘Don’t think of such things. AND AFTER DINNER. and turned her back upon the group of little satellites who clustered round their ruling planet in the remotest corner of the room. a hussy. in these terms.

‘Your black silk frock will be quite dress enough.’ said Ralph. you know—but your papa. to that poor good soul.’ ‘Indeed!’ replied Kate. ‘That instant. pettishly. that if I said that once. from her uncle’s cold glistening eye. ‘Ah! my dear!’ said Ralph. and ear-rings—all made away with. with that pretty little scarf. never!’ Overpowered by this agonising thought. my dear. Kate.’ cried Mrs Nickleby. and then flew off. your poor dear papa—ah! there never was anything so cruelly sacrificed as those jewels were. ‘I was coming to call for you.’ rejoined Mrs Nickleby. I said it fifty times a day. all the amethysts— necklace. ‘Forget that you ever had them. and a plain band in your hair. Mrs Nickleby nodded and smiled a great many times.’ said Kate. ‘Upon my word. but your mother and I have been talking over family affairs. brooch. two gravies. making sure to catch you before you left. I don’t want them. quite insensible to the sarcastic tone of Ralph’s last remark. in a melancholy manner. Mrs Nickleby shook her head. and applied her handkerchief to her eyes.’ ‘Lord. to impress its full magnificence on Kate’s wondering mind. my dear. and a pair of black silk stock— Dear. brother-in-law. my dear. I couldn’t have believed it possible. though she scarce knew why. dear. four salts. Kate. to a committee of ways and means.’ said the good lady. almost on my bended knees. that such a— Kate. at an acute angle.Charles Dickens less by the matter of their conversation. mama. Didn’t 229 . than by the smoothed and altered manner of Mr Nickleby himself. at the same time. my love—how they used to sparkle. ‘Let me see. ‘we were at that moment talking about you. shrinking. Nicholas? Why don’t you make some arrangement?” I am sure that anybody who was about us at that time. indeed.’ Triumphing in having been the first to communicate this extraordinary intelligence. ‘how like a child you talk! Four-and-twenty silver tea-spoons. flying off at another angle. now. “Why don’t you do something. hasn’t it?’ interposed Mrs Nickleby. you’re to dine with your uncle at half-past six o’clock tomorrow. and the time has slipped away so rapidly—’ ‘Well. will do me the justice to own. and I saying. ‘if I had but those unfortunate amethysts of mine—you recollect them.

the slight degree of vagueness and uncertainty in which they are usually enveloped. never. in common with all other tokens of emotion. Kate. of course. I have always done my duty. whose only blemish is. ‘if my advice had been taken at the beginning—Well. cast up her eyes. ‘To think of such a thing!’ 230 . ‘Ah!’ said Mrs Nickleby. rubbed her hands. I am not much used to parties.’ said Ralph. and such fooleries are an important part of it sometimes. ‘What a very strongly marked countenance your uncle has!’ said Mrs Nickleby. I have a little party of—of—gentlemen with whom I am connected in business just now. ‘come when you like.’ replied Kate. they seldom do lose—any occasion of inculcating similar golden percepts. as if it were not used to the thoroughfare. with a smile.’ said Ralph.’ interrupted Ralph. why—’ ‘Pray. Good-night—a—a—God bless you.’ ‘Mama!’ said Kate reprovingly. ‘Now. thus importing that she was a persecuted saint.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY I. and didn’t know the way out. with great fervour. ‘My dear Kate. but this is one of business. and having disposed of it. Mrs Nickleby sighed. no.’ The blessing seemed to stick in Mr Ralph Nickleby’s throat. quite struck with his parting look. and your mother has promised that you shall keep house for me.’ ‘I shall be very glad. but that she wouldn’t trouble her hearers by mentioning a circumstance which must be so obvious to everybody. ‘I spoke to my niece. ‘I don’t see the slightest resemblance to his poor brother. You don’t mind obliging me?’ ‘Mind!’ cried Mrs Nickleby. she never had lost—and to do married ladies as a body justice. motioning her to be silent. my dear? Did I ever lose an opportunity of impressing it on your poor papa?’ ‘No. uncle. at my house tomorrow. ‘but I am afraid you will find me awkward and embarrassed. he shook hands with his two relatives. and abruptly left them. And to do Mrs Nickleby justice. and finally assumed a look of meek composure. though awkwardly enough.’ When she had arrived at this reflection. in a hackney coach—I’ll pay for it. rather than play boldly over it—’to return to the point from which we have strayed. mama. which. But it got out somehow. seemed to skulk under his face.’ replied Kate.’ ‘Oh no. and that’s some comfort.

and frowning. when they had walked on. and married them. and struck them motionless. and began to think that her prospects might be brightening. Kate looked up hastily. that’s quite clear. something of her mother’s sanguine complexion gradually awakening in her own bosom. my dear. on witnessing the unusual sight which one half-furnished room displayed. after short but ardent courtships. as universal as death. a dull and lifeless mass. ‘Ay. and that better days might be dawning upon them. and if some extraordinary good fortune doesn’t come to you. and afterwards in amusement. had stood a silent dusty pile of merchandise. In a gloomy corner. and.Charles Dickens ‘No. upon the panelled room. for some time.’ answered Kate. with attentive ear and palpitating heart. ‘I was only thinking. and of young ladies who had accidentally met amiable gentlemen of enormous wealth at their uncles’ houses. musing. Heaven’s own gift to struggling mortals. like some subtle essence from the skies. responding to the roll of heavy waggons in the street without. Your uncle has taken a strong fancy to you. too.’ The worthy matron made this remark with great emphasis and elocution.’ With this she launched out into sundry anecdotes of young ladies. as he shone through the dim windows of the large old house.’ said Mrs Nickleby. after this. and indeed plenty to think about. by eccentric uncles. felt. all things. and Kate. I shall be a little surprised. save when. until the alarm had passed away—in this dark cor231 . for years. pervading. in silence. ‘Thinking!’ repeated Mrs Nickleby. and as hastily looked down again. sheltering its colony of mice. it quaked with sturdy tremblings and caused the bright eyes of its tiny citizens to grow brighter still with fear. Such is hope. it was not unworthy of being classed among the extraordinary discoveries of the age. in the name of goodness?’ asked Mrs Nickleby. who had had thousand-pound notes given them in reticules. ‘There certainly is none. But it’s a very honest face. listening first in apathy. and more infectious than disease! The feeble winter’s sun—and winter’s suns in the city are very feeble indeed—might have brightened up. where. in truth. both good and bad. as they walked home. as if it comprised no small quantity of ingenuity and research. that’s all. ‘What has come over you. mama.

and cursed. was arranged. and the horses. which was opened long before he had done. not the least beautiful or unwonted relief to the stern. with his hand tied to the latch. There was no doubt about its being the right house.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ner. and the coachman. there lay the black silk dress: the neatest possible figure in itself. and many kind messages to Miss La Creevy. had long ago been starved. bands. Rats and mice. each article of dress partaking of that indescribable air of jauntiness and individuality which empty garments—whether by association. if ever anybody went away in state in a hackney coach yet. almost as ingenious in their way as rats and mice themselves. About and among them all. or in bad time. stood upon the very pressure of some old iron weight. In place of a bale of musty goods. scarfs. 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. which had been the objects of Mrs Nickleby’s peculiar care. until they came to Golden Square. who was to come to tea. and went away in state. or that they become moulded. however. with toes delicately turned out. appeared gloves. and it being at length the hour agreed upon for starting. moved Kate herself. Kate. and jangled. in eyes accustomed to. and many other little devices. or in bad time. as it were. was not a little astonished to see that the opener was a man in handsome livery. with scrupulous care. The coachman gave a tremendous double knock at the door. in their stead. 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. for the tantalisation of mankind. hair-pins. the milkman fetched a coach from the nearest stand. for there was the name upon the door. and Kate. The small shoes. And the coach. and a pile of harsh discoloured leather had unconsciously given place to the very same little pair of black silk stockings. the toilet was completed. all Kate’s little finery for the day. and such small gear. who had expected no more uncommon appearance than Newman Noggs in a clean shirt. and that there were two or three others in the hall. rattled. and whipped. the wearer’s smartness. and tumbled on together. with many adieux to her mother. old. seated herself in it. or picturing. to the owner’s form—will take. so she accepted the 232 . or had emigrated to better quarters: and. and swore. gloomy building. In good time. as quickly as if there had been a man behind it.

where she was left alone. If she had been surprised at the apparition of the footman. and swore more than she would have thought quite necessary. that there were several gentlemen with no very musical voices. she 233 . as he spoke. and dinner will be announced directly afterwards—that’s all. and Ralph himself. and have had time to think of it previously. as people much more conversant with society often are. ‘I couldn’t see you before.’ Kate would have entreated a few minutes’ respite. ‘I don’t know any. encountered her on every side.’ ‘Must I go in immediately?’ asked Kate. she heard a series of loud double knocks at the street-door. who talked very loud. but reflecting that her uncle might consider the payment of the hackney-coach fare a sort of bargain for her punctuality. the door opened. a little flurried. the most exquisite pictures. presented his crafty face. when they are about to enter a room full of strangers. At length. was ushered upstairs. drawing back a little. shrugging his shoulders. The very staircase nearly down to the hall-door. was crammed with beautiful and luxurious things. divested of his boots. The softest and most elegant carpets.’ said Ralph. But this was a question of taste. to the next room. ‘I was engaged in receiving them. and after every knock some new voice in the next room. and all she could ascertain was. she was perfectly absorbed in amazement at the richness and splendour of the furniture. ‘As you please.’ said Kate. laughed very heartily. which. shortly. and pointing. but by degrees they merged into the general buzz of conversation. articles of richest ornament. as though the house were brimful of riches. quite dazzling from their beauty and perplexing from the prodigality with which they were scattered around. uncle. in a low tone.’ he said.’ said Ralph. ‘are there any ladies here?’ ‘No. and entering the house. would fairly run over into the street. into a back drawing-room. Now—shall I take you in?’ ‘Pray.Charles Dickens laced coat-sleeve which was tendered her. the costliest mirrors. my dear. ‘They are all come. the tones of Mr Ralph Nickleby were easily distinguishable at first. Presently. with a very trifling addition. and ceremoniously embellished with black silks and shoes.

’ said Ralph. Then wheeling about again. as if in great surprise.’ The group dispersed. and something longer upon town. as they were talking very loud.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY suffered him to draw her arm through his. something older. ‘Otherwise the most knowing card in the pa-ack.’ said his lordship. turning round. and brought the blood 234 . and stared at Miss Nickleby in great surprise. and a white-headed person at the table as Colonel Chowser. ‘Mr Pyke.’ said Ralph.’ ‘Introduce me.’ said Lord Frederick Verisopht. ‘Don’t leave me out. ‘Sir Mulberry Hawk. were not aware of their entrance until Mr Ralph Nickleby.’ said Ralph. said in a harsh emphatic voice. reading the paper.’ cried a gentleman with a flushed face and a flash air. The colonel was in conversation with somebody. There were two circumstances which. and said in a loud whisper that the girl was ‘deyvlish pitty. Ralph introduced him as the Honourable Mr Snobb. and to lead her away.’ And then his lordship turned to another superlative gentleman. ‘Eh!’ said the gentleman. something redder in the face. ‘What—the—deyvle!’ With which broken ejaculations. and a young face. Miss Nickleby. ‘Nor me. a moustache. in this early stage of the party. who was sitting on a low chair with a high back. and was not introduced at all. my niece. ‘Then my ears did not deceive me.’ cried a sharp-faced gentleman. and. ‘My niece. ‘How de do? I’m very happy. a head of hair. Seven or eight gentlemen were standing round the fire when they went in. struck home to Kate’s bosom. Nickleby. as if to attract general attention— ‘Lord Frederick Verisopht. he fixed his glass in his eye. Nickleby. and the gentleman addressed.’ said this second gentleman. who appeared to be a make-weight.’ said Ralph. touching one on the coat-sleeve. exhibited a suit of clothes of the most superlative cut. and it’s not wa-a-x work. towards a gentleman with the neck of a stork and the legs of no animal in particular. from the elbow of Sir Mulberry Hawk. Nickleby. and both elbows on the chimneypiece. my lord. Miss Nickleby. ‘Mr Pluck. who was lounging with his back to the fire. something stouter. a pair of whiskers of similar quality.

‘very good. When Ralph had completed the ceremonial of introduction. for Sir Mulberry Hawk. that she will have quite as strong an innate sense of the decencies and proprieties of life as if she had run the gauntlet of a dozen London seasons—possibly a stronger one. Lord Frederick. shot dexterously past Lord Frederick Verisopht who was about to lead Kate downstairs. the chances are. and fixing it in his left. and terminated it with a pleasant oath regarding Mr Nickleby’s limbs. done duty on Kate.’ ‘Nickleby.’ said Mr Pluck. ‘and one that would almost warrant the addition of an extra two and a half per cent.’ said his lordship. ‘Not a bad idea. until now. for such senses have been known to blunt in this improving process. where it had. Nickleby. for however fresh from the country a young lady (by nature) may be. ‘No. and Miss Nickleby and I settled the matter with our eyes ten minutes ago. he glanced warily round as though to assure himself of the impression which her unlooked-for appearance had created.’ ‘Ha. and then they were thrown into fresh ecstasies by a similar cause. and give me half for the advice. and however unacquainted with conventional behaviour. and tack it on the other five-and-twenty. ‘Designed to surprise you.Charles Dickens tingling to her face. As he did so. when dinner was announced. or whatever it is. damn it. and the other. These gentlemen had not yet quite recovered the jest. ‘fair play’s a jewel. very good. he led his blushing niece to a seat. the easy insolence of their manner towards herself. ‘take the hint. to bring it to bear on Ralph.’ Sir Mulberry garnished this speech with a hoarse laugh. ‘An unexpected playsure. taking his glass out of his right eye. ha. whereat Messrs Pyke and Pluck laughed consumedly. ha!’ laughed the honourable Mr Snobb.’ 235 . Verisopht. it needed no great penetration to foresee. That the first symptom was very likely to lead to the aggravation of the second. and drew her arm through his up to the elbow. in an excess of humour.’ said Lord Frederick Verisopht.’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk. And here Mr Ralph Nickleby had reckoned without his host. in a thick coarse voice.’ said Sir Mulberry. One was the flippant contempt with which the guests evidently regarded her uncle.

above which. who were. evidently. ‘how can you a-ask me?’ ‘Well. ‘Of course.’ replied Lord Frederick. it was not difficult to see.’ said Lord Frederick. weak and silly as he was. so he has. where he was supported by Messrs Pyke and Pluck.’ said Lord Frederick. with Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Frederick Verisopht on either side. jocosely.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘What is the matter. ‘I think I shall cut him off with a shilling. my lord?’ demanded Ralph from the bottom of the table. when she found herself placed at the top of the table. curse it. of which he had undoubtedly gained the head.’ said Ralph with a sneer. ‘When you come to the shilling—the last shilling—I’ll cut you fast enough. ‘He has a tolerable share of everything that you lay claim to. as she felt it almost impossible to repress.’ ‘I wish you’d interfere here.’ said the young nobleman. he had struck out 236 .’ said Sir Mulberry. by himself and his creatures. Indeed. ‘This fellow.’ This sally (which was strictly founded on fact) was received with a general roar. With all the boldness of an original genius. I dare say. that the majority of the company preyed upon the unfortunate young lord. was plainly distinguishable the laughter of Mr Pyke and Mr Pluck. ‘and don’t mind Miss Nickleby and me. who.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Rendered additionally witty by this applause. fixing his eyes on Miss Nickleby. which roused in her gentle breast such burning indignation. you’ve found your way into our neighbourhood. ‘No. I’ll never leave you—you may take your oath of it.’ muttered Ralph. you attend to your dinner. ‘’Gad. and led Kate downstairs with an air of familiarity. for we shall prove very indifferent company.’ ‘I know. but till then.’ replied the young man. ‘Oh. young gentlemen of fortune—a genteel and elegant profession. ‘deyvle take me if I know which is master in my house. appeared by far the least vicious of the party. my lord. Sir Mulberry Hawk was remarkable for his tact in ruining. no. Sir Mulberry Hawk leered upon his friends most facetiously. Nor was the intensity of these feelings at all diminished. he or I. is monopolising your niece. Nickleby. have you?’ said Sir Mulberry as his lordship sat down. Hawk. Sir Mulberry’s toads in ordinary.

’ replied Ralph. considering any such efforts an invasion of his peculiar privilege. his custom being. he made them butts. in your time. as if astonished at his presumption.’ ‘You’ll have plenty of it. Sir Mulberry. ‘Well. as if nothing serious had taken place since breakfast. Messrs Pyke and Pluck stared at the individual whom Sir Mulberry Hawk stared at. and while he emptied them with great address. and to exercise his vivacity upon them openly. all I have to say is. The gallant colonel glanced at Messrs Pyke and Pluck as if he thought they ought to laugh at his joke. As a matter of course.Charles Dickens an entirely new course of treatment quite opposed to the usual method. so. ‘if this is a discounting dinner. on the appearance of the dessert. ‘On your lordship’s circumstances. for the diversion of society. sipping his first glass of port.’ interposed Colonel Chowser of the Militia—and the race-courses. and audibly stated his impression that it was an ‘infernal liberty. the poor 237 . if it wouldn’t be a good pla-an to get discount every day. in which respect Messrs Pyke and Pluck particularly signalised themselves. these two gentlemen eating of every dish. They were remarkably fresh. to his signal discomfiture.’ returned Sir Mulberry Hawk. in a double sense. The dinner was as remarkable for the splendour and completeness of its appointments as the mansion itself. too. ‘Nickleby will tell you that. being only engaged to laugh for Sir Mulberry Hawk. were. Thus. rather to keep them down than to give them their own way. as grave as a pair of undertakers. when he had gained the ascendancy over those he took in hand. with a capacity and perseverance truly astonishing. Nickleby?’ inquired the young man. my lord. deyvle take me. and without reserve. and the company were remarkable for doing it ample justice. and drinking of every bottle. but those gentlemen. caused them to ring with sundry well-administered taps. and surveyed the object of censure as if he were some extraordinary wild animal then exhibiting for the first time. eyed the offender steadily.’ said Lord Frederick.’ which being a hint to Lord Frederick. through his glass.’ ‘What do you say. notwithstanding their great exertions: for. To add to his defeat. they broke out again. he put up HIS glass. ‘am I to be a good customer?’ ‘It depends entirely on circumstances.

’ said Mr Pluck. there was an unusual huskiness.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘Pray do not make me the subject of any bets. The latter gentleman was obliging enough to direct general attention towards her. in whose grating voice.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY colonel. ‘Far more. ‘for one tolerable look at Miss Nickleby’s eyes is worth double the money.’ said Sir Mulberry. for if she does. ‘Pray. what was still more embarrassing. Snobb?’ asked Sir Mulberry Hawk. with a loud laugh. there is nothing in it. ‘I—’ and then she stopped. and tell me she wasn’t thinking so. All this while.’ ‘So she does.’ said Kate. lest they should encounter the admiring gaze of Lord Frederick Verisopht.’ said Mr Pyke. or. ‘It is done in a moment. scarcely daring to raise her eyes. to hide his confusion. 238 .’ said Mr Pyke. and would rather that the proposition had not been broached. I cannot really—’ ‘Why not.’ said the noble youth. ‘Within ten minutes. Kate had sat as silently as she could. as though he spoke unwillingly. Uncle. ‘I’ll hold any man fifty pounds. ‘wondering why the deuce somebody doesn’t make love to her.’ observed Sir Mulberry. I lose. ‘Here is Miss Nickleby. but I shall be glad to see her bright eyes. especially as she favours the mahogany so much. the bold looks of his friend Sir Mulberry.’ said Kate. ‘Quite cruel. ‘That is.’ ‘Done!’ cried the noble gull. however. was reduced to the necessity of holding his port before his right eye and affecting to scrutinise its colour with the most lively interest. looking hastily up.’ said Sir Mulberry. and the Honourable Mr Snobb was elected to the double office of stake-holder and time-keeper.’ said Mr Pluck. ‘that Miss Nickleby can’t look in my face. indeed. my dear?’ replied Ralph. If the gentlemen insist on it—’ ‘I don’t insist on it. The money was produced on both sides. feeling it would have been better to have said nothing at all. and it’s too ba-a-d of you.’ ‘Done!’ responded Sir Mulberry. I by no means insist upon Miss Nickleby’s making the denial. ‘How goes the enemy. while these preliminaries were in course of completion. in great confusion. ‘Horrid cruel. Miss Nickleby.’ ‘More. ‘I don’t care if I do lose.’ ‘No.

that her uncle wished to see her before she left. who. ‘Miss Nickleby and I understand each other. who was so overwhelmed with confusion that she scarcely knew what she did. had eyed them like a wolf. ‘you’ll soon hand over. so repulsive in the look which met her. my buck. Ralph. responded. old fellow. There was something so odious.’ ‘Ha. that. she rose and hurried from the room. You haven’t a chance. for his distempered sport. ‘You needn’t trouble yourself to inquire.’ It is needless to say. ha. raised her eyes. and then gave them vent. while the attention of the other guests was attracted to the principals in the preceding scene. with great warmth of manner. Mr Pluck.’ said Sir Mulberry. appeared to breathe more freely now his niece was gone. and looked him in the face. which had been uttered with great coarseness and vulgarity of manner. Snobb?’ ‘Eight minutes gone. every idle thought within them. The poor girl. ‘Capital!’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk. after a short interval. in some degree. as they warmed with wine. She restrained her tears by a great effort until she was alone upstairs. and 239 . and lay bare. Time. to this proposal. but fearing that by so doing she might seem to countenance Sir Mulberry’s boast. she declares on my side.’ ‘Bravo!’ ‘Won’t you ma-ake one effort for me. ‘That’s a girl of spirit. who always came second. and topped his companion if he could. and we’ll drink her health. left wholly to herself. or that the toast was drunk with many little insinuations from the firm. without the power to stammer forth a syllable. with looks that seemed to search their hearts. he leaned back in his chair. and shows her taste. relative to the completeness of Sir Mulberry’s conquest. had determined to remain perfectly quiet.Charles Dickens ‘Four minutes gone.’ said Sir Mulberry.’ ‘Get the money ready. Miss Nickleby?’ asked Lord Frederick. Meanwhile Kate. and turned his eyes from speaker to speaker. so insolent. had. She had learnt from a female attendant. ha!’ laughed Mr Pyke. screamed outright. the decanters passing quickly round. recovered her composure. putting the stakes in his pocket. that Pyke and Co.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY had also gleaned the satisfactory intelligence.’ ‘I wish you to understand. sir. ‘What a delightful studiousness!’ said this accomplished gentleman. Such a devoted slave of yours. and forcibly detained her. they’re perfect. upon my soul it is. ‘upon my life. however. looking anxiously towards the door. but speaking with great indignation. don’t. contributed greatly to calm her agitation. her heart swelling with anger. sir. be more natural—do. and destroy such a pretty little picture?’ ‘Do me the favour to be silent now. evidently the worse—if a man be a ruffian at heart. Sir Mulberry caught her dress.’ ‘Now why. She started sometimes. Why did I speak. she endeavoured to fix her attention more closely on her book.’ Kate hastily rose.’ she cried.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘No. that the gentlemen would take coffee at table. Nothing occurring. you oughtn’t to. The prospect of seeing them no more. Lounging on an ottoman close beside her. and more than once rose in great alarm. Miss Nickleby—it’s an infernal thing to treat him so harshly. he is never the better— for wine. when the sudden opening of the dining-room door let loose a wild shout of noisy revelry. and. taking up a book. made no reply. you will leave me. to realise her apprehensions.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘Let me go. in which by degrees she became so much interested.’ 240 . trembling in spite of herself. The book fell from her hand. sir. ‘Upon my soul. was Sir Mulberry Hawk.’ said Kate. If you have a spark of gentlemanly feeling remaining. now. when she was terrified by suddenly hearing her name pronounced by a man’s voice close at her ear. as a fancied footstep on the staircase impressed her with the fear that some stray member of the party was returning alone. she composed herself to read.’ replied Kate. ‘I have looked at ‘em for five minutes. and bringing himself still closer to the young lady. ‘that your behaviour offends and disgusts me.’ said Sir Mulberry. be more natural—my dear Miss Nickleby. folding his crushed hat to lay his elbow on. or only to display the eyelashes?’ Kate. ‘why will you keep up this appearance of excessive rigour. ‘Do you hear? Instantly—this moment. my sweet creature? Now. that she had read on through several chapters without heed of time or place. ‘Was it real. but as she rose.

’ said Sir Mulberry. without me. and walked towards the door. and confronting Ralph again. sir.’ ‘Unhand me. did you?’ he said. fiercely.’ cried Kate. ‘What is this?’ said Ralph. ‘Damme. in a suppressed voice. Mr Ralph Nickleby appeared in the doorway. As Kate sprung forward to leave the room. I have been exposed to insult which should make you shrink to look upon me. you old madman?’ asked Sir Mulberry. Thus speaking. ‘Your way lies there. who had by this time risen.’ rejoined Sir Mulberry. muttering as he went.’ said Ralph. and returning. that some devil might have owned with pride. ‘Do you know me. sit down. ‘Who brought him to you first?’ pursued Sir Mulberry.’ said Ralph. nevertheless: for he led her to a distant seat. sir.Charles Dickens ‘Sit down. but the young lady. ‘and how. he lost his balance. yourself. motioned towards the door. your dead brother’s child. but he did not comply with her injunction. ‘Well. making a violent effort to disengage herself. stopping short when he reached the door. could you ever have wound him in your net as you have?’ ‘The net is a large one. I was in the way. was I?’ Ralph smiled again.’ re241 . ‘I want to talk to you. and the nerves about his mouth worked as though some unendurable emotion wrung them. ‘You wanted the lord. and rather full. this instant. but made no answer. ‘Not for the world. but he smiled disdainfully.’ ‘You would sell your flesh and blood for money.’ Ralph did shrink. and confronted her. sir. and again pointed to the door. should most have found protection. as the indignant girl fixed her kindling eye upon him. and measured his length upon the ground. as if to replace her in her chair. The swoln veins stood out like sinews on Ralph’s wrinkled forehead. Let me pass you. a helpless girl. as if a new light had broken in upon him. ‘It is this.’ said Ralph. violently agitated: ‘that beneath the roof where I. if you have not already made a bargain with the devil.’ replied Kate. he leaned over. ‘Take care that it chokes nobody in the meshes. ‘What do you mean by that?’ demanded his friend. and approaching Sir Mulberry Hawk. The fashionable vagabond for the moment quite quailed under the steady look of the older sinner.

His friend closed the door. than you have been? Come. that’s the word.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY torted the other. ‘Exactly so. ‘You’re coming to yourself again now. as a man who has made up his mind to say no more. His adversary saw the advantage he had gained. 242 .’ ‘—As a matter of business. and a little less flourishing. The eyes of the two worthies met. Ralph looked involuntarily round to ascertain that Kate had not moved her position so as to be within hearing. you wouldn’t have been a little more blind.’ ‘Especially as there was nothing to be got by it—eh?’ sneered Sir Mulberry. Nickleby. with an expression as if each rascal felt that there was no disguising himself from the other. She had flung herself heavily upon the couch. and looked over his shoulder to make this last reply. with a little management. and with her head drooping over the cushion. and looked restlessly towards the spot where his niece still remained in the attitude in which he had left her. But if I thought to draw him on more gently by this device.’ ‘I tell you this.’ he asked again. ‘that if I brought her here. seemed to be still weeping in an agony of shame and grief. as a matter of business—’ ‘Ay. speaking slowly and firmly. ‘Do you mean to tell me that your pretty niece was not brought here as a decoy for the drunken boy downstairs?’ Although this hurried dialogue was carried on in a suppressed tone on both sides. And now we understand each other. ‘because I thought she might make some impression on the silly youth you have taken in hand and are lending good help to ruin. ‘that it is not so? Do you mean to say that if he had found his way up here instead of me. he would. and followed it up. answer me that. I did not think of subjecting the girl to the licentiousness and brutality of so old a hand as you.’ interposed Sir Mulberry.’ said Ralph. and Sir Mulberry Hawk shrugged his shoulders and walked slowly out. ‘Do you mean to tell me. I knew—knowing him—that it would be long before he outraged her girl’s feelings. He had turned away. respect the sex and conduct even of his usurer’s niece. and that unless he offended by mere puppyism and emptiness.’ replied Ralph. and a little more deaf.’ pursued Ralph. and her face hidden in her hands. with a laugh.

’ ‘Oh. but—’ ‘Only listen to me for a moment. hush! Don’t mind it. ‘Hush.’ ‘Yes. who had done no wrong save that of coming into the world alive. ‘What have I done —what have I done—that you should subject me to this? If I had wronged you in thought.’ ‘Well. But you must dry your eyes first. ‘Hush. ‘Let me leave this house. now. here was a young girl. ‘but you must get back your own looks. as she drew it back. then. yes. and the heat of these lamps.’ ‘I will do anything. ‘You shall. without the smallest concern.Charles Dickens Ralph would have walked into any poverty-stricken debtor’s house. In the same manner. don’t think of it. There.—Come. You will be better now. then. You look better even now. uncle!’ exclaimed Kate. well. with his niece leaning on his arm. it was impossible for me to foresee it. and go home. who had patiently yielded to all his wishes. nearer again. Now let us walk the other way. who had tried hard to please him—above all. and finally sat himself on the same sofa. and her sobs burst out afresh. it would have been most cruel to me. let me go home. and laid his hand on Kate’s arm. and pointed him out to a bailiff. seriously alarmed by the violence of her emotions. actually trembling beneath her touch. or word. when he judged it prudent to allow 243 . or deed. moved a little nearer still. let us walk about. then. clasping her hands.’ ‘Oh. There—there. Ralph took a chair at some distance. Let me raise your head. another chair a little nearer. my dear!’ he said.’ replied Kate. for those you have. I will. because it would have been a matter quite in the ordinary course of business. But. though in attendance upon a young child’s death-bed. I did all I could. who didn’t owe him money—and he felt awkward and nervous. will frighten them. and compose yourself.’ cried Kate. Ralph Nickleby walked to and fro.’ interrupted Ralph. if you make the slightest effort. You are faint with the closeness of the room.’ With such encouragements as these. for pity’s sake. and nobody must know of this but you and I.’ said Ralph. and the memory of one you must have loved in some old time. ‘if you will only send me home.’ said Ralph. and the man would have been an offender against his only code of morality. ‘I didn’t know it would be so.

a comb fell from Kate’s hair.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY her to depart. he supported her downstairs. as a man who had seen a spirit from some world beyond the grave. the flushed cheek. She must have been crying. close at her uncle’s feet. headaches don’t occasion red eyes. who was proof against all appeals of blood and kindred—who was steeled against every tale of sorrow and distress—staggered while he looked. TO WHOM HE EXPRESSES HIS SENTIMENTS WITH MUCH CANDOUR. Across the hall. Ralph led her too. she cogitated a good deal upon the probable causes of her young friend’s indisposition. LITTLE MISS LA CREEVY trotted briskly through divers streets at the west end of the town. As the door of the vehicle was roughly closed. and the face of his dead brother seemed present before him. CHAPTER 20 WHEREIN NICHOLAS AT LENGTH ENCOUNTERS HIS UNCLE. ‘Her eyes were decidedly red last night. with a view to the selection of the very best in which to couch her communication. The lock of hair that had escaped and curled loosely over her brow. the light from a neighbouring lamp shone upon her face. after adjusting her shawl and performing such little offices. HIS RESOLUTION. the traces of tears yet scarcely dry.’ 244 . of which every minutest circumstance flashed upon his mind. with the distinctness of a scene of yesterday. revolving in her mind various genteel forms and elegant turns of expression. most probably for the first time in his life. ‘I don’t know what to make of it. and as he picked it up. the look of sorrow. nor did he withdraw his hand until she was seated in the coach. but hoped to be enabled to resume her duties on the morrow. with the very look it bore on some occasion of boyish grief. And as Miss La Creevy walked along. and down the steps. and returned it into her hand. She said she had a headache. Ralph Nickleby. and went back into his house. all fired some dormant train of recollection in the old man’s breast. early on Monday morning—the day after the dinner—charged with the important commission of acquainting Madame Mantalini that Miss Nickleby was too unwell to attend that day.’ said Miss La Creevy.

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.’ said the queer little soul. whereupon Miss Knag appeared.’ ‘Oh. you see. and many obligations for your extreme politeness and good breeding. ma’am. during which both ladies had trembled very much. which. talked to herself. highly offended. on people who offended her. indeed. ma’am. ‘Good-morning to you. with many ornaments of speech. unless it was the behaviour of that old bear. requested an interview with the second in command. active.’ said Miss Knag. I suppose? Unpleasant brute!’ Relieved by this expression of opinion. ‘But. and into the street.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy. I have not. was as sarcastic as she could be. ‘Nothing at all. you are not mistress of the business. Miss La Creevy trotted on to Madame Mantalini’s. Cross to her. indeed. ‘I can’t think of anything. ‘Then good-morning. made a confidante of herself. ma’am!’ rejoined Miss La Creevy. ‘I could spare Miss Nickleby for evermore. and being informed that the governing power was not yet out of bed. ‘So far as I am concerned. when the message had been delivered. Here was one of the advantages of having lived alone so long! The little bustling.’ said Miss Knag. cheerful creature existed entirely within herself. ma’am.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy. ma’am.’ So.’ ‘Very good. pleased herself.’ said Miss Knag. ‘I wonder who that is. and did no harm. Thus terminating the interview. Miss La Creevy had a hearty laugh.’ said the little portrait painter. she had established to her perfect satisfaction on the previous evening. If she 245 . and went home to breakfast in great good humour. and been marvellously polite—certain indications that they were within an inch of a very desperate quarrel—Miss La Creevy bounced out of the room. albeit it was vented upon empty air.Charles Dickens Arriving at this conclusion. and therefore it’s of no great consequence. I should think! I wish I had the painting of her: I’d do her justice. by herself. ‘Have you any further commands for me?’ ‘No. ‘A nice person to know. feeling quite satisfied that she had said a very cutting thing at Miss Knag’s expense.

immediately took Miss La Creevy at her word.’ said Miss La Creevy.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY indulged in scandal.’ said Miss La Creevy. I’ll tell you what. when the servant announced a gentleman. run with ‘em into the bedroom.’ ‘Mr Nicholas!’ cried Miss La Creevy. ‘You had better try.’ ‘You would not be very angry. though brimful of the friendliest feelings to all mankind. ‘You told me to try. but contented way for many years. ‘Hannah. dear. to think that I should be late on this particular morning. extending his hand. just now. and if she enjoyed a little bit of revenge. There are many warm hearts in the same solitary guise as poor little Miss La Creevy’s. was in unspeakable consternation at the presence of the tea-things. ‘I never saw such a rude creature!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy. the humble artist had pursued her lonely. ‘I told the servant not to mention my name. and a disinclination to mix with the society they could obtain. a consequent inability to form the associations they would wish. would you?’ asked Nicholas. ‘Here. starting in great astonishment. that’s all!’ Nicholas. had made no friends. and had scarcely caught the full flavour of her first sip of tea. London is as complete a solitude as the plains of Syria. that’s neither here nor there. and that’s the truth. until the peculiar misfortunes of the Nickleby family attracted her attention. 246 . another cup and saucer. young man. ‘You have not forgotten me. who uttered a faint scream and slapped his face. ‘Wouldn’t I!’ said Miss La Creevy. I think I should even have known you if I had met you in the street. ‘Why. and. I’ll trouble you not to repeat the impertinence you were guilty of. because I wished to surprise you. She went home to breakfast. with becoming gallantry.’ said Nicholas. ‘Dear. no living soul was one atom the worse. However. of all others. take ‘em away. from straitened circumstances. whereat Miss La Creevy. nobody’s reputation suffered. anywhere. with a smile. Now. on the morning you went away. I see.’ replied Nicholas. but it was not a very hard slap. at once imagining a new sitter transfixed by admiration at the street-door case.’ said a voice Miss La Creevy knew. One of the many to whom. 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.

with a more sprightly air. ‘what are you telling me?’ ‘Nothing which need distress you quite so much. and I knew nothing of his arrival until late last night. that Nicholas was quite moved. ‘neither did I come here to bewail my lot. to justify myself.’ said Nicholas. ‘there may be no great difference of opinion between you and me.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘That’s quite another matter. that I desire to confront him. you seem thinner than when I saw you last. I dare say. indeed!’ retorted Miss La Creevy. and giving them his version of the occurrences that have befallen me. since I left London. ‘for I have undergone some suffering. Well?’ ‘To this end.’ replied Nicholas. ‘on some kind.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘I have reason to believe.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy.’ rejoined Miss La Creevy. but I shouldn’t cry my eyes quite out of my head. I should tell you that first. ‘Heaven forgive me. Mr Nicholas!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy. I will meet him there. but I was speaking ironically.’ ‘And did you see him?’ asked Miss La Creevy. by a friend of mine who is acquainted with his movements. ‘you should have told me that. ‘He had gone out. ‘He only returned to town on Saturday.’ ‘I dare say you didn’t know. ‘Oh! that’s another thing. if they choked him. too. ‘from what has been told me.’ 247 . I called upon him this morning. but on matter more to the purpose. but you will understand.’ pursued Nicholas.’ ‘Good Heaven.Charles Dickens ‘Well.’ ‘Then all I have to say about that is. ‘No.’ he said. would put me out of humour for a fortnight. now I look at you again. I have been very poor.’ ‘Hah!’ said Miss La Creevy. I wish to meet my uncle face to face. after a short silence. and have even suffered from want. so far. and your face is haggard and pale. ‘that I don’t envy you your taste. charitable business. both of mind and body. ‘But.’ ‘In the main. that he intends seeing my mother and sister today. ‘I need look somewhat changed.’ answered Nicholas. and to cast his duplicity and malice in his throat. and that sitting in the same room with his very boots. for there was so much heart in her altered tone and manner. too. And how come you to have left Yorkshire?’ She stopped here.’ interposed Miss La Creevy.

’ ‘I have considered others. as Newman Noggs supposed he would) gone straight to his sister-in-law. and see what effect that has on you. admitted by a girl who was cleaning the house. and Miss La Creevy took a seat in silence. and that I shall be with them in a quarter of an hour afterwards. ‘very pretty. and if I went wholly unexpected. ‘And yet. ‘And all I want you to do for me.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ Talking on very fast and very much. Hence. when Miss La Creevy. Miss La Creevy finished her breakfast with great expedition. are you.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘That’s right. ‘Then he shall announce himself. my gentleman?’ thought the little woman. a greater. made her way to the sitting-room.’ said Ralph.’ said Miss La Creevy. sallied forth at once to the city.’ ‘I wish I could do you. folding up Miss Squeers’s note.’ 248 . for his own purposes. They think me a long way off. ‘In this case I hope so.’ rejoined Nicholas.’ ‘This is pretty. for I knew he would never do any good—to a man with whom. she found Mrs Nickleby and Kate in tears.’ ‘I never will believe it. ‘there is much to be thought of—others to be considered. ‘but the power to serve.’ ‘You should know best. I should frighten them. had (instead of first proceeding to another quarter of the town on business. behaving himself properly. as the will is with the power. ‘but as honesty and honour are both at issue. Nicholas left her near the door of his mother’s house. taking Nicholas’s arm. ‘never. ‘You are here already. which carries its own falsehood with it. to communicate the atrocities of which Nicholas had been guilty. at length seeing fit. put away the teacaddy and hid the key under the fender. you will do me a great service. for years. and. he might have remained. indignantly. is.’ answered Nicholas. resumed her bonnet. I think.’ said Kate. is as seldom joined with the will. to prepare them for my coming.’ she added. It so chanced that Ralph Nickleby. or any of you. Kate beckoned her not to retire. I recommend him—against all my previous conviction. What is the result? Conduct for which he might hold up his hand at the Old Bailey. It is some base conspiracy. I don’t know. rubbing her hands. nothing shall deter me. and promised to return within a quarter of an hour. in comfort.’ said Miss La Creevy. and Ralph just concluding his statement of his nephew’s misdemeanours. If you can spare time to tell them that you have seen me.

to deliver him up to justice. your brother is not to be found. regarding 249 . how can you sit and hear such statements?’ Poor Mrs Nickleby. at Kate. ‘and yet I would not.’ ‘It is impossible. ‘everything combines to prove the truth of this letter. ‘It would be my duty.’ said Ralph. and possibly of alarm.’ added Ralph. he stood. who had. Do innocent men steal away from the sight of honest folks. after a long silence. as a man of the world and a man of business. I would spare the feelings of his—of his sister. broken only by Mrs Nickleby’s sobs. ‘you wrong the worthy man. as the door was dashed open.Charles Dickens ‘My dear. and seemed for the moment quite unconscious of her presence. 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. fixed and immovable with folded arms. what do you call these?’ ‘A lie!’ cried a voice. And his mother of course. and skulk in hiding-places. She looked involuntarily towards Ralph as he ceased to speak. speaking in a very marked manner. to pursue.’ said Ralph. ‘Nicholas!—and a thief too! Mama. ‘my bounden duty. at no time. and Nicholas came into the room. and who had been reduced by the late changes in her affairs to a most complicated state of perplexity. and with far less emphasis. if indeed there were any possibility of disputing it. I should have no other course. ‘Everything. and looking furtively. but he had turned his eyes another way. quite taken off his guard by this unexpected apparition. but fixedly.’ said Ralph. as though by an afterthought.’ said Kate. if he came in my way. made no other reply to this earnest remonstrance than exclaiming from behind a mass of pocket-handkerchief. Ralph rose from his seat. that she never could have believed it— thereby most ingeniously leaving her hearers to suppose that she did believe it. goes with him— remember. remember. been remarkable for the possession of a very clear understanding. and prowl with them about the country as idle robbers do? Assault. In another moment. theft. like outlaws? Do innocent men inveigle nameless vagabonds. These are not inventions. In the first moment of surprise. And yet. and fell back a few paces. of whom they speak. this boy. riot. The man is assaulted.’ said Ralph.

’ said Nicholas.’ replied Ralph. go to it when he would. I inflicted such punishment upon a wretch as he will not readily forget. to prevent the personal violence which the fierce excitement of Nicholas appeared to threaten. If the same scene were renewed before me now. of attacking your master.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘I interfered. and brand him with such marks as he should carry to his grave. looking round. that she could scarcely bear the pain.’ ‘Refute these calumnies. ‘Whose ears have been poisoned by you.’ cried his sister. Kate!’ cried Nicholas. and brought disgrace on them?’ said Nicholas. young man. Tell us what you really did. ‘that I have seen all this. and show that they are untrue. quietly. but I would strike harder and heavier. I need be made of iron to stand before him.’ said Ralph. and youthful misery stalks precocious. runs wanton.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY his nephew with a scowl.’ ‘Oh dear. ‘Dear Nicholas.’ ‘Of what do they—or of what does he—accuse me?’ said Nicholas.’ ‘Or bronze. so that you may give them no advantage. sir. ‘Penitence. and withers as it grows. motioning towards her. where the lightness of childhood shrinks into the heaviness of age. worthy of yourself. ‘that things should have come to such a pass as this!’ ‘Who speaks in a tone. bluster as you will. consider—’ ‘Consider. I call Heaven to witness. I would take the same part. looking eagerly round. ‘by you—who. while Kate and Miss La Creevy threw themselves between the two. under pretence of deserving the thanks she poured upon you. ‘When I consider all.’ interposed Ralph. clinging to him. and think of what has passed. who sent me to a den where sordid cruelty. and that he knows it. ‘Your mother. ‘Be calm. ‘there is not hardihood enough in flesh and blood to face it out. clasping her hand so tight in the tumult of his anger. ‘First. turning to Mrs Nickleby. as if I had done wrong. and indignity upon my head. You. though far less than he deserved from me.’ said Kate.’ ‘You hear?’ said Ralph. ‘and be more patient. and being within an ace of qualifying yourself to be tried for murder. In so doing. and its every promise blights. dear!’ cried Mrs Nickleby. wrong.’ said Nicholas. this!’ 250 . ‘to save a miserable creature from the vilest cruelty. ‘I speak plainly. heaped every insult.

’ said Kate. embracing his sister. at once. sir?’ ‘No. mama.’ rejoined Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. ‘Dear Nicholas. and consider what I tell them. I only tell you. ‘I don’t know what to think. the extent of her worldly knowledge being. sir.’ replied Nicholas. He then 251 . ‘No. even upon his own confession. ‘I take little heed of what you say or threaten. Do you choose to restore that boy. I entreat you. looking towards her uncle. love. is with me now. from brutality and hard usage. ‘everything proved. ‘About this boy. to say the least. dropped—as I suppose— a worthless ring among some clothes of mine. but they accuse you of—a ring is missing.’ repeated Nicholas. I knew. I really don’t. will you hear a word or two from me?’ ‘You can speak when and what you please. I would that I knew on whom he has the claim of birth: I might wring something from his sense of shame. in whose company they say you left?’ ‘The boy. that you may know what wickedness can prompt. struggling with an unhappy child. if he were dead to every tie of nature. who knows the world. very questionable. helpless creature.’ ‘Mighty well. haughtily.’ ‘Do not speak just now.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Now. At least.Charles Dickens ‘Oh dear me!’ cried Mrs Nickleby. ‘not to the man with whom I found him. for he smiled as she spoke. a silly. I do not. and they dare to say that—’ ‘The woman. sir.’ sobbed Mrs Nickleby. who may think it worth their while to listen. I will address your mother. early in the morning on which I left the house.’ ‘I knew.’ ‘Indeed!’ said Ralph. I returned it. appealing to the mother again.’ ‘Ah! and I only too dearly wish I didn’t. There really was no necessity for the good lady to be much distressed upon this particular head. and that I found it when I opened my bundle on the road. by coach.’ said Kate. ‘the wife of the fellow from whom these charges come.’ retorted Ralph. ‘You do not?’ sneered Ralph. I know that she was in the bedroom where they lay. ‘You hear?’ said Ralph. ‘but perhaps it may concern others. sir. and they have it now. and so Ralph seemed to think.

and more to leave her. having her at your house and all—and of course it would have been a great thing for her and for me too. ma’am. I say not one syllable. I am quite sure of that. or one crust of my bread.’ 252 .’ Pouring forth these and a perfectly wonderful train of other disjointed expressions of regret. I see you no more.” mama?’ asked Kate. but I will not encourage this compound of meanness and cruelty. and when Ralph noted his pale face and quivering lip. headstrong. even if he has done all you say he has—it’s not possible. I can bear it. Kate. or those who help him. I held out no promise. I regret to leave you. which no mortal power but Mrs Nickleby’s could ever have strung together. but I say that this boy. to save him from the loftiest gallows in all Europe. ‘I know you have been very good to us. that lady wrung her hands. you know. Innocent as the young man was of all wrong. and my niece.’ If Ralph had not known and felt his power in wounding those he hated. in all its force. his glances at Nicholas would have shown it him. every artful insinuation stung. now. he has come back in his selfish sloth.’ cried Mrs Nickleby. to be an aggravation of your wants. and. ‘You know he has not. and her tears fell faster. I dare say. as I will not ask you to renounce him. as he proceeded in the above address. with honest anger. ‘I can’t help it. every well-considered sarcasm cut him to the quick. or one grasp of my hand. so we must go to rack and ruin. my dear. should not have one penny of my money. and leave you to judge for yourself. for you. he hugged himself to mark how well he had chosen the taunts best calculated to strike deep into a young and ardent spirit.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY glanced steadily at her and Nicholas by turns. But I can’t. and meant to do a good deal for my dear daughter. or what I meant to do. I hold out no threat now. ‘Why do you say “If Nicholas has done what they say he has. I will not help him. as he delivered himself in these words: ‘Of what I have done. and it was very kind of you. With a full knowledge of what he brought upon you by so doing. I will not meet him. I couldn’t do it. come where he comes. brother-in-law. wilful and disorderly as he is. or hear his name. and a burden upon his sister’s scanty wages. I can’t renounce my own son. I know you did.

We can go to the Workhouse. tenderly. point to the course that I should take. one way or other. you should know her better.’ cried Kate. or the Magdalen Hospital. Do not keep me here.’ he whispered. Mrs Nickleby again gave way to her tears. but let me go at once. and want. as Ralph turned to go. speak to him. somebody.’ said Nicholas. I should bring you nothing but sorrow. ‘Nicholas is so violent. and the sooner we go the better. that I can only hear what he says. Be a woman.’ ‘Nicholas. till I can carry you to some home of mine. without one hand to help us. you will break my heart. proudly. for it will be relieved of my presence in one minute. and your uncle has so much composure. ‘I am no help to you. ‘but you will not leave us. before these terrible misfortunes came upon us. Dear girl—dear girl. I will not.Charles Dickens ‘I don’t know what to think. Oh! think of all the happy days we have had together. Never mind.’ The grasp which had detained him relaxed. before I darken these doors again.’ ‘You will be helped when I am away. of our having no protector under all the slights and wrongs that poverty so much favours. ‘and do not make me one. no. while he looks on. I may turn my back on this town a few hours sooner than I intended. no protector. My dear brother. And so all good angels bless you. and the trials we have to bear now.’ said Kate. Do not mind her. don’t let us talk any more about it. throwing herself on her brother’s shoulder. where we may revive the happiness denied to us now. My own mother sees it. and Kate 253 .’ said Mrs Nickleby. and suffering. she does not mean it. There. ‘do not say so. and not what Nicholas does. ‘Stay. or the Refuge for the Destitute. very long. but what of that? We shall not forget each other apart. and her fondness and fears for you.’ said Nicholas. my dear. Uncle. and better days will come when we shall part no more. and it will be long. for Heaven’s sake speak to him. of all the comfort and happiness of home. eagerly. Kate. and talk of these trials as of things gone by. ‘I never meant to stay among you. Mama.’ With this extraordinary jumble of charitable institutions. think better of me than to suppose it possible. and you cannot leave us to bear them alone.’ replied Nicholas hurriedly. Nicholas. I dare say. sir.’ ‘No.’ ‘I never meant. Kate. ‘You need not leave this place. Kate.

in a voice inaudible beyond themselves. Well. at your desire. and almost tempted him to return.’ thought Nicholas. to be again depressed. and poor Nicholas would brighten up again. some other and different feeling would come upon him.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY swooned in his arms. ‘I shall keep a strict account of. ‘for I know your nature. as the chief hope of his family—this was hard to bear. his being with them could only render their present condition worse. and placing her gently in a chair. He had not deserved it either. as his quickly shifting thoughts presented every variety of light and shade before him. with the rapidity of the thoughts which crowded upon him. and to be proscribed like a criminal. as it were. As he hurried through the streets to his obscure lodging. give way to the melancholy reflections which pressed thickly upon him. But what would they gain by this? Supposing he were to put Ralph Nickleby at defiance. and then he would lag again. and were even fortunate enough to obtain some small employment. to be separated from the only persons he loved.’ he said. and pulling his hat over his eyes. ‘No. He hardly knew that it was concluded. seeking to keep pace. There will be a day of reckoning sooner or later.’ he said. To have committed no fault. and yet to be so entirely alone in the world. 254 . ‘Whatever step you take. sir. ‘I have acted for the best. I leave them to you. confided her to their honest friend. ‘I need not entreat your sympathy.’ Ralph did not allow a muscle of his face to indicate that he heard one word of this parting address. when six months ago he had been surrounded by every comfort.’ He stepped up to Ralph. and might greatly impair their future prospects. Nicholas stooped over her for a few seconds. and looked up to. before he had gone five hundred yards. You will never forget them. and Mrs Nickleby had scarcely made up her mind to detain her son by force if necessary. wringing her hand. many doubts and hesitations arose in his mind. and it will be a heavy one for you if they are wronged. when Nicholas was gone.’ But. for his mother had spoken of some new kindnesses towards Kate which she had not denied. and moved not a finger. who remained in the same attitude which he had preserved throughout the interview. there was comfort in that.

‘Well.Charles Dickens Undergoing these alternations of hope and misgiving. and affected to be busied with some scanty preparations for dinner.’ ‘No. which no one. ‘let me hear what new acquaintances you have made this morning. I tried to go away today. He withdrew his eyes when he saw that he was observed. if I am steeped in poverty? You lighten it. ‘you grow thinner every day. no longer borne up by the excitement which had hitherto sustained him. where. ‘shall never be said by me.’ said Smike. and have got into great trouble by bringing me away. for all the world could give. Indeed I cannot bear to see you so. ‘I must talk of something else today. You grow. Smike.’ ‘Of what you like. and think how I am burdening you.’ 255 . before the week is out. can fail to have experienced. until. happening to raise his head. Nicholas at length reached his poor room.’ The poor fellow could say no more. Give me your hand. but depressed by the revulsion of feeling it left behind. gave free vent to the emotions he had so long stifled. laying his hand timidly on that of Nicholas. and his voice was gone. My heart is linked to yours. I would not lose you now. The thought of you has upheld me through all I have endured today. and we will be poor together.’ said Nicholas. placed in a situation of ordinary trial. through fifty times such trouble. good-humouredly. as cheerfully as he could speak. standing at the upper end of the room. ‘Of this. grasping him heartily by the shoulder. I could not leave you without a word. What.’ replied Nicholas. He had not heard anybody enter. indeed. and your eye more sunk. in the compass of this street and the next one. and turning his face to the wall. he threw himself on the bed. I ought to have known that. he saw him. or what new wonder you have found out. and shall. you have not enough for yourself. if I had thought it then. but the thought of your kind face drew me back.’ said Nicholas. for you are my only comfort and stay. Smike. and I should not be here. and stopped behind—I would. for his eyes filled with tears. and was unconscious of the presence of Smike.’ said the lad. shaking his head mournfully. looking wistfully towards him. You—you—are not rich. your cheek is paler. We will journey from this place together.’ said Smike. ‘I know you are unhappy. ‘The word which separates us.

that her powers of conversation were. at the expiration of which interval she betook herself at the accustomed hour. The young ladies still scrupulously shrunk from all companionship with their denounced associate. and when that exemplary female arrived a few minutes afterwards. seating herself with an air of weariness. as the satellites flocked round. thank you.’ remarked Madame Mantalini. wherewith she seemed meekly to compassionate the wickedness of mankind. and with languid steps. having passed this comment on the world. ‘Upon my word!’ said Miss Knag. rendered Kate Nickleby unable to resume her duties at the dressmaker’s for three days. The ill-will of Miss Knag had lost nothing of its virulence in the interval. 256 . she was at no pains to conceal the displeasure with which she regarded Kate’s return. concluded by heaving a sigh. when they know what an incumbrance their presence is to right-minded persons. in the tone in which most people do pass comments on the world when they are out of temper. when Kate presented herself. when the voice of Madame Mantalini. But it’s a queer world. and bite her lips so hard.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY CHAPTER 21 MADAM MANTALINI FINDS HERSELF IN A SITUATION OF SOME DIFFICULTY. as if they by no means belonged to it. that is to say. to the temple of fashion where Madame Mantalini reigned paramount and supreme. The attendants were not slow to echo the sigh. annihilated. AND MISS NICKLEBY FINDS HERSELF IN NO SITUATION AT ALL THE AGITATION SHE HAD undergone. ‘I should have thought some people would have had spirit enough to stop away altogether.’ replied Kate. and Miss Knag was apparently on the eve of favouring them with some further moral reflections. a distinction which caused Miss Knag to toss her head so much. ‘I wish I could say the same.’ said Madame Mantalini. ‘are you quite well again?’ ‘A great deal better. Miss Nickleby. oh! it’s a queer world!’ Miss Knag. conveyed through the speaking-tube. ‘Well. for the time. to relieve her of her bonnet and shawl. ordered Miss Nickleby upstairs to assist in the arrangement of the showroom. child.

engrossing. when it is blooming in the front room like a little rose in a demnition flower-pot?’ urged Mantalini.’ reasoned his wife. gently.’ replied his wife. not bear me!’ exclaimed Mantalini. ‘Fibs. do. putting his left arm round the waist of his life and soul. such a little Venus. his head.’ ‘Ah! and it’s much easier to talk than to bear either. but worried. to its own darling. ‘Bodily illness is more easy to bear than mental. child.’ rejoined Madame. ‘Why will it vex itself. that could tell me such a thing to my face—to my own face. there will be noth257 .’ replied his wife. no harm shall come. It couldn’t be. and cried in a soft voice— ‘Is my life and soul there?’ ‘No. ‘Such destructive extravagance.Charles Dickens ‘Are you ill?’ asked Kate. such a demd.’ rejoined Mr Mantalini. ‘There. made towards Madame Mantalini on tiptoe. ‘May its poppet come in and talk?’ ‘Certainly not. child—worried. ‘I am still more sorry to hear that.’ replied Madame: ‘you know I never allow you here. blowing her a kiss as he came along. rubbing her nose with much irritability of manner.’ ‘Not exactly ill. encouraged perhaps by the relenting tone of this reply. by degrees.’ said Mantalini. ‘I am very sorry for that. get to your work. ‘No harm will come. through the half-opened door. bewitching. There’s not a woman alive. ‘It is all over. and drawing her towards him with his right.’ said Kate. and put the things in order. ‘See what a situation you have placed me in!’ urged Madame. ‘Oh! I can’t bear you. enchanting. as he said this. stealing into the room. Mr Mantalini put the tips of his whiskers. ‘How can it say so. and twist its little face into bewitching nutcrackers?’ said Mantalini. captivating little Venus. ‘Not—eh. in a low tone. and.’ said Madame. ventured to rebel.’ While Kate was wondering within herself what these symptoms of unusual vexation portended. and glanced complacently at an opposite mirror. and. fibs.’ Mr Mantalini stroked his chin. however. Go along!’ The poppet. ‘All in its joy at having gained such a lovely creature.

‘I say. on looking round. money shall be got in. more than once. and part of a green coat were in the room too. to observe.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ing the matter. had overlooked. such as gaming. Kate busied herself in what she had to do. into the room. Kate’s very natural impression was. were profusely embroidered with splashes of mud. ‘Don’t you see?’ Mr Mantalini. Miss Nickleby hitherto. and a tendency to horse-flesh. or feigned to overlook. The clothes of this gentleman were much bespeckled with flue. as its relative importance demanded. caught a fortnight previously—before the setting-in of the fine weather. and a red neckerchief. sunk his voice still lower. The upshot of it all was. and furthermore. and also to an unexpected outlay of money in payment of the aforesaid debts. and that they went upstairs to breakfast. ‘What did you want?’ The stranger answered not. and started again. miss. old Nickleby shall stump up again. then. a great deal of whispering. who brought with him a mingled fumigation of stale tobacco and fresh onions. as though to beckon to some unseen person outside. 258 . this here’s the mantie-making consarn.’ said the proprietor of these appearances. came. to certain agreeable weaknesses on that gentleman’s part. in his eagerness to make up matters with his wife. and his shoes. and if it don’t come in fast enough. and was silently arranging the various articles of decoration in the best taste she could display. or have his jugular separated if he dares to vex and hurt the little—’ ‘Hush!’ interposed Madame. during which Madame Mantalini appeared to make reference. ‘Don’t alarm yourself. There was. and nether garments. first looking back. that a white hat. who. by one kiss or more. wasting. greatly astonished. and a large head. that Madame Mantalini was in raptures with him. stockings. and a broad round face. and was closely followed by a little man in brown. an’t it?’ ‘Yes. when she started to hear a strange man’s voice in the room. each of which matters of accusation Mr Mantalini disposed of. and laying his finger on his lip. from his heels to the waist buttons of his coat inclusive. very deliberately. idling. took the hint. very much the worse for wear. to certain debts incurred by Mr Mantalini previous to her coverture. but. that these engaging individuals had called with the view of possessing themselves.’ rejoined Kate.

vithout much fear of his ever bringing his head into contract vith the ceiling. mind you.’ After ringing the bell which would summon Madame Mantalini. on a piece of skyblue silk. aided by its reflection. proceeded to the minute consideration of a pimple on his chin. and standing with his back against it.’ said the man. Vere’s your govvernor?’ ‘My what—did you say?’ asked Kate. when her attention was attracted by Mr Scaley himself. Kate glanced at the card. closing it softly. entering the room. and afterwards. that’s all. who. remarked. gave it a hard poke in the centre with his stick. for she thought ‘governor’ might be slang for watch or money.’ together with some other information to which she had not had time to refer. ‘This is a unpleasant bisness.Charles Dickens unlawfully. I believe. ‘Wot’s come on him? Is he at home?’ ‘He is above stairs. by way of illustration. ‘that there was lots of room for a little boy to grow up a man in either on ‘em. of any portable articles that chanced to strike their fancy. ‘I don’t ezactly want him. at leisure. ‘that the rooms was a good high pitch. as coolly as if it had been made of cast iron.’ to which the friend assented. trembling. You can jist give him that ‘ere card. and. while Mr Scaley adjusted his neckcloth.’ With these words. a little reassured by this inquiry. 259 .’ said Mr Scaley to his friend.’ replied the visitor. the stranger put a thick square card into Kate’s hand. if it’s made a favour on. adding. here I am. uttered an exclamation of surprise which roused him. placing the marks of his four fingers. and made a move towards the door. and save trouble.’ From the silk. walking up to one of the cheval-glasses. ‘Wait a minnit. turning to his friend. before the glass. with an easy air.’ replied Kate. ‘Do you want him?’ ‘No. Tix. and tell him if he wants to speak to ME. She did not attempt to disguise her apprehensions. Mr Tix transferred his admiration to some elegant articles of wearing apparel. and saw that it displayed the name of ‘Scaley. ‘Ah!’ rejoined Mr Tix. in which absorbing occupation he was yet engaged. ‘and this here article warn’t made for nothing. and a duplicate impression of his thumb. when Madame Mantalini. ‘Mister Muntlehiney.’ said the man in the green coat. ‘Good plate this here.

besides. and as that distinguished specimen had had a pretty extensive intercourse with Mr Scaley’s fraternity in his bachelor days. mentally occupied in putting a price upon every object within his range of vision.’ said the same gentleman. and take the inwentory. for Mr Scaley. and was. Such was the posture of affairs when Mr Mantalini hurried in. ‘The halfpenny be demd. that I know on.’ Poor Madame Mantalini wrung her hands for grief. ‘What’s the demd total?’ was the first question he asked.’ said Mr Scaley. and rung the bell for her husband.’ said Mr Mantalini. producing a small document from his pocket and unfolding it very slowly. pushed his hat on one side and scratched his head with perfect unconcern. or a out-and-out 260 . 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). thrust his hands down to the bottom of his pockets. without moving a limb. leaning upon a stand on which a handsome dress was displayed (so that his shoulders appeared above it. elevated his eyebrows. whistled a bar or two. ‘wot’s to be done—anything? Is it only a small crack. ‘Not a button. ‘this is a writ of execution. swore an oath or two. ‘and the ninepence. she fell into a chair and a fainting fit. impatiently. while his friend Mr Tix. taking that opportunity for a general survey of the apartment preparatory to entering on business. simultaneously. were not at all discomposed by this event. ‘By all means if you vish it.’ said Kate. he merely shrugged his shoulders.’ observed Mr Tix. which done.’ retorted Mr Scaley. four and ninepence ha’penny. The professional gentlemen. and. put the best face upon the matter with great composure and decency. and if it’s not conwenient to settle we’ll go over the house at wunst. ‘Fifteen hundred and twenty-seven pound. sitting astride upon a chair.’ ‘It don’t matter to us if the fifteen hundred and twentyseven pound went along with it.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Oh! Is this the missis?’ inquired Scaley. ‘It is Madame Mantalini. stood with his inventory-book under his arm and his hat in his hand.’ said Scaley. however. very far from being taken by surprise on the present agitating occasion. after a pause. ‘Well. please.’ replied Mr Scaley. ‘Then.

when this sound met her ear. The dressing-room door being hastily flung open. and that’s enough. Mr Scaley proceeded to take the inventory. Alfred. sobbing. heard to slam the door of an upstairs dressing-room with great violence.’ Mr Mantalini. in which delicate task he was materially assisted by the uncommon tact and experience of Mr Tix. you must inform your angel wife and lovely family as you won’t sleep at home for three nights to come. she hurried upstairs. along of being in possession here. approaching his wife with a penitent air. and wot a consolation oughtn’t that to be to her feelings!’ With these remarks. who had doubtless well considered his part. Wot’s the good of the lady a fretting herself?’ continued Mr Scaley. I didn’t mean to say it!’ ‘Ruined!’ cried Mr Mantalini. nevertheless.’ cried Madame Mantalini. ‘Alfred. and he cannot bear it from me.’ cried his wife.Charles Dickens smash? A break-up of the constitootion is it?—werry good. flinging her arms about him.’ With such exclamations. I des-say. Mr Mantalini was disclosed to view. rushed headlong from the room. Then Mr Tom Tix. with his shirt-collar symmetrically thrown back: putting a fine edge to a breakfast knife by means of his razor strop. although she did not quite participate in the fond wife’s apprehensions. ‘My cup of happiness’s sweetener.’ said Mantalini. ‘You have ruined me. ‘Miss Nickleby. combining great pleasantry with sound moral encouragement under difficulties. followed by Kate who. than he recoiled several paces.’ replied his wife. no sooner heard these words pronounced in a tone of grief and severity. ‘interrupted!’ and whisk went the breakfast knife into Mr Mantalini’s dressing-gown pocket. and his hair floating in wild disorder. as Madame Mantalini sobbed. ‘Ah!’ cried Mr Mantalini. ‘I didn’t mean to say it. esk-vire. for Heaven’s sake. my darling Alfred. while Mr Mantalini’s eyes rolled wildly. ‘make haste. was a little flurried. and was. ‘Have I brought ruin upon 261 . he will destroy himself! I spoke unkindly to him. soon afterwards. the broker. mingled with his whiskers. ‘A good half of wot’s here isn’t paid for. assumed an expression of consuming mental agony. ‘will you listen to me for two minutes?’ ‘Oh! don’t speak to me.

‘Compose yourself.’ remarked Mrs Nickleby (who. and he wept pathetically.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the best and purest creature that ever blessed a demnition vagabond! Demmit. and manners. that the business would be. Alfred. as an inconvenient and dangerous article for a skirt pocket—and finally he suffered himself to be led away by his affectionate partner. that a milliner’s and dressmaker’s is the very last description of business. that if you had consulted your own mother—’ ‘Well. the name of Mantalini appeared in the list of bankrupts: Miss Nickleby received an intimation per post. and that her assistance would no longer be required—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. my dear. come. mama.’ Mr Mantalini did not think proper to come to. ‘I say again. ‘isn’t it obvious.’ said Kate.’ At this crisis of his ravings Mr Mantalini made a pluck at the breakfast knife. after calling several times for poison. ‘It was nobody’s fault. let me go. and being restrained by his wife’s grasp. I don’t make it a reproach to you. Kate. After a delay of two or three hours. ‘And I say again. that of all occupations in this world for a young lady situated as you are. had never said so before). gentler feelings came upon him. that you should have thought of attaching yourself to. and everything else. that of companion to some amiable lady is the very thing for which your education. and at the expiration of two days. In this softened frame of mind he did not oppose the capture of the knife—which. he was rather glad to be rid of. the young ladies were informed that their services would be dispensed with until further notice. to tell the truth. we shall do very well yet. my own angel. mildly: ‘what would you recommend now?’ ‘Recommend!’ cried Mrs Nickleby. 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 262 . and personal appearance. but still I will say.’ said Madame. on the same morning. Come. it is scarcely necessary to observe. all at once. carried on under the name of Miss Knag. and requesting some lady or gentleman to blow his brains out. well. but. in future. it was mine as much as yours. my love. attempted to dash his head against the wall—taking very good care to be at least six feet from it.

don’t you know that that young lady went as companion to a married lady who died soon afterwards. but whether it was Waters or—no. and had one of the finest little boys that the medical man had ever seen—all within eighteen months?’ Kate knew. neither did he express any great surprise at Madame Mantalini’s sudden failure. which her mother had discovered. it’s well worth the trial. and that the married lady’s name and address were to be known. perfectly well. bearing or not bearing upon the subject. and think Brompton 263 . but not of it. The people in Cadogan Place look down upon Sloane Street. and that she married the husband. after the rough jostling she had already had with the world. had been exhausted. it couldn’t have been that. announcing that a married lady was in want of a genteel young person as companion. on the contrary.Charles Dickens the same house that he boarded in once. the name and address were obtained without loss of time. when he was a bachelor—what was her name again? I know it began with a B. ‘that if your uncle don’t object. and the barbarism of Chelsea. to make any objection. of Cadogan Place. that same forenoon. had a yesterday’s newspaper of the very first respectability from the public-house where the porter came from. and ended with g. and in this yesterday’s newspaper was an advertisement. therein mentioned. Cadogan Place is the one slight bond that joins two great extremes. but whatever her name was. and at last ventured to inquire what discovery had been made.’ Kate was too sick at heart. indeed it would have been strange if he had. either. It is in Sloane Street. highly approved of the suggestion. on application at a certain library at the west end of the town. very patiently. it is the connecting link between the aristocratic pavements of Belgrave Square. in the companionship walk of life. but. She therefore waited. until all reminiscences and anecdotes. The truth then came out. laying the paper down in triumph. that this torrent of favourable recollection was occasioned by some opening. Mr Ralph Nickleby offered none. couched in the purest and most grammatical English. and really cared too little at the moment what fate was reserved for her. Sloane Street. and Miss Nickleby and her mama went off in quest of Mrs Wititterly. real or imaginary. inasmuch as it had been procured and brought about chiefly by himself. So. Mrs Nickleby had. ‘And I say.’ exclaimed Mrs Nickleby. that morning.

and a face of engaging paleness. Mrs Wititterly ought to have been in her boudoir. certain it is that Mrs Wititterly gave audience in the drawing-room. It is the conductor which communicates to the inhabitants of regions beyond its limit. and according to all authentic descriptions of high life. and the big footman. but that they stand. that his body would not hold. like the ligament which unites the Siamese twins. and pending his return. or. so little. where was everything proper and necessary.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY low. as set forth in books. rather in the light of those illegitimate children of the great who are content to boast of their connections. The lady had an air of sweet insipidity. in ordinary array. indeed. and they were consequently obliged to be stuck on four abreast. the people of Cadogan Place have the realities of middle station. Not that they claim to be on precisely the same footing as the high folks of Belgrave Square and Grosvenor Place. Upon this doubtful ground. They affect fashion too. which it has not within itself. to shed a delicate bloom on Mrs Wititterly’s complexion. including curtains and furniture coverings of a roseate hue. but derives from a fountain-head beyond. or painted in some way (it didn’t look genuine powder). or chalked. Now. and a little dog to snap at strangers’ legs for Mrs Wititterly’s amusement. it contains something of the life and essence of two distinct bodies. and at Mrs Wititterly’s door Kate Nickleby knocked with trembling hand. the number of small buttons which are indispensable to a page’s costume. but whether it was that Mr Wititterly was at that moment shaving himself in the boudoir or what not. The door was opened by a big footman with his head floured. in the ordinary course of things. Kate and her mother were shown into a dining-room of rather dirty and shabby aspect. and so comfortably arranged as to be adapted to almost any purpose rather than eating and drinking. This young gentleman took the card upstairs on a salver. and about the 264 . there was a faded look about her. the shock of pride of birth and rank. and yet belongs to neither. with reference to them. to hand chocolate for Mrs Wititterly’s refreshment. lived Mrs Wititterly. although their connections disavow them. receiving the card of introduction. Wearing as much as they can of the airs and semblances of loftiest rank. and the afore-mentioned page. gave it to a little page. and wonder where the New Road is.

’ And notwithstanding all the frowns and winks with which Mrs Nickleby intimated that she was going to say something which would clench the business at once. for her poor dear papa was an independent gentleman. that she might have been taken for an actress all ready for the first scene in a ballet. who had been eagerly watching her opportunity. ‘I am not so easily suited.’ said Kate. Alphonse. ‘one of my people put it in the paper—Yes. and would have been at this moment if he had but listened in time to my constant entreaties and—’ ‘Dear mama.Charles Dickens furniture. ‘If you have already made a selection—’ ‘Oh dear no. ‘but she has been a companion to me for some years. came dexterously in. ma’am. ‘I shall take the liberty of explaining to this lady—’ ‘I think it is almost unnecessary. ‘My dear Kate. ‘I apprehend you. ‘Place chairs.’ ‘I thought. that page was the boy. with her eyes shut.’ replied Mrs Wititterly.’ interrupted the lady. before Kate could reply. you would forgive my troubling you with an application. ‘What are your accomplishments?’ asked Mrs Wititterly. ‘that I very little thought. ma’am. but if ever an Alphonse carried plain Bill in his face and figure. mama. after a few seconds of awkward silence. ma’am. at one time.’ ‘I assure you.’ drawled Mrs Wititterly again. 265 . ‘I have ventured to call.’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘Leave the room.’ said the good lady. in a low voice. ‘that if you had not already made a final choice. and for once Mrs Nickleby was stopped upon the very brink of an oration.’ The page left it. modestly. ‘from having seen your advertisement. You have never been a companion before.’ ‘Yes. and about the house.’ The page placed them. that it would be necessary for my daughter to go out into the world at all. if you will allow me to speak. I really don’t know what to say. Kate maintained her point by an expressive look. ‘Not to any stranger.’ said Kate.’ said Kate. ma’am.’ ‘Yes. I am her mother. perhaps.’ ‘Oh!’ said Mrs Wititterly.’ said Mrs Nickleby. have you?’ Mrs Nickleby. and only waiting for the drop curtain to go up. She was reclining on a sofa in such a very unstudied attitude.

and with a very light head of hair. opening her eyes for an instant. “be proud of that woman. ‘I am so very nearsighted that I can’t quite discern your features. Luckily the two calculations agreed.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Kate blushed as she mentioned her principal acquirements. the very last time he came. ‘You are a good temper?’ asked Mrs Wititterly. an exotic. on her fingers.’ Kate complied.’ interposed Mrs Wititterly. opened the door for an important gentleman of about eight-and-thirty. and Mrs Wititterly took a languid survey of her countenance. though not without some embarrassment.’ said Mr Wititterly. turning round.. very delicate. and Mrs Nickleby checked them all off. have you?’ Kate replied that she had. and shutting them again.’ said Mrs Wititterly.’ ‘Oh! Henry. having calculated the number before she came out. who leant over Mrs Wititterly for a little time. one by one. ‘I hope so. and after a short interval. and let me look at you. This is a most important matter. and conversed with her in whispers.’ The page disappeared on this errand. ‘Alphonse.” he said. what is my wife’s complaint? Tell me all. ‘And have a highly respectable reference for everything. and laid her uncle’s card upon the table.’ said that lady. “My dear doctor. 266 . ‘You are. so Mrs Nickleby had no excuse for talking. which lasted some two or three minutes. ringing a little bell. ‘yes. my love. request your master to come here. Is it nerves?” “My dear fellow. Mrs Wititterly is of a very excitable nature. ‘Your soul is too large for your body. make much of her. ‘Oh!’ he said. during which not a word was spoken on either side. blowing an imaginary feather away. with this request. and to you. What is their unanimous declaration? “My dear doctor. ‘I like your appearance. my dear. a hothouse plant. in this very room.” said I to Sir Tumley Snuffim. you know you are. ‘Your intellect wears you out. very fragile. ‘Pho! you’re gone!’ The lady sighed. I can bear it. ‘Have the goodness to draw your chair a little nearer. you know that there is not a physician who is not proud of being called in to you. she is an ornament to the fashionable world. one breath—’ said Mr W. of rather plebeian countenance. all the medical men say so.’ rejoined Kate.

perhaps.’ ‘I mention no names. they would not hold their heads.’ replied Mr Wititterly. ‘And for that very reason. from your station. can I ever forget the night you danced with the baronet’s nephew at the election ball.’ said Mrs Wititterly. Now let me hear. dilates—the blood fires. at Exeter! It was tremendous. and endowments—is one vortex and whirlpool of the most frightful excitement. that there is a constant friction perpetually going on between your mind and your body. with a faint smile.’ said Mr Wititterly.’ ‘Hush. It swells.’ Here. ‘and nobody is injured. my love. with an expression of countenance which seemed to say. and blew his nose as fiercely as if it had been done by some violent machinery. had flourished his right hand to within something less than an inch of Mrs Nickleby’s bonnet. the fine arts. the—the—the—’ ‘The nobility. addressing himself to Mrs Nickleby. ‘you must have a companion. drew it hastily back again. ‘And the military. both Mr and Mrs Wititterly. the drama. ‘What do you think of all this?’ ‘Mrs Wititterly. and perfect repose. expands.’ ‘I always suffer for these triumphs afterwards.’ interposed Mrs Wititterly. who had talked rather at the Nicklebys than to each other. and looked at their two hearers.’ said the lady. ‘The society in which you move—necessarily move. ‘this is scarcely fair. what are this young lady’s qualifications for the office. She is excited by the opera. I merely mention the circumstance to show that you are no ordinary person. great sweetness. Julia. who. of course. connection. excessive sympathy.’ said Mr W. dispassionately and calmly. ‘I do not. If some people in public life were acquainted with Mrs Wititterly’s real opinion of them. in the ardour of his description.’ 267 .Charles Dickens Her complaint is soul. the excitement increases—Whew!”’ Here Mr Wititterly. in whom there is great gentleness. and that you must be soothed and tended.’ said her husband. ‘is sought after and courted by glittering crowds and brilliant circles. I do not.’ rejoined her husband.’ said Mrs Wititterly. Julia. left off speaking. Bless my heart and body. quite as high as they do. She forms and expresses an immense variety of opinions on an immense variety of subjects. ‘The nobility. Henry. Henry. ‘You make me out worse than I am. the pulse quickens.

These conditions agreed upon. but I am very much afraid. by determining to leave it to the decision of her son-inlaw. or in the three-pair front: between which apartments she could not quite balance the advantages. Before reaching home. I hope she may not be wearing herself out.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY In obedience to this request. ‘What a superior person Mrs Wititterly is!’ ‘Do you think so. within two days. with the addition of many interruptions and cross-questionings from Mr Wititterly. and only left undecided the minor question. who can help thinking so. ‘She is pale though. and looks much exhausted. The answer—not to Kate’s very great joy—was favourable. she had freed Mrs Wititterly’s soul from all bodily restraint. 268 . the page showed them down as far as the staircase window. piloted them in perfect safety to the streetdoor. ‘Why. and therefore adjusted the question at last. mama?’ was all Kate’s reply. Kate. and the big footman. It was finally arranged that inquiries should be made. The inquiries were made. with all her movables and valuables. ‘They are very distinguished people. to Mrs Wititterly’s mansion. where for the present we will leave her. and the chances of the disconsolate widower bestowing his hand on her daughter. Hanover Square. my love?’ rejoined her mother. whether a splendid Frenchpolished mahogany bedstead should be erected for herself in the two-pair back of the house in Cadogan Place. relieving guard at that point. evidently.’ These considerations led the deep-sighted lady into a calculation of the probable duration of Mrs Wititterly’s life.’ said Mrs Nickleby. the qualifications were all gone through again. married Kate with great splendour at St George’s. and at the expiration of a week she betook herself. as she took her daughter’s arm. and a decisive answer addressed to Miss Nickleby under cover of her uncle.

and stood beneath the windows of his mother’s house. the roll of the lighter vehicles which carried buyers and sellers to the different markets. with a light heart. the sum of twenty shillings. after paying his rent and settling with the broker from whom he had hired his poor furniture. pacing slowly up and down and cursing the tardy hours that still intervened between him and sleep. foggy morning in early spring. and those who had the courage to rise and peep at the gloomy street from their curtained windows. for there was at least one heart within its old walls to which insult or dishonour would bring the same blood rushing. remainder. rolled jangling by. dry. either in possession. A few meagre shadows flitted to and fro in the misty streets. by more than a few halfpence. At inter- vals were heard the tread of slipshod feet. or expectancy. or the world would never be stocked with old ones. the sound of ineffectual knocking at the doors of heavy sleepers—all these noises fell upon the ear from time to time. ACCOMPANIED BY SMIKE. but all seemed muffled by the fog. the rambling of ponderous carts and waggons. reversion. and coiled themselves up to sleep. shivering. and sprang from his bed with an elasticity of spirit which is happily the lot of young persons. Nicholas had made his way alone to the city. drawing slowly nearer. And yet he hailed the morning on which he had resolved to quit London. that flowed in his own veins. HE ENCOUNTERS MR VINCENT CRUMMLES. and soon was lost again in the cloud. and occasionally there loomed through the dull vapour. It was a cold. The sluggish darkness thickened as the day came on. but it had light and life for him. did not exceed. and to be rendered almost as indistinct to the ear as was every object to the sight. the heavy outline of some hackney coach wending homewards. which. IS HEREIN MADE MANIFEST THE WHOLE CAPITAL which Nicholas found himself entitled to.Charles Dickens CHAPTER 22 NICHOLAS. to his early toil. the heavy footfall of the official watcher of the night. crept back to bed again. scattering the thin crust of frost from its whitened roof. Before even these indications of approaching morning were rife in busy London. It was dull and bare to see. and the chilly cry of the poor sweep as he crept. AND WHO HE WAS. SALLIES FORTH TO SEEK HIS FORTUNE. 269 .

‘I am not very likely to. said ‘God bless them!’ and walked away with a lighter step. ‘And where afterwards?’ asked Newman. that Kate was at the window.’ rejoined Nicholas. and returned to the same spot. and away they went. good friend. and so was Newman. he shrunk involuntarily into a doorway. Whatever I resolve upon. ‘she little thinks who lingers here!’ He looked again. ‘Which way?’ asked Newman. laying his hand upon his shoulder. ‘When I left them before. ‘Good God!’ he thought. almost vexed that Kate was not there to exchange one word at parting. ‘So deep. and might shift my quarters a hundred times before you could possibly communicate with me. They had tied up the luggage. and could have said goodbye a thousand times if I had chosen.’ said Newman. some fancied motion of the curtain almost persuaded him.’ thought Nicholas.’ ‘I am afraid you have some deep scheme in your head. and why not now?’ As he spoke. and forget my best one. It was closed and dark. that she might not see him. I have neither plan nor prospect yet. a few paces. who had expended a day’s income in a can of rum and milk to prepare them for the journey.’ 270 . ‘I have not so many friends that I shall grow confused among the number. ‘that even I can’t fathom it. with Newman Noggs in company. after he had lounged on. depend upon it I will write you soon. for the instant. ‘Poor girl. for he had insisted on walking as far as he could with them. overnight.’ replied his young friend. wistfully.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY He crossed the road.’ rejoined Nicholas. Smike shouldered it. He smiled at his own weakness. doubtfully. ‘To Kingston first. for the moment. ‘Why won’t you tell me?’ ‘Because I scarcely know myself.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘You won’t forget?’ said Newman. and felt. Smike was anxiously expecting him when he reached his old lodgings. ‘and if I did. ‘what a boy I am!’ ‘It is better as it is. I spared them the pain of leave-taking. suddenly correcting himself. and raised his eyes to the window of the room where he knew his sister slept. and by one of those strange contradictions of feeling which are common to us all.’ replied Nicholas.

and many times turning back to wave his hat to the two wayfarers when they had become mere specks in the distance. that they are not very particular about rubbing them down. and if no other employment is to be obtained.’ ‘I hope so. when I was there. ‘We are bound for Portsmouth. his eyes sparkling at the prospect of displaying his abilities. after a short silence. ‘Now listen to me. So could you. and resolutely declared his intention of not moving another step until Newman Noggs turned back.’ said Nicholas. Smike. ‘I am afraid they don’t keep many animals of either kind on board ship. for whether they had been bound for Portsmouth or Port Royal would have been alike to him. I am young and active. Newman was fain to comply.’ said Smike. and afterwards for another quarter. brightening up again. Godalming is some thirty and odd miles from London—as I found from a map I borrowed—and I purpose to rest there.’ resumed Nicholas. Let me relieve you of that bundle! Come!’ 271 . We must push on again tomorrow. but expressed no other emotion. with anybody. you know. and to shape his course towards Golden Square. it shall go hard but I’ll do enough for us both. even for your willing legs.’ Smike nodded his head and smiled. with a good-humoured smile.’ ‘Well.’ said Nicholas. and could be useful in many ways.’ ‘Ha!’ said Nicholas. ‘God knows you are. ‘You needn’t name the place. ‘I could milk a cow. still you can learn to do something else.Charles Dickens Occupied in such discourse. for we are not rich enough to loiter. I should think we might get on board some ship. ‘That would be too severe a trial.’ resumed Smike. as they trudged with stout hearts onwards. ‘I don’t know much of these matters. Smike. ‘No. ‘and if you fail. gravely. ‘but Portsmouth is a seaport town.’ ‘Do we go all the way today?’ asked Smike. Where there’s a will.’ rejoined Nicholas. after interchanging many hearty and affectionate farewells. they walked on for a couple of hours. and even when they have horses.’ replied Smike. so they had been bound together.’ ‘And I am very willing. there’s a way. Having pleaded ineffectually first for another half-mile. and groom a horse. ‘When I was at that—you know where I mean?’ ‘Yes.’ said Nicholas. as they might have done for a couple of days if Nicholas had not sat himself down on a stone by the wayside. I know.

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. ‘Let me ask you a question while I think of it.’ ‘Why do you think you had once?’ asked Nicholas. I was always confused and giddy at that place you took me from. shaking his head sorrowfully.’ said Nicholas quietly.’ replied the boy. It was like a child. and could never remember. ‘Because I could remember. with a vacant look ‘I was only thinking how—’ He shivered involuntarily as he spoke.’ ‘As you were then. ‘That was before you began to lose your recollection. ‘No. I turned cold all over sometimes. fixing his eyes full upon that of his companion. ‘Have you a good memory?’ ‘I don’t know. ‘You will never let me serve you as I ought. looking him steadily in the face. for I know it well. when I was a child. or I should be a blind and senseless beast. no. you know. for I could see myself as I was then.’ replied his companion.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘No. but it’s all gone now—all gone. at least. once habitual to him.’ said Smike. ‘What of the first day you went to Yorkshire?’ ‘Eh!’ cried the lad. and sometimes couldn’t even understand.’ repeated Nicholas. day and night.’ said Smike.’ rejoined Nicholas.’ he added. ‘that they might have 272 .’ ‘You are a foolish fellow to say it. ‘I think I had once.’ ‘Why not?’ asked Nicholas. or at least it seems so. and there is no one by. touching him on the arm. ‘but that is very.’ said Smike. ‘Was the weather hot or cold?’ ‘Wet. ‘Don’t ask me to give it up to you. I have always said. for it is all over. ‘Very wet. they said. coming in at the very same door. and common even then. ‘how was that?’ ‘Such a little creature.’ said Smike. and see it. very long ago.’ retorted Nicholas. what they said to me. which was fast settling into an unmeaning stupefied gaze. ‘Let me do something for you. turning quickly upon him as though the answer in some way helped out the purport of his question. ‘Think no more of that place. You will never know how I think. with assumed carelessness. of ways to please you.’ said Nicholas. when it has rained hard. and that made me think of it more.’ rejoined Smike. falling back a few steps. I—let me see—let me see!’ ‘You are wandering now.

withered man. for when I have terrible dreams. wishing to attract his full attention. an old clock. and used me harder too. at the school. I have never forgotten that room. and see how the sluggish mass rolled heavily off. 273 .’ ‘Will you let me take the bundle now?’ asked Nicholas. and as they laboured up the hills beyond. ‘no. I see things and people in it that I had never seen then. Occasionally. in some low spots they came upon patches of mist which the sun had not yet driven from their strongholds. only to remember it. I have covered my head with the clothes often.’ said the poor creature.’ ‘You didn’t find your way there. not to see it. ‘No. in the open country it was clear and fair. alone!’ remarked Nicholas. who hung over you once. ‘no. never. ‘There. as if the very breath of its busy people hung over their schemes of gain and profit.’ ‘Look at me. I have heard them say so. just as it was. that never changes. and every word of this conversation remained upon his memory. and although a dense vapour still enveloped the city they had left.’ said Nicholas. within an hour of noon. I remember that. There was a clock too. but they made me more afraid of them. a large lonesome room at the top of a house.’ He quickened his pace as he said this. for it frightened me: a young child with no one near at night: and I used to wonder what was on the other side. abruptly changing the theme. with a melancholy look.’ said Smike. it was pleasant to look down. before the cheering influence of day. and kissed your lips.’ rejoined Smike. apparently under the impression that they had been standing still during the whole of the previous dialogue. Nicholas marked him closely. but there is the room just as it used to be. Come. by this time. but these were soon passed.Charles Dickens had pity and mercy upon me. I was afraid of him. and I remembered that before. in one corner. let us walk on. ‘No.’ ‘Nor any house but that house in Yorkshire?’ ‘No. it comes back.’ ‘Who was with you?’ ‘A man—a dark. I was glad to leave him. It was.’ rejoined the youth. and called you her child?’ ‘No. shaking his head. Do you remember no woman. don’t turn away. no kind woman. and found greater attraction there than in the quiet region above. where there was a trap-door in the ceiling. ‘a room— I remember I slept in a room. ‘oh no.

is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy. as he looked into the void. sloping and 274 . while it left the travellers all the invigorating freshness of that early time of year. and the hill has not yet lifted its face to heaven that perseverance will not gain the summit of at last. still. The grass on which they stood. stood a mound of green. and slept soundly. if not with all the freshness of yesterday. drop by drop. as to be hardly accessible to any but the sheep and goats that fed upon its sides. a height so steep. To Godalming they came at last. and all these bright colours subsided. had once been dyed with gore. for nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own. fine. for there were long and weary hills to climb. with unabated perseverance. as in life. and here they bargained for two humble beds. honest sun lighted up the green pastures and dimpled water with the semblance of summer. there shot up.’ thought Nicholas. and exhilarated by exercise. ‘The Devil’s Bowl. and there. and in journeys. They walked upon the rim of the Devil’s Punch Bowl. almost perpendicularly. In the morning they were astir: though not quite so early as the sun: and again afoot. than they had been in their prime. with enough of hope and spirit to bear them cheerily on. and assumed a quieter tint. and the blood of the murdered man had run down. with every variety of little hill and plain to change their verdant surface. It was a harder day’s journey than yesterday’s. But they were scarcely less beautiful in their slow decline. and Smike listened with greedy interest as Nicholas read the inscription upon the stone which. the sheepbells were music to their ears. reared upon that wild spot. ‘never held fitter liquor than that!’ Onward they kept. and from morning to night. as from the cradle to the grave. The ground seemed elastic under their feet. like young hopes softened down by time. Here. with steady purpose. into the sky. they pushed onward with the strength of lions.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY A broad. and entered at length upon a wide and spacious tract of downs. into the hollow which gives the place its name. or youthful features by degrees resolving into the calm and serenity of age. they kept on. The day wore on. that we can scarcely mark their progress. it is a great deal easier to go down hill than up. and stimulated by hope. However. tells of a murder committed there by night.

with the speed of light itself. and undulations shapely and uncouth. A glance at the toil-worn face of Smike determined Nicholas. ‘I wouldn’t go on if it was me. who. 275 . ‘Is it a good road?’ inquired Nicholas. and they had loitered on the road. ‘I want to get on. smooth and rugged. The knowledge that they were drawing near their place of destination.’ said Nicholas.’ said the landlord. he would say. and as they had been shut out from rich and extensive scenery. twilight had already closed in. ‘I scarcely know what to do. that you could scarce define its limits. If there had happened to be a bad one he would have observed that it was very warm.’ ‘Don’t let me influence you. Thus. ‘Twelve miles.Charles Dickens tapering off so delicately. hesitating. and.’ repeated the landlord. thrown negligently side by side. but the way had been difficult. ‘Not if I knew when I was well off. suddenly poised themselves upon the wing and skimmed down the long vista of some opening valley. with unexpected noise. the prospect receded more and more on either hand. The landlord led them into the kitchen. graceful and grotesque. being a landlord. taking a step or two outside the door. leaning with both hands on his stick. ‘What can you give us for supper?’ was Nicholas’s natural question. while frequently. And having said it he pulled up his apron. cawing and wheeling round the nearest hills. Hills swelling above each other. and merging so gently into the level ground. as if uncertain of their course. By degrees. put his hands into his pockets. and looking doubtfully at Smike. ‘Twelve long miles. with the same uncertainty. looked down the dark road with an assumption of great indifference.’ rejoined the landlord. bounded the view in each direction.’ said the landlord. when they turned off the path to the door of a roadside inn. there uprose from the ground a flight of crows.’ ‘Wouldn’t you?’ asked Nicholas. so without any further consideration he made up his mind to stay where he was. gave them fresh courage to proceed.’ observed Nicholas. so they emerged once again upon the open country. yet twelve miles short of Portsmouth. and Smike was tired. As of course. ‘Very bad. and as there was a good fire he remarked that it was very cold.

Ecod. that the gentleman may not relish my company. in a condition of much excitement.’ The landlord hurried into the parlour.’ said the landlord.’ ‘Why.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Why—what would you like?’ was the landlord’s no less natural answer. ‘He’ll like your way of talking. ‘All right. ‘There’s a gentleman in the parlour that’s ordered a hot beef-steak pudding and potatoes. It is more than probable. no. but there was no cold meat— poached eggs. 276 .’ ‘No. straightway repaired. and have made my way hither on foot. But we’ll soon see all about that. I—at least—pshaw! why cannot I speak out? Here. into which Nicholas. detaining him. in there.’ rejoined the landlord.’ ‘Lord love you. ‘I would rather not. It was not long before the host returned. you can sup with him. to tell the truth.’ said Nicholas. at first. on whose mind. Nicholas suggested cold meat. ‘it’s only Mr Crummles. I know. I’ll do that. Just wait a minute. which was delivered in a very rapturous tone. but there wasn’t a mutton chop within three miles. at nine. ‘I knew he would. There’s more of it than he can manage. the prospect of the savoury pudding was making some impression. ‘I must leave it entirely to you. if you had allowed me. how they are a-going of it!’ There was no time to inquire to what this exclamation. under the circumstances. nor did Nicholas strive to prevent him: wisely considering that supper. referred.’ he said in a low voice. I am too proud to thrust myself into his.’ ‘Is he not?’ asked Nicholas. was too serious a matter to be trifled with. ‘Not he. for he had already thrown open the door of the room. and although I am the dusty figure you see. in a minute. ‘Then. but there were no eggs—mutton chops.’ said Nicholas. I think. he isn’t particular. and would be an extraordinary supply the day after tomorrow. without staying for further permission. 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). you see that I am travelling in a very humble manner. though there had been more last week than they knew what to do with.’ replied the landlord. and I have very little doubt that if I ask leave. You’ll see something rather worth seeing. then I’ll tell you what. as I would have done.

that the short sailor. and chopped away until the swords emitted a shower of sparks: to the great satisfaction of Mr Crummles. but this was nothing to him.Charles Dickens Nicholas was prepared for something odd. who emphatically adjured them to strike a little more fire out of the swords. motioning Nicholas not to advance and spoil it. buckles. with belts. perched against the corner of a table. reduced to this extremity. but. on the very first night. with two of those short broad-swords with basket hilts which are commonly used at our minor theatres.’ The two combatants went to work afresh. something between the courtesy of a Roman emperor and the nod of a pot companion. until the short sailor was chopped down on one knee. ‘There’s a picture. one of them very tall and the other very short. in three seconds. if the big ‘un doesn’t knock under.’ said the landlord with an air of great deference. ‘Mr Vincent Crummles. and bade the landlord shut the door and begone. without producing any particular result. The engagement commenced with about two hundred chops administered by the short sailor and the tall sailor alternately. and over 277 . but not for something quite so odd as the sight he encountered. who was so overcome at this (not expecting it) that he let the short sailor pick up his sword and begin again. would give in at once and cry quarter. Do that again. were a couple of boys. Then. The short boy had gained a great advantage over the tall boy. and a variety of fancy chops were administered on both sides. ‘This is the young gentleman. and both were overlooked by a large heavy man. he’s a dead man. the chopping recommenced. who appeared to consider this a very great point indeed. who was reduced to mortal strait. boys. and fought most desperately until the tall sailor chopped his sword out of his grasp. pigtails. such as chops dealt with the left hand. he all of a sudden drew a large pistol from his belt and presented it at the face of the tall sailor. and under the leg.’ said Mr Crummles. both dressed as sailors—or at least as theatrical sailors. Now. and pistols complete—fighting what is called in play-bills a terrific combat. instead of that. At the upper end of the room. for he worked himself about on the one knee with the assistance of his left hand. the inference was. and they couldn’t fail to bring the house down.’ Mr Vincent Crummles received Nicholas with an inclination of the head. and over the right shoulder. ‘The little ‘un has him.

and make it all fair. ‘I open at Ports278 . How are you to get up the sympathies of the audience in a legitimate manner. after a few unavailing struggles. sir?’ inquired Mr Crummles. ‘What did you think of that.’ said Mr Crummles. who then observed that the face of Mr Crummles was quite proportionate in size to his body.’ answered Nicholas. explaining himself. who. boys. I think. ‘I mean if they were a little more of a size. for he always had the best of it) made a violent demonstration and closed with the tall sailor.’ said Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas.’ Having addressed these words to the combatants.’ ‘I see. ‘why. went down. and the short sailor jumped over his sword. and then the short sailor (who was the moral character evidently. a hoarse voice. which would have shaved them clean off if it had taken effect. he saluted Nicholas. and bored a hole in him through and through. ‘Size!’ repeated Mr Crummles. the tall sailor jumped over the short sailor’s sword. there was a good deal of dodging about. I confess. indeed—capital. ‘You won’t see such boys as those very often.’ said Mr Crummles. and we haven’t hands enough for that business in our company. Nicholas assented—observing that if they were a little better match— ‘Match!’ cried Mr Crummles. ‘I beg your pardon. wherefore to balance the matter. and when the short sailor made a vigorous cut at the tall sailor’s legs. and hitching up of the inexpressibles in the absence of braces. ‘You had better get your wind now and change your clothes. it’s the essence of the combat that there should be a foot or two between them. and very short black hair. and expired in great torture as the short sailor put his foot upon his breast. 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. That didn’t occur to me. that he had a very full under-lip. the tall sailor administered the same cut. ‘That’ll be a double encore if you take care. After this. as though he were in the habit of shouting very much.’ said Mr Crummles. if there isn’t a little man contending against a big one?—unless there’s at least five to one.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the left.’ ‘It’s the main point. ‘Very good.

and less haggard.’ ‘Do you think so?’ 279 . ‘Ye-yes. I am. There was to be a gathering. of both of which. whither the father and sons were proceeding (not for the regular season. quite horrified. and sinking his voice. not only by his natural disposition. but in the course of a wandering speculation). but by the spirits and water he sipped very plentifully. after fulfilling an engagement at Guildford with the greatest applause.’ replied Nicholas. the two broad-sword boys formed an honourable portion. from time to time. with whom he had appeared considerably struck from the first. who seemed to consider himself entitled to the same degree of confidence as he had himself exhibited. If you’re going there. with great interest at Smike. ‘but what a capital countenance your friend has got!’ ‘Poor fellow!’ said Nicholas. with a half-smile. Mr Crummles looked.’ and took so many pinches of snuff from the piece of paper. ‘Excuse my saying so. as much as to say. and was nodding in his chair. ‘Never there?’ ‘Never. ‘you’d spoil it for ever.’ said Nicholas. and see how that’ll tell. stimulated perhaps.’ Mr Vincent Crummles gave a short dry cough. He had now fallen asleep. it seemed. and the acquirements of his family. ‘You are going that way?’ asked the manager.’ Nicholas promised to do so. if he could. He laid open his affairs without the smallest reserve. ‘If you won’t be communicative.’ said the manager. or the snuff he took in large quantities from a piece of whitey-brown paper in his waistcoat pocket.Charles Dickens mouth the day after tomorrow.’ ‘Plump!’ exclaimed the manager. of the different ladies and gentlemen at Portsmouth on the morrow. ‘No. and drawing a chair near the fire. He was very talkative and communicative.’ ‘Do you know the town at all?’ inquired the manager. look into the theatre. ‘Yes. one after another. leaning over to Nicholas. that Nicholas quite wondered where it all went to. ‘I wish it were a little more plump. you won’t. While he was thus engaged. fell into conversation with the manager at once. and descanted at some length upon the merits of his company.

’ Nicholas was not much disposed to sleep—being in truth too anxious—so. after a little demur. he accepted the offer.’ said the manager. there was no time for talking until the supper had been disposed of. These two young gentlemen wielded their knives and forks with scarcely less address than their broad-swords. ‘And well I may. ‘I never saw a young fellow so regularly cut out for that line. and that if he declined. fallen asleep several times while in the very act of eating. he sat himself down opposite to that gentleman by the fireside to assist in emptying the bowl. an obvious inclination to retire for the night.’ The appearance of the beef-steak pudding. ‘and we’ll have it snugly and cosily together by the fire. which came in simultaneously with the junior Vincent Crummleses. and as the whole party were quite as sharp set as either class of weapons. sir! Why. in the course of the meal. which Smike had betrayed still more strongly: he having. he’d make such an actor for the starved business as was never seen in this country. and hardly a touch of paint upon his face. ‘without a pad upon his body.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Think so. as he is now.P . and sending 280 . steaming in a manner which was quite exhilarating to behold. and the manager having on his part bestowed a most affectionate benediction on Smike. laughing. turned the conversation to other matters. And I played the heavy children when I was eighteen months old. he should deem it very unhandsome behaviour. Only let him be tolerably well up in the Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet.’ said Nicholas. vowing that he had promised himself the pleasure of inviting his new acquaintance to share a bowl of punch. which soon afterwards appeared. for a time. than they evinced. and he’d be certain of three rounds the moment he put his head out of the practicable door in the front grooves O. striking his knee emphatically. and indeed. The Master Crummleses had no sooner swallowed the last procurable morsel of food. Nicholas therefore proposed that they should break up at once. by various halfsuppressed yawns and stretchings of their limbs. stopped it altogether.’ ‘You view him with a professional eye. with the slightest possible dab of red on the tip of his nose. since I’ve been in the profession.’ said Mr Vincent Crummles.’ rejoined the manager. but the manager would by no means hear of it. ‘Let them go. and having exchanged a shake of the hand with the young Crummleses.

and smoked tobacco from a pipe. thinking it scarcely worth while to parry it.Charles Dickens forth a most grateful and inviting fragrance. ‘And what’s that?’ asked the manager. There is meat and drink there at all events.’ ‘Why not?’ 281 .’ said the manager. with a most astonishing power. ‘You’re uneasy in your mind. 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 to confess his entire ignorance of all he had been talking about. His attention wandered.’ replied Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. he was deaf to what he said. What’s the matter?’ Nicholas could not refrain from smiling at the abruptness of the question. ‘There are many vessels leaving the port.’ observed Mr Crummles. I dare say. the uncertainty of the morrow cast a gloom upon him. But. His thoughts were in his old home. I believe. Nicholas was absent and dispirited. I suppose. who told a variety of stories. ‘That’s the truth. and when they reverted to his present condition.’ said Nicholas. he was obliged to make the best apology in his power. but. You guessed it long ago. ‘I can rough it. and an inquiry what Nicholas would have done under the same circumstances. pease-pudding and chaff-biscuits. ‘Getting something to do which will keep me and my poor fellow-traveller in the common necessaries of life.’ ‘What’s to be got to do at Portsmouth more than anywhere else?’ asked Mr Vincent Crummles. ‘Why. although he heard the manager’s voice. despite the punch and the manager. ‘One may do worse than that. taking a whiff at his pipe to keep it alight. melting the sealing-wax on the stem of his pipe in the candle. and returning to his work of embellishment. so I may as well have the credit of telling it you with a good grace. and inhaled it in the shape of snuff. and rolling it out afresh with his little finger. and when Mr Vincent Crummles concluded the history of some long adventure with a loud laugh. as well as most young men of my age and previous habits.’ said the manager. ‘if you go on board ship. but you won’t.’ ‘You need be able to. which his utmost efforts were unable to dispel.’ ‘Salt meat and new rum. ‘I shall try for a berth in some ship or other. so I saw.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Because there’s not a skipper or mate that would think you worth your salt.’ ‘The stage!’ cried Nicholas. in a voice almost as loud. ‘They must.’ ‘I don’t know anything about it. ‘Does no other profession occur to you.’ said Mr Vincent Crummles. shaking his head. which a young man of your figure and address could take up easily. ‘You can be useful to us in a hundred ways. I’ll bring you out. and see the world to advantage in?’ asked the manager. ‘I am in the theatrical profession myself. in Timour the Tartar.’ said Nicholas.’ There was a pause. and the confident tone in which it had been uttered. then.’ said Nicholas. and raising his voice. when he could get a practised hand. ‘The theatrical profession. whose breath had been almost taken away by this sudden proposal. ‘Think what capital bills a man of your education could write for the shop-windows.’ ‘Well.’ ‘There’s genteel comedy in your walk and manner. and he hesitated. I think I could manage that department. alarmed by this prediction. ‘I never acted a part in my life. ‘To be sure you could. as the oysters in the streets.’ said Mr Crummles. from your birth downwards. ‘“For further particulars see small hand-bills”—we might have half a 282 . and your friend too.’ said Mr Crummles. I had a dog that lived and died in it from a puppy. ‘Men are not born able seamen. but not at your age. I’ll tell you one. Say the word.’ rejoined Nicholas. except at school. ‘No. They must be reared. ‘You’ll do as well as if you had thought of nothing else but the lamps. my children are in the theatrical profession. or from young gentlemen like you.’ replied the manager. ‘Why. and my chaise-pony goes on.’ Nicholas thought of the small amount of small change that would remain in his pocket after paying the tavern bill. and touch-and-go farce in your laugh.’ said Mr Vincent Crummles. The countenance of Nicholas fell. I want a novelty. my wife is in the theatrical profession. ‘and they as plentiful there. and he gazed ruefully at the fire. ‘The stage.’ replied Mr Crummles. juvenile tragedy in your eye.’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked Nicholas. I suppose?’ Mr Vincent Crummles nodded his head. throwing his pipe into the fire.

’ ‘I am not quite so confident about that. ‘I bought ‘em cheap. you’d make— ah! you’d make a pound a week!’ ‘You don’t say so!’ ‘I do indeed.’ replied the manager. and if we had a run of good houses.’ Nicholas shrugged his shoulders. They look up some dresses. ‘Let me see—peculiar resources of this establishment— new and splendid scenery—you must manage to introduce a real pump and two washing-tubs. nearly double the money. ‘Ah! Then it can’t be helped. 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 283 . showing the whole depth of the stage.’ ‘Indeed!’ cried Nicholas.’ ‘We’ll have a new show-piece out directly. yes. ‘Could I live by it?’ ‘Live by it!’ said the manager. and if he could summon fortitude to undergo the extremes of want and hardship. that would suit you.’ said the manager. do you?’ ‘That is not one of my accomplishments. ‘Oh. ‘Yes. but. at a sale the other day. after a few moments’ reflection.’ said the manager. and properties. ‘But I dare say I could scribble something now and then. and your friend’s.’ ‘Into the piece?’ said Nicholas. Most of the theatres keep an author on purpose. and they’ll come in admirably.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Like a prince! With your own salary. and your writings.’ rejoined Nicholas. with the pump and tubs in the middle. and have a piece written to fit ‘em. however. ‘a common thing. ‘If you had been. why.Charles Dickens volume in every one of ‘em. we might have had a large woodcut of the last scene for the posters. but sheer destitution was before him. 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. Pieces too. if you’re not. it can’t be helped. you could write us a piece to bring out the whole strength of the company.’ said the manager.’ ‘What should I get for all this?’ inquired Nicholas. That’s the London plan. whenever we wanted one.

it seemed far enough. ‘Many and many is the circuit this pony has gone. and when these means failed. the elder Master Crummles got out and kicked him. 284 CHAPTER 23 TREATS OF THE COMPANY OF MR VINCENT CRUMMLES.’ said Mr Crummles.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY thoughts. pistols. . but he certainly was not at top. and they jogged on (as Mr Crummles truly observed) very comfortably for all parties. Nicholas merely observed that he shouldn’t wonder if he was. he hastily declared that it was a bargain. Mr Vincent Crummles kept him up pretty well.’ said Mr Crummles. His mother was on the stage.’ ‘Was she?’ rejoined Nicholas. and a vehicle of unknown design. he was persuaded to move from time to time. on which he bestowed the appellation of a fourwheeled phaeton. and gave Mr Vincent Crummles his hand upon it. and plying the whip. OF HIS AFFAIRS. in company with a wicker basket defended from wet by a stout oilskin. nautical costumes. every now and then. and his mother or Kate were to die the while? Without more deliberation. seeing that his coat was of the roughest and most illfavoured kind. flicking him skilfully on the eyelid for old acquaintance’ sake. which he called a pony. and—possibly in consequence of his theatrical education—evinced. The pony took his time upon the road. So. and other professional necessaries of the aforesaid young gentlemen. but now. and the animal came to a stand. a strong inclination to lie down. Nicholas proceeded on his journey next morning with greater ease than he had expected: the manager and himself occupying the front seat: and the Master Crummleses and Smike being packed together behind. in which were the broad-swords. DOMESTIC AND THEATRICAL AND AS MR CRUMMLES HAD a strange four-legged animal in the inn stables. by jerking the rein. He might have been at bottom. turning to Nicholas. ‘He’s a good pony at bottom. What if he went abroad. However. By dint of these encouragements. ‘He is quite one of us. pigtails.

and. Mrs Vincent Crummles. and. and everything else in very small ones.’ Thanking Mr Vincent Crummles for his obliging offer. were printed in very . feeling nervous and uncomfortable enough at the prospect of an immediate introduction to a scene so new to him. Master Crummles. groped their way through a dark passage. His father was a dancer. ‘Here we are.’ The descendant of this ill-starred animal requiring increased attention from Mr Crummles as he progressed in his day’s work.’ ‘The port-wine business!’ cried Nicholas. so his vulgarity was the death of him at last. and. He was clever in melodrama too. Master P Crummles. dusty 285 . They passed a great many bills. ‘We’ll get down here. but too broad—too broad.’ said the manager. took the low comedy entirely. he took the port-wine business. until they arrived at the drawbridge at Portsmouth. threaded a little maze of canvas screens and paint pots.’ said the manager. descending a step or two. large letters. for the present. and call at my lodgings with the luggage. and one night bit off the bowl of the glass. with an under-current of sawdust. and emerged upon the stage of the Portsmouth Theatre. among bare walls. It was not very light. ‘Drinking port-wine with the clown. wherein the names of Mr Vincent Crummles. The fact is. giving Smike his arm. turning at length into an entry. but Nicholas found himself close to the first entrance on the prompt side.’ said the manager.’ ‘Was he at all distinguished?’ ‘Not very. Nicholas was thus left at leisure to entertain himself with his own thoughts. When the mother died. he had been originally jobbed out by the day. and he never quite got over his old habits. pasted against the walls and displayed in windows. You had better let yours be taken there. accompanied the manager up High Street on their way to the theatre.’ said the manager. Nicholas jumped out.Charles Dickens ‘She ate apple-pie at a circus for upwards of fourteen years.’ said Mr Crummles. that gentleman had very little time for conversation. ‘and the boys will take him round to the stable. in which was a strong smell of orange-peel and lamp-oil. and went to bed in a nightcap. and Miss Crummles. in short. and. and choked himself. ‘but he was greedy. ‘He was rather a low sort of pony. when Mr Crummles pulled up. ‘fired pistols.

ceiling. ‘I thought it was a blaze of light and finery. he saw it was a large one. hardly less surprised. I think. bounded forward to within six inches of the footlights. white spencer. and chattering his teeth. ‘I am very glad to see you. to the opposite side of the proscenium. cold. ‘And this. cut twice in the air. in a sepulchral voice.’ replied Nicholas. orchestra. taking a pinch of snuff. there bounded on to the stage from some mysterious inlet. gallery. apparently between forty and fifty. pit. but had not expected quite such an iron grip as that with which she honoured him. then. portly female. my dear?’ said the manager.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY scenes. sir. a little girl in a dirty white frock with tucks up to the knees. in a tarnished silk cloak.’ said the lady. and wretched.’ said the manager (for Nicholas had given the name which Newman Noggs had bestowed upon him in his conversation with Mrs Kenwigs). fittings. where. green veil and curl papers. ‘and this is the other. mildewed clouds. ‘Is this a theatre?’ whispered Smike. gloomy. are welcome.’ ‘I am glad to see you. ‘Mr Johnson. sir. so it is.’ The manager’s voice recalled him from a more careful inspection of the building. as a shabby gentleman in an old pair of buff slippers came in at one powerful slide.’ replied the lady. short trousers. and decorations of every kind. sat a stout. with her bonnet dangling by the strings in her hand.’ As Mrs Vincent Crummles recrossed back to the table. fiercely brandished 286 . looking off at the opposite wing. as tragic actresses cross when they obey a stage direction. boxes. sandaled shoes. ‘but not by day. He looked about him. and dirty floors. ‘An acquisition indeed. pink gauze bonnet. in amazement. who turned a pirouette. ‘let me introduce Mrs Vincent Crummles. crossing to Smike. turned another pirouette. You too. shrieked. ‘He is admirable.’ ‘He’ll do. and her hair (of which she had a great quantity) braided in a large festoon over each temple. 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 in these terms. heavily daubed draperies. at a small mahogany table with rickety legs and of an oblong shape.’ said Mrs Vincent Crummles. and fell into a beautiful attitude of terror. Smike—not by day.—all looked coarse.’ ‘Why.

the maiden woke up. finally. got off the bank. was very likely the cause of the maiden’s falling asleep. and the savage. thus concluding the ballet. ‘the little ballet interlude. to intimate to all whom it might concern that she was asleep. made a slide towards the maiden. ‘They are going through the Indian Savage and the Maiden. but on the savage shedding tears relented.’ said Mrs Crummles. asleep she did fall. for. if you please. and when it was done. and to exhibit other indications of being desperately in love. or return to her friends. plucked from a neighbouring tree some botanical curiosity. resembling a small pickled cabbage. then the maiden jumped for rapture at the sweet smell of the pickled cabbage. Mr Johnson.Charles Dickens a walking-stick. but the maiden avoided him in six twirls. he began to relent. and stroked his face several times with his right thumb and four fingers. Being left to himself. after a little more ferocity and chasing of the maiden into corners. and. the savage had a dance. resolved to make the best of everything. and the maiden stood on one leg upon his other knee. which being rather a prosy proceeding. he (the savage) began to hit himself severe thumps in the chest. becoming ferocious. leant his left ear on his left hand. ‘Very well indeed. go on. and had a dance all alone too—such a dance that the savage looked on in ecstasy all the while. all alone. ‘bravo!’ ‘Bravo!’ cried Nicholas. Just as he left off. Then the savage and the maiden danced violently together. Acting upon the impulse of this passion. rubbed her eyes. sound as a church. who at first wouldn’t have it. and nodded sideways. ‘Oh!’ said the manager.’ said Mr Crummles. and offered it to the maiden. whether she would ultimately marry the savage. That’ll do. upon the very points of her toes. A little this way. on a sloping bank. at the end of the last one. This seemed to make some impression upon the savage. ‘Beautiful!’ 287 . whether it was or no. the savage dropped down on one knee. Now!’ The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed. Then the savage jumped for joy. Very good. and no shamming. and the savage perceiving it. and came down. thereby intimating that he was struck with admiration of the maiden’s beauty. and leaving the spectators in a state of pleasing uncertainty.

Nicholas assented. But she had been kept up late every night. to prevent her growing tall. with his walking shoes on his feet. sir. sir!’ said the savage. ‘You may. ‘My daughter—my daughter. Deeming this a good opportunity. ‘she oughtn’t to be in the provinces. setting his teeth together.’ ‘Quite a—!’ Mr Crummles stopped: language was not powerful enough to describe the infant phenomenon. ‘the talent of this child is not to be imagined. to within a few paces. go to your mother. ‘She is ten years of age.’ ‘I am not surprised at that. We have had complimentary letters about this girl. She must be seen. and perhaps this system of training had produced in the infant phenomenon these additional phenomena. sir—seen—to be ever so faintly appreciated. but certainly for five good years. as if desirous to join in the conversation.’ It was. she oughtn’t. came up. and put upon an unlimited allowance of gin-and-water from infancy. sir. though of short stature. ‘she must be quite a natural genius. looking steadily in his questioner’s face. ‘Ah!’ said the actor.’ ‘Not more!’ ‘Not a day. ‘this is the infant phenomenon—Miss Ninetta Crummles. There. the gentleman who had enacted the savage.’ replied Mr Vincent Crummles. sir. he put in his word. sir. While this short dialogue was going on.’ he said. for the infant phenomenon.’ 288 . as some men do when they have doubts about being implicitly believed in what they are going to say. bringing the maiden forward.’ ‘May I ask how old she is?’ inquired Nicholas. sir. sir. and had moreover been precisely the same age—not perhaps to the full extent of the memory of the oldest inhabitant. had a comparatively aged countenance.’ replied Mr Crummles.’ ‘Your daughter?’ inquired Nicholas. my dear. and his slippers in his hand. ‘Talent there.’ said Mr Vincent Crummles.’ ‘Dear me!’ said Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. ‘the idol of every place we go into. ‘I’ll tell you what.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘This. nodding towards Miss Crummles. and drawing in his breath with a hissing sound. ‘it’s extraordinary. from the nobility and gentry of almost every town in England.

beating his slippers together. and pointed over his shoulder. ‘I mean to say. ‘As what?’ Mr Folair made a funny face from his pantomime collection. sir. while other people are passed over? Isn’t it extraordinary to see a man’s confounded family conceit blinding him.’ said Mr Folair.’ said Nicholas. ‘Isn’t it enough to make a man crusty to see that little sprawler put up in the best business every night. ‘You don’t mean the infant phenomenon?’ ‘Infant humbug.’ Mr Folair touched the brim of his hat with his forefinger. or nowhere.’ observed Nicholas. that couldn’t do better than that. and then shook hands. drawing him away.Charles Dickens ‘What do you mean?’ asked the manager. even to his own interest? Why I know of fifteen and sixpence that came to Southampton one night last month. as Crummles left them to speak to his wife. Perhaps you’ll introduce me here. She may thank her stars she was born a manager’s daughter.’ ‘Oh!’ replied Mr Folair. by being forced down the people’s throats. to see me dance the Highland Fling.’ replied Mr Folair. by Jove. and that she ought to be in one of the large houses in London. drawing his arm through his. ‘you must be a valuable member of the company.’ said the manager. that if it wasn’t for envy and jealousy in some quarter that you know of. ‘that she is too good for country boards. and actually keeping money out of the house. to 289 . 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 five people and a baby in the pit. every night. and I tell you more. I understand?’ ‘An unworthy one.’ replied Nicholas.’ ‘If I may judge from what I have seen of you. and two boys in the gallery. ‘A recruit. Mr Crummles.’ ‘Mr Folair. ‘Yes.’ ‘You seem to take it to heart. presenting him to Nicholas. ‘Happy to know you. sir. and walking him up and down the stage. ‘There isn’t a female child of common sharpness in a charity school. and well I may. with a smile. without mincing the matter. sir. warmly.’ replied the other. ‘Did you ever see such a set-out as that?’ whispered the actor. she would be.

he carried. do the honours. a common ash walkingstick. ‘This is Mr Lenville. that’s all.’ replied Mr Folair.’ said Mr Lenville. inclining indeed to sallow. and whiskers of the same deep shade. from the constant application of stage paint. Tommy. an old green coat with new gilt buttons. ‘Except when old bricks and mortar takes it into his head to do it himself. ‘You know who bricks and mortar is. and throwing himself into a fencing attitude. tapping him reproachfully on the crown of the hat with his stick. ‘I can come it pretty well—nobody better.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY knock the dust out.’ said this gentleman. who does our first tragedy. in my own line—but having such business as one gets here. and very pale. ‘We call Crummles that. is like putting lead on one’s feet instead of chalk. and I haven’t had time to look at it yet. making a thrust at his friend. He wore a checked shirt. sir?’ ‘I do not. for I’ve got a part of twelve lengths here. perhaps. Tommy. Holloa. that chanced to afford him a pretty good mark at the moment. Tommy. made a pass or two at the side-scenes.’ 290 . a neckerchief of broad red and green stripes. too. with the hooked end downwards. though many at first sight would have considered him much older. His age did not appear to exceed thirty. who parried it dexterously with his slipper. and full blue trousers. that’s one comfort.’ said the other gentleman. old fellow.’ remarked Mr Lenville. as his face was long. how are you?’ The gentleman addressed in these latter words was a darkcomplexioned man. and dancing in fetters without the credit of it. animate or inanimate. or at any other object. ‘what’s the news?’ ‘A new appearance. ‘Well. you should add. indeed. apparently more for show than use. looking at Nicholas. I suppose.’ replied Nicholas. as he flourished it about. ‘Do the honours. and very evident inclinations (although he was close shaved) of a stiff beard. with long thick black hair. except when he raised it for a few seconds. ‘I mustn’t be cracking jokes though. Mr Johnson. because his style of acting is rather in the heavy and ponderous way.’ said the pantomimist. which I must be up in tomorrow night. I’m a confounded quick study.

and laughed and talked together without attracting any attention. there were present. a slim young gentleman with weak eyes. Besides these. He was not quite so young as he had been. for besides Mr Lenville and his friend Tommy. broad face. but they seemed to be of secondary importance. there was a roving-looking person in a rough great-coat. a little group of three or four young men with lantern jaws and thick eyebrows. also. was an inebriated elderly gentleman in the last depths of shabbiness. who played the irascible old men—those funny fellows who have nephews in the army and perpetually run about with thick sticks to compel them to marry heiresses. having made another pass at his friend. Making himself very amiable to the infant phenomenon. Mr Lenville drew from his coat pocket a greasy and crumpled manuscript. and affecting to be absorbed in the recital of a diverting story to her friend Miss Ledrook. at Nicholas. from the depths of her coal-scuttle straw bonnet. The ladies were gathered in a little knot by themselves round the rickety table before mentioned. flourishing a dress cane. and his figure was rather running to seed. who strode up and down in front of the lamps. but there was an air of exaggerated gentility about him. with great vivacity for the amusement of an ideal audience. There was Miss Snevellicci—who could do anything. who were conversing in one corner. proceeded to walk to and fro. large mouth. and also always played some part in blue silk knee-smalls at her benefit—glancing. and staring eyes. conning it to himself and indulging occasionally in such appropriate action as his imagination and the text suggested. and. and paying especial court to Mrs Crummles was another elderly gentleman. who played the low-spirited lovers and sang tenor songs. from a medley dance to Lady Macbeth. in an undertone.Charles Dickens Consoling himself with this reflection. which bespoke the hero of swaggering comedy. A pretty general muster of the company had by this time taken place. a shade more respectable. There was. and was making up a ruff in the most natural manner possible. and who had come arm-in-arm with the comic countryman—a man with a turned-up nose. and usually went on as a page in white silk hose. to stand with one leg 291 . There was Miss Belvawney—who seldom aspired to speaking parts. who had brought her work. and rattling away. who played the calm and virtuous old men.

and took money at the doors. the work of personal introduction was completed by Mr Vincent Crummles. flogging Mr Crummles.’ said Miss Snevellicci. ‘I am sure I never saw you before.’ replied Nicholas. with an imitation ermine boa tied in a loose knot round her neck. I see that the gentleman at Canterbury hadn’t the same eyes as you—you’ll think me very foolish for taking notice of such things. whenever the announce bills came out for her annual night. and held the prompt book when everybody else was on for the last scene. and the greengrocer’s. that occurred to Mr Crummles as looking well in print. won’t you?’ ‘Not at all. Mr Folair having obligingly confided these particulars to Nicholas.’ retorted Miss Snevellicci with a graceful bend. left him to mingle with his fellows. There was Mrs Lenville. and swept the house. I’m sure—it’s very flattering of you to say so. Lastly. whereof impressions were hung up for sale in the pastry-cook’s window.’ ‘Oh. there was Mrs Grudden in a brown cloth pelisse and a beaver bonnet. ‘but did you ever play at Canterbury?’ ‘I never did. and at the circulating library. and was put down in the bills under my name or names whatever. ‘Now I look at you again. who assisted Mrs Crummles in her domestic affairs.’ said Nicholas. who publicly heralded the new actor as a prodigy of genius and learning.’ ‘I see you now for the first time. and acted any kind of part on any emergency without ever learning it. so like you that I felt almost certain it was the same. for I was leaving the company as he joined it. and dressed the ladies. in a very limp bonnet and veil. with both ends. and the box-office. in fun. ‘How can I feel otherwise than flattered by your notice in any way?’ 292 . ‘I recollect meeting a gentleman at Canterbury.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY bent. there was Miss Gazingi. who had once had her likeness taken ‘in character’ by an engraver’s apprentice. and contemplate the audience. I couldn’t have forgotten it. ‘I beg your pardon.’ rejoined Nicholas with all due gallantry. ‘only for a few moments. sidling towards Nicholas.’ said Miss Snevellicci. decidedly in that way in which she would wish to be if she truly loved Mr Lenville. junior. or to go in and out after Mr Crummles in stately tragedy—twisting up the ringlets of the beautiful Miss Bravassa.

’ repeated Mrs Grudden. Nicholas.’ said Mr Crummles. so we shall only want one rehearsal. who had been writing on a piece of paper. to drown the unfortunate Mr Johnson’s remonstrance. after some playful whispering. in a few minutes. ‘my invention is not accustomed to these demands.’ ‘Hallo!’ said Nicholas. or possibly I might produce—’ ‘Invention! what the devil’s that got to do with it!’ cried the manager hastily.’ ‘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. ‘I—’ ‘On Monday morning. the theatre was deserted. ‘On Monday morning we shall read a new piece. ‘Everything. pulling out her pocket-handkerchief from a faded pink silk reticule with a gilt clasp.’ The ladies and gentlemen required no second notice to quit. for. Intrigue. and. ‘Well. and Ways and Means. called to Miss Ledrook— ‘Led.’ returned Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. ‘I don’t think I can be ready by Monday.Charles Dickens ‘Oh! you men are such vain creatures!’ cried Miss Snevellicci. raising his voice.’ said Miss Snevellicci.’ ‘Pooh. in a skipping manner that was quite fascinating.’ 293 . ‘that’ll do. Everybody at ten. Whereupon. ladies and gentlemen. ‘Upon my word. in a state of pleasing confusion. but everybody will have a good part. so Miss Snevellicci was obliged to go to Miss Ledrook. ‘the name’s not known yet. ‘we’ll call the Mortal Struggle tomorrow at ten. looking about her.’ replied Mr Crummles. save by the Crummles family.’ ‘Everybody at ten. if you please. and Smike. starting. taking the manager aside. you’re all up in. my dear sir. which she did. ‘It’s not the same. everybody for the procession. ‘Ladies and gentlemen. pooh. Miss Snevellicci hit Miss Ledrook very hard on the backs of her hands. what is the matter?’ said Miss Ledrook. ‘But really I can’t. and. and retired up. and Miss Ledrook evidently joked Miss Snevellicci about being struck with Nicholas. Mr Johnson will take care of that.’ repeated Mr Crummles.’ said Mr Vincent Crummles. my dear. she became charmingly confused.

on the other hand. all very bright and shin294 . with evident impatience. but he merely remarked that he had not turned his thoughts that way. with other maritime and natural curiosities. and Mrs Grudden remained behind to take some cold Irish stew and a pint of porter in the boxoffice. at the house of one Bulph.’ Nicholas smiled and pocketed the play. and giving a roll of paper from it to Nicholas. but they both attracted some notice from many of the passers-by. went home by a shorter cut. and save all this trouble and expense.’ said Mr Crummles. the severe expression of their countenances relaxed. Nicholas could not help thinking that. the boys. and walked up the street in stately array. ‘Do you understand French?’ ‘Perfectly well. and when they heard a whisper of ‘Mr and Mrs Crummles!’ or saw a little boy run back to stare them in the face. and that heroic fortitude which virtue alone inspires. and play it in English.’ The offer was not to be refused. assumed the look and gait of a hardened despot. a brass plate. for the first week. Smike.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Nothing. it would be an uncommon convenience to have a turn-up bedstead in the pit. ‘and my boys shall go with you after dinner. ‘There! Just turn that into English. and a brass bell-handle. opening the table drawer. and had the little finger of a drowned man on his parlour mantelshelf. Nicholas and Mr Crummles gave Mrs Crummles an arm each. He displayed also a brass knocker. Damn me. ‘Come home with me then. my dear sir. with window-frames of the same colour. Mr Crummles. ‘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. Mr Crummles lived in St Thomas’s Street. and put your name on the title-page.’ said Mr Crummles.’ said the manager. angrily.’ retorted the manager.’ ‘Very good. ‘What are you going to do about your lodgings?’ said Mr Crummles. so that they might learn it from the original. for they felt it was popularity. and the phenomenon. Mrs Crummles trod the pavement as if she were going to immediate execution with an animating consciousness of innocence. who sported a boat-green door. and show you the most likely place. a pilot.

’ ‘Vincent. sir.’ said Mr Crummles. and was unfeignedly glad to see the cloth laid. ‘You are welcome. last year.’ ‘You are very good.’ The slave who attended upon Mr Bulph’s lodgers. and after a short interval reappeared with the festive banquet. in the same charnel-house voice. ‘if they have no relish for theatrical entertainments. ‘No. Mrs Crummles rang the bell. properly conducted. Nicholas and the infant phenomenon opposed each other at the pembroke-table. we beg you to partake of it. ‘Are they very theatrical people here?’ asked Nicholas. ‘So do I. and had a mast. in his back yard.’ replied Nicholas. ‘We have but a shoulder of mutton with onion sauce.’ observed Mrs Crummles. ‘Most audiences are.’ said Mrs Crummles.Charles Dickens ing.’ ‘Is it possible?’ cried Nicholas. Vincent. Nicholas bowed his acknowledgments. ‘Mrs Crummles herself has played to mere handfuls. ‘To the infant’s benefit. ‘And two pound of that was trust. on which occasion she repeated three of her most popular characters.’ replied Mr Crummles. and also appeared in the Fairy Porcupine.’ said Mrs Crummles.’ rejoined Mr Crummles. ‘far from it—far from it.’ said Mrs Crummles. there was a house of no more than four pound twelve.’ ‘Then they have none. ‘And two pound of that was trust. ‘what is the hour?’ ‘Five minutes past dinner-time. 295 .’ said Nicholas. ‘but such as our dinner is. disappeared. when they have good acting—real good acting—the regular thing. with a vane on the top of it.’ ‘But they are always a taking audience.’ replied Mr Crummles. turning round to Nicholas when they reached the bow-windowed front room on the first floor.’ repeated Mr Crummles. shaking his head. ‘Let the mutton and onion sauce appear. ma’am?’ inquired Nicholas. as originally performed by her.’ said the phenomenon.’ said the manager’s wife. forcibly. pa. and Smike and the master Crummleses dined on the sofa bedstead. ‘I shall do it ample justice.’ ‘I pity them. ‘Do you give lessons.

There is no lack of comfortable furnished apartments in Portsmouth. but it afterwards appeared that she was insane when she first came to me. and bidding his eldest son go with him and show where lodgings were to be had. under such circumstances.—you might get up Rover while you were about it.’ replied Nicholas: devoutly hoping that it would be a very long time before he was honoured with this distinction. I imparted tuition to the daughter of a dealer in ships’ provision.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘I do.’ ‘True. Nicholas thought it best to hold his peace. and Cassio. they stumbled upon two small rooms up three pair of stairs. ‘Let me see. and came out unsuited. ‘Would you like some nice little part with the infant?’ ‘You are very good. I suppose?’ ‘There has been. ‘but I think perhaps it would be better if I had somebody of my own size at first. or rather two pair and a ladder.’ Not feeling quite so sure of that. And you could play up to the infant. and the latter too bad. Rover too.’ said Mr Crummles. ‘You shall study Romeo when you’ve done that piece—don’t forget to throw the pump and tubs in by-the-bye—Juliet Miss Snevellicci. one part helps the other so much. on the Common Hard: a dirty street lead296 . at a tobacconist’s shop. in case I should turn out awkward. It was very extraordinary that she should come. ‘I have received pupils here. you know.’ ‘Certainly. ‘Perhaps you would. and they went into so many houses.’ replied Nicholas hastily. cues and all. in time.’ said the manager cogitating after dinner. and wished him good night. You can easily knock them off. and Jeremy Diddler. perhaps. ‘There is no teaching here.’ said the manager. and no difficulty in finding some that are proportionate to very slender finances.’ said Mrs Crummles. ‘Then I’ll tell you what we’ll do. but the former were too good. old Grudden the nurse. however. shook him by the hand.’ said Mrs Crummles. I should feel more at home. Here they are.’ With these hasty general directions Mr Crummles thrust a number of little books into the faltering hands of Nicholas. Eventually. that’ll do very well. after all. that Nicholas seriously began to think he should be obliged to ask permission to spend the night in the theatre.—Yes.

still these advantages can only be had in an apartment of the most limited size. I suppose.—I hope she’ll have some good part in this piece of yours?’ 297 CHAPTER 24 OF THE GREAT BESPEAK FOR MISS SNEVELLICCI.’ ‘For a man at all particular in such matters.’ returned Mr Lenville. ho! within there” said Mr Lenville. the tragedian. ‘In the name of all that’s horrible. notwithstanding. although it is. I’ll open the door directly. ‘There! Lay down our personal property. a great convenience to be able to reach anything you want from the ceiling or the floor. come in.’ said Nicholas. if you’ll wait an instant. ‘Confound these fellows!’ thought Nicholas. or either side of the room. ‘for. and taking his hat off. ‘Here.’ said Nicholas. when he had completed his toilet. ‘they have . but I am tired with the events of these three days. and. before he could get in at all. and Heaven only knows the end of them. only too happy to have escaped any request for payment of a week’s rent beforehand. house!’ cried Mr Folair.’ said Mr Lenville. Smike. stepping into the front room. it might be a trifle too snug. undoubtedly. and will postpone reflection till tomorrow—if I can.—my wife.’ The gentlemen entreated him not to hurry himself. when he heard footsteps ascending the stairs. had a fencing bout with their walkingsticks on the very small landing-place: to the unspeakable discomposure of all the other lodgers downstairs.’ ‘It isn’t a bit too confined for a single man. Mr Johnson. ‘House. ‘That reminds me. in a deep voice.’ ‘An uncommon snug little box this. ‘What. house. without having to move from your chair. but he had scarcely begun to dress. and Mr Lenville. and was presently saluted by the voices of Mr Folair the pantomimist. ‘We have fallen upon strange times. ‘Pernicious snug. to beguile the interval. These Nicholas engaged.Charles Dickens ing down to the dockyard. don’t make that noise outside.’ he said. after showing young Crummles downstairs. AND THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF NICHOLAS UPON ANY STAGE NICHOLAS WAS UP BETIMES in the morning.’ come to breakfast.

and then you make up your mind to destroy yourself. and afterwards wiping it on the skirt of his coat. where I won’t take any wages. and the attached 298 .’ said Nicholas.’ said Nicholas.’ sighed Mr Folair. and talk sentiment. Get the curtain down with a touch of nature like that.’ ‘Capital!’ said Mr Lenville: ‘that’s a sure card.’ ‘You pause. ‘and. isn’t it obvious?’ reasoned Mr Lenville.’ replied Nicholas: ‘that is the course of the piece. old fellow?’ asked Mr Lenville. ‘and we go into poor lodgings.’ said Mr Folair. I suppose?’ ‘Why—yes. anxiously.’ ‘I see.’ ‘Do I though!’ exclaimed Mr Lenville. ‘you recollect to have heard a clock strike ten in your infancy. and become a virtuous and exemplary character for ever afterwards. a clock strikes—ten.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘I glanced at the French copy last night. just as you are raising the pistol to your head. and it’ll be a triumphant success. and save time. ‘Upon my word I don’t see how it’s to be done. observing the disturbed looks of the young dramatist. ‘Gadzooks. ‘That’s very good business.’ said Nicholas. I think. ‘It looks very good.’ ‘There’s nothing easier than that. ‘Why. poking the struggling fire with his walking-stick. and the little child. ‘Very good. ‘Let me see. a sure card.’ ‘What do you mean to do for me. ‘You play the faithful and attached servant.’ ‘Always coupled with that infernal phenomenon.’ said Nicholas. in a fit of rage and jealousy.’ cried Mr Lenville. ‘you are troubled with remorse till the last act. ‘Anything in the gruff and grumble way?’ ‘You turn your wife and child out of doors. you are turned out of doors with the wife and child. But. The pistol falls from your hand—you are overcome—you burst into tears. you know. stab your eldest son in the library. who can help seeing the way to do it?—you astonish me! You get the distressed lady.’ ‘After which.’ said Mr Lenville.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘I must have a dance of some kind.’ ‘Is there anything good for me?’ inquired Mr Folair. ‘You’ll have to introduce one for the phenomenon. so you’d better make a pas de deux.’ rejoined Nicholas.

Oh! let me see it once again before I die!”—There it is—cue for the band. false muscles— they had become different beings. one of the old gentlemen a jailer. and did not leave his room until the evening.” says the faithful servant. false colour. what CAN we do?” says the faithful servant. “rouse yourself.’ replied Mr Folair. ma’am. faints at the end of the dance. “Oh. “What can we do to raise your spirits. “Don’t weep. the comic countryman. into the poor lodgings. Mr Crummles. each of the Master Crummleses a prince in his own right. and you close in with a picture. Pierre!” says the distressed lady. He worked very hard all day. a fighting-man of great valour. and. False hair. The distressed lady sinks into a chair.’ Profiting by these and other lessons. There was a gorgeous banquet ready spread for the third act. look here. one plate of biscuits. rubbing his eyes with his arm. before I die. don’t you?—Well. “would that I could shake off these painful thoughts. my honest friend. Mr Lenville was a blooming warrior of most exquisite proportions. in short. which were the result of the personal experience of the two actors. be amused. “What makes you weep. try. Do you remember that dance. Nicholas willingly gave them the best breakfast he could. a desponding captive. or you’ll make me weep too!”— ”And me!” says the favourite servant. which. mama?” says the child. a Highland outlaw of most majestic bearing.Charles Dickens servant. and the low-spirited lover. and buries her face in her pocket-handkerchief. overpowered by old recollections. 299 . Tommy?’ ‘That’s it. applied himself to his task: by no means displeased to find that it was so much easier than he had at first supposed. when he at length got rid of them. his large face shaded by a profusion of black hair. you practised with this sweet angel? It never failed to calm my spirits then. “I will learn to suffer with fortitude. relieved by a touch of humour.” says the lady. whither Smike had repaired before him to go on with another gentleman as a general rebellion. and. That’s the regular thing. that he scarcely knew them.—and off they go. isn’t it. when he went down to the theatre. ma’am. and the other a venerable patriarch. consisting of two pasteboard vases. “Ay.”—”I will. ‘The distressed lady. false calves. mama. dear mama?” says the little child. Here all the people were so much changed. everything was on a scale of the utmost splendour and preparation. and a vinegar cruet. a black bottle. in happier days.”—”Try.

characters. ‘Been in front tonight?’ said Mr Crummles. It’s an affecting thing.’ observed Nicholas. Which process having been protracted as long as it was supposed that the patience of the audience could possibly bear it. A family-box carries double always. was put a stop to by another jerk of the bell. but Nicholas.’ ‘I wonder you allow so many. and sees the play for nothing through the little pane of glass in the box-door—it’s cheap at a guinea. with involuntary variations. ‘Four front places in the centre.’ replied Mr Crummles. If there are six children. inasmuch as she always sustained one. with a bag of oranges and a jug of toast-and-water.’ said that gentleman. and not uncommonly two or three. Ring in the orchestra. aunt nine. now contemplating the first scene. six people come to hold them in their laps. governess ten. wondering whether they made the whole audience. ‘not yet. ‘yes. ‘Six. and now listening to a couple of people who were cracking nuts in the gallery. when the manager himself walked familiarly up and accosted him. I suppose?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We’ve had a pretty good Let.’ replied Nicholas. through which that gentleman was to make his first entrance.’ It would have been difficult for any party. and the whole of the stage-box. and Mr Crummles continued to talk. ‘a family. they gain by taking a box. I am going to see the play.’ ‘Oh. uninterrupted by him.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Nicholas was standing with his back to the curtain.’ replied Mr Crummles. which was a Gothic archway. ‘pa and ma eight. sympathising with the feelings of a father. grandfather and grandmother twelve. set the orchestra playing a variety of popular airs. being the signal to begin in earnest. If Nicholas had been astonished at the alteration for the 300 . there’s the footman. ‘No. and they never come unless the phenomenon plays. Then. every night. refrained from hinting at this trifling circumstance. to have visited the theatre on a night when the phenomenon did not play. or otherwise. who stands outside. ‘it’s always expected in the country. which. There are six children. Grudden!’ That useful lady did as she was requested. about two feet shorter than Mr Crummles. indeed!’ said Nicholas. and shortly afterwards the tuning of three fiddles was heard. family.’ said Mr Crummles. ‘There’s no help for it.

The plot was most interesting. This outlaw’s wife was. people. It belonged to no particular age. and the comic fighting-man and Miss Bravassa. 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. and Miss Bravassa in all the sweetness of Miss Snevellicci’s confidential friend.Charles Dickens better which the gentlemen displayed. it came out that the patriarch was the man 301 . or the wrong ones. who had come there. while on throat-cutting expeditions. as nobody’s previous information could afford the remotest glimmering of what would ever come of it. At last. and this patriarch was the father of several of the characters. and the closest possible attention to the business of the scene. he rather inclined to the latter opinion. but he didn’t exactly know which. being uneasy. though whether from a peculiar taste on the part of the old gentleman himself. mixed up with a patriarch. and Mrs Crummles in all the dignity of the outlaw’s wife. or country. relieved his mind with a banquet. during which solemnity somebody in a cloak said ‘Beware!’ which somebody was known by nobody (except the audience) to be the outlaw himself. for reasons unexplained. besides which. and therein repaired to the prison of her captive lover. and. An outlaw had been very successful in doing something somewhere. When. in triumph. which it seemed were unburied. or the reprehensible neglect of his relations. to greet his wife—a lady of masculine mind. Mr Lenville had several very tragic scenes in the dark. the transformation of the ladies was still more extraordinary. he beheld Miss Snevellicci in all the glories of white muslin with a golden hem. somehow or other. and was uncertain whether he had brought up the right ones in his castle. living in a castle a long way off. There was an agreeable little surprise in the way of certain love passages between the desponding captive and Miss Snevellicci. who talked a good deal about her father’s bones. did not appear. with a small basket of refreshments and a dark lantern. from a snug corner of the manager’s box. and was perhaps the more delightful on that account. who adopted tights. to the sound of shouts and fiddles. but possibly with an eye to the spoons. which testified itself in great applause. 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. and came home.

everybody got hold of everybody else. you know. with some pistolling. ‘then we’ll call that settled. why it will be her risk. and torchlight.”’ replied Nicholas. By-the-bye.’ said Mr. thereby invoking a blessing and giving the cue for the curtain to come down. after a good deal of groping in the dark. which it did.’ ‘I don’t know about “long before.’ ‘Very good. ‘Miss Snevellicci in particular was uncommonly good. and observing. I’ve been thinking of bringing out that piece of yours on her bespeak night. that he knew all about his children now.’ said Mr Crummles. after which. ‘I think it was very capital indeed. and are sure to be up in the lover’s part.’ pursued Mr Crummles. and therefore he joined their hands. amidst general applause. with a knowing look. ‘I said mine. the patriarch came forward. and would tell them when they got inside. Now. long before that time. ‘Next Monday week. that girl.’ ‘When?’ asked Nicholas. and his right hand to the ground. Her benefit night. I want to ask you something else.’ said Mr Crummles. with the full consent of the indefatigable page.’ said Nicholas. ‘The night of her bespeak. for which cause and reason the outlaw’s wife repaired to his castle to kill him. for your outlaws are desperate fellows to shout. and even if it should not work up quite as well as we expect. ‘What did you think of that?’ asked Mr Crummles. when Nicholas went round to the stage again. Crummles. didn’t I?’ returned Mr Crummles. ‘You see. loss of life. who (being the only other person surviving) pointed with his cap into the clouds.’ replied Nicholas. There’s a little—what shall I call it?—a little canvassing takes place on these occasions. ‘quite a genius. ‘it’s sure to go. and so got into a dark room. ‘Oh! I understand. you mean. when her friends and patrons bespeak the play. What do you say? You’ll have done it.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY who had treated the bones of the outlaw’s father-in-law with so much disrespect. on such an occasion.’ ‘Yours. and took them for somebody besides. which occasioned a vast quantity of confusion. said that there could not be a more appropriate occasion for marrying the young people than that. and not ours. Mr Crummles was very red and hot.’ replied Nicholas.’ ‘She’s a genius.’ 302 . where. ‘but by that time I think I can undertake to be ready.

‘You surely are not so cruel—oh. sir. that she wants an attraction.’ said Mr Crummles. and taking a great pinch of snuff. my dear. ‘The moment it was suggested to me. and the fact is. looking at Nicholas. he found Mrs Crummles and Miss Snevellicci herself standing behind him. is the very soul of honour.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Don’t you think you could spare half an hour tomorrow morning. ‘Objection!’ exclaimed Mrs Crummles. I gave permission for the infant to go.’ ‘What does Mr Johnson say. Gallantry.’ ‘Which moves even a manager. looking round. ‘Can it be possible?’ ‘Oh. there’s some difficulty in getting a good one.’ said Mrs Crummles. humanity. ‘He has some objection. as he looked him steadily in the face. ‘Oh dear me. and our wedding-day. I suppose?’ said Nicholas. 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. after all one’s looking forward to it!’ ‘Mr Johnson will not persist. in fact. and more especially a lady. Mr Johnson?’ said Crummles. She had a bespeak when her mother-in-law died. that Snevellicci has had so many bespeaks in this place. I—to think of that now. There will not be the smallest impropriety— Miss Snevellicci. Vincent?’ inquired a voice close to his ear. Mr Johnson. must be enlisted in this interesting cause. won’t you help this poor girl. and a bespeak when her uncle died. ‘I shouldn’t like to do that. to call with her at the houses of one or two of the principal people?’ murmured the manager in a persuasive tone.Charles Dickens ‘Among the patrons. Now. so that. my dear. ‘Think better of him than to suppose it. ‘but really I must decidedly object to making one of the canvassing party.’ ‘I am very sorry to throw a damp upon the prospects of anybody. sitting himself down on a drum. smiling. all the best feelings of his nature. ‘How do you mean?’ rejoined Nicholas.’ replied Mr Crummles.’ said Mr Crummles. with an air of very strong objection. dear me!—Well. ‘Among the patrons.’ ‘The infant will accompany her. I hope not!’ cried Miss Snevellicci. and Mrs Crummles and myself have had bespeaks on the anniversary of the phenomenon’s birthday.’ said Nicholas. and. and occasions of that description. 303 .

as he judged from a certain half-subdued clinking sound. when the door was opened.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘And a manager’s wife. she pulled up the window-blind. communicating with a back-room. ‘You’re to wait.’ As she spoke. and. I know nobody here. It was arranged that Nicholas should call upon her.’ Miss Snevellicci was at once overwhelmed with blushes and expressions of gratitude. and been succeeded by whispering— ’She won’t be long.’ said Nicholas. I yield. beyond a feeling of pride. and nobody knows me. who opened the door. and was shown into a small apartment on the first floor. of which they were to have two-thirds of the profits by solemn treaty of agreement. At the stipulated hour next morning. in which. during which the clinking in the back-room had ceased. Nicholas followed the young lady. unless it is to do something positively wrong. of which latter commodity neither Mr nor Mrs Crummles was by any means sparing. and the tailor’s daughter.’ added Mrs Crummles. with a smile. Miss Snevellicci was then taking her breakfast in bed. at the house of a tailor.’ ‘It is not in my nature. in her accustomed tragedy tones. if you please. ‘Come. at her lodgings. appeared in that flutter of spirits which is so often attendant upon the periodical getting up of a family’s linen. A strong smell of ironing pervaded the little passage. and having 304 . Nicholas repaired to the lodgings of Miss Snevellicci. ‘Will you have the goodness to let her know that Mr Johnson is here?’ said Nicholas. ‘Miss Snevellicci lives here. moved by these appeals. you will relent. ‘to resist any entreaty.’ replied the tailor’s daughter. I know nothing which should prevent my doing this. I know you will. as of cups and saucers. ‘Oh. come. The tailor’s daughter replied in the affirmative. you’re to come upstairs. 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. if you please.’ said the tailor’s daughter. So be it then. which were in a place called Lombard Street. after a short period of absence. I believe?’ said Nicholas. at eleven next morning.

there were innumerable complimentary allusions. we predict that this charming actress will be greeted with a bumper. God of Love. Besides this effusion. commencing— Sing. together with a confused heap of play-bills. the open scrapbook. As there were not many objects of interest outside the window. and tell me in what dearth Thrice-gifted Snevellicci came on earth. and had very much the appearance of stockings. and darted off.Charles Dickens by this means (as she thought) diverted Mr Johnson’s attention from the room to the street. which bore a very suspicious resemblance to the companion smalls. and pasted into which scrapbook were various critical notices of Miss Snevellicci’s acting. Sing. But the most interesting object of all was. together with one poetic address in her honour. displayed in the midst of some theatrical duodecimos that were strewn upon the table. To thrill us with her smile. perhaps. also extracted from newspapers. and a scattered litter of curl-papers. such as waiting-women wear on the stage. extracted from different provincial journals. for which occasion she has put forth a bill of fare that might kindle exhilaration in the breast of a misanthrope. On the sofa lay an old guitar. In the confidence that our fellow-townsmen have not lost that high appreciation of public utility and private worth. her tear. Nicholas looked about the room with more curiosity than he might otherwise have bestowed upon it. that the charming and highly-talented Miss Snevellicci takes her benefit on Wednesday. In one corner stood the diminutive pair of top-boots in which Miss Snevellicci was accustomed to enact the little jockey. caught up some articles which were airing on the fender. and. Hanging over the back of a chair was a halffinished muslin apron with little pockets ornamented with red ribbons. her eye. for which they have long been so pre-eminently distinguished. folded on a chair hard by. and tell me quickly why. such as—’We observe from an advertisement in another part of our paper of today. and (by consequence) are never seen with anywhere else. God of Love. several thumbed pieces of music.’ ‘To Corre305 . and a pair of soiled white satin shoes with large blue rosettes. was a small parcel.

’ said Miss Snevellicci. attired in the coal-scuttle bonnet and walking-dress complete. formed the principal contents of Miss Snevellicci’s scrapbook. Nicholas had read a great many of these scraps. than do her histrionic triumphs to her brilliant genius. on purpose for me to read. with long bills of benefits all ending with ‘Come Early’. ‘but I am very sorry to hear it nevertheless. 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. with a thousand apologies for having detained him so long after the appointed time. laying his hand upon the scrapbook.’ returned Nicholas. in large capitals. ‘I wouldn’t have had you see it for the world!’ rejoined Miss Snevellicci. lately made honourable proposals. nightly captivating all hearts at our pretty and commodious little theatre. ‘How careless of Led! How could she be so naughty!’ ‘I thought you had kindly left it here. seizing the book and putting it away in a closet. (so the paper said. was taken so very ill in the night that I thought she would have expired in my arms. positively I am.’ A copious assortment of such paragraphs as these. buttoning her glove in much confusion. tripped into the room. to read such things as those! I’m almost ashamed to look you in the face afterwards. We have reason to know that Miss Snevellicci is the lady who was implicated in that mysterious and romantic affair. is misinformed when he supposes that the highly-gifted and beautiful Miss Snevellicci.’ ‘Oh you cruel creature.’ 306 . is not the same lady to whom the young gentleman of immense fortune. ‘you have better specimens of it here.’ ‘What a creature you are to flatter!’ said Miss Snevellicci. who lives with me here. ‘my darling Led.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY spondents.’ ‘Such a fate is almost to be envied.’ said Miss Snevellicci.’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘But really.) upon the stage at Winchester. residing within a hundred miles of the good city of York. and whose conduct on that occasion did no less honour to her head and heart. ‘If it be flattery to admire your charms and accomplishments.’ said Nicholas.—J. ‘I never was so vexed—never! But she is such a careless thing.—when that young lady herself. And really it did seem possible.S. there’s no trusting her.

but he’d inquire. and the sense completely changed. and walked on. ‘Well. and as to Mr Curdle. entering the parlour. it is needless to say. that by altering the received mode of punctuation. who. therefore. Mrs Curdle was supposed. ‘and how do you do?’ 307 . The first house to which they bent their steps. besides these accidents. with Miss Snevellicci. post octavo. the green parasol was dropped down an iron grating. under false pretences. or whether it was merely his widow’s affectionate partiality that induced her so to report him. to see the playactors. to possess quite the London taste in matters relating to literature and the drama. with much grace and lightness. Miss Snevellicci’s modest double-knock was answered by a foot-boy. Miss Snevellicci. grinned very much. The phenomenon was rather a troublesome companion. so Nicholas took it all in perfect good humour. and said he didn’t know. with an inquiry whether he really had been a ‘merry man’ in his lifetime. Now. by those who were best informed on such points. that he was a great critic. He had likewise proved. was situated in a terrace of respectable appearance. arm-in-arm on one side. and having compared notes with them in the passage. and joined in a vast quantity of whispering and giggling. and the offending infant on the other. and a very profound and most original thinker. he at length went upstairs with Miss Snevellicci’s name. they sallied into the street.Charles Dickens The conversation was here interrupted by the entrance of the phenomenon. and no handle.’ said Mrs Curdle. opened his eyes very wide. and only fished up again with great difficulty and by dint of much exertion. any one of Shakespeare’s plays could be made quite different. After a few words of course. who had discreetly remained in the bedroom up to this moment. and now presented herself. one leg of the little white trousers was discovered to be longer than the other. in reply to her inquiry whether Mrs Curdle was at home. and these mischances being repaired. With this he showed them into a parlour where he kept them waiting. he had written a pamphlet of sixty-four pages. until the two women-servants had repaired thither. for first the right sandal came down. However. and then the left. it was impossible to scold her. as she was the manager’s daughter. bearing in her hand a very little green parasol with a broad fringe border. on the character of the Nurse’s deceased husband in Romeo and Juliet.

’ said Mr Curdle. ‘The original piece is a French one. ‘of which this gentleman is the author. who can present before us all those changing and prismatic colours with which the character of Hamlet is invested?’ exclaimed Mrs Curdle.’ ‘Might I ask you. ‘What man indeed—upon the stage. the lady.’ ‘As an exquisite embodiment of the poet’s visions. strongly-marked characters—’ ‘—All unavailing without a strict observance of the unities. ‘The unities of the drama. sir. ‘It’s not as if the theatre was in its high and palmy days—you needn’t stand. and in which he plays.’ said Miss Snevellicci. turning to Miss Snevellicci. ‘Hamlet! Pooh! ridiculous! Hamlet is gone.’ said Miss Snevellicci. now living. before everything. producing documents.’ said Mr Curdle. sprightly dialogue. Mr Johnson is the gentleman’s name.’ said Nicholas. Mrs Curdle was dressed in a morning wrapper. and his right forefinger on his forehead after the portraits of Sterne. ‘might I ask you what the unities are?’ 308 . ‘Oh! I really don’t know what to say. perfectly gone. ‘There is abundance of incident.’ ‘I hope you have preserved the unities.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Miss Snevellicci made a graceful obeisance. ‘I venture to call. to whom somebody or other had once said he bore a striking resemblance. gilding with refulgent light our dreamy moments.’ said Nicholas. sir?’ said Mr Curdle. Miss Snevellicci—the drama is gone. hesitating between the respect he ought to assume. ma’am. the drama is gone.’ Quite overcome by these dismal reflections.’ returned Mr Curdle. and his love of the whimsical.’ replied Mrs Curdle. Mr Curdle wore a loose robe on his back. with a small reservation in favour of himself. At length. for the purpose of asking whether you would put your name to my bespeak. Mr and Mrs Curdle sighed. and hoped Mrs Curdle was well. who at the same time appeared. ‘What man is there. perfectly gone. being his first appearance on any stage. perfectly gone. inquired what play she proposed to have. and a realisation of human intellectuality. as also Mr Curdle. ‘Quite a new one. with a little cap stuck upon the top of her head. and sat for some short time without speaking. and laying open a new and magic world before the mental eye.

we shall not differ about sixpence. about putting down their names. ‘That is my definition of the unities of the drama.’ said Mr Curdle. it must be distinctly understood that we do not pledge ourselves to the quality of the performances. that we do not give them the sanction of our names. ‘a unity of feeling.’ he said. Miss Snevellicci. Miss Snevellicci?’ Poor Miss Snevellicci took the three half-crowns. which I look for. she inquired what Mr Curdle thought. and thought it best not to go through the form of feeling in his own pockets at all. a duty. ‘I don’t know. is exceedingly dear in the present state of the drama—three half-crowns is sevenand-six.’ Mrs Curdle had sat listening to this lucid explanation with great complacency.Charles Dickens Mr Curdle coughed and considered. upon my word I don’t know. but that we confer the distinction merely upon Miss Snevellicci. pulling up his neckcloth. but there was nothing in any of them. Have you got two-and-sixpence for half-a-crown. with many smiles and bends. that we should extend our patronage to a degraded stage. a tone. ‘If we do. I find. even for the sake of the associations with which it is entwined. and Mrs Curdle. I take those to be the dramatic unities. a light and shade. a warmth of colouring. I take it to be. ‘Just so. ‘Let me see. That being clearly stated.’ said Mr Curdle. so far as I have been enabled to bestow attention upon them. and I have read much upon the subject.’ replied Nicholas. sir. an artistical development of original conceptions. a breadth. Let it go forth to the world.’ said Mr Curdle. Nicholas murmured a jest about his being an author. my dear. a glow. It being finished. Miss Snevellicci felt in all the corners of the pink reticule. in vain. among older performers—I don’t know whether I make myself understood?’ ‘Perfectly. a harmony. ‘are a completeness—a kind of universal dovetailedness with regard to place and time—a sort of a general oneness. as it were. ‘twice four’s eight—four shillings a-piece to the boxes. if I may be allowed to use so strong an expression. and dust309 . Miss Snevellicci?’ said Mr Curdle. running through the performances of this child. I suppose? Sixpence will not part us.’ said Mr Curdle. turning to the phenomenon. and thought much. turning over four of those pieces of money. adding several supplementary directions relative to keeping the places for them. ‘The unities.

resided the six children who were so enraptured with the public actions of the phenomenon. ‘I shall certainly persuade Mr Borum to take a private box. Now. Charlotte.’ said Nicholas. they were in great glory. ‘Odd people those. if you were to succeed. my dear.’ said the lady of the house. don’t stare so). you naughty boy. pray see to the children. I am ashamed of you! Miss Lane. and will make up the rest of the party. and crying in the next. who. of gentlemen—your admirers. for. as a signal for breaking up the conference. Fie. proceeded to poke their fingers into her eyes. there. dear!’ ‘I am very happy to hear you express so favourable an opinion. being called down from the nursery to be treated with a private view of that young lady. turning to Miss Snevellicci. was now carrying it bodily off. taking his arm. ‘that I think myself very lucky they did not owe all the money instead of being sixpence short. ‘It’s quite delightful to think you like it. ‘I assure you. and sending two clean bills as soon as they came out.’ Miss Lane was the governess.’ At the next house they visited. and this entreaty was rendered necessary by the abrupt behaviour of the youngest Miss Borum.’ 310 . ‘I am sure you must be very tired. ‘I cannot think of allowing you to go. ‘I shall only take two of the children.’ said the mama. ‘I cannot understand (Emma. rang the bell.’ This was addressed to a young gentleman who was pinching the phenomenon behind. after a most gracious reception. they would have been quite certain of that from the very beginning. and if you were to fail. and show her many other little attentions peculiar to their time of life. having filched the phenomenon’s little green parasol. ‘I am sure. turning again to Miss Snevellicci.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ing the seat. apparently with a view of ascertaining whether she was real. laughing in one piece. Miss Snevellicci.’ said Miss Snevellicci.’ said Miss Snevellicci. while the distracted infant looked helplessly on. they would give people to understand that they had always patronised you. when they got clear of the house. and so natural in all—oh. and tread upon her toes. without first taking a glass of wine. leave the little girl alone. where you ever learnt to act as you do. and who. Augustus.’ said good-natured Mrs Borum.

flung down all the areas. And at length the great day arrived. and others comedies. Some people wouldn’t promise to go. was shortly afterwards taken away by her friends. The crier was sent round. for two strong little boys. some objected to dancing. being recruited with a glass of wine. omitting something in this place. and adding something in that. some wanted scarcely anything else. and they returned home. one holding on by each of her hands. because other people went. and by little and little. and a rather extensive creasing of the white frock and trousers. ‘Who can help liking it? I would go to the play. and several dances). were dispersed in all directions. for an illiterate person having undertaken this office during the indisposition of the regular bill311 . for there were a great many calls to make. and developed in all the shops. Nicholas worked away at the piece. to pay the necessary attention to these proceedings) rescued the unhappy infant at this juncture. divers songs. which he studied with great perseverance and acted—as the whole company said—to perfection. how can you let them torment that poor child so!’ The phenomenon was really in a fair way of being torn limb from limb. They were placarded on all the walls too. and extra bills of three feet long by nine inches wide. and others hoped he would have more to do than he usually had. which was speedily put into rehearsal. and other people wouldn’t go at all. pretty well exhausted with the business of the day. At length. Miss Snevellicci pledged herself to a bill of fare which was comprehensive enough. after sustaining no more serious damage than a flattening of the pink gauze bonnet. who. You do put me in such a state—into such fits of crying! Goodness gracious me. Some thought the comic singer decidedly low. to proclaim the entertainments with the sound of bell in all the thoroughfares. though not with complete success. a few combats. thrust under all the knockers. However. Miss Lane. and then worked away at his own part. It was a trying morning. four pieces. if it had no other merit (it included among other trifles. twice a week if I could: I dote upon it—only you’re too affecting sometimes.Charles Dickens ‘Like it!’ cried Mrs Borum. in the morning. and everybody wanted a different thing. because other people wouldn’t promise to go. were dragging her in different directions as a trial of strength. Miss Lane (who had herself been too much occupied in contemplating the grown-up actors. Some wanted tragedies.

sideways. Again and again Miss Snevellicci curtseyed lower and lower. the same unwonted excitement prevailed. Behind the scenes. remained unconscious of the honour. and the curtain rose upon the new piece. The first scene. of which. the orchestra left off. supposed to entertain a passion for Miss Snevellicci. a young officer.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY sticker. Mrs Crummles was so nervous that she could hardly remember her part. some fluttered into the lamps. But when Nicholas came on for his crack scene with Mrs Crummles. at a quarter before six. to announce that another man had come into the pit. and the play proceeded. At half-past five. what a roar of applause broke out! The people in the Borum box rose as one man. there were at least a dozen. accompanied by the phenomenon as child. but when Miss Snevellicci went on in the second. when the phenomenon picked up one of the smoking wreaths and put it on.’ and he defied her. who. stuck his glass in his eye as though to hide a tear. and uttering shouts of ‘Bravo!’ Mrs Borum and the governess cast wreaths upon the stage. looking eagerly towards the scene. and again and again the applause came down. At last. it reached its climax. and when the elder Master Crummles opened the door. Miss Snevellicci was in such a perspiration that the paint would scarcely stay on her face. at six o’clock the kicks were terrific. louder and louder. and running back. and called him ‘presumptuous boy. waving their hats and handkerchiefs. over Miss Snevellicci’s eye. the very ginger-beer boy remained transfixed in the centre of the house. what a clapping of hands there was! When Mrs Crummles (who was his unworthy mother). and one crowned the temples of a fat gentleman in the pit. even Mr Crummles himself kept peeping through the hole in the curtain. Fifteen shillings were taken by Mrs Grudden in the first ten minutes. the tailor and his family kicked at the panels of the upper boxes till they threatened to come out altogether. there was a rush of four people to the gallery-door. sneered. At length. every now and then. Miss Bravassa’s ringlets came out of curl with the heat and anxiety. a part were posted sideways. he was obliged to run behind it for his life. in which there was nobody particular. what a tumult of applause came on! When he quarrelled with the other 312 . and the remainder upside down. passed off calmly enough.

and she relenting. and gallery. In short. said. Nor were these the only tokens of extraordinary success. by favour of the indefatigable Mrs Grudden. how the ladies in the audience sobbed! When he was hid behind the curtain in the dark. pit.Charles Dickens gentleman about the young lady. Nicholas received. that if he was a gentleman. on the succeeding Saturday. AND AN ELDERLY ADMIRER WHO FOLLOWS IN HER TRAIN. WHO JOINS THE COMPANY. besides which substantial reward. Mrs Grudden lighted the blue fire. until the furniture was sprinkled with the blood of one. he would fight him in that drawing-room. his figure. because she wouldn’t give up the young lady’s property. and when Miss Snevellicci was called for at the end of the play. were reduced from three in the week to two. was announced for every evening of performance until further notice. and all the unemployed members of the company came in. And when. 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. was the subject of commendation. his walk. if not of two—how boxes. in the pump-and-tub scene. There was a round of applause every time he spoke. and the wicked relation poked a sharp sword in every direction. everything he said or did. at last. caused him to relent likewise. and the evenings when the theatre was closed. CHAPTER 25 CONCERNING A YOUNG LADY FROM LONDON. for. and tumbled down in various directions—not because that had anything to do with the plot. he enjoyed considerable fame and honour: having a presentation copy of Mr Curdle’s pamphlet forwarded to the theatre. save where his legs were plainly visible. no less a sum than thirty shillings. WITH AN AFFECTING CEREMONY CONSEQUENT ON THEIR ARRIVAL THE NEW PIECE BEING a decided hit. and producing a case of pistols. Nicholas led her on. his look. joined in one most vigorous cheer! When he called his mother names. what a thrill of anxious fear ran through the house! His air. and fall down on one knee and ask her blessing. with that gentleman’s own autograph (in itself an inestimable 313 . and divided the applause. the success both of new piece and new actor was complete.

’ said Mr Crummles. “The Blood Drinker. this season. ‘You’re about right there. ‘Miss So-and-so. perhaps?’ suggested Nicholas. no. ‘“The Blood Drinker” will die with that girl. ‘and that’s a girl. no. Then I don’t know what it is. Johnson. who could stand upon one leg. Look here.’ said Mr Crummles one morning in great glee.’ ‘What should you say to a young lady from London?’ inquired Mr Crummles. No.’ ‘Very true. what do you think of this?’ With this inquiry Mr Crummles unfolded a red poster.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY treasure) on the fly-leaf. ‘I know that lady. you wouldn’t have been far out. containing many expressions of approval.’ replied Mr Crummles impressively. ‘I don’t think we shall come to the pony at all. of the Theatre Royal.’ said Mr Crummles. like a sylph. accompanied with a note.’ ‘Then you are acquainted with as much talent as was ever compressed into one young person’s body. ‘I’ve got another novelty. and a yellow poster. and play the tambourine on her other knee. and a blue poster. ‘The pony?’ ‘No. I am sure. we never come to the pony till everything else has failed. and an unsolicited assurance that Mr Curdle would be very happy to read Shakespeare to him for three hours every morning before breakfast during his stay in the town. not the pony. ‘that is. Drury Lane!’ ‘Dear me!’ said Nicholas. ‘There is only one phenomenon.’ ‘A boy phenomenon. 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. sir.’ said Nicholas. ‘and if you had said she would look very well upon the stage too. rolling up the bills again. and she’s the only sylph I ever saw. ‘I beg your pardon. Mrs Crummles saw what she could 314 .”’ added Mr Crummles with a prophetic sigh.’ replied Mr Crummles. ‘She is an old friend of Mrs Crummles’s. ‘What’s that?’ rejoined Nicholas.’ ‘When does she come down?’ asked Nicholas. ‘We expect her today. talent of a certain sort—of a certain sort. Drury Lane?’ ‘I should say she would look very well in the bills.’ retorted Mr Crummles.’ said Nicholas.

’ 315 . ‘she stood upon her head on the butt-end of a spear. ‘Ah! extraordinary indeed. and Helen Macgregor. with a very serious countenance. I don’t think her country will. at sight of the superscription whereof.Charles Dickens do—always knew it from the first. hesitating. taking a complacent pinch of snuff.’ said Mr Crummles. no. and then she played Juliet. 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. anticipating the question. ‘Nobody could stand it. ‘you don’t. yes. indeed?’ ‘Yes. Mrs Crummles exclaimed. ‘What an excellent thing for her.’ Nicholas ventured to insinuate that he thought he did. it’s all right. ‘Is it—?’ inquired Mr Crummles. indeed. ‘I pledge you my professional word I didn’t even know she could dance. and all upon the stage!’ ‘Extraordinary!’ cried Nicholas. which had arrived by the General Post. till her last benefit.’ ‘You astonish me!’ said Nicholas. Look at her—mother of six children—three of ‘em alive. to be sure!’ ‘It’s the best thing altogether. She taught her. She was obliged to give it up though. Mrs Crummles was the original Blood Drinker. ‘Not so much with her.’ rejoined Mr Crummles. as with her audiences. nearly all she knows. ‘No. ‘She astonished me!’ returned Mr Crummles. that I ever heard of. Master Percy Crummles entered with a letter. drawing a little nearer. and speaking in the tone of confidential friendship. you don’t. I don’t. I think. till she is dead. indeed. and was directed to his gracious mother. You don’t quite know what Mrs Crummles is yet. It was too tremendous. ‘Oh. Johnson. and did the skipping-rope hornpipe between the pieces. I do declare!’ and instantly became absorbed in the contents. surrounded with blazing fireworks.’ replied Mr Crummles. ‘From Henrietta Petowker.’ ‘Was she. and shaking his head gravely. ‘Such grace. Some new proof of talent bursts from that astonishing woman every year of her life.’ ‘Did it disagree with her?’ asked Nicholas. and that’s a fact.’ replied Mrs Crummles. The very first time I saw that admirable woman. Almost immediately afterwards.’ said Mr Crummles.

and announced that a gentleman below stairs wished to speak to Mr Johnson. that the enchanting actress cast many sweet looks towards the quarter whence these sounds proceeded. than a recognition passing between a lady and gentleman who had only met some half-dozen times. too. Nicholas left them to enjoy their mirth together. being occupied with his share of the stage business. he bestowed no great attention upon this circumstance. But.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY said Mr Crummles. the umbrella broke out afresh.’ His fellow-lodger looked at the cold meat in silent calculation of the quantity that would be left for dinner next day. and on Nicholas receiving this intelligence with unfeigned surprise. that’s all I know. all fell to laughing violently. and could not but observe that the warmth of her reception was mainly attributable to a most persevering umbrella in the upper boxes. and pondering still more on the extreme surprise with which that lady would regard his sudden enlistment in a profession of which she was such a distinguished and brilliant ornament. ‘Well. and might tax it before long. Mrs Crummles. Smike. 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 inseparable from infancy. he thought that a peculiarly shaped hat in the same corner was not wholly unknown to him. wondering very much what mystery connected with Miss Petowker could provoke such merriment. Nay. and that every time she did so. Nicholas had the honour of playing in a slight piece with Miss Petowker that night. with a sweet glance. if he does. 316 . that she had a claim on his good nature now. but. and then by mere chance. you must tell him to come up. He had just sat down to supper with Smike. and Master Percy Crummles. Once. and walked to his lodgings. when one of the people of the house came outside the door. I suppose. and then Mr Crummles. in this latter respect he was mistaken.’ replied Nicholas. ‘One of our hungry brethren. Miss Petowker even whispered that she had wholly dropped the Kenwigses in her conversations with the manager’s family. she added. and had represented herself as having encountered Mr Johnson in the very first and most fashionable circles. he saw. and it had quite vanished from his memory by the time he reached home. for—whether Mr Vincent Crummles had paved the way.

’ ‘She is a divinity. ‘Oh! I see. then you were at the theatre tonight. and having done so. and it was your umb—’ ‘This umbrella. sir. when did you come here?’ asked Nicholas. sir. not trusting himself to speak. who lived in my beat for upwards of four year but never—no. that it was delicious. ‘Ah!’ said Nicholas.’ ‘Agreeable!’ cried the collector.’ Nicholas had much ado to prevent himself from laughing. and remained silent.’ replied Nicholas. did I see a diviner one than is Henrietta Petowker. in order that the visitor’s encroachments might be less formidable in their effects. Nicholas looked good-humouredly at Smike. and sat himself down in a seat by the chimney-corner. and again he frowned and nodded. 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. sir of all divine creatures. Come in. who. ‘I say. ‘I have known divine actresses before now. fairylike. taking 317 .Charles Dickens and put back a slice he had cut for himself. he merely nodded in accordance with Mr Lillyvick’s nods. ‘This morning. delicious. In the name of wonder! Mr Lillyvick?’ It was.’ and again Mr Lillyvick drew himself up. a little surprised at these symptoms of ecstatic approbation. sir. ‘for he is tumbling up every stair. being on the stage. ‘I thought it very agreeable.’ said Mr Lillyvick. ‘It is not anybody who has been here before. toomultuous. actresses or no actresses. drew himself up. ‘Absorbing.’ said Nicholas. ‘Why. shook hands with most portentous solemnity. ‘Let me speak a word with you in private. giving a collector’s double knock on the ground with the umbrella before-mentioned. ‘What did you think of that performance?’ ‘So far as I could judge.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. never. regarding Nicholas with a fixed look and immovable countenance. ‘Yes—she is a clever girl. ‘I mean to say.’ returned Mr Lillyvick. and frowned and nodded a great many times. producing a fat green cotton one with a battered ferrule.’ Mr Lillyvick bent forward to pronounce the last word with greater emphasis.’ said Mr Lillyvick. indeed.’ repeated Mr Lillyvick. the collector of water-rates who. come in.

You see that?’ ‘Oh yes. not to make her Mrs Lillyvick.’ ‘I congratulate you. sir. ‘Thank you. ‘He is. sir.’ replied Nicholas: ‘it’s very true. too.’ resumed Mr Lillyvick. ‘just what I say. for she is an uncommon specimen. ‘is the expense. sir!’ replied the collector.’ ‘You ought to know. ‘A bachelor is a miserable wretch. no doubt. and not to him. ‘Fine women. 318 . the main from which all the other little branches are turned on. ‘Is he?’ asked Nicholas.’ said Mr Lillyvick.’ said Mr Lillyvick. and get low-spirited every time they see him looking in good health. then. because they want to come into his little property. ‘but whether you do or not. sir. ‘That’s what I say. always keep their maiden names—that’s the regular thing—but I’m going to marry her. they still wish him dead all the while. he is the head of the family.’ rejoined the collector. Henrietta Petowker. or else— Lord!’ said Mr Lillyvick. he’s a lucky fellow.’ replied the collector.’ replied the collector.’ said Nicholas.’ ‘The great reason for not being married. that’s what’s kept me off. but such women as don’t fall into every man’s way. the talented Henrietta Petowker has a fortune in herself. is another question.’ ‘If a bachelor happens to have saved a little matter of money.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY the hint. patting him benignantly on the side of the head with his umbrella.’ retorted the collector. ‘Actresses.’ ‘Fine women?’ asked Nicholas. ‘ay! not so fine as Henrietta Petowker. ‘No. disappeared. of course. even if.’ thought Nicholas. ‘I might have had fifty women. Now suppose a man can get a fortune IN a wife instead of with her—eh?’ ‘Why. and I am going to—’ ‘To make her Mrs Lillyvick?’ suggested Nicholas.’ replied Nicholas. or. as it may be. buttoning his waistcoat. and nephews and nieces. I can tell you. snapping his fingers. certainly. and I hope after all that it’s nearly as cheap to keep two as it is to keep one. ‘I have lived in the world for nigh sixty year. by being a public character. ‘I shall draw her salary. sir. that’s a consolation.’ ‘Surely you don’t want any consolation at such a moment?’ observed Nicholas. and the day after tomorrow. look to that money. and I ought to know what it is. sir. ‘his sisters and brothers.

‘Oh. for fear you should be writing to Mr Noggs. ‘just muffins and coffee.’ ‘Family!’ said Nicholas. no.’ ‘And they’ll be bridesmaids. highly anxious to prevent any misunderstanding on this point. ‘they couldn’t very well dispose of her at night. ‘What family?’ ‘The Kenwigses of course. you know. I shall be most happy to come.’ ‘But how come you both here. the Crummleses. ‘Why.’ ‘To prevent which. ‘Yes. under pretence of this engagement. with perhaps a shrimp or something of that sort for a relish. and I should go down to Guildford the day before. which I did. they both belong to the theatre.’ said the collector. they’d have gone into fits at my feet.’ said Mr Lillyvick.’ rejoined Mr Lillyvick. ‘If my niece and the children had known a word about it before I came away.’ said Nicholas. and join her on the coach there. shaking his head nervously: ‘no— of course not. I suppose?’ said Nicholas. and so she is staying with an acquaintance of hers. We shall be married from the Crummleses’ lodgings. ‘Henrietta Petowker (it was settled between us) should come down here to her friends. and might say anything about us. ‘To be sure. and another young lady.’ said the collector. if you’re going to be married. it will give me the greatest pleasure. and we came down from Guildford yesterday together. Mr Lillyvick?’ asked Nicholas. yes. that’s what I came to explain to you. quite trembling as he spoke.’ ‘Miss Snevellicci. Now.’ replied Nicholas.’ replied the collector of water-rate.’ ‘Yes. I’m afraid they’ll make it rather theatrical. ‘they will have four bridesmaids. It won’t be expensive. I understand. ‘Yes.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. ‘Why.’ said the collector. and shall be delighted to see you—either before church or at breakfast-time. we have thought it best to keep it secret from the family.Charles Dickens ‘No. ‘The fact is. and never have come out of ‘em till I took an oath not to marry anybody—or they’d have got out a commission of lunacy. that’s the name. they would have been jealous. Where’s the lady stopping—with Mrs Crummles?’ ‘Why. or some dreadful thing. I presume?’ said Nicholas. no doubt. we have thought it best to let you into the secret. you know.’ 319 . which you like. with a rueful face.’ said the collector.

’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘Who may the four be? Miss Snevellicci of course—Miss Ledrook—’ ‘The—the phenomenon. meanness.’ With these words. insomuch that when Miss Petowker awoke on the succeeding morning in the chamber of Miss Snevellicci.’ replied Nicholas. ha!’ cried Nicholas.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Oh no.’ replied the collector. the married one. it passed with great rapidity. 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. and to say how very proud she ought to feel that it was in her 320 . I should think it was a very pleasant life. she declared that nothing should ever persuade her that that really was the day which was to behold a change in her condition. ‘Yes.’ said the collector. Without stopping to inquire whether the intervening day appeared to Nicholas to consist of the usual number of hours of the ordinary length.’ said the collector. hesitation. Oh yes. ‘I never will believe it. not at all. turned his back upon the room. ‘some other friend of Henrietta Petowker’s. will you?’ ‘You may safely depend upon me. ‘I cannot really.’ groaned the collector. it may be remarked that. fondness. with an awkward attempt to convert a laugh into a cough. you’ll be careful not to say anything about it. ‘Ha. I don’t know what I’m laughing at—yes. misgiving. began to preach comfort and firmness. Mr Lillyvick. It’s of no use talking. that’ll be very pretty—the phenomenon—who else?’ ‘Some young woman or other. and self-importance. ‘I beg your pardon. No doubt. and left Nicholas to enjoy a laugh by himself if he felt so disposed. who knew perfectly well that their fair friend’s mind had been made up for three or four years. eh?’ ‘I have not the least doubt of it. whose manner had exhibited through the whole of this interview a most extraordinary compound of precipitation. ‘certainly. Miss Snevellicci and Miss Ledrook. to the parties more directly interested in the forthcoming ceremony. ‘Won’t you take anything to eat or drink?’ ‘No. Well. I never can make up my mind to go through with such a trial!’ On hearing this. ‘I haven’t any appetite.’ said Miss Petowker. rising.’ replied Nicholas. confidence and doubt. Good night.

strong tea and brandy were administered in alternate doses as a means of strengthening her feeble limbs and causing her to walk steadier. and calmly declared that she was ready for the sacrifice. after which.’ ‘So would I. She was accordingly supported into the coach.’ said Miss Snevellicci. I would indeed.’ said Miss Ledrook.’ said Miss Ledrook.’ This pious reasoning.’ said Miss Snevellicci. do you think he won’t? Do you think Lillyvick will always remember it—always. I have broken hearts before now. my love?’ inquired Miss Snevellicci. ‘Now Led.’ ‘It is indeed. ‘I would rather court the yoke than shun it. ‘I might feel it was a great blow. not for any worldly consideration—still (thank God). but I would submit. supported the bride through the ceremony of robing. which so astounded the bride that she shook off divers alarming symptoms which were coming on very strong. and there ‘kept up’ (as Miss Snevellicci said) with perpetual sniffs of sal volatlle and sips of brandy and other gentle stimulants.Charles Dickens power to confer lasting bliss on a deserving object. and that although for their parts they held true happiness to consist in a single life. until 321 . ‘Do you think he won’t?’ cried Miss Petowker. and will never forget it. we must positively get her ready. which they would not willingly exchange—no. if Miss Snevellicci had not at that moment proclaimed the arrival of the fly. and how necessary it was for the happiness of mankind in general that women should possess fortitude and resignation on such occasions. ‘Oh Lillyvick!’ cried the bride. ‘How do you feel now. if ever the time should come. we shall indeed. my dear. and perhaps the fear of being too late. and running to the glass adjusted her dress. they hoped they knew their duty too well to repine. but would the rather submit with meekness and humility of spirit to a fate for which Providence had clearly designed them with a view to the contentment and reward of their fellow-creatures. ‘If you knew what I am undergoing for you!’ ‘Of course he knows it. ‘Oh. really showing great capability for the stage. and I’m very sorry for it: for it’s a terrible thing to reflect upon. always. love. or we shall be too late. ‘to break up old associations and what-do-you-callems of that kind. always?’ There is no knowing in what this burst of feeling might have ended. my dear.

and the phenomenon. ‘Is the sight of me so dreadful. Miss Ledrook. that Mr Crummles had been more than a father to her. ‘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. no. not very long before. ‘Henrietta Petowker!’ said the collector. Miss Petowker went on to enumerate the dear friends of her youthful days one by one. and they were obliged to drive to church very fast. the collector. The procession consisted of two flys. and to call upon such of them as were present to come and embrace her. was rendered almost invisible by the portable arbour in which she was enshrined. and after that. and Mr Folair. which she had purchased.’ rejoined the bride. my lovely one. By the combined exertions of these young gentlemen and the bridesmaids. assisted by the coachman. almost equal to real.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY they reached the manager’s door. a great bargain. in particular. in the first of which were Miss Bravassa (the fourth bridesmaid). which was already opened by the two Master Crummleses. the other ladies displayed several dazzling articles of imitative jewellery. she remembered that Mrs Crummles had been more than a mother to her. Mr Crummles. and 322 . Miss Snevellicci. and after that. and were decorated with the choicest and most resplendent waistcoats in the theatrical wardrobe. ‘Oh no. who had been chosen as his second on the occasion. but emotion choked her utterance.’ Miss Petowker grasped the collector’s hand. Miss Ledrook. wore in her breast the miniature of some fieldofficer unknown. Mrs Crummles. Miss Petowker was at length supported in a condition of much exhaustion to the first floor. occupied a long time. for fear they should be too late. who wore white cockades. Henrietta Petowker?’ said the collector. that the Master Crummleses and Miss Ninetta Crummles had been more than brothers and sisters to her. In the other were the bride. ‘cheer up. The costumes were beautiful. These various remembrances being each accompanied with a series of hugs. no. The bridesmaids were quite covered with artificial flowers. and the phenomenon. who was of a romantic turn. where she no sooner encountered the youthful bridegroom than she fainted with great decorum. This done.

Mr Crummles. and fell to. ‘made up’ for the part by arraying himself in a theatrical wig. The procession up the aisle was beautiful. But. who personated the bride’s father.’ said Crummles. they went back to breakfast in high spirits. sir. with grey silk stockings. which consists of a stride and a stop alternately— it was the completest thing ever witnessed. This gentleman. and moreover assuming a snuff-coloured suit. and. ‘It’s very soon done. when they entered the church. And here they found Nicholas awaiting their arrival. leaning over the table to address him. and all parties present having signed the register (for which purpose. breakfast. who had been assisting Mrs Grudden in the preparations. with the four bridesmaids. with an infirm and feeble gait. perhaps the appearance of Mr Crummles was more striking and appropriate than that of any member of the party. in pursuance of a happy and original conception. and eating very much when anybody was NOT looking. and Mr Lillyvick going to work as though with the cool resolve. had. isn’t it?’ inquired Mr Folair of the collector. the sobs of the affectionate parent were so heart-rending that the pew-opener suggested the propriety of his retiring to the vestry. forming a group previously arranged and rehearsed. he would leave as little as possible for the Crummleses to eat up afterwards. which attracted the admiration of all beholders. that since the good things must be paid for by him. ‘Breakfast. The company crowded and squeezed themselves at the table as well as they could.’ No second invitation was required. which were on a more extensive scale than was quite agreeable to the collector. followed by his second. and buckles to his shoes. immediately: Miss Petowker blushing very much when anybody was looking. of a style and pattern commonly known as a brown George. the collector. Mrs Crummles advancing with that stage walk. 323 . of the previous century. ‘Now then. The better to support his assumed character he had determined to be greatly overcome.Charles Dickens Mrs Crummles came out in a stern and gloomy majesty. The ceremony was very quickly disposed of. Mr Crummles carefully wiped and put on an immense pair of spectacles). consequently. and comforting himself with a glass of water before the ceremony began. imitating his walk and gestures to the indescribable amusement of some theatrical friends in the gallery. when it came to his turn. The bride.

pinned by the leg.’ replied Mr Folair. sir. ‘Does any man dare to speak to me of a noose. for Mr Lillyvick was dignified beyond expression.’ ‘So you ought to be. sir?’ returned Mr Lillyvick. sir.’ added Crummles. that you were caught and trapped. sir?’ retorted Mr Lillyvick. ‘I’m sorry for it.’ returned Mr Lillyvick. to be blessings and phenomenons.’ said the collector. colouring. ha!’ Mr Lillyvick laid down his knife and fork. ‘Noose! As if one was caught. ‘To hang himself!’ cried Mr Lillyvick again. And what then. ‘aimed a blow at the whole framework of society—’ ‘And the best and tenderest feelings. and what not. ‘To hang himself!’ repeated Mr Lillyvick. ‘It don’t take a man long to hang himself.’ replied the actor. ‘Is any parallel attempted to be drawn in this company between matrimony and hanging?’ ‘The noose.’ said Mr Folair. ‘What have I done?’ ‘Done. A profound silence came upon all. sir!’ cried Mr Lillyvick.’ said the actor. deeming it a matter of decency to be affected by this allusion to himself and partner. ‘It does not take long. and pinned by the leg. instead of going into it of one’s own accord and glorying in the act!’ ‘I didn’t mean to make it out.’ suggested Mr Crummles.’ replied Mr Lillyvick.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘What is soon done. a little crest-fallen. ‘The noose. ‘It don’t take long. you know. eh? ha.’ said Mr Crummles. ‘and I am glad to hear that you have enough of feeling left to be so. trapped into the married state. ‘—And Henrietta Lillyvick in the same breath?’ said the collector. who have brought up a talented and virtuous family. in the presence of Mr and Mrs Crummles. sir?’ ‘Oh! nothing. are we to hear talk of nooses?’ ‘Folair. and Henrietta Pe—’ ‘Lillyvick. and looked round the table with indignant astonishment. ‘I’m astonished at you. ‘The tying up—the fixing oneself with a wife. ‘And the highest and most estimable of social ties. relapsing into the old man. I can’t say any more.’ 324 .’ ‘What are you going on in this way at me for?’ urged the unfortunate actor. ‘In this house. does it?’ ‘No. either.

occasioned by the unexpected development of strong symptoms of inebriety in the conduct of Mrs Grudden. This desperate threat effectually broke up the party. if the fly-driver. but Nicholas having to play Romeo for the first time on the ensuing evening. from Miss Ledrook and Miss Bravassa. where they were to spend the next two days in profound retirement. would (he had previously ascertained) transport her at half-price. Regardless of this circumstance. and so expressing his contempt both for the speaker and the sentiments to which he gave utterance. deceived by her size. 325 . they did. though not without some confusion. two by the Master Crummleses in returning thanks for themselves. who had been appointed travelling bridesmaid on Mr Lillyvick’s express stipulation: as the steamboat people. and from that time Mr Folair sat in moody silence. for the room being small and the table-cloth long. at which Mrs Crummles shed tears. and some by Crummles. Mr Crummles declared his intention of keeping it up till everything to drink was disposed of. Mr Lillyvick and his bride departed for Ryde.Charles Dickens The quarrel appearing to terminate with this reply. a whole detachment of plates were swept off the board at the very first move. which. who stopped to drive the happy pair to the spot where they proposed to take steamboat to Ryde. some by Nicholas. Mrs Lillyvick refused to be comforted until the belligerents had passed their words that the dispute should be carried no further. There was some singing. had not sent in a peremptory message intimating. There were a great number of speeches made. After a most pathetic leave-taking. and whither they were accompanied by the infant. Mrs Lillyvick considered that the fittest occasion (the attention of the company being no longer distracted) to burst into tears. that if they didn’t come directly he should infallibly demand eighteen-pence over and above his agreement. too. and very likely there might have been more. contrived to slip away in the midst of a temporary confusion. which was immediately rendered. As there was no performance that night. and some by the collector. after a sufficient show of reluctance. contenting himself with pinching Nicholas’s leg when anything was said. however. and require the assistance of all four bridesmaids. and one by the phenomenon on behalf of the bridesmaids.

considerate. my poor fellow. ‘I am afraid you can’t learn it. and then to two at a time. over and over again. nor did they stop. Let us see who tires first. ‘Never mind me. unwearying. but by his anxiety on account of Smike. Who calls so loud?” ‘“Who calls so loud?”’ said Smike. and Smike. Smike. and when Smike had that by heart Nicholas went to another sentence. not only by his own inclinations. shaking his head.’ ‘Do you think so?’ exclaimed Nicholas. Smike. Early in the morning they went to it again. over and over again. ‘“Who calls so loud?”’ cried Smike. Thus they continued to ask each other who called so loud. until at midnight poor Smike found to his unspeakable joy that he really began to remember something about the text. trust me. docile pupil. Not I. and how he must occasionally rub it. ‘if you were to keep saying it to me in little bits. ‘I think if you—but that would give you so much trouble.’ ‘I am afraid not. kindhearted master. and then to three.’ said Smike. ‘Well said. I should be able to recollect it from hearing you. humble.’ said Nicholas. having to sustain the character of the Apothecary. which—perhaps from old recollections—he had acquired with great aptitude. got on faster and with better heart. until it was time to repair to the theatre at night. Never had pupil a more patient. who.’ ‘I think. ‘I don’t know what’s to be done.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY To this act of desertion he was led. and so on. rendered more confident by the progress he had already made. After the morning’s rehearsal they went to work again. As soon as he began to acquire the words pretty freely. and at every interval when he 326 .’ ‘What?’ inquired Nicholas. except for a hasty dinner. 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. laying down the book. Nicholas showed him how he must come in with both hands spread out upon his stomach. As soon as they were dressed. Now then.’ said Smike. in compliance with the established form by which people on the stage always denote that they want something to eat. ‘“Who calls so loud?”’ repeated Nicholas. Never had master a more anxious.

two battered hats. yawning heavily. for not a word was exchanged between the two. cause any flow of conversation prevented the attractions of the journals from being called into request. and their stale and crumbled ashes. all mud and dirt. nor was any sound uttered. Nicholas renewed his instructions. an empty purse. hinted very intelligibly at the nature of last night’s gentlemanly frolics. the time was three o’clock in the afternoon to the dull and plodding. he 327 CHAPTER 26 IS FRAUGHT WITH SOME DANGER TO MISS NICKLEBY’S PEACE OF MIND THE PLACE WAS A HANDSOME suite of private apartments in Regent Street. the persons were Lord Frederick Verisopht. a champagne bottle with a soiled glove twisted round the neck.Charles Dickens was not upon the stage. with a table between them. and seemed for a moment to communicate a new restlessness to his companion. and his friend Sir Mulberry Hawk. and the first hour of morning to the gay and spirited. These distinguished gentlemen were reclining listlessly on a couple of sofas. uttered an exclamation of impatience. a handful of silver. A couple of billiard balls. and many other tokens of riot and disorder. were neglected and unnoticed. mingled with fragments of half-smoked cigars. but these. Dropping his slippered foot on the ground. not. a broken cane. the very prince and prodigy of Apothecaries. Lord Frederick Verisopht was the first to speak. save when one. even if there had not been other indications of the amusements in which it had been passed. alike by audience and actors.—these. to allow of its being grasped more surely in its capacity of an offensive weapon. however. The Romeo was received with hearty plaudits and unbounded favour. and. on which were scattered in rich confusion the materials of an untasted breakfast. Newspapers lay strewn about the room. like the meal. and Smike was pronounced unanimously. a watchguard snapped asunder. These appearances would in themselves have furnished a pretty strong clue to the extent of the debauch of the previous night. a card-case without the top. They prospered well. in tossing about to find an easier resting-place for his aching head. be- .

‘You shall find her out yourself. ‘The girl.’ ‘Na-ay. ‘You take me.’ said Sir Mulberry. You distrust me in the business— you shall find her out yourself. and turned his dull languid eyes towards his friend. I say you shall find her out—shall—and I’ll put you in the way. pausing with a morsel on the point of his fork. ‘I feel as if there would be nothing so snug and comfortable as to die at once. but. after stretching himself very often. I see. No. then loitered up and down the room with his hand to his fevered head. finding that impossible. eh?’ ‘Which little Nickleby. His hopeful fiend and pupil drew a chair to the breakfasttable. sitting upright on the couch.’ replied Sir Mulberry. ‘suppose we go back to the subject of little Nickleby. and proving more successful in it than his less-seasoned friend. ‘yet awhile.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY struggled into a sitting posture. and declaring with a shiver that it was ‘infernal cold. ‘So I did. and roused his friend once more. when you can—I know as well as you that if I did. I haven’t a grain of life in me this morning. the money-lender or the ga-a-l?’ asked Lord Verisopht. and finally threw himself again on his sofa.’ ‘Then why don’t you die?’ said Sir Mulberry. lounged to the window. Don’t think that I mean. remained there. and seemed to occupy himself in an attempt to fall asleep. turning round. to whom he called in a drowsy voice. ‘Suppose. at least. ‘I don’t know that we’re fit for anything else. With which inquiry he turned his face away. and essayed to eat. Although Sir Mulberry said this with sufficient ill-humour.’ returned his friend. of course. ‘but I have thought further of the matter since then.’ 328 .’ he made an experiment at the breakfast-table. ‘What the devil’s the matter?’ groaned Sir Mulberry. you could never get sight of her without me.’ ‘Life!’ cried Lord Verisopht. ‘But I say yes.’ said Lord Verisopht.’ rejoined his friend.’ remonstrated Lord Verisopht. he did not seem to feel himself quite at liberty to remain silent. ‘Are we going to lie here all da-a-y?’ said the lord.’ ‘You promised me you’d find her out.’ replied Sir Mulberry. for. ‘Hallo!’ replied Sir Mulberry.

Sir Mulberry Hawk had been furtively trying by every means in his power to discover whence Kate had so suddenly appeared. ‘instead of letting me go on burning.’ ‘Well enough for once. Unassisted by Ralph. tell the uncle that you must know where she lives and how she lives. I could hardly get in a word. whether he felt it or not.’ answered Sir Mulberry carelessly. and with whom.’ said Sir Mulberry.’ replied Sir Mulberry. and whither she had disappeared. she’s a perfect beauty—a—a picture. He’ll tell you fast enough.’ ‘Why didn’t you say this before?’ asked Lord Verisopht. if you ain’t a real. deyvlish. ‘but not worth the trouble of being agreeable to again.’ repeated his friend. a statue. or you are no longer a customer of his. if mine doesn’t agree with yours. dragging out a miserable existence for an a-age!’ ‘I didn’t know it. a—a—upon my soul she is!’ ‘Well. ‘Upon my soul.’ ‘No!’ cried the young lord. downright. anyhow. ‘old Nickleby told me so himself. with whom he had held no communication since their angry parting on that occasion. all his efforts were wholly unavailing. ‘and in the second. well enough for once. Hawk. however.Charles Dickens ‘Now. in the first place. thorough-paced friend. and he had therefore arrived at the determination of communicating to the young lord the substance of the admission he had gleaned 329 . ‘She was at that dinner as a bait for you. ‘What the dey—’ ‘As a bait for you.’ ‘Confound it!’ reasoned the lord. ‘you were thick enough with her that day.’ Now. I didn’t believe you were so very much in earnest. curse me. ‘he knew she was a smart little creature—’ ‘Smart!’ interposed the young lord. on whom this speech had produced a most reviving effect. If you seriously want to follow up the niece. the truth was. ‘a noble rascal!’ ‘Yes.’ said Sir Mulberry. shrugging his shoulders and manifesting an indifference. ‘that’s a matter of taste.’ ‘What a fine old cock it is!’ exclaimed Lord Verisopht.’ replied Sir Mulberry. so much the better. ‘I’ll tell you how. consuming. that in the interval which had elapsed since the dinner at Ralph Nickleby’s.’ said the young lord.

‘Maybe—maybe—I don’t trouble my head with such matters. ‘what a pretty creature your niece is!’ ‘Is she. could not but advance his interests in that quarter. which were scarcely disposed of when the lordly dupe (in pursuance of his friend’s instructions) requested with some embarrassment to speak to Ralph alone. avowedly to promote his friend’s object. for he cast a curious look at Sir Mulberry. affecting surprise. so as to bring his lips nearer to the old man’s ear. To this he was impelled by various considerations. was uppermost in his thoughts.’ said Ralph. ‘Now. and using his utmost arts to reduce her pride. who bestowed upon it no other acknowledgment than a careless smile. and one which could not fail to redound to his advantage in every point of view. my lord. Thus reasoned Sir Mulberry. ‘Oh. the recollection of the scene which had taken place there seemed to occur to him. ‘Alone. since the very circumstance of his having extorted from Ralph Nickleby his real design in introducing his niece to such society. and really to attain his own. my lord?’ replied Ralph. They found Ralph at home. and alone. coupled with his extreme disinterestedness in communicating it so freely to his friend.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY from that worthy. Sir Mulberry took up his hat. as the desire of encountering the usurer’s niece again. and closed it after him. I’ll walk into the next room here.’ So saying. As he led them into the drawing-room. ‘what is it?’ ‘Nickleby. throwing himself along the sofa on which he had been previously seated. and in pursuance of this reasoning he and his friend soon afterwards repaired to Ralph Nickleby’s. among which the certainty of knowing whatever the weak young man knew was decidedly not the least. that’s all. Don’t keep me long. and greatly facilitate the passage of coin (pretty frequent and speedy already) from the pockets of Lord Frederick Verisopht to those of Sir Mulberry Hawk. eh?’ cried Sir Mulberry. and revenge himself for her contempt. They had a short conference upon some money matters then in progress. there to execute a plan of operations concerted by Sir Mulberry himself. It was a politic course of proceeding. and humming a fragment of a song disappeared through the door of communication between the two drawing-rooms. very good.’ 330 .’ said his client.

poor girl. that I may have another peep at her. Nickleby.’ cried his client.’ ‘You know he is your rival. Nickleby. ‘Where is it?’ ‘No good can come of your knowing.’ replied Ralph.’ replied Verisopht. ‘A ma-an may look at a pretty woman without harm. do you?’ said Ralph.’ ‘He bites. and upon my soul nobody shall ever take me 331 . looking sharply at him. mayn’t he? Now. my lord. I believe she is considered so. my lord—on all points. d-a-amn him. ‘p’raps you’re a little right.’ ‘Really—’ Ralph began in his usual tones. But Lord Frederick Verisopht was both. Where does she live. ‘She has been virtuously and well brought up. ha! He’ll cut up so rough. ‘I don’t want Hawk to hear.’ thought Ralph.’ ‘No. you are an authority on such points. ‘Where does she live?’ ‘Really. I want to know where this beauty lives. Come. Ha. and your taste.’ replied the client. ‘I tell you I only want to see her. you mustn’t think at all. and took them to be complimentary.’ Ralph ran over this brief summary of Kate’s condition as if it were merely passing through his own mind. unprotected! Poor girl. and p’raps you’re a little wrong—a little of both.’ said the client. Nickleby.’ Nobody but the young man to whom these words were addressed could have been deaf to the sneering tone in which they were spoken.’ ‘Yes. ‘You must know that.’ ‘Eh. that’s all? Only tell me where she lives. ‘Well. I know she is. ‘I must think before I tell you. Nickleby. Nickleby. ‘He bites. not a bit of it. to be sure she is handsome. Nickleby. Nickleby. ha.’ replied Ralph. If I did not. indeed—is undeniable. where does she live? You know you’re making a fortune out of me. achieving the great point of his lesson to a miracle. and he had no intention to speak aloud. eh?’ pursued the client. ‘Indeed.Charles Dickens ‘You know she’s a deyvlish fine girl. Nickleby. ‘Don’t talk so loud. poor. at our talking together without him. gave this poor assumption the lie. don’t deny that. or blind to the look of contempt by which they were accompanied.’ he said. ‘He always is.’ said Ralph. Nickleby.’ cried the other. but the shrewd sly look which he directed at his companion as he delivered it. ‘and I want to steal a march upon him. rubbing his hands slowly over each other.

‘and as I am most anxious to oblige you. and as there’s no harm in it—no harm—I’ll tell you. accomplished man Lord Frederick is. observing that from what he heard of the family they appeared very ambitious to have distinguished acquaintances. elegant.’ said Ralph.’ Lord Verisopht acknowledged the hint with a great many squeezes of Ralph’s hard. if he felt disposed. pray give way. Ralph disclosed the present address and occupation of his niece. But you had better keep it to yourself. reappearing with an ill-tempered air. called to Sir Mulberry Hawk that he might come back. than as if for some private reason of his own.’ replied the gull.’ Ralph pointed to the adjoining room as he spoke. ‘but Nickleby has been so ama-azingly funny that I couldn’t tear myself away.’ ‘No. and that a lord could. he boldly departed from the established custom of Ralph’s mansion in business hours.’ said Ralph. Mind the step. no. introduce himself with great ease. my lord.’ ‘As you promise that.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY to anybody else. and otherwise than by the slightest possible motion about the corners of his mouth. and look332 . and many low bows. if you only tell me this. and the same cold sneer upon his face all the while. strictly to yourself. The young lord. or have requested him or her to stand aside while the gentlemen passed out. But he no sooner saw who it was. which was answered by Newman Noggs just as they reached the hall. ‘I thought you had gone to sleep. ‘Sorry to detain you. You know what a witty. In the ordinary course of business Newman would have either admitted the new-comer in silence. Ralph busied himself in showing his visitors downstairs. ‘it was all his lordship.’ said Sir Mulberry. and nodded expressively. ‘Your object being only to see her again. my lord. my lord—Sir Mulberry. returned no show of answer to the look of admiration with which Sir Mulberry Hawk seemed to compliment him on being such an accomplished and most consummate scoundrel. ‘you could effect it at any time you chose by that means. feigning to be equally impressed with the necessity of this precaution. There had been a ring at the bell a few minutes before. humorous. horny hand. and whispering that they would now do well to close the conversation. with feigned reluctance.’ With such courtesies as these. doubtless.’ said Ralph.

I hope?’ ‘She is quite well.” said Lord Frederick.’ said Sir Mulberry. who. in a kind of desperation. ‘How de do?’ Mrs Nickleby was too much flurried by these uncommonly kind salutations. my lord!’ cried Sir Mulberry.’ said Mrs Nickleby. indeed. cried in a loud and sonorous voice. ‘Step into the office. my lord.’ ‘My lord!’ thought Mrs Nickleby. and betray great agitation. acknowledging the compliment with a graceful bend. I never did—’ ‘This. turning to his friend. ‘Well.’ returned Mrs Nickleby. as his friend looked back. ‘This lady’s daughter. ‘Mrs Nickleby!’ ‘Mrs Nickleby!’ cried Sir Mulberry Hawk. There is the same cast of features. pressing forward. that well-intentioned lady. ‘Upon my soul. it can’t be.’ ‘Nobody I know!’ cried Sir Mulberry Hawk.’ Ralph did so. I’m obliged to you.’ ‘Her daughter. brother-in-law. ‘Nobody you know. This lady is too young for that. that it’s al333 . my— my—dear. are such nasty things. my lord.’ ‘I think you can tell the gentleman. stopping short. if it concerns him to know. ‘No. my lord? Nickleby—introduce us. ‘A—and how is Miss Nickleby?’ said Lord Frederick. to make any immediate reply. Do you observe the extraordinary likeness. It was. that she caught cold in that hackney coach coming home. ‘that Kate Nickleby is my daughter. having received an offer for the empty house in the city directed to the landlord. my lord. no. ‘Quite well.Charles Dickens ing towards the respectable trio who were approaching. I’ll be with you directly. and I can’t help thinking. advancing to the astonished lady. and her regrets at not having on her other bonnet. She wasn’t well for some days after that day she dined here. This lady is the mother of sweet Miss Nickleby. recovering. ‘is the lady to whose obliging marriage we owe so much happiness. Hackney coaches. it’s a most delightful thing. and stared him in the face. ‘Well. my lord. had brought it post-haste to Mr Nickleby without delay. then. so she merely continued to bend and smile.’ said Sir Mulberry. the same indescribable air of—But no. ‘Is this Mrs Nickleby—the mother of Miss Nickleby—the delightful creature that I had the happiness of meeting in this house the very last time I dined here? But no.’ said Ralph.

‘though I’m not quite certain whether it wasn’t a chariot.’ said Mrs Nickleby. brother-in-law. that was it. Not so much as that. and that’s the fact. that they nearly all have broken windows. with a very long number. Mrs Nickleby stopped as suddenly as she had started off.’ ‘Is that letter for me?’ growled Ralph. at all events I know it was a dark green. and we should never even have known it. ‘Oh! It is indeed. ‘What a confounded distance! How far do you call it now?’ ‘How far do I call it?’ said Mrs Nickleby. if he has a broken window. seizing upon the chance of discovering where Mrs Nickleby had come from. but I should say the Corn Laws could be nothing to that act of Parliament. ‘For you. and a most shameful law it appears to be—I don’t understand the subject. and of course the stampoffice people would know at once whether it was a coach or a chariot if any inquiries were made there—however that was.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY most better to walk at any time. my lord. all at the same time.’ replied Mrs Nickleby. no. which it seems is the law.’ remarked Lord Frederick. it can’t be a yard less.’ Having pretty well run herself out by this time. and repeated that Kate was quite well.’ ‘No. beginning with a nought and ending with a nine—no. ‘It must be.’ said Mrs Nickleby.’ ‘All the way up here!’ cried Sir Mulberry. I once had a swelled face for six weeks. ‘All 334 . or was then. since she had the hoopingcough.’ said Mrs Nickleby reflecting. ‘I don’t think she ever was better. and ending with a nought. from riding in a hackney coach—I think it was a hackney coach. ‘Let me see. had the top open all the time. It’s just a mile from our door to the Old Bailey.’ said Mrs Nickleby. if they hadn’t charged us a shilling an hour extra for having it open. and measles. ‘Indeed. that we found out afterwards. still they are so reckless.’ urged Sir Mulberry. with a solemn aspect. pointing to the little packet Mrs Nickleby held in her hand. there it was with a broken window and there was I for six weeks with a swelled face—I think that was the very same hackney coach. scarlet-fever. ‘I appeal to his lordship. beginning with a nine.’ ‘I should decidedly say it was a mile. for although I believe a hackney coachman can be transported for life. ‘and I walked all the way up here on purpose to give it you.

’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘Oh dear me no.’ rejoined Mrs Nickleby. 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. brother-in-law. We’ll see her safe to the omnibus?’ ‘By all means. ‘I shall go back in an omnibus. what a happiness. that good lady in a perfect ecstasy of satisfaction.’ returned Mrs Nickleby. Ye-es. ‘we are going Mrs Nickleby’s way. what a comfort.’ said Sir Mulberry. down Gracechurch Street. As she was carried away for the moment by an irresistible train of thought. when my poor dear Nicholas was alive. ‘What a delight. and most unexceptionable husbands.’ returned Mrs Nickleby. sir.’ replied Sir Mulberry. ‘She is indeed. you know—’ ‘Yes. this amiable creature must be to you. not unwisely.Charles Dickens down Newgate Street. they quitted the house with Mrs Nickleby between them. at least between two large fortunes. glancing at the dial. ‘I think I had better say goodbye. so I had. all up Lombard Street. throwing into his voice an indication of the warmest feeling.’ ‘Not stop and—rest?’ said Ralph. no less with the attentions shown her by two titled gentlemen. on second thoughts I should say it was. than with the conviction that Kate might now pick and choose. all down Cheapside. all connected with her daughter’s future greatness.’ ‘Oh! I really couldn’t think of it!’ said Mrs Nickleby. who seemed to think. at once.’ replied Ralph impatiently.’ ‘Yes. ‘But you don’t surely mean to walk all the way back?’ ‘Oh. I didn’t travel about in omnibuses. ‘and you had better get back before dark. no. that he looked less ridiculous as a mere spectator. than he would have done if he had taken any part in these proceedings. as far as Spigwiffin’s Wharf. brother-in-law. But as it is. who seldom offered refreshments unless something was to be got by it. But Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Verisopht were peremptory in their politeness. and along Thames Street. ‘she is the sweet335 . and leaving Ralph.’ replied Mrs Nickleby. yes. and proceeded to dilate with great rapture.’ ‘Thank you. but much respect on the manifold perfections of Miss Nickleby. Oh! It’s a mile. ‘Lord Frederick.

and that’s the truth—twenty-five young ladies. ‘When she was at school in Devonshire. Kate had never said a word about having met either of these gentlemen. I know it was a circular which they all copied.’ returned Mrs Nickleby. which the extreme politeness of her new friends would not allow them to leave until it actually started. as Mrs Nickleby solemnly assured her hearers on many subsequent occasions. elegant. and of course it was a very gratifying thing—very gratifying.’ said Mrs Nickleby to herself. though Kate was never quite certain about that. ‘I assure you she is. and there were a great many very clever ones too.’ and kissed their strawcoloured kid gloves till they were no longer visible. with the air of a judge of cleverness. when she was at that school. ‘I will never put any constraint upon her inclinations.’ Then the question arose.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY est-tempered. because she didn’t know the handwriting of hers again. ‘that. closing her eyes. until they reached the omnibus. ‘but upon my word I think there’s no comparison between his lordship and Sir Mulberry—Sir Mulberry is such an attentive gentlemanly creature. never—such a delightful letter every half-year. The girls wrote all the letters themselves. telling us that she was the first pupil in the whole establishment.’ she thought. and. fifty guineas a year without the et-ceteras. at least I think they wrote them. ‘and the writing-master touched them up afterwards with a magnifying glass and a silver pen. both the Miss Dowdles the most accomplished.’ added Mrs Nickleby. she was universally allowed to be beyond all exception the very cleverest girl there.’ said Lord Verisopht. kindest-hearted creature—and so clever!’ ‘She looks clayver. ‘I never shall forget what pleasure she used to give me and her poor dear papa.’ With similar recollections Mrs Nickleby beguiled the tediousness of the way. ‘argues that she is strongly prepossessed in favour of one of them. my lord. so much 336 . but anyway. The lord was the youngest. fascinating creatures—Oh dear me!’ said Mrs Nickleby. still Kate was not the girl to be swayed by such considerations as these. Mrs Nickleby leant back in the furthest corner of the conveyance. and had made more progress than anybody else! I can scarcely bear to think of it even now. when they took their hats. resigned herself to a host of most pleasing meditations. ‘completely off. and his title was certainly the grandest. which one could it be.

‘this foolish woman would have done so. and has so much to say for himself.’ 337 . for and against. the faintest gleam of light—a most feeble and sickly ray at the best of times—but there it was.’ He sat down. and.Charles Dickens manner. I hope it’s Sir Mulberry—I think it must be Sir Mulberry!’ And then her thoughts flew back to her old predictions. and insult. breaking through the dull cloud of dislike or indifference which darkened men and women in his eyes. there had somehow stolen upon him from time to time a thought of his niece which was tinged with compassion and pity. there was. If her daughter is as true to herself as she should be from what I have seen. Ralph walked to and fro in his little back-office. on his fingers. and coarse speech. and the number of times she had said.’ said Ralph. She must take her chance. Well. in her case. such a fine man. and told the chances. Nearly two thousand pounds profit from him already though. as he locked his iron safe. Pshaw! match-making mothers do the same thing every day. Selling a girl—throwing her in the way of temptation. aloud. Yes. Still. would be the wildest fiction. her heart grew too full. Meanwhile. a few tears. what harm ensues? A little teasing. ‘She must take her chance. And yet it will keep this boy to me. troubled in mind by what had just occurred. as she pictured with the brightness of a mother’s fancy all the beauty and grace of the poor girl who had struggled so cheerfully with her new life of hardship and trial. ‘I wish. that Kate with no fortune would marry better than other people’s daughters with thousands. and the tears trickled down her face. ‘I had never done this. To say that Ralph loved or cared for—in the most ordinary acceptation of those terms—any one of God’s creatures. and it showed the poor girl in a better and purer aspect than any in which he had looked on human nature yet. ‘If I had not put them in the right track today.’ thought Ralph.’ thought Ralph. while there is money to be made. a little humbling.

the sanguine mother pictured to her imagination a long train of honours and distinctions which could not fail to accompany Kate in her new and brilliant sphere. and would return them three and a half per cent on the amount of their last halfyear’s rent. 338 . Esquire.’ thought Mrs Nickleby in a parenthesis.’ Perhaps some one annual. which was upon the nineteenth of July (‘at ten minutes past three o’clock in the morning. of Mulberry Castle. in delicate type. too. Hanover Square. to the perfect satisfaction of her own mind. would be in at least half-a-dozen of the annuals. to Catherine. She would be presented at court. ‘it sounds very well. might even contain a portrait of the mother of Lady Mulberry Hawk. at St George’s. ‘Upon my word!’ cried Mrs Nicholas Nickleby. ‘Lines on contemplating the Portrait of Lady Mulberry Hawk. is perhaps one reason why they are always so charming and agreeable. as would be fully described and recorded in the fashionable intelligence.’ Having dispatched the ceremony.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY CHAPTER 27 MRS NICKLEBY BECOMES ACQUAINTED WITH MESSRS PYKE AND PLUCK. As this thought occurred to the good lady. by the Right Reverend the Bishop of Llandaff. North Wales. on reaching home. as when. Less interesting portraits had appeared. On the anniversary of her birthday. Sir Mulberry Hawk. ‘for I recollect asking what o’clock it was’). of Devonshire. of more comprehensive design than its fellows. and on the opposite page would appear. of course. her countenance unconsciously assumed that compound expression of simpering and sleepiness which. with lines by the father of Sir Dingleby Dabber. WHOSE AFFECTION AND INTEREST ARE BEYOND ALL BOUNDS Mrs Nickleby had not felt so proud and important for many a day. being common to all such portraits. she gave herself wholly up to the pleasant visions which had accompanied her on her way thither. Kate’s picture. Sir Mulberry would give a great feast to all his tenants. By Sir Dingleby Dabber. with its attendant festivities. to the immeasurable delight and admiration of all the readers thereof. only daughter of the late Nicholas Nickleby. Lady Mulberry Hawk—that was the prevalent idea. Lady Mulberry Hawk!—On Tuesday last. More unlikely things had come to pass.

hastily arranging her cap and front. Pluck. ‘if it should be—dear me. and curtseyed again. Pluck. both perfect strangers. ‘How do you do?’ said the other gentleman. standing in the passage all this time—why don’t you go and ask them to walk up. Mrs Nickleby curtseyed and smiled. I believe. as if to give variety to the salutation. which she had scarcely done. Mrs Nickleby hastily swept into a cupboard all vestiges of eating and drinking.’ answered the second. ma’am?’ said Mr Pluck.’ said the first gentleman. altering the emphasis. ‘Whether I shall introduce myself with the same formality. She was preparing for her frugal dinner next day. formalities.’ Mr Pyke laid his hand upon his heart. laying great stress on the last word of the inquiry. ‘Very often. Pyke?’ said the first gentleman. and partly to assist in the household affairs. Pyke—Mrs Nickleby. must not be neglected in civilised society. Mrs Nickleby. ‘The loss has been ours. ‘How do you do?’ said one gentleman. Has the loss been ours. ‘you hear the unimpeachable testimony of my friend Pyke—that reminds me. rubbing her hands as she did so. that she hadn’t the—really—the honour to— ‘To know us. partly for company. ‘We have regretted it very often. Have we pined and languished for this happiness. rushed into the room in unwonted agitation.’ answered the other gentleman. Pluck. haunted her sleep that night. and announced that two gentlemen were waiting in the passage for permission to walk upstairs. and dreams.Charles Dickens With such triumphs of aerial architecture did Mrs Nickleby occupy the whole evening after her accidental introduction to Ralph’s titled friends. no less prophetic and equally promising.’ said Pyke. and bowed low. and remarked. when two gentlemen. presented themselves. still occupied with the same ideas—a little softened down perhaps by sleep and daylight— when the girl who attended her.’ said the first gentleman. reproachfully. or have we not?’ ‘You know we have. Pyke. Pyke?’ ‘It has. ‘But now. ‘Bless my heart!’ cried Mrs Nickleby.’ 339 .—formalities. ‘now we have the happiness we have pined and languished for. you stupid thing?’ While the girl was gone on this errand. and seated herself with looks as collected as she could assume. looking round. ‘You hear him.

’ said Mr Pluck.’ thought Mrs Nickleby within herself. ‘I was not to mention it.’ said Mrs Nickleby.—’my good opinion can be of very little consequence to a gentleman like Sir Mulberry.’ ‘Any friend of Sir Mulberry Hawk’s requires no better introduction to me.’ observed Mrs Nickleby. after a short pause. Mrs Nickleby.’ said Mr Pluck. Sir Mulberry.’ ‘My good opinion. that my name is Pluck. A word in your ear. ‘when I see so much sweetness and beauty on the one hand. resumed the conversation by entreating Mrs Nickleby to take no heed of what he had inadvertently said—to consider him imprudent. really. injudicious. and the poor lady exulted in the idea that she was marvellously sly. a happy man. Pyke is very right. or whether I shall make myself known to you as the friend of Sir Mulberry Hawk—these. that she should give him credit for the best intentions. are considerations which I leave to you to determine.’ muttered Mr Pluck. after feigning to be in a condition of great embarrassment for some minutes. is competent to the office) to state for me. Pyke. and sitting himself down. ‘It is delightful to hear you say so.’ said Mr Pluck. or whether I shall ask my friend Pyke (who being now regularly introduced. in such high esteem. ‘Mrs Nickleby cannot be ignorant. Mrs Nickleby. I never saw!’ Mr Pluck.’ ‘Well now. Pyke. Mrs Nickleby. graciously. whether I shall claim your acquaintance on the plain ground of the strong interest I take in your welfare. ‘Such delicacy as that. Mrs Nickleby. ‘But when. is the good opinion of Mrs Nickleby?’ ‘Of what consequence?’ echoed Pyke.’ ‘Of little consequence!’ exclaimed Mr Pluck. ‘Ay. The only stipulation he would make in his own favour was. Thank you. ‘of the immense impression which that sweet girl has—’ ‘Pluck!’ said his friend.’ replied Pyke. drawing a chair close to Mrs Nickleby. rash. ‘is it of the greatest consequence?’ ‘Of the very greatest consequence. ‘It is refreshing to know that you hold my excellent friend.’ repeated Pluck.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY said Mr Pluck—’whether I shall say myself that my name is Pluck. of what consequence to our friend. be seated. When Sir Mulberry knows it. he will be a happy man—I say. ‘beware!’ ‘Pyke is right. and so much ardour and devo340 . Sir Mulberry. ‘Pyke.

eighteen hundred and seventeen.’ ‘We promised Sir Mulberry and Lord Frederick. ‘Perfectly horrid!’ exclaimed Mr Pluck.’ replied Pyke. and sit with your head in it for twenty minutes every night just before going to bed. I recollect. ‘But come.’ ‘Rather dull. let me see. Mr Pluck.Charles Dickens tion on the other. sir. ‘I think it was in the year eighteen hundred and seventeen.’ replied Mr Pluck. ‘we must not forget our mission in the pleasure of this interview.’ said Mr Pluck. ‘But it’s worth the pain of hearing. indeed—very subject. to whose mind a definite proposal of marriage for Kate at once presented itself in lively colours.’ ‘On a mission. Pyke. and by the middle of April following the cold was gone. as I really am very subject to colds. as if suddenly recollecting himself. Change the subject. ‘with many thanks to his lordship and Sir Mulberry for doing me the honour to inquire. I didn’t intend to resume that theme. Pyke. the day after Christmas Day. with a pound of salt. I confess. at least. ‘that we’d call this morning and inquire whether you took any cold last night. You have a gallon of water as hot as you can possibly bear it. isn’t it. I—pardon me. and—yes. not the least— which is the more singular. that I thought I never should get rid of. Mrs Nickleby.’ ‘What an afflicting calamity!’ said Mr Pyke. actually and seriously. 341 . for I had it ever since the beginning of September. ‘You must be very dull here. ‘We bring the compliments of Sir Mulberry Hawk. We come on a mission. four and five are nine.’ replied Mrs Nickleby. I had a cold once. I used it for the first time.’ said Pyke. ‘That is the circumstance which gives it such a thrilling interest. that I thought I never should get rid of. ‘From Sir Mulberry. I was only cured at last by a remedy that I don’t know whether you ever happened to hear of. It’s a most extraordinary cure—a most extraordinary cure. only to know that Mrs Nickleby recovered it. and a thousand entreaties that you’ll take a seat in a private box at the play tonight.’ said Mrs Nickleby.’ said Mrs Nickleby. I don’t mean your head—your feet. Pluck?’ cried Mr Pyke. and sixpen’orth of the finest bran.’ ‘Not the least in the world last night. It seems quite a miracle when you come to think of it.’ exclaimed that good lady.’ said Pyke.

’ urged Pluck. ‘It is the face. ‘feebly portrayed. Lord Frederick joins us. ‘You positively must. not a word.’ retorted Mr Pluck. never. the expression. ‘I never go out at all.’ said Pyke. went on: ‘Your daughter has made a conquest—a conquest on which I may congratulate you. who had walked to the window.’ ‘Oh. And so it was. ‘What is this! what do I behold!’ ‘What do you behold. ‘Say nothing. not a word. Sir Mulberry.’ remonstrated Mr Pluck. ‘You are very kind.’ said that excellent gentleman.’ cried Mr Pyke. that I scarcely know what to say.’ Mrs Nickleby cast an apprehensive glance at the warlike Pyke. snatching something from the chimney-piece with a theatrical air. lowering his voice. Pyke joins us—a refusal is out of the question. ‘there is the most trifling. Sir Mulberry sends a carriage for you—twenty minutes before seven to the moment—you’ll not be so cruel as to disappoint the whole party. ‘Pyke. Sir Mulberry is her devoted slave. ‘Mrs Nickleby.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Oh dear!’ said Mrs Nickleby. and Mr Pluck. my dear Mrs Nickleby. my dear madam. my dear fellow?’ asked Mr Pluck. my dear ma’am. ‘not such a word in the vocabulary. Hem!’ ‘Hah!’ cried Mr Pyke at this juncture. Mrs Nickleby—he’d have me out before dinner-time. ‘Is it not.’ said Mrs Nickleby. entreat Mrs Nickleby.’ replied the worthy lady. the countenance.’ said Mrs Nickleby. my dear Mrs Nickleby. falling into his chair with a miniature in his hand. the most excusable breach of confidence in what I am about to say. Sir Mulberry joins us. ‘but—’ ‘There’s not a but in the case. why you should go out tonight. the countenance.’ ‘And that is the very reason. hesitating. the faint similitude of—’ ‘It is my daughter’s portrait. And little Miss La Creevy had brought 342 . squeezing her hand. Mrs Nickleby?’ ‘You are so very pressing. but still the face. my dearest madam. the expression. with great pride. imperfectly caught. Your brother-in-law joins us.’ ‘I recognise it at this distance!’ exclaimed Mr Pluck in a fit of enthusiasm.’ urged Mr Pluck. and yet if my friend Pyke there overheard it—such is that man’s delicate sense of honour. pray do.

and even the servant girl. instantly reminded Mr Pyke that he was ‘amazing thirsty. and in the warmth of his enthusiasm kissed the picture a thousand times. positively and actually I’ll drink it. became at length quite overpowered by these tokens of regard for. and a picturesque account of her old house in the country: comprising a full description of the different apartments. while Mrs Nickleby looked on in divided admiration of the condescension of the two. ris343 . By degrees these raptures subsided. and congratulated her on the possession of such a daughter. by an association of ideas. that gentlemen who. perhaps. while Mr Pluck pressed Mrs Nickleby’s hand to his heart. who had listened in a state of enviable complacency at first. in his eyes. who had peeped in at the door. and what capital fixtures there were in the kitchen. ‘if you’ll send round to the public-house for a pot of milk half-and-half. or seemed to stand. that the tears stood. the family. Mr Pyke no sooner ascertained that he was quite right in his conjecture. and which way you turned when you came out at the parlour door. and are at such periods accustomed to regale themselves in a very simple and primitive manner. ‘At twenty minutes before seven. and Mr Pluck helped him. 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. among which she might have wandered for an hour. remained rooted to the spot in astonishment at the ecstasies of the two friendly visitors.’ ‘And I’ll tell you what. with so much earnestness and affection. and Mrs Nickleby went on to entertain her guests with a lament over her fallen fortunes. than he launched into the most extravagant encomiums of the divine original. live upon their wits (or not so much. where she stumbled upon the brewing utensils. like Messrs Pyke and Pluck.Charles Dickens it home for inspection only two nights before.’ said Mr Pyke. not forgetting the little store-room. and attachment to. if the mere mention of those implements had not.’ And positively and actually Mr Pyke did drink it.’ said Mr Pyke. Poor Mrs Nickleby. and a lively recollection of how many steps you went down to get into the garden. This last reflection naturally conducted her into the wash-house. in explanation of which seeming marvel it may be here observed. and the aptitude with which they accommodated themselves to the pewterpot. then.

for there was now no doubt about it. If these flattering attentions to herself were not sufficient proofs. miniatures being liable to so many changes of expression—’Oh. Once or twice she almost resolved to walk straight to Miss La Creevy’s and tell it all to her. and that was the having nobody by. who received these obscure hints of dawning greatness with much veneration and respect. 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 contented herself with holding out sundry vague and mysterious hopes of preferment to the servant girl. ‘But I don’t know. Unmoved. Sir Mulberry’s confidential friend had suffered the secret to escape him in so many words. Ah! here it is. as mere abstract legs. both gentlemen hastily withdrew. but a private chariot. She had found it all out the night before.’ thought Mrs Nickleby. which was no hackney coach. She had never seen Sir Mulberry and Kate together—never even heard Sir Mulberry’s name—and yet hadn’t she said to herself from the very first. might. Mrs Nickleby was commonly in the habit of giving herself credit for a pretty tolerable share of penetration and acuteness. having behind it a footman. was a very remarkable circumstance. but I am afraid too much beneath Sir Mulberry’s station for us to make a companion of. that she saw how the case stood? and what a triumph it was. I declare I am. There was one great source of uneasiness in the midst of this good fortune. to whom she could confide it.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ing. although somewhat large for his body. and as that good lady was perfectly unconscious that he applied the gold-headed 344 . Mr Pyke having done the same. One more look—one little look— at that sweet face. but she had never felt so satisfied with her own sharpsightedness as she did that day. ‘the coach will be here. by the way. Poor thing!’ Acting upon this grave consideration she rejected the idea of taking the little portrait painter into her confidence. ‘she is a very worthy person. Pluck! Pluck!’ Mr Pluck made no other reply than kissing Mrs Nickleby’s hand with a great show of feeling and attachment. Punctual to its time came the promised vehicle. unchanged!’ This.’ said Mrs Nickleby. whose legs. ‘I am quite in love with that dear Mr Pluck.

Mrs Nickleby.— You are very kind. tossing her head. Sir Mulberry was a little hoarser than on the previous day. lest something should occur. arrayed from the crowns of their heads to the tips of their gloves. 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.Charles Dickens end of his long stick to his nose. ‘It’s you that’s kind. as well as from the circumstance of their both being to a trifling extent unsteady upon their legs. and so polite were they. when Sir Mulberry and Lord Verisopht arrived. than a desire on the part of the same pugnacious gentleman to ‘smash’ the assistant box-keeper for happening to mistake the number. you mean. truth out. ho!’ thought that knowing lady. and looking prodigiously sly. ‘wine in. not a little proud of her position. At the theatre entrance there was more banging and more bustle. from which tokens.’ whispered Sir Mulberry.’ replied Mrs Nickleby. however. and there were also Messrs Pyke and Pluck waiting to escort her to her box. Mrs Nickleby justly concluded that they had taken dinner. upon my soul it is. and they reached their box with no more serious interruption by the way. Sir Mulberry. so anxious to cultivate your good opinion. who. and Lord Verisopht looked rather sleepy and queer. Fortunately. Sir Mulberry. It was so kind of you to come tonight. was alarmed beyond expression. no upon my soul!’ replied Sir Mulberry Hawk. sitting down behind her. and so telegraphed most disrespectfully to the coachman over her very head. in the most elegant and costly manner. so desirous that there should be a delicious 345 .’ ‘No. she sat in a state of much stiffness and dignity.’ ‘So very kind of you to invite me. ‘I am so anxious to know you. ‘We have been—we have been—toasting your lovely daughter. ‘Oh. and from the tips of their gloves to the toes of their boots. Mr Pyke confined himself to mere verbal smifligation. conjecturing more from Mr Pyke’s excitement than any previous acquaintance with the etymology of the word that smifligation and bloodshed must be in the main one and the same thing. Mrs Nickleby had scarcely been put away behind the curtain of the box in an armchair.

do you recognise the tones of that voice?’ ‘Deyvle take me if I didn’t think it was the voice of Miss Nickleby. Sir Mulberry. Sir Mulberry suddenly assumed the character of a most attentive listener.’ ‘Pyke. ‘where’s Ralph Nickleby?’ Mr Pluck was about to return some evasive reply. I don’t see very far into things. ‘I am quite afraid of you. taking out his toothpick and lolling back in his chair. and turning the lie over to his friend. I hope he’s coming. and implored his friends not to breathe—not to breathe. Kate. in a tone of voice which left the baronet to infer that she saw very far indeed. ‘Where’s Ralph Nickleby?’ ‘Pluck. and Sir Mulberry laughed. ‘You have much too open and generous a countenance for that. ‘Why not?’ said Mrs Nickleby. Sir Mulberry?’ inquired Mrs Nickleby.’ 346 .’ said the baronet. ‘I shouldn’t be here without him.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY kind of harmonious family understanding between us.’ ‘What an extraordinary observer you are!’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk.’ Messrs Pyke and Pluck shook their heads mysteriously. my lord!’ cried Miss Nickleby’s mama. indeed. looking round to his companions. ‘I am afraid of Mrs Nickleby. thrusting her head round the curtain. as if he were too lazy to invent a reply to this question. ‘What is the matter?’ ‘Hush!’ replied Sir Mulberry. and observed together that they had found that out long ago.’ said Pyke. ‘Why actually—Kate. I am—upon my soul I am. ‘Lord Frederick.’ ‘Lor. and Pyke and Pluck roared. Sir Mulberry!’ replied Mrs Nickleby.’ replied Mrs Nickleby.’ repeated Sir Mulberry. ‘that you mustn’t think I’m disinterested in what I do.’ ‘I am sure you can’t be selfish. upon which Mrs Nickleby tittered.’ said Sir Mulberry. The new party beginning to converse together. laying his hand on her arm. ‘Oh no. my dear. ‘Upon my soul. who exchanged glances of much meaning. imitating the baronet’s action. I’m infernal selfish. mama! Is it possible!’ ‘Possible. when the hustle caused by a party entering the next box seemed to attract the attention of all four gentlemen.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘But where’s my brother-in-law. my dear? Yes.’ ‘You here. She is so immensely sharp.

‘Who do you suppose. and Mrs Nickleby officiously informing Kate of this circumstance. ‘There’s Mr Pyke. and biting her lip turned her head towards the stage. which Kate. which reflected so much credit on her own quickness of perception. my dear?’ replied Mrs Nickleby. mama. remember347 . shrinking back as she caught sight of a man smiling and kissing his hand. Sir Mulberry detained it while he murmured a profusion of compliments. keenly alive to the glory of having a lord and a baronet among her visiting acquaintance.—the—the—reflection of the lights perhaps. were at once set down by that acute lady as being caused and occasioned by violent love. which symptoms being observed by Mrs Nickleby. and the surprise was so great. although she was in no small degree delighted by this discovery. glancing nervously round. Mrs Wititterly. bending towards Mrs Wititterly. and Lord Frederick Verisopht. my dear?’ Kate bowed slightly. she quitted her own box to hasten into that of Mrs Wititterly. mama?’ said Kate. and finding it impossible to whisper any caution or explanation. and speaking a little louder for that lady’s edification. But Sir Mulberry Hawk was not to be so easily repulsed. which it filled to the very door.’ said Mrs Nickleby. Kate thought thus so hurriedly. that she turned extremely pale and appeared greatly agitated. But. there being in fact only room for Messrs Pyke and Pluck to get in their heads and waistcoats. kissing her daughter affectionately. ‘Don’t you see Sir Mulberry Hawk. and accordingly. with a vast quantity of trepidation. Sir Mulberry Hawk. she was obliged to extend her own. ‘How comes she in such society?’ Now.’ replied Kate. for he advanced with extended hand.’ ‘Gracious Heaven!’ thought Kate hurriedly. and thus it was that in less than thirty seconds Mrs Nickleby’s party had made an irruption into Mrs Wititterly’s box.Charles Dickens ‘Why who—who on earth is that you have with you. Mr Pluck. and moreover brought back so forcibly the recollection of what had passed at Ralph’s delectable dinner. I declare!’ ‘It was mere fancy. lost no time in signing to Mr Wititterly to open the door. it did not lessen her motherly anxiety in Kate’s behalf. ‘How ill you looked a moment ago! You quite frightened me. ‘My dear Kate.

Indeed you must not. ‘I don’t know how it is. the wick of a lamp. ‘I shall certainly go there. my life.’ Sir Mulberry seemed to think that it would be a great convenience if the lady could be blown away. and Lord Verisopht added that it was mutual. and finally. somehow or other you seem to be inspired. ‘you are deceiving 348 .’ ‘Ye—es. I am sure. ‘Then really you ought to go. my lord.’ replied Lord Verisopht. my lord. and Shakespeare is such a delicious creature. but after you’ve seen the place and written your name in the little book. and then that of Mr Pluck. ‘delighted. It’s very interesting.’ ‘Ye—es!’ replied Lord Verisopht. you might blow her away. ‘I scarcely exist the next day.’ said Mrs Wititterly. and then the greeting of Mr Pyke.’ said Mr Wititterly. after having been to that dear little dull house he was born in! Were you ever there. in very languid and drawling accents. ‘Mrs Wititterly is delighted. you must not.’ said Mrs Wititterly. it kindles up quite a fire within one. You might blow her away. my lord. the down on a butterfly. Julia.’ ‘Ye—es!’ replied Lord Verisopht. He said. to complete the young lady’s mortification.’ ‘Do you know. I trust.’ interposed Mr Wititterly. Sir Mulberry. we shall improve. ‘He was a clayver man. my lord?’ ‘No. my lord. ‘I find I take so much more interest in his plays. however. my lord. my lord. Then followed the recognition of Lord Verisopht. that the delight was mutual.’ said Mrs Wititterly. my dear. with this opportunity of contracting an acquaintance which. ‘I take an interest. ‘such an interest in the drama. the bloom on a peach. rightly considered as so many aggravations of the insult he had already put upon her. whereupon Messrs Pyke and Pluck were heard to murmur from the distance that it was very mutual indeed. you must not allow yourself to be too much excited. nayver. I find the reaction so very great after a tragedy. with a faint smile.’ ‘Julia. my lord. rubbing his hands. she was compelled at Mrs Wititterly’s request to perform the ceremony of introducing the odious persons.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ing what had passed between them. after a long silence.’ replied Verisopht. Mrs Wititterly is of a most excitable nature. ‘I’m always ill after Shakespeare.’ returned Mrs Wititterly. whom she regarded with the utmost indignation and abhorrence. The snuff of a candle.

who had been listening in silence. who. where we slept that night.’ ‘I think there must be something in the place. and when I woke in the morning and described him to Mr Nickleby. my dear—nothing. but the worthy lady. because I recollect I was in the family way with my son Nicholas at the time. ‘yes. leaning against a post and thinking. despite all she could say or do to the contrary. considering.—in a post-chaise from Birmingham. and to seem wholly absorbed in the jokes and conversation of Mr Pluck. Stratford—Stratford. my lord. and after we had seen Shakespeare’s tomb and birthplace. neglected. ever zealous in their patron’s cause. my dear—your ethereal soul—your fervid imagination. pluming herself upon her discretion. which was very curious indeed.’ added Mrs Nickleby. he said it was Shakespeare just as he had been when he was alive. proposed the adjournment of a detachment of the party into the next box. with a lay-down collar tied with two tassels. nothing. on his side. Her mother and Mr Pluck accompanied them. ma’am. having been appointed sentry over Mrs Nickleby for that especial purpose. in a whisper to Mrs Wititterly. and with so much skill were the preliminaries adjusted. In fact. soon after I was married. ‘that my son didn’t turn out to be a Shakespeare. and I had been very much frightened by an Italian image boy that very morning. because I recollect remarking at the time that the driver had a green shade over his left eye. It is your poetical temperament. which throws you into a glow of genius and excitement. Pyke and Pluck.Charles Dickens his lordship—unintentionally. considering. took particular care not so much as to look at her daughter during the whole evening.’ continued Mrs Nickleby. had no alternative but to suffer herself to be led away by Sir Mulberry Hawk. I am positive about that. There is nothing in the place. at full length. we went back to the inn there.’ said Mrs Nickleby. that Kate. in plaster-of-Paris. she is deceiving you. and I recollect that all night long I dreamt of nothing but a black gentleman. ‘for. and what a dreadful thing that would have been!’ When Mrs Nickleby had brought this interesting anecdote to a close. I went to Stratford with my poor dear Mr Nickleby. no possible opportunity of engrossing her attention. in a post-chaise from Birmingham—was it a postchaise though?’ said Mrs Nickleby. 349 . it was quite a mercy. ‘Yes. it must have been a post-chaise.

‘If no regard for my sex or helpless situation will induce you to desist from this coarse and unmanly persecution. indignantly. and so skilfully were the manoeuvres of Messrs Pyke and Pluck conducted. I will disregard them all. angrily. sir!’ said Kate. sir. Whatever considerations may have withheld me thus far. informing such of his friends and acquaintance as happened to be there. instantly. but Kate had yet to be handed downstairs by the detested Sir Mulberry. ‘And why not?’ retorted Sir Mulberry. ‘I hold you in the bitterest detestation and contempt. The evening came to an end at last. if you do not immediately suffer me to proceed. scarcely knowing. were the distinguished Lord Frederick Verisopht and his most intimate friend.’ said Kate. walked towards the door. that she and the baronet were the last of the party. ‘Don’t hurry.’ said Kate. but still pressed forward. now why do you keep up this show of displeasure?’ ‘Show!’ repeated Kate. what 350 . and were even—without an appearance of effort or design— left at some little distance behind. and Mr Pyke was in attendance to throw in a word or two when necessary. in the tumult of her passions.’ Sir Mulberry smiled. ‘Nay. don’t hurry.’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk. ‘You had best not seek to detain me. sir—to address me—to come into my presence?’ ‘You look prettier in a passion. sir. and still looking in her face and retaining her arm. whom they had seen in conversation with Mrs W.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Lord Frederick Verisopht remained in the next box to be talked to by Mrs Wititterly. as Kate hastened on. She made no reply. then—’ coolly observed Sir Mulberry. the gay Sir Mulberry Hawk—a communication which inflamed several respectable house-keepers with the utmost jealousy and rage.’ said Sir Mulberry. As to Mr Wititterly. stooping down. stopping her outright. Miss Nickleby. and reduced sixteen unmarried daughters to the very brink of despair. the better to see her face. you—let me rejoin my friends. and take a course that even you might feel. and attempted to release her arm. he was sufficiently busy in the body of the house.. ‘How dare you presume to speak to me. ‘If you find any attraction in looks of disgust and aversion. ‘My dear creature. that those two gentlemen upstairs.

these people’s honour would be our own? Why here it is. knowing their cue. and then established ourselves close by with the mother. than when her eyes are cast down. ‘Didn’t I tell you last night that if we could find where they were going by bribing a servant through my fellow. as though quietly communing with himself.Charles Dickens she said. at once threw the party into great commotion by shouting for the carriages. had not made 351 . ‘she looks more beautiful. ‘Wasn’t it so?’ ‘Wasn’t it so!’ repeated Sir Mulberry. and disengaged herself suddenly from her companion. but she hurried across it without at all regarding them. and throwing herself into its darkest corner burst into tears. ‘But I have been tied to the old woman all ni-ight. by throwing her into a state of the utmost bewilderment and consternation.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘There. turning to his two friends.—’I have a brother who will resent it dearly. 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. stop as long as you like. turned their thoughts to Mrs Wititterly. the conveyance in which she had come rolled off too with its load.’ replied the dupe. enjoyed a hearty laugh together. one day.’ said Sir Mulberry. sprang into the coach. do what you like—if you. passing his arm round her waist as he spoke. being left alone under the portico. whose attention also they had now effectually distracted from the young lady. in the midst of which tumult they put the affrighted Mrs Nickleby in her chariot. At length. turning to his noble friend.’ ‘Upon my soul!’ exclaimed Sir Mulberry. and having got her safely off. and I like her better in this mood. done in four-andtwenty hours. the lord. ‘Isn’t it the truth?’ demanded Verisopht. ‘How would you have had it? How could we have got a general invitation at first sight—come when you like. and the four worthies. ‘Hear this discontented grumbler. go when you like. but neither answered. Messrs Pyke and Pluck. and she is in perfect repose!’ How Kate reached the lobby where her friends were waiting she never knew. and Pluck asked Pyke.’ ‘Hear him. and getting up a violent quarrel with sundry inoffensive bystanders.’ ‘Ye—es.

by the active agency of Messrs Pyke and Pluck. who cleaned you out so handsomely last night. RENDERED DESPERATE BY THE PERSECUTION OF SIR MULBERRY HAWK. as morning usually does. TO HER UNCLE FOR PROTECTION THE ENSUING MORNING brought reflection with it. and bearing her pretty sulks and peevishness all night for you? What sort of stuff do you think I’m made of? Would I do this for every man? Don’t I deserve even gratitude in return?’ ‘You’re a deyvlish good fellow. turning half round as he did so.’ replied the other. and to 352 . silly. and who would seem to retain nothing of the intellectual faculty but the power to debase himself. and bestowing a wink and a contemptuous smile on Messrs Pyke and Pluck. and pleasures. regrets. Hawk.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY yourself agreeable to the foolish mistress of the house? Do I care for this girl. taking his friend’s arm. ‘I’m satisfied. whose joys.’ ‘And like a poor. good-natured. friendly dog as I am. are all of self. eh?’ ‘Ye—es. ‘Well then. APPEALS. cramming their handkerchiefs into their mouths to denote their silent enjoyment of the whole proceedings.’ said the poor young lord. but widely different was the train of thought it awakened in the different persons who had been so unexpectedly brought together on the preceding evening. ‘Upon my life you’re a deyvlish good fellow. ‘Quite ri-ght. pains.’ replied Sir Mulberry.’ ‘And I have done right. AS A LAST RESOURCE. followed their patron and his victim at a little distance. The reflections of Sir Mulberry Hawk—if such a term can be applied to the thoughts of the systematic and calculating man of dissipation. CHAPTER 28 MISS NICKLEBY. except as your friend? Haven’t I been sounding your praises in her ears. AND THE COMPLICATED DIFFICULTIES AND DISTRESSES WHICH SURROUND HER. like a friend. And now let’s go and have our revenge on the German baron and the Frenchman. who.’ With these words the friendly creature took his companion’s arm and led him away. ye—es. have I?’ demanded Sir Mulberry.

that he was precisely the individual whom she (Mrs Nickleby) would have chosen for her son-in-law. The reflections of Mrs Nickleby were of the proudest and most complacent kind. with the preliminary observation that she might be fairly supposed not to have lived in the world so long without knowing its ways. ‘was more delighted in my life than to observe last night. and that in that limited circle alone are they ambitious for distinction and applause. and the most extravagant bigotry. And lest this last consideration—no mean or secondary one with Sir Mulberry— should sound strangely in the ears of some. but as tending materially to strengthen and increase a lover’s ardour. if she had had the picking and choosing from all mankind. 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. communicated a great many subtle precepts applicable to the state of courtship. Thus.’ added Mrs Nickleby. and greatly to enhance his reputation with the world. that she was undoubtedly handsome. that her coyness must be easily conquerable by a man of his address and experience. and various hints of the pleasure she derived from the 353 .Charles Dickens degrade the very nature whose outward semblance he wears— the reflections of Sir Mulberry Hawk turned upon Kate Nickleby. in which she expressed her entire approval of the admirable choice she had made. ‘And I never. cases of injustice. and that the pursuit was one which could not fail to redound to his credit. and oppression. and he acted accordingly. and confirmed in their wisdom by her own personal experience. and strike the great world dumb with amazement. and were. my dear. asserting. are in constant occurrence among us every day. and tyranny. and extolled Sir Mulberry to the skies. but there is no greater fallacy. for the more complete satisfaction of her daughter’s feelings. and under the influence of her very agreeable delusion she straightway sat down and indited a long letter to Kate. it is precisely because they do consult the opinion of their own little world that such things take place at all. in brief. as being not only a very laudable thing in itself. let it be remembered that most men live in a world of their own. Sir Mulberry’s world was peopled with profligates. The good lady then.’ With which sentiment. Above all things she commended a strict maidenly reserve. that your good sense had already told you this.

” said the Lady Flabella. s’il vous plait.” said the Lady Flabella. being in low spirits after the fatigue of the preceding night. by the most remote contingency. seeing that there was not a line in it. while Kate read aloud a new novel in three volumes. to succeed in time). still worse and more trying was the necessity of rendering herself agreeable to Mrs Wititterly. in the Duke of Mincefenille’s salon de danse on the previous night. The lord himself.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY knowledge that her daughter inherited so large an instalment of her own excellent sense and discretion (to nearly the full measure of which she might hope. of course expected her companion (else wherefore had she board and salary?) to be in the best spirits possible. awaken the smallest excitement in any person breathing. “Cherizette. the vulgar afternoon of the sun and the clock—and Mrs Wititterly reclined. as the lively but devoted Cherizette plentifully besprinkled with the fragrant compound the Lady Flabella’s mouchoir of finest cam354 . regaled himself with the conversation of Messrs Pyke and Pluck.” ‘“Mercie—thank you. and having actually asked him to come and see him in his own house. not being troubled to any inconvenient extent with the power of thinking. ma chere. Mrs Nickleby concluded a very long and rather illegible letter. according to custom. And it was a production admirably suited to a lady labouring under Mrs Wititterly’s complaint. It was four in the afternoon—that is. ‘“Cherizette. who. inserting her mouselike feet in the blue satin slippers. donnez-moi de l’eau-de-cologne. on the drawing-room sofa. As to Mr Wititterly. and kept her weeping and watching in her chamber. who sharpened their wit by a plentiful indulgence in various costly stimulants at his expense. which could.’ which Alphonse the doubtful had procured from the library that very morning. Kate read on. with care. he went about all day in a tremor of delight at having shaken hands with a lord. which had unwittingly occasioned the half-playful half-angry altercation between herself and the youthful Colonel Befillaire. entitled ‘The Lady Flabella. mon enfant. Poor Kate was well-nigh distracted on the receipt of four closely-written and closely-crossed sides of congratulation on the very subject which had prevented her closing her eyes all night. from beginning to end.

while the Lady Flabella yet inhaled that delicious fragrance by holding the mouchoir to her exquisite. or other ingenious piece of mechanism out of order. remarked. and gorgeous heraldic bearings of that noble family.’ said Kate. It was from Befillaire—the young. clad in sumptuous liveries of peach-blossom and gold.’ ‘Close the book. when one comes to think of it. the low-voiced—her own Befillaire. ‘Sweet. ‘The Lady Flabella. ‘How did you come to know Lord Frederick. child?’ asked Mrs Wititterly. ‘I can hear nothing more today.Charles Dickens bric. with a look of surprise. and. ‘very soft. who was sometimes taken literary. advanced into the room followed by a page in bas de soie—silk stockings—who. I think it is. edged with richest lace. I should be sorry to disturb the impression of that sweet description. and emblazoned at the four corners with the Flabella crest. vexed to feel that she 355 . ‘I met them at my uncle’s. with a sigh. and those other delightful creatures. and dropping on one knee presented. “Mercie—that will do. Miss Nickleby. indeed!’ said Mrs Wititterly. as she did so. ‘How very odd!’ exclaimed Mrs Wititterly.’ Kate complied.’ ‘Oh. on a golden salver gorgeously chased.” ‘At this instant. while they remained at some distance making the most graceful obeisances. is it not—so soft?’ ‘Yes. Close the book. not unwillingly. Read that description again. Mrs Wititterly raising her glass with a languid hand. Miss Nickleby. gently. ‘Poetic. And certainly. charming!’ interrupted Kate’s patroness. a scented billet. that she looked pale. the hue of Italy’s firmament) was thrown open. ‘It was the fright of that—that noise and confusion last night.’ said Mrs Wititterly. still eyeing Kate through her glass. A steam-engine. advanced to the feet of his lovely mistress. the slim. and with noiseless tread two valet’s-de-chambre. but thoughtfully-chiselled nose. really. ‘So voluptuous.’ Kate complied. it WAS very odd that anything should have disturbed a companion.’ replied Kate. would have been nothing to it. the door of the boudoir (artfully concealed by rich hangings of silken damask.’ said Kate. with an agitation she could not repress. hastily tore off the envelope and broke the scented seal.

out of which leaped Sir Mulberry Hawk and his friend Lord Verisopht. ‘Some friends of ours were on the very point of introducing us. ‘Miss Nickleby!’ cried Mrs Wititterly.’ ‘Do you expect them today?’ Kate ventured to inquire. were already on the stairs. rising and hurrying away. but unable to keep down the blood which rushed to her face whenever she thought of that man. ‘Have you known them long?’ ‘No. the force of the observation was quite lost upon her. Mr Pyke. I beg—’ It was in vain for Kate to protest that she was unwell. ‘I gave it them of course. ‘Dear me. ‘But—’ ‘For goodness’ sake. with great sharpness. for the footsteps of the knockers.’ said Mr Pluck.’ said Mrs Wititterly. whoever they were. your mother. there drove up a handsome cabriolet. She resumed her seat. ‘The most extraordinary thing in the world. don’t agitate me by making me speak so much. gave us of being known to them.’ ‘That instant knocked. ‘the most extraordinary thing. without her permission first had and obtained. all at one burst.’ This was said lest Miss Nickleby should grow conceited on the honour and dignity of having known four great people (for Pyke and Pluck were included among the delightful creatures).’ ‘You are very good!’ replied Kate. saluting both ladies with the utmost cordiality.’ said Kate. and had scarcely done so. and Sir Mulberry Hawk. ‘Pray don’t think of going. But as the circumstance had made no impression one way or other upon Kate’s mind.’ said Pyke.’ said Mrs Wititterly. and before it had ceased to vibrate. Mrs Wititterly’s answer was lost in the noise of a tremendous rapping at the street-door.’ rejoined Kate.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY was colouring deeply. Miss Nickleby. whom Mrs Wititterly did not know. and Lord Verisopht. ‘They asked permission to call. Pyke and I had that instant knocked. ‘Not long. perfectly aghast at a companion’s attempting to quit the room. which makes it quite remarkable. and Mr Pluck.’ ‘I was very glad of the opportunity which that respectable person. 356 . when the doubtful page darted into the room and announced. in a lofty manner. As Lord Frederick and Sir Mulberry drove up to the door. ‘They are here now.’ said Mrs Wititterly.

She began to think. who had been sucking the head of his cane in silence. ‘I am delighted. ‘and yet you look—’ ‘Beyond everything. ‘Well.’ To judge from the glow which suffused the poor girl’s countenance after this speech. and now threw herself into the most striking of the whole series. that Mrs Wititterly’s profile reminds you of?’ 357 . and staring at Kate. ‘Is there anybody. but that it reached the ears of Mrs Wititterly. Having given utterance to which remarkable sentiment. you seem to have imparted some of your own good looks to her besides. bending his bold gaze upon her. who.’ said Mrs Wititterly. his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to complimenting other people. deyvlish!’ replied Verisopht.’ ‘And how is Miss Nickleby?’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk. ‘Neither does Miss Nickleby look the worse. although a skilful flatterer is a most delightful companion if you can keep him all to yourself. for.’ said Sir Mulberry. Of course Mr Pluck said the same. so that you are here. that Sir Mulberry was not quite so agreeable a creature as she had at first supposed him. in a low voice—not so low. to astonish the visitors. she complains of suffering from the fright of last night. ‘She was always handsome. he occupied himself as before. observing the effect which the praise of Miss Nickleby had produced. however.’ said the lady. though not with the best grace in the world. ‘anybody you know. with some show of reason. accosting Kate. mysteriously. had got up quite a little pantomime of graceful attitudes. my lord. that Kate did look pretty. I am sure. ‘Pyke.’ said the watchful Mr Pluck.’ observed Sir Mulberry. Mrs Wititterly admitted.Charles Dickens ‘No matter how you came. for my nerves are quite torn to pieces. turning to that young gentleman.’ ‘And yet you look. by dint of lying on the same sofa for three years and a half. have been supposed to have imparted to it some of that artificial bloom which decorated her own. coming to his patron’s assistance. ‘I am afraid Sir Mulberry is a flatterer. ‘Oh. Mrs Wititterly might. Pluck. too.’ demanded Mr Pluck. ‘Why. but upon my soul.’ said Mr Pyke.’ said Pyke. ‘I am sure I don’t wonder at it.’ said Mrs Wititterly. turning round. ma’am.

with the faintest trace of a grin lingering in his countenance. Be seated again.’ said Mr Pyke. my lord. not the duchess. 358 . But Mr Wititterly’s feelings were beyond the power of suppression. Meanwhile. the reaction. of B. Why. ‘The beautiful sister is the countess. for. Lord Verisopht enjoyed unmolested the full flavour of the gold knob at the top of his cane. you will suffer for this tomorrow. although she was bursting with pride and arrogance.’ said Pluck. and that they had lords and baronets to see them every day in the week. ‘Julia. to which she was absolutely obliged to make some reply.’ ‘Who do you mean?’ said Pluck. of B. ‘I am delighted—honoured— proud. and caused the conversation to turn to his favourite topic. ‘Of course there is. thus affording to Sir Mulberry Hawk an opportunity of pestering Miss Nickleby with questions and remarks.?’ ‘The C.’ replied Pyke.’ said Mr Wititterly. indeed? what did they know about countesses? The two gentlemen having.’ ‘True. in the same mysterious manner. How could she. indeed!’ said Mr Wititterly. ‘It is an honour. ‘The reaction. my soul. by the greediness with which this little bait was swallowed. my lord. Here was a state of things! Mrs Wititterly was declared.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Reminds me of!’ answered Pyke. indeed— most proud.’ ‘Suffer!’ cried Lord Verisopht. to be the very picture of a countess! This was one of the consequences of getting into good society. my lord. she might have moved among grovelling people for twenty years. The resemblance is wonderful!’ ‘Perfectly startling. ‘This violent strain upon the nervous system over. I am proud. ‘the C. as he would have done to the end of the interview if Mr Wititterly had not come home. upon the testimony of two veracious and competent witnesses. she would have had the illustrious guests believe that their visit was quite a common occurrence.’ said Mr Wititterly. of B. ‘The D. pray. and never heard of it. proceeded to administer that commodity in very large doses..’ It was to the secret annoyance of his wife that Mr Wititterly said all this. ‘My lord. tested the extent of Mrs Wititterly’s appetite for adulation.

‘Sir Tumley Snuffim would not give that for Mrs Wititterly’s existence. My lord. but had determined to bear it as meekly as might be. you will correct me. ‘I think I am. I believe she was. ‘is Sir Tumley Snuffim’s favourite patient. and rose to go. and. and the call having been by this time protracted to a very great length. As there appeared to be some doubt in the mind of his patron how he could best join in this conversation. they obeyed Sir Mulberry’s look. Mr Wititterly took a pinch of snuff from his box.’ replied her husband. he would not give a—a—this for her life.’ In illustration of which remark.’ Pyke and Pluck promptly remarked that certainly nothing could be fairer than that.’ said Mr W. a debility.’ said Mrs Wititterly. in a faint voice. a depression. my lord. ‘Not that.’ said Mrs Wititterly. by way of saying something to the point. smiling. and Mrs Wititterly sighed and looked on. This brought Sir Mulberry himself and 359 . sir. ‘will produce to me a greater martyr than Mrs Wititterly. as if she felt the honour. ‘Mrs Wititterly.’ Mr Wititterly told this with a kind of sober exultation.’ said her husband.’ observed Pyke. with a complimentary bow. but still must insist upon their privileges.’ ‘I believe I was. a lowness. the indefatigable Mr Pyke threw himself into the breach. my dear. If I am wrong. as if it were no trifling distinction for a man to have a wife in such a desperate state.Charles Dickens what ensues? A sinking.’ added Mr Wititterly. ‘I think you are.’ said Mr Wititterly. that I shall be glad to see that martyr. I believe I may venture to say. whether male or female— that’s all. ‘If anybody. my dear Julia. a lassitude. all I can say is. that Mrs Wititterly is the first person who took the new medicine which is supposed to have destroyed a family at Kensington Gravel Pits. Julia. it was not. in a tone which seemed to say that he was not vain. It had not even that recommendation. if Sir Tumley Snuffim was to see that delicate creature at this moment. and jerked it lightly into the air as an emblem of instability. ‘No. inquired—with reference to the aforesaid medicine—whether it was nice. ‘Mrs Wititterly is quite a martyr. looking about him with a serious countenance. my lord. wheeling round to the nobleman.

Mrs Wititterly began to grow jealous of the superior attractions of Miss Nickleby. As the odious Sir Mulberry Hawk attached himself to Kate with less and less of disguise. That they came at all times and seasons—that they dined there one day. If this feeling had led to her banishment from the drawing-room when such company was there. coarseness became humour. though he was a baronet. or conversation. with renewed assurances that at all times and seasons the mansion of the Wititterlys would be honoured by receiving them beneath its roof. Pyke and Pluck. were not persons accustomed to be the best possible companions. vulgarity softened itself down into the most charming eccentricity. and the visitors departed. except at those hours when she could sit in her solitary room. though he was a lord. dined again on the next. who now began to feel his character. But with Mrs Wititterly the two titles were all sufficient. and expressions anticipative of the pleasure which must inevitably flow from so happy an acquaintance. were exchanged. supped the next. and were certainly not calculated by habits. Many protestations of friendship. If the mistress put such a construction upon the behaviour of her new friends. need scarcely be remarked. insolence took the guise of an easy absence of reserve. And thus for a fortnight matters went on. even in the estimation of his two dependants. attainable only by those who had had the good fortune to mix with high folks. tastes. and weep over the trials of the day—all these were consequences naturally flowing from the well-laid plans of Sir Mulberry. and met by accident at lounges—that upon all these occasions Miss Nickleby was exposed to the constant and unremitting persecution of Sir Mulberry Hawk.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Lord Verisopht on their legs also. involved in the successful reduction of her pride—that she had no intervals of peace or rest. manners. Kate would have been only 360 . and were constantly to and fro on all—that they made parties to visit public places. and Sir Mulberry Hawk. to shine with any very great lustre in the society of ladies. with how much more freedom could they address her paid dependent! Nor was even this the worst. That any but the weakest and silliest of people could have seen in one interview that Lord Verisopht. what could the companion urge against them? If they accustomed themselves to very little restraint before the lady of the house. and their able execution by the auxiliaries.

‘that your looking at me in that way. Miss Nickleby. but unfortunately for her she possessed that native grace and true gentility of manner. but you may depend upon it. to nervous indisposition. they were especially so where the lady of the house was a mere animated doll. ‘Miss Nickleby. ‘Don’t agitate me by speaking in that way. dawned upon that lady’s mind and gradually developed itself. on that very account. and that she. upon my word I am very sorry. She became utterly and completely miserable. with some appearance of excitement. with some violence. will prevent my 361 . Miss Nickleby. if these be valuable anywhere. and those thousand nameless accomplishments which give to female society its greatest charm. attributed the circumstance. proudly. to mention the circumstance to ‘the young person’ without delay. Accordingly Mrs Wititterly broke ground next morning.’ Here Mrs Wititterly tossed her head—not passionately. but you leave me no alternative. However. as a married lady and a moral member of society. The consequence was.Charles Dickens too happy and willing that it should have existed. but said nothing.’ resumed the lady. to all Mrs Wititterly’s ill-humours and caprices when they were gone. ‘I wish to speak to you very gravely. during a pause in the novel-reading. Mrs Wititterly had never thrown off the mask with regard to Sir Mulberry. was quite a secondary person. Miss Nickleby. if you go on as you do. Miss Nickleby. don’t. as the dreadful idea that Lord Verisopht also was somewhat taken with Kate. ‘is very far from pleasing me—very far. Miss Nickleby. only virtuously—and remarked. I am very anxious indeed that you should do well. and of being exposed. ‘or you’ll compel me to ring the bell. she became possessed with a large quantity of highly proper and most virtuous indignation. ‘You needn’t suppose.’ said Mrs Wititterly. but when she was more than usually out of temper. I am sorry to have to do it. Mrs Wititterly.’ Kate looked at her. ‘Your behaviour. that Kate had the double mortification of being an indispensable part of the circle when Sir Mulberry and his friends were there.’ ‘Ma’am!’ exclaimed Kate. you will not. that she feared that palpitation of the heart was coming on again. as ladies sometimes do.’ said Mrs Wititterly.’ resumed Mrs Wititterly. and felt it her duty.

but must I also be exposed to this unjust and most unfounded charge!’ ‘You will have the goodness to recollect. ‘I do hear you. ‘that when you use such terms as “unjust”. by the way. ‘I will not be answered.’ said Mrs Wititterly.’ murmured Kate. and neat in your dress and so forth. if you please.’ 362 .’ said Mrs Wititterly. in effect. as I do still. which I feel to be a religious duty. It really is not becoming. closing her chaste eyes as she spoke. ‘I don’t suppose anybody would have believed it. no. You needn’t direct your glances towards me. ‘with surprise—with greater surprise than I can express. too hard to bear! Is it not enough that I should have suffered as I have. covered her eyes with her hand.’ said Mrs Wititterly (this. with a sudden burst of spite. without actually knowing it. what I seem doomed to undergo!’ ‘Don’t talk to me of being doomed to undergo. but less steadily than before. that I must insist upon your immediately altering your very forward behaviour to the gentleman who visit at this house. too cruel. waiting with some apparent inconsistency FOR an answer. you charge me. For these reasons. and “unfounded”. ‘If such things had been done when I was a young girl. and begging you to mind what I say. with a shrillness of tone quite surprising in so great an invalid. is not this. your mother. that I should almost have sunk in my own estimation from very shame of having been brought into contact with such people. Miss Nickleby. with stating that which is untrue. Miss Nickleby. ‘I do not think anybody would believe. ‘and as you are a person of healthy appearance. Do you hear?’ she added.’ replied Kate. night and day. ‘is not this. I am not accustomed to be answered.” ‘Oh!’ cried Kate. ma’am. Miss Nickleby. must have been some little time before).THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY saying what I am going to say. Miss Nickleby. ‘I am not Sir Mulberry.’ said Mrs Wititterly. ‘it is improper—quite improper. considering that I owe a sort of duty to that respectable old female. I have taken an interest in you.’ said Mrs Wititterly. nor will I permit it for an instant. looking upwards and clasping her hands. I must tell you once for all.’ ‘I don’t think they would. and resting her elbow on the table. nor Lord Frederick Verisopht. Miss Nickleby.’ ‘I have always considered you a particularly well-behaved young person for your station in life.’ Kate looked at her again. nor am I Mr Pyke.’ said Mrs Wititterly. nor Mr Pluck either.

in their utter disrespect for you. Mrs Wititterly received the attack upon her veracity with exemplary calmness. my life. you know. ‘that society has been too much for her. what do I see? Julia! Julia! look up. have had but one object in introducing themselves here. and that the furtherance of their designs upon a friendless. she certainly would not have ventured. and screamed still louder. every bit of it.’ he said. so Mr Wititterly rang the bell. that these libertines. without this humiliating confession. bouncing into the room. 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. and carried her bodily off to bed. and failed to mark the insulting freedom that their every look bespoke? Is it possible that you can have avoided seeing.’ With this assurance Mr Wititterly took up the prostrate form of Mrs Wititterly. Is it possible!’ cried Kate. This is all soul. and danced in a frenzied manner round the sofa on which Mrs Wititterly lay. ‘that anyone of my own sex can have sat by. ‘Whether you make this accusation of yourself. ‘Run for Sir Tumley. ‘What is the matter?’ cried Mr Wititterly. even in the excitement into which she had been lashed. or at the prompting of others. ‘Heavens. and this blow was no sooner followed up by the remark concerning her seniority. uttering dismal screams.’ cried Mr Wititterly. ma’am. and utter disregard of all gentlemanly behaviour. look up!’ But Julia looked down most perseveringly. upon such an injudicious speech as this. wilfully untrue. can have been present. and listened with the most heroic fortitude to Kate’s account of her own sufferings. ‘I knew it. who. and not have seen the misery these men have caused me? Is it possible that you. But allusion being made to her being held in disregard by the gentlemen. is alike to me. grossly. I say it is vilely.’ said Kate with honest indignation. 363 . she evinced violent emotion. helpless girl. uttering perpetual cries for Sir Tumley Snuffim. Miss Nickleby.Charles Dickens ‘I do. than she fell back upon the sofa. menacing the page with both fists. looking round with an air of melancholy triumph. and never once leaving off to ask for any explanation of the scene before him. Its effect was precisely what a more experienced observer would have foreseen. and almost of decency.

looking stealthily over his shoulder at Ralph as he limped slowly out. ‘No. bright eye. ‘He defies the usurer. Why. as well as the cunning glance of his cold. we shall see. It had been a good day with Ralph Nickleby—quite a lucky day. ‘He is content.’ ‘Here!’ Newman jerked his head towards his little room. ‘There. in allusion. through the special interposition of a merciful Providence (thus spake Sir Tumley). that. to some proceeding of the day. looking in. “Honesty is the best policy. with a grim smile at this manoeuvre.’ rejoined Newman.’ said Newman Noggs. ‘Your niece. Mrs Wititterly had gone to sleep. and having placed a chair for her. ‘She’s here. hurried away towards her uncle’s house. and as he walked to and fro in his little back-room with his hands clasped behind him. She then hastily attired herself for walking.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Kate waited until Sir Tumley Snuffim had paid his visit and looked in with a report. as he calls it. to signify that she was waiting there. seemed to tell. his mouth was drawn into a hard stern smile. ‘What does she want?’ asked Ralph. retired. while the firmness of the lines and curves that made it up. ‘Show her in! Stay. they would not fail to be excited for the purpose. dross! Who’s that?’ ‘Me. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘What of her?’ asked Ralph sharply. and leaving word that she should return within a couple of hours. ‘to set his known character and conduct against the power of money— dross. does he? Well. adding up in his own mind all the sums that had been. netted from the business done since morning. 364 . and then walked on again. and substituted in its stead an empty purse.’ Newman. or would be.’ He hastily put away a padlocked cash-box that was on the table.’ He stopped.’ replied Ralph. no doubt. relaxing into a smile. beckoned the young lady to advance.” is it? We’ll try that too. what a dull blockhead this fellow must be! Dross to.’ said Ralph. ‘Shall I ask?’ he added quickly. that if any resolution or cunning would increase the profits. ‘Very good!’ said Ralph.’ said Ralph. ‘NOW she may come in.

— oh. uncle. insulted. ‘There is some of that boy’s blood in you. I am young. but still with something more of kindness in his manner than he would have exhibited towards anybody else. ‘I hope there is!’ replied Kate. I see. roughly enough. the more shame on you. He was rather taken aback by the sudden firmness with which Kate looked up and answered him. as he watched the anguish of his beautiful niece.’ ‘By the men I saw here. as it does me to tell.’ Ralph drew back in utter amazement at this plain speaking. Her face was hidden from his view. sir. she remained silent. uncle. an excellent lesson. ‘The matter which brings me to you. ‘is one which should call the blood up into your cheeks. but in vain.’ ‘Friends!’ cried Ralph. and make you burn to hear. sternly. which were filled with tears. for bringing me among them. it looked more noble and handsome. after looking at her for some time in silence.Charles Dickens ‘Well. than it had ever appeared before. would have required some strong excuse. and with an effort to master her emotion strove to speak. but if you did it—as I now believe you did—knowing them well. ‘If they were no friends of yours. quickly. speaking in his harshest tones.’ ‘What is the matter?’ asked Ralph.’ she said. and by your friends. then. and regarded Kate with the sternest look. ‘I can guess the cause of this!’ thought Ralph. and it’s an excellent lesson for her. but Ralph could see that she was weeping. To have subjected me to what I was exposed to here. So drooping her head again. But she met his gaze proudly and firmly. ‘I have no friends. ‘Well. through any misplaced confidence or imperfect knowledge of your guests. and although her face was very pale. What now?’ Kate raised her eyes. drawing a chair opposite. ‘I should be proud to know it. and you knew what they were. ‘I can—I can—guess the cause. my—dear. girl. lighted up as it was. as something in the flashing eye reminded him of Nicholas at their last meeting. it was most dastardly and cruel.’ said Ralph. and all the difficulties and miseries of 365 . and sitting down. ‘Where is the harm? only a few tears. wounded past all healing. I have been wronged. my feelings have been outraged. Well! Well!’ thought Ralph—for the moment quite disconcerted.’ said Ralph.’ returned Kate.

you must—I am sure you will— release me from such vile and degrading companionship as I am exposed to now. no adviser. hurrying to the old man. ‘I have gone on day after day. suddenly turning. ‘Remember what took place here. and I have come at last to you. ‘at least—that—I can’t say it. ‘I can’t say it. and come what may. and how can I—how can I undeceive her—when she is so happy in these little delusions. ‘I do not mean to be angry and violent—I beg your pardon if I have seemed so. I am sure you will help me. and clasping his hands more tightly behind him.’ said Kate. I know.’ Kate fell back a step or two. as I am your brother’s child.’ ‘What insults.’ said Kate. and ask yourself. then turned away his head.’ ‘Can’t say it!’ ‘No. ‘Would not a word from you induce them to desist from this unmanly course?’ ‘No. rich and distinguished. is not the person to whom I could confide matters of so much delicacy. and pacing up and down the room in his old attitude. but I have been roused today beyond all endurance. as if in doubt whether she had heard aright. you do not indeed. dear uncle. when I was most unhappy. 366 . and timidly placing her little hand in his.’ rejoined Kate.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY my situation have kept it down.—but you do not know what I have suffered. ‘in the hope that this persecution would cease. I have gone on day after day. I am sure you will!’ Ralph looked at her for an instant. Mama supposes that these are honourable men. compelled to assume the appearance of cheerfulness.’ said Ralph. but when I tell you that I am wretched. I will not. ‘You have influence with one of these men.’ ‘How can I assist you. and that my heart is breaking. which are the only happiness she has? The lady with whom you placed me. coming to a dead stop. the only friend I have at hand—almost the only friend I have at all—to entreat and implore you to assist me. colouring deeply. girl?’ demanded Ralph.’ replied Kate.’ said Ralph. sharply. if it would. and looked at him. bending over him. bear these insults longer. rising from his chair. I have had no counsellor. You cannot tell what the heart of a young girl is—I have no right to expect you should. and beat his foot nervously upon the ground. I am sure. and laying her arm upon his shoulder. ‘Uncle. child?’ said Ralph. emphatically. I do not mean. no one to protect me.

I will live. ‘I don’t say. Newman laying his finger upon his lips. Well. gliding out of his recess. The surprise with which Kate.’ Two very large tears. were running down Newman’s face as he spoke. by-the-bye. In the mean time—’ ‘In the mean time. and the toy of the other. and this is one of yours. and accompanying her across the hall. and. it won’t last long. ‘Don’t cry.’ With these words. If this young lord does dog your footsteps. What is it after all? We have all our trials. justly condemned by all women of right feeling. ‘in business. she had the presence of mind to refrain. striving to support my mother by hard service. beheld. not if I work my fingers to the bone. with becoming pride and indignation. not if I am driven to the roughest and hardest labour. and trust in God to help me.’ interrupted Kate. ‘but that you do right to despise them. almost occasioned her to call aloud. mind. No. I will not disgrace your recommendation. poising himself alternately on his toes and heels. and quitted the room. until I am entitled to leave it by the terms of my engagement. But. Some other novelty will spring up one day. and despised by all honest and honourable men. I see these men no more. I will remain in the house in which it placed me. what of it? It’s a dishonourable passion.’ said Ralph. and you will be released. sunken in my own esteem. ‘Don’t. leaving Ralph Nickleby motionless as a statue. It’s not much to bear. raising his forefinger.Charles Dickens ‘We are connected in business. and degraded in every eye that looks upon me. as she closed the room-door. 367 . she waved her hand. and looking coolly in his niece’s face. no. as indeed I knew from the first you would. So be it. Do not mistake me.’ ‘Proud!’ cried Kate.’ said Newman. at least. in peace. ‘I am to be the scorn of my own sex. though. In all other respects you are comfortably bestowed.’ rejoined Ralph. I will hide myself from them and you. don’t cry. When I quit it. Newman Noggs standing bolt upright in a little niche in the wall like some scarecrow or Guy Faux laid up in winter quarters. Some girls would be proud to have such gallants at their feet. and I can’t afford to offend them. and whisper his drivelling inanities in your ears. close beside it. you show your good sense in that.

’ said poor Noggs. and straightforward blows upon the empty air. scowling round.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘I see how it is. and precisely what would tend most to his advantage. with his face towards it.’ rejoined Newman. and wiping Kate’s eyes with it.’ ‘Same to you. from the very bottom of his soul. which may be noted down.—although Ralph felt no remorse at that moment for his conduct towards the innocent. He stood at a little distance from the door. when he shrugged his shoulders. as gently as if she were an infant. Ralph remained in the same attitude till he heard the noise of the closing door. opening the door again a little way to say so. 368 . but not solved. It was right not to give way before him. precisely what he most wished. that’s right. opened it to let her out. and cry. still he hated them for doing it. yes. ha.’ answered Kate. but gradually becoming slower.’ whispered Newman. ha! Oh. Poor thing!’ With these disjointed exclamations. and. yes. and after a few turns about the room—hasty at first. ‘Ha. ‘God bless you. Yes. ha! Ho! ho! ho!’ And Newman Noggs opened the door once again to nod cheerfully. Yes. a performance was going on outside his office door. truehearted girl. scientific. to shake his head mournfully. Oh! you shall pay for this!’ As the usurer turned for consolation to his books and papers. It is one of those problems of human nature. drawing from his pocket what seemed to be a very old duster. limping to the street-door. was occupied in bestowing the most vigorous. Yes. although his libertine clients had done precisely what he had expected. ‘Ugh!’ said Ralph. which would have occasioned him no small surprise. Ha! ha! ha! And so shall somebody else too. ha. hurrying out. Newman Noggs was the sole actor. if he could by any means have become acquainted with it. and shaking his clenched hand as the faces of the two profligates rose up before his mind. ‘I shall see you soon. ‘Don’t cry any more. I like that. Ho! ho!’ ‘God bless you. yes! Ha. yes. and laugh—and shut it. ‘you shall pay for this. ‘You’re giving way now. Newman wiped his own eyes with the afore-mentioned duster. and with the sleeves of his coat turned back at the wrists. very good. as he relapsed into himself—sat down before his desk.

which was suffused with perspiration. would have sufficiently explained to the attentive observer. and conveying to her the warmest assurances of his love and affection. the surprising energy with which he directed a constant succession of blows towards a particular panel about five feet eight from the ground. and by it he realised no less a sum than twenty pounds. to within an inch of his life. and still worked away in the most untiring and persevering manner. his first act was to enclose to honest John Browdie the amount of his friendly loan. his body’s most active employer. period he had originally assigned for the duration of his visit. entreating him to take an opportunity of handing it to Kate in secret. with the view of opening the chest and strengthening the muscles of the arms. and an account of all the grand things that Ralph Nickleby had done for them since 369 CHAPTER 29 OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF NICHOLAS. and many cordial wishes for his matrimonial happiness. would readily find him. Portsmouth. the benefit was had. Nicholas assenting to the terms proposed. during which time Nicholas personated a vast variety of characters with undiminished success. that a benefit was considered by the manager a very promising speculation. Mr Ralph Nickleby.Charles Dickens At first sight. which he accompanied with many expressions of gratitude and esteem. induced Mr Crummles to prolong his stay in that town for a fortnight beyond the . But the intense eagerness and joy depicted in the face of Newman Noggs. and attracted so many people to the theatre who had never been seen there before. that his imagination was thrashing. AND CERTAIN INTERNAL DIVISIONS IN THE COMPANY OF MR VINCENT CRUMMLES THE UNEXPECTED SUCCESS and favour with which his experiment at Portsmouth had been received. merely informing Newman that a letter addressed to him under his assumed name at the Post Office. He made no mention of the way in which he had employed himself. To Newman Noggs he forwarded one half of the sum he had realised. Possessed of this unexpected wealth. and entreating that worthy friend to write full particulars of the situation of his mother and sister. this would have appeared merely a wise precaution in a man of sedentary habits.

’ said Nicholas. laughing. ‘What is his name? Tell me his name. and not so easily punished as your old enemy. have nobody to be kind to you?’ asked Smike. ‘I was thinking about my sister.’ returned Nicholas.’ ‘How is it that you. it is owing to him.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Why. so they say. on the night after the letter had been dispatched.’ said Smike. ‘I don’t even know what that is. ‘He is rich. He is my uncle. Before he could open it. who are so kind and good to me.’ He had muttered it over to himself some twenty times. it is a long story.’ replied Smike. I’ll get that name by heart. shaking his head. with assumed gaiety. I understand that. unusually high in the crown. ‘and one you would have some difficulty in comprehending.’ cried Nicholas. and has done me wrong. when a loud knock at the door disturbed him from his occupation. and curled up quite tight in 370 .’ said Smike. Mr Squeers. bending eagerly forward.’ repeated Smike. after thinking a little while with his hands folded together. would say you were an accomplished courtier. ‘You are out of spirits.’ replied Nicholas. the pantomimist.’ ‘Ralph Nickleby. for the confession would have made the boy miserable all night.’ ‘Why. but he is a villain. yes. Smike.’ said Smike.’ ‘Ralph—Ralph Nickleby. Mr Folair’s head was usually decorated with a very round hat. ‘Ralph. ‘Shall I ever see your sister?’ ‘To be sure.’ ‘She must be very beautiful. ‘Anybody who didn’t know you as well as I do.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY his departure from London. ‘Well. ‘Not I!’ rejoined Nicholas. Smike.’ ‘Sister!’ ‘Ay. I have an enemy—you understand what that is?’ ‘Oh. ‘we shall all be together one of these days—when we are rich. Mr Folair. my dear fellow. thrust in his head. ‘I cannot make that out. I fear.’ ‘Is she like you?’ inquired Smike.’ ‘Has he though?’ asked Smike. ‘only a great deal handsomer. and his eyes bent upon his friend.

‘I bring a communication. “Portsmouth. which was very tight and buttoned all the way up. perhaps. It was directed to blank Johnson. sir. and will feel obliged if he will inform him at what hour tomorrow morning it will be most convenient to him to meet Mr L. drew from thence a small piece of whity-brown paper curiously folded. round his neck he wore a flaming red worsted comforter. He carried in his hand one very dirty glove. ‘You are unusually mysterious tonight.” 371 . That is the fault of my position—not of myself. in a state of much amazement.Charles Dickens the brims. glancing at Mr Folair as he did so. and a cheap dress cane with a glass handle. Esq. Hem!’ ‘From whom and what about?’ inquired Nicholas. On the present occasion he wore it very much on one side. ‘Good-evening. as he has invited two or three professional friends to witness the ceremony. Esq. and diving into the hat before noticed.’ ‘Cold. said— ‘Have the goodness to read that. at the Theatre.’ said Mr Folair. whence he brought forth a note which it had served to keep clean.’ Nicholas.. and running his fingers through his hair. and handing it over to Nicholas.’ returned Mr Folair. Tuesday night. and cannot disappoint them upon any account whatever. taking off the tall hat. was sitting with his eyes steadily fixed upon the ceiling. and the astonishment of Nicholas was in no degree lessened. in short. his whole appearance was unusually dashing. perhaps. My position as a mutual friend requires it. for the purpose of having his nose pulled in the presence of the company. sir. sir. when he found it to be couched in the following laconic terms:— “Mr Lenville presents his kind regards to Mr Johnson. with the back part forward in consequence of its being the least rusty. “Mr Lenville requests Mr Johnson not to neglect making an appointment. by favour of Augustus Folair. knitting his brow and pursing up his mouth with great dignity. whereof the straggling ends peeped out beneath his threadbare Newmarket coat. who.. took the note and broke the seal. Mr Johnson. and demonstrated a far more scrupulous attention to his toilet than he was in the habit of bestowing upon it.’ Mr Folair paused with a most impressive look. ‘cold.

‘How could you presume to come here on such an errand. unwinding his comforter. suddenly losing all his dignity. advancing towards him.’ ‘I say. nor altered the expression of his face in the slightest degree. ‘There—that’s enough. or you may find yourself very disagreeably deceived.’ said Nicholas. pray?’ ‘No. ‘I wasn’t in earnest.’ ‘Then. sir?’ Mr Folair turned his head—now ornamented with several fragments of the note—towards Nicholas. which. was especially so at that moment.’ rejoined Mr Folair. Johnson. there was something so exquisitely absurd in such a cartel of defiance. ‘Had you no fear of being kicked downstairs. waving his hand in deprecation of any further wrath.’ ‘Pooh! pooh! I tell you. ‘Yes. sir?’ asked Nicholas.’ returned Nicholas. ‘Take yourself off. ‘And how dare you bring it here.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Indignant as he was at this impertinence.’ returned Mr Folair.’ ‘Enough!’ cried Nicholas. ‘Do you know the contents of this note. sir?’ he asked. looking round for an instant. ‘or you may find an allusion to pulling noses rather a dangerous reminder for the subject of your facetiousness.’ said Nicholas. you know. who had not taken his eyes from the ceiling. at length. and that within a dozen seconds. that’s the best of it.’ Nicholas could not repress a smile at the odd figure before him. ‘none of that. you scoundrel?’ ‘Pooh! pooh!’ said Mr Folair. when with one 372 . I only brought it in joke.’ ‘You had better be careful how you indulge in such jokes again. Was it written in joke. taking up the tall hat and tossing it towards the door. and gradually getting himself out of it. tearing it into very little pieces.’ remonstrated Mr Folair.’ ‘Leave the room. ‘right down earnest—honour bright. and immediately carrying his eyes back again to the ceiling. sir. and with the same imperturbable dignity. No tricks with a gentleman’s wardrobe. and jerking it in a shower towards the messenger. no. that Nicholas was obliged to bite his lip and read the note over two or three times before he could muster sufficient gravity and sternness to address the hostile messenger. sir. ‘you had better follow that article of your dress.’ returned the actor. at all times more calculated to provoke mirth than anger. briefly replied ‘No. too.

it would have been worth eight or ten shillings a week to him. ‘it would have been worth—ah. till at length he got quite desperate.’ said Nicholas. However. certainly. Mr Folair twirled his old hat round upon his hand. if he had pinked you. ‘but suppose I were to turn the tables. sitting himself down in a chair with great coolness.Charles Dickens knee upon the ground.’ said Mr Folair. and he’d have been just as much talked about as you—don’t you see?’ ‘Oh. Notoriety. I’ll tell you how it is. Bless you. and. I shouldn’t wonder if it had got him an engagement in London. It’s clever idea. and let him pull your nose. and pink you—not dangerously. ‘Yes. ‘what an unsophisticated shepherd you are. and this one occurred to him. All the town would have come to see the actor who nearly killed a man by mistake. instead of having a reception every night as he used to have. ‘Have the goodness to explain. is the thing. they have let him come on as if he was nobody. never getting a hand. ‘Jupiter!’ exclaimed Mr Folair. really. ‘But his heart failed him.’ said Mr Folair. it had not boasted for many months. quite seriously. he’d have got it into the paper.’ remarked Nicholas. and you getting a couple of rounds at least. sir. stopping to make a calculation in his mind. and affected the extremest agony lest any of the nap should have been knocked off—an ornament which it is almost superfluous to say. and he cast about for some other way of annoying you. what then? Would that make his fortune?’ 373 . notoriety. and pull his nose.’ said Mr Folair. applause from the house when you first come on.’ rejoined Nicholas. but just enough to lay you up for a month or two.’ ‘What do you mean by a reception?’ asked Nicholas. So he has gone on night after night. Johnson! Why. I think it was under the circumstances.’ ‘Very considerate. and sometimes three. if you had sworn the peace against him.’ ‘Why. his professional reputation being at stake. it would have been in the paper too. If you had shown the white feather. ‘Come. laughing in spite of himself. and making himself popular at the same time— for that’s the point. and had half a mind last night to play Tybalt with a real sword. ‘Since you came here Lenville has done nothing but second business. he was obliged to try some other mode of getting popular.

and made some general remark touching the natural history of puppies. and approaching Nicholas with a theatrical stride. for you’re always so mild-spoken. with a gentle hint that if he offended again it would be under the penalty of a broken head. as if Nicho374 . for when that young gentleman walked with much deliberation down to the theatre next morning at the usual hour. that we didn’t suspect you of showing fight. Nicholas had not much doubt but that he had secretly prompted the tragedian in the course he had taken. ‘are you there?’ ‘Slave!’ returned Mr Lenville. he found all the company assembled in evident expectation. and.’ As Mr Folair was pretty well known among his fellow-actors for a man who delighted in mischief. Now the ladies were on the side of Nicholas. so he dismissed the pantomimist. ‘We will try. 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 received.’ replied Mr Folair. he has a way of getting out of it easily. so that the latter formed a little group about the redoubtable Mr Lenville. and the gentlemen (being jealous) were on the side of the disappointed tragedian. and he wouldn’t be favourably known. It was not worth his while to be serious with him. ‘Oh!’ said Nicholas. he didn’t calculate much upon that. To tell you the truth though. tomorrow morning. flourishing his right arm. scratching his head. ‘because there wouldn’t be any romance about it. and give such an account of his proceedings as he might think best calculated to carry on the joke. If you did. depend upon that. you can give whatever account of our interview you like best. Mr Lenville laughed a scornful laugh. walked away to confer with his principal. whistling defiance. however.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Why. and are so popular among the women. I don’t think it would. In the meantime. looking quietly round. and Mr Lenville. But somehow he appeared just at that moment a little startled. and Mr Folair. and the former looked on at a little distance in some trepidation and anxiety. Good-night. taking the caution in exceedingly good part.’ ‘Has he?’ rejoined Nicholas. sitting majestically on a table. however. and was by no means scrupulous. On Nicholas stopping to salute them. He had no doubt reported that Nicholas was in a state of extreme bodily fear. with his severest stage face.

‘Object of my scorn and hatred!’ said Mr Lenville. whereat Mr Lenville assumed his bitterest smile. accompanied with a little jingling of fetters. sitting up. and came all at once to an awkward halt.Charles Dickens las did not look quite so frightened as he had expected. ‘Do you see this. ‘Away with him to the deepest dungeon beneath the castle moat. and ending at his boots—which two looks. who had come out expressly to witness the pulling of Nicholas’s nose. grew impatient. however. had been known to produce great effects in its time. Mrs Lenville (who. in melodramatic performances. laughed louder than before. beginning at his boots and ending at the crown of his head. ‘I hold ye in contempt. and then a downward one. murmuring that if it were to be done at all it had better be done at once. and treated Nicholas to that expression of face with which. and not keep them waiting there. but rather seemed to increase the good-humour expressed in his countenance. was in an interesting state) rushed from the rear rank of ladies. he was in the habit of regarding the tyrannical kings when they said. as everybody knows. knocked him down. taking an upward look at Nicholas. it made no very deep impression on Mr Lenville’s adversary. and expressed his opinion that they were ‘minions’. in which stage of the contest. Mr Lenville folded his arms. express defiance on the stage. who suffered him to approach to within the requisite distance.’ and which. by way of encouragement. as has been before hinted. and walked in a very stately manner up to Nicholas. Thus urged. Whether it was the absence of the fetters or not. and pointing to his prostrate lady. ‘But they shall not protect ye!’ said the tragedian. at which the assembled ladies burst into a shrill laugh. and uttering a piercing scream threw herself upon the body. and that if Mr Lenville didn’t mean to do it he had better say so. beginning at the crown of his head. the tragedian adjusted the cuff of his right coat sleeve for the performance of the operation. 375 . monster? Do you see this?’ cried Mr Lenville. ‘They shall not protect ye—boy!’ Thus speaking.’ Nicholas laughed in very unexpected enjoyment of this performance. one or two gentlemen. without the smallest discomposure. and then. Before the discomfited tragedian could raise his head from the boards. who was holding him very tight round the waist. and the ladies.

at one time or other contemplated the infliction of condign punishment. looking round him. embraced occasions of taking him aside.’ ‘This is affecting!’ said Mr Lenville. The weak husband and the father—the father that is yet to be—relents. who was a most unbearable fellow. threw him the pieces and withdrew. and on whom they had all. and was promptly turned out without having his money back. by a remarkable coincidence. and breaking it in half.’ ‘Humbly and submissively?’ said Nicholas. and you are a father. to what lengths your jealousy carries you another time. there never was such a charitable and kind-hearted set of people as the male members of Mr Crummles’s company. as he had his success in the little world of the theatre. how very friendly they took it that he should have treated that Lenville so properly.’ said Nicholas. ‘The ties of nature are strong. scowling upwards. Lenville—forego all idle forms.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Come. with the utmost moderation and good humour. which they had only been restrained from administering by considerations of mercy. ‘For my sake—for mine. The profoundest deference was paid to Nicholas that night. and telling him with great feeling.’ With this parting advice Nicholas picked up Mr Lenville’s ash stick which had flown out of his hand. bowing slightly to the spectators as he walked out. nodding his head. and waste no more time in talking. ‘But only to save her. to judge from the invariable termination of all these stories. and be careful. unless you would see me a blighted corse at your feet.—for a time will come—’ ‘Very good. also. to ascertain your rival’s temper. I apologise. and the people who had been most anxious to have his nose pulled in the morning. indeed. 376 . The crestfallen Mr Lenville made an expiring effort to obtain revenge by sending a boy into the gallery to hiss. Be careful.’ ‘Never!’ cried Mr Lenville. ‘I hope Mrs Lenville may have a good one. sir. but he fell a sacrifice to popular indignation. ‘apologise for the insolent note you wrote to me last night. and drawing the back of his hand across his eyes. There. and when it does come.’ returned the tragedian. Nicholas bore his triumph. ‘Yes—yes—yes!’ screamed his wife. ‘Humbly and submissively. before you venture too far. you shall retract it if you have the courage.’ said Nicholas.

‘next week for Ryde.’ said Nicholas.—there was no bad news—they were in good health— but he thought circumstances might occur. but a little reflection assured him that if such a step were necessary. then for—’ ‘I have some reason to fear. with the phenomenon as the Maiden in her maternal arms. ‘Closed!’ cried Miss Snevellicci. and if so. he would write to him to that effect. he took up his hat and hurried to the green-room.’ said Nicholas. then for Winchester. which were certainly not of a nature to set his mind at ease. He entreated him not to be alarmed at what he was about to say. which would render it absolutely necessary that Kate should have her brother’s protection. ‘I should lose no time in doing that.’ ‘From Newman Noggs.’ As the thought occurred to him. who was seated there in full regal costume. Newman said. ‘is there any letter yet?’ ‘Yes. ‘that before you leave here my career with you will have closed. ‘it’s no easy matter to make his writing out. ‘I got this one from the post-office. Newman took upon himself to send back the ten pounds. and he had almost finished dressing to go home. he contrived to make himself master of the contents. Mr Johnson. 377 .’ said Mrs Crummles. ‘At all events I should prepare them here for the possibility of my going away suddenly. or were occurring.’ replied Smike. Smike. Newman would have spoken out and told him so at once. casting his eye upon the cramped direction. trembling so much in her tights that she actually laid her hand upon the shoulder of the manageress for support. ‘Well.Charles Dickens ‘Well.’ ‘Closed!’ cried Mrs Crummles. raising her hands in astonishment. and that a time might shortly come when Nicholas might want it more. Nicholas read this passage very often. Once or twice he felt tempted to repair to London at all hazards without an hour’s delay. Let me see—let me see.’ By dint of poring over the letter for half an hour.’ said Nicholas when the first piece was over. observing that he had ascertained that neither Mrs Nickleby nor Kate was in actual want of money at the moment.’ interrupted Nicholas. and the more he thought of it the more he began to fear some treachery upon the part of Ralph. either by the next post or the next but one.

Even the male performers stopped in their conversation. even if no further tidings came from Newman. even held out certain vague promises of a speedy improvement not only in the amount of his regular salary. being of an affectionate nature and moreover excitable. ‘Hoity toity! Nonsense. in the extremity of his despair. than he evinced many tokens of grief and consternation. 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 30 FESTIVITIES NICHOLAS. although he could not yet speak with any degree of certainty. but also in the contingent emoluments appertaining to his authorship. WHO SUDDENLY WITHDRAWS HIMSELF FROM THE SOCIETY OF MR VINCENT CRUMMLES AND HIS THEATRICAL COMPANIONS ARE HELD IN HONOUR OF 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. and getting away as soon as he could. making her way towards Mrs Crummles. openly stated in so many words to a demon with whom he was sharing a pot of porter. and. an opinion. which the honest Mr Folair. raised a loud cry. and Miss Belvawney and Miss Bravassa actually shed tears.’ The phenomenon. ease his mind by repairing to London and ascertaining the exact position of his sister—Mr 378 . How trifling all that had been occupying his time and thoughts for many weeks seemed to him during that sleepless night. Finding Nicholas bent upon quitting the society—for he had now determined that. at all hazards. and speculate upon it afresh. went home to con Newman’s letter once more. indeed. he would. who was ready dressed for the savage.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Why he don’t mean to say he’s going!’ exclaimed Mrs Grudden. Nicholas briefly said that he feared it would be so. 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 favoured rival.

I should be sorry to inconvenience you by leaving before the end of the week.’ ‘It has drawn money before now.’ replied Nicholas. on the contrary.’ ‘But perhaps it may not be my last appearance. 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. but if we can’t help it we can’t. on Friday—and. “Farewell!” on a transparency behind. and laughed at it very heartily. so there’s no use in talking. and so stick to the legitimate drama. ‘I couldn’t indeed. received the proposition in a most irreverent manner.’ ‘Then I am to make three last appearances. ‘Unless I am summoned away. and taking prompt and energetic measures to make the most of him before he went away. This is Wednesday night. you know. A novelty would be very desirable.’ rejoined the manager. ‘Let me see. smiling. taking off his outlaw’s wig. scratching his head with an air of some vexation. You couldn’t sing a comic song on the pony’s back. and it’s very bungling and irregular not to have more.’ said Nicholas.’ said Mr Crummles. That ought to bring three very decent houses. ‘Eighteen-pence would do it. yielding to the wishes of numerous influential patrons. who were disappointed in obtaining seats. with a look of disappointment.Charles Dickens Crummles was fain to content himself by calculating the chances of his coming back again. the better to arrive at a cool-headed view of the whole case.’ returned Mr Crummles. quite awful. and gloomily observed that they must make up the best bill they could with combats and hornpipes. drily. Mr Crummles abandoned the project in its birth. announcing positively your last appearance for tomorrow.’ ‘So much the better.’ said Mr Crummles.’ said Mr Crummles. but. ‘What do you think of a brilliant display of fireworks?’ ‘That it would be rather expensive.’ replied Nicholas. on Thursday—re-engagement for one night more.’ As Nicholas appeared by no means impressed with the solemnity of the proposed effect. ‘You on the top of a pair of steps with the phenomenon in an attitude. ‘three is not enough. on Saturday. ‘Let me see. We’ll have posters out the first thing in the morning. could you?’ ‘No. ‘Yes. 379 . am I?’ inquired Nicholas. ‘We can have positively your last appearance.

certainly. indeed. affectionate creature that ever breathed.’ said Nicholas. ‘He is the most grateful. for his gratification. (Smike’s theatrical name was Digby. and a great deal more. at the end of the piece.’ 380 . as the tailor went off on the opposite side. and knowing from long experience exactly where the largest capitals ought to go). the manager at once repaired to a small dressing-room. and taking so much pains with him. that I should much mind his knowing my opinion of him. after telegraphing the needful directions to Smike.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY For the purpose of carrying this object into instant execution. he seriously applied himself to the composition of the poster.’ ‘Over.’ ‘What a dear that Mr Digby is!’ said Miss Snevellicci. as he threw himself back in the prompter’s chair. and a little pocket-handkerchief with a large hole in it. with some other people. no matter how tired you are. looking up to see who the speaker was. 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. in a kind of plaintive surprise. and a red nose. Mr Johnson!’ repeated a female voice behind him.’ returned Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. it might be—’ Here Miss Snevellicci stopped. where Mrs Crummles was then occupied in exchanging the habiliments of a melodramatic empress for the ordinary attire of matrons in the nineteenth century. singlehearted. and recognising Miss Snevellicci. ‘Heigho! I wish all this were over. ‘I would not have made it if I had known you had been within hearing. and other distinctive marks peculiar to tailors on the stage. ‘Heigho!’ sighed Nicholas.) ‘I’ll tell him presently. that you said so. and the accomplished Mrs Grudden (who had quite a genius for making out bills. but no questioning came. ‘I don’t know though. ‘How kind it is of you. and a woollen nightcap. ‘It was an ungallant speech. who had been playing a meagre tailor in the interlude.’ resumed Miss Snevellicci. with great applause. after a short silence. night after night. And with the assistance of this lady. being a great hand at throwing in the notes of admiration. ‘to sit waiting here for him night after night. adjacent. for Nicholas was thinking about more serious matters. ‘Oh you naughty thing!’ rejoined Miss Snevellicci. as though waiting to be questioned. with one skirt to his coat.

and how you two. ‘He is such a devilish close chap. who had come up a little before. ‘In it and out of it too. ‘Nobody can ever get anything out of him. to know what he has been about all his life. and old Fluggers.’ added Mr Folair.’ interrupted Nicholas. came to be such close companions. forcing a smile. reddening. and in strict confidence. ‘I’m only talking of the natural curiosity of the people here.’ remarked Miss Snevellicci. except your having got into a scrape and run away from somewhere. that he has not the intellect to have been about anything of much importance to them or anybody else. ‘Why. delighted with the opportunity of saying something disagreeable. I don’t agree with him.’ said Mr Folair. who are so different. ‘I mention it as the friend of both parties. ‘if you have. ‘Why. he is indeed. I should think. shaking his head. ‘That’s in everybody’s mouth. ‘That’s a part of what he says.’ rejoined Nicholas. ‘Ay.’ replied Mr Folair.’ ‘What question?’ asked Nicholas. and that it’s only the mystery about you that has caused you to go down with the people here. for doing something or other. and those who have made him so. he said this before he was silenced: Lenville says that you’re a regular stick of an actor.’ replied the actor.’ ‘What should they get out of him?’ asked Nicholas.Charles Dickens ‘So odd.’ ‘Poor fellow! it is pretty plain. pulling up the heel of his dancing shoe. ‘but that involves the whole question. ‘Perhaps you have. ‘isn’t he?’ ‘God help him. you know. Lenville says—’ ‘I thought I had silenced him effectually. and that Crummles keeps it up for his own sake.’ ‘The “everybody” of the theatre. Johnson!’ returned Mr Folair. contemplating the effect of his face in a lamp reflector.’ rejoined the actor. ‘Zooks! what a fire-eater you are. and now joined in the conversation. too.’ ‘Oh!’ said Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. who does the 381 . I suppose?’ said Nicholas. though Lenville says he don’t believe there’s anything at all in it. turning round with some abruptness. you know. you know. He says he takes Digby to be more knave than fool. contemptuously. the who he is and what he is.’ rejoined the immovable Mr Folair.

Ugh. that if Miss Snevellicci couldn’t persuade him. persuade Mr Johnson. ‘Mr and Mrs Lillyvick have taken lodgings in our house. ‘If a man would commit an inexpiable offence against any society. with undisturbed calmness.’ said Miss 382 ..’ ‘No.’ ‘Oh!’ cried Nicholas again. or some near relation.’ said Mr Folair.’ returned Miss Ledrook. I’m sure. but intimated. who only came to Portsmouth today.’ Uttering in a loud voice such of the latter allusions as were complimentary to the unconscious phenomenon. and is dying to behold you. let him be successful. and ‘went on’ chattering his teeth and brandishing his tin tomahawk as the Indian Savage. Mr Folair followed the ascent of the curtain with his eyes. ‘if you can’t persuade him—’ Miss Ledrook said no more. falling back a step or two to advance with the better effect. as Smike approached. They will forgive him any crime but that. regarded with a sneer the reception of Miss Crummles as the Maiden. ‘here comes the subject of a portion of their good-nature. ‘that’s what they say. Digby may not be the same. I should like to—quite ready. with considerable vivacity. there used to be a pickpocket hovering about the coach-stand who had exactly the face of Digby. he says that when he delivered messages at Covent Garden the season before last. because really you ought to know. and giving the rest in a confidential ‘aside’ to Nicholas. you little imposition. Mrs G. and bandy from mouth to mouth!’ thought Nicholas. But here.— humbug—Ring up. my dear. ‘Not I. so let he and I say good night together.’ returned Miss Snevellicci. by a dexterous playfulness. as he very properly says. and share our sitting-room for the present. but only his brother. I will not let either of you say anything of the kind.’ replied Nicholas.’ ‘You surely don’t mind what that malicious creature says.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY heavy business you know. though. my darling. ‘You must come home and see mama. I thought I’d tell you. As it is.’ added Nicholas. and. ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh. let them talk till they are hoarse. Led. Oh! here’s this blessed phenomenon at last. Mr Johnson?’ observed Miss Snevellicci in her most winning tones. and let the favourite wake ‘em. large or small. uttered a preliminary howl. ‘If I were going to remain here. ‘So these are some of the stories they invent about us. nobody could. I might think it worth my while to embroil myself.

’ ‘My dear Led. ‘how you do talk!’ Miss Ledrook made no answer. At last Nicholas pledged himself to betray no further curiosity. ‘Come.’ rejoined Miss Snevellicci. Then Nicholas said. and Miss Snevellicci would insist upon carrying it herself.’ returned Nicholas. both containing such minor articles of theatrical costume as the lady performers usually carried to and fro every evening. and then we should have a pretty to-do. and similar demonstrations on the part of Miss Ledrook. which it pleased them. ‘it’s high time we were there.Charles Dickens Snevellicci. or rather pleased Nicholas.’ ‘Oh no! I dare say. and they walked on: both ladies giggling very much. ‘I can require no possible inducement beyond your invitation. for it turned out that Miss Snevellicci had a small basket to carry home. and Miss Ledrook beat Miss Snevellicci. or we shall have poor Mrs Snevellicci thinking that you have run away with her daughter. ‘Won’t that induce you?’ ‘Surely.’ said Miss Ledrook. and Miss Ledrook said that Miss Snevellicci needn’t colour up quite so much. left her friend and Nicholas to follow at their pleasure. to do at once. whereat Miss Snevellicci screamed. and here they made quite a little party. and Miss Snevellicci beat Miss Ledrook. she was sure she should faint away. but taking Smike’s arm in hers. in which Nicholas captured the basket and the bandbox likewise. and Miss Ledrook a small bandbox. There were not wanting matters of conversation when they reached the street.’ remonstrated Miss Snevellicci. and declared that if she thought he had seen. and attempted to peep in. ‘Upon my word!’ Upon which Miss Snevellicci said that Miss Ledrook was a giddy thing. This declaration was followed by a similar attempt on the bandbox. Nicholas would insist upon carrying the basket. and then both ladies vowed that they wouldn’t move a step further until Nicholas had promised that he wouldn’t offer to peep again. who had no great fancy for a tete-a-tete under the circumstances. there being present besides Mr Lillyvick 383 . Lightening the way with such pleasantry as this. Mr Johnson. And Miss Ledrook said. which gave rise to a struggle. they arrived at the tailor’s house in no time. that he wondered what could possibly be inside the basket. and declaring that they never had seen such a wicked creature in all their born days—never.

only a little pimply as though with drinking. and he wore a threadbare blue dress-coat buttoned with gilt buttons tight across it. and curly black hair. that there hadn’t been such a hit made—no. at the Coburg. ‘You never saw my friend Glavormelly. sir!’ said Miss Snevellicci’s papa. Such was Miss Snevellicci’s papa. and high cheek bones. And an uncommonly fine man Miss Snevellicci’s papa was. and a white forehead. who could sing a little. and sticking his other arm gracefully a-kimbo seemed to say. and he no sooner saw Nicholas come into the room. who always wore a smart dress. but not much. and who now sat. who had been in the profession ever since he had first played the ten-year-old imps in the Christmas pantomimes. act a little. and came on arm-inarm with a smart lady in short petticoats. fence a little. He had a very broad chest had Miss Snevellicci’s papa. sir?’ said Miss Snevellicci’s papa. who had been sometimes in the ballet. ‘No. who was still a dancer. who was always selected in virtue of his figure to play the military visitors and the speechless noblemen.—being rather too old for the full glare of the foot-lights.—in the background.—and always did 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 somebody. upon whom some envious persons cast the imputation that he occasionally beat Miss Snevellicci’s mama. and altogether quite a handsome face.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and Mrs Lillyvick. not only Miss Snevellicci’s mama. at every theatre in London. here I am. really I never did. but her papa also. If he had lived—’ 384 . my buck. dance a little. with a neat little figure and some remains of good looks. and what have you got to say to me?’ Such was.’ replied Nicholas. The introduction being completed. ‘You have seen him. ‘Now. and in such an attitude sat Miss Snevellicci’s papa. and sometimes in the chorus. not since the first appearance of his friend Mr Glavormelly. than he whipped the two forefingers of his right hand in between the two centre buttons. and furthermore remarked. ‘Then you have never seen acting yet. with a hook nose. as she danced. To these good people Nicholas was presented with much formality. Miss Snevellicci’s papa (who was scented with rum-and-water) said that he was delighted to make the acquaintance of a gentleman so highly talented. and do everything a little.

sir. sir?’ ‘You’re a lucky man.’ replied the collector. ‘but he isn’t in Westminster Abbey. drawing him aside. ha!’ rejoined the collector. ‘how do you think she looks tonight?’ ‘As handsome as ever. ‘How do you think. Mr Lillyvick jerked his elbow into Nicholas’s side. could you— eh—could you?’ With such inquires. ‘Why. and Nicholas had not only the honour of sitting next Miss Snevellicci. ‘He is. sausages at the bottom. ‘Well. could I? You couldn’t have done much better yourself. and Mr Lillyvick at the foot. is he?’ interrupted Nicholas. In short. I couldn’t have done much better if I had been a young man. sir. one being high and narrow. and baked potatoes wherever it was most convenient to put them. Look at her. eh? Perhaps I may be. I hope he is appreciated there. There were oysters at the top. ‘There is nothing like the married state. ‘and how are you?’ ‘Quite well. sir.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Ha. He was a—. and chuckled till his face became quite purple in the attempt to keep down his satisfaction. laughing.Charles Dickens ‘Oh.’ So saying Miss Snevellicci’s papa rubbed the tip of his nose with a very yellow silk handkerchief. Two additional chairs were brought in from the bedroom: Miss Snevellicci sat at the head of the table. and when the table was cleared and something warm introduced. but of having Miss Snevellicci’s mama on his right hand. Well. and Miss Snevellicci’s papa over the way. he is dead.’ said Nicholas. glancing at the late Miss Petowker. He is gone to that bourne from whence no traveller returns.’ whispered the collector. and the other low and broad.’ replied Mr Lillyvick solemnly. more’s the shame. a pair of snuffers in the centre. no matter. there’s air about her. ha. ‘that I never saw in anybody. he was the hero of the feast. sir. ‘No. I say. ‘Ah! nothing like it. depend upon it. Mr Lillyvick. Miss Snevellicci’s papa got up and proposed his 385 .’ whispered the collector.’ said Nicholas. perhaps I may be. There! Isn’t it fascination.’ ‘Indeed!’ said Nicholas. now she moves to put the kettle on. and gave the company to understand that these recollections overcame him. upon two tables put together. and many more such.’ said Mr Snevellicci. Do you think I am though. By this time the cloth had been laid under the joint superintendence of all the ladies.

‘Dear me.’ rejoined his daughter. so he picked out the unfortunate Mrs Snevellicci.’ ‘Oh. Now this was not exactly the kind of reply suited to Mr Snevellicci’s importance as a man and a father. but particularly at Nicholas. Snevellicci is my name. that a profound silence came upon all the company.’ said Mrs Lillyvick. Mr Snevellicci. that Miss Snevellicci wept. my child?’ ‘Talk in that way. if I found out that any man had been tampering with the affections of my daughter. peeping in from the bedroom. Most men have seen my portrait at the cigar shop round the corner. that she exerts herself too much.’ ‘Why not?’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘that’s all. ‘Nobody would if they did want to. they know me at the stage-door I suppose. Don’t make a fuss about it. ‘if you please. and kept on perpetually emptying his tumbler and filling it again. Bow Street.’ cried all the ladies together. that’s all. haven’t I? Talk! I’ll tell you what.’ ‘Pray. Damme. ‘I am not ashamed of myself. until the ladies returned in a cluster. If I’m not at home. with Miss Snevellicci among them. ‘I hope you don’t suppose there’s anybody here who is to prevent my talking as I like?’ ‘Nobody wants to.’ Miss Ledrook eked out this speech with so many mysterious nods and frowns before she shut the door again.’ said Miss Ledrook. ‘Don’t call me your dear. is it?’ ‘Oh yes. let any man ask for me at the stage-door. I’d 386 . I’ve been mentioned in the newspapers before now. I’m to be found in Broad Court. during which Miss Snevellicci’s papa looked very big indeed—several sizes larger than life—at everybody in turn. ‘You needn’t alarm yourself a bit.’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘Don’t what. ‘Hush! Don’t take any notice of it. when she comes back.’ interposed Miss Snevellicci. when I’m in town. ‘She is only a little weak and nervous.’ said Mr Snevellicci. pa. and was compelled to retire into the bedroom. she has been so ever since the morning. pa. and asked her what the devil she meant by talking to him in that way. ma’am. don’t. my dear!’ said Mrs Snevellicci.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY health in a speech containing such affecting allusions to his coming departure. I wouldn’t talk.’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘Say.

‘That would include the married ladies. that he was scarcely ever sober. and drinking 387 . The collector looked into the surrounding faces with an aspect of grave astonishment. ‘I love them too. Mr Snevellicci struck the palm of his left hand three smart blows with his clenched fist. or. If anybody had winked at her as Henrietta Petowker. that’s my way. Thus Mr Snevellicci had no sooner swallowed another glassful than he smiled upon all present in happy forgetfulness of having exhibited symptoms of pugnacity.—the dignified—the quarrelsome—the amorous. pulled a phantom nose with his right thumb and forefinger. if the whole truth must be told. and swallowed another glassful at a draught. and proposed ‘The ladies! Bless their hearts!’ in a most vivacious manner.’ And as if this avowal were not made in sufficient disregard and defiance of all moral obligations. but as Mrs Lillyvick! While he thought of it in a cold perspiration. sir.’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘One good turn deserves another. what did Mr Snevellicci do? He winked—winked openly and undisguisedly. ‘I love ‘em.’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘Yes. winked with his right eye—upon Henrietta Lillyvick! The collector fell back in his chair in the intensity of his astonishment. every one. it would have been indecorous in the last degree. you know. Most public characters have their failings. ‘That’s my way. ‘I love ‘em. and the truth is that Mr Snevellicci was a little addicted to drinking.’ ‘Not every one.’ said Mr Lillyvick.’ repeated Mr Snevellicci. and wondered whether it was possible that he could be dreaming. looking round the table. He knew in his cups three distinct stages of intoxication. mildly. Mr Snevellicci repeated the wink.’ said Mr Snevellicci. ‘This is a nice man!’ and appeared a little surprised that Mrs Lillyvick’s manner yielded no evidences of horror and indignation.Charles Dickens astonish him without talking.’ repeated Mr Snevellicci. passing from one to another with a rapidity of transition often rather perplexing to those who had not the honour of his acquaintance. in private circles he went through all three. When professionally engaged he never got beyond the dignified. every one. ‘I love them and they love me.’ reasoned Mr Lillyvick. seeming to say.’ So saying.

‘You ought to go down on your knees and beg everybody’s pardon. if that was law!’ ‘You didn’t mind it?’ cried the collector. and mine first. pointing to his astonished wife. and being only withheld by considerations of age. ‘Didn’t I see him—’ Mr Lillyvick couldn’t bring himself to utter the word.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY to Mrs Lillyvick in dumb show. that you ought. ‘What is the matter with the men! Are they mad?’ cried Nicholas. who now regarded his late adversary in tipsy amazement. dragging up the collector by main force.’ ‘Pardon. and the ladies screamed. pulling up his collar. Henrietta!’ cried the collector.’ cried all the ladies. walked straight up to the other end of the table. With which Miss Snevellicci’s papa looked steadily 388 .’ replied Mrs Lillyvick. ‘Do you suppose WE shouldn’t be the first to speak. ‘here is purity and elegance combined. ‘Mind it!’ repeated Mrs Lillyvick contemptuously. ‘Look here. whose feelings have been outraged—violated. ‘Yes. my dear?’ said the dismayed collector. as if he had been a stuffed figure. what nonsense he talks!’ exclaimed Mrs Lillyvick in answer to the inquiring look of Nicholas. and muttering something about a punching of heads.’ replied Mr Lillyvick. ‘Do you suppose I ain’t the best judge of what’s proper and what’s improper?’ ‘To be sure.’ ‘Said. ‘Do you suppose nobody is ever to look at me? A pretty thing to be married indeed. sir!’ ‘Lor. Smike had performed the same office for Mr Snevellicci. Mr Lillyvick followed him. and thrusting him. ‘Nobody has said anything to me. into a chair. ‘What do you mean to do? What do you want to do? What is the matter with you?’ While Nicholas raised up the collector. sir?’ said Miss Snevellicci’s papa. actually blew her a kiss! Mr Lillyvick left his chair. but he counterfeited the motion of the eye. all doubled up. Mr Lillyvick was no light weight. if there was anything that ought to be taken notice of?’ ‘Do you suppose they don’t know. and fell upon him—literally fell upon him—instantaneously. ‘Well!’ cried Mrs Lillyvick. Mr Snevellicci fell under the table. sir. and consequently when he fell upon Mr Snevellicci. diving under the table.

389 . and finding too surely that there was not. several of whom he toasted by name. but these. The unhappy collector looked piteously at his wife. taking occasion to remark at the same time that if he had been a little more alive to his own interest. and sat down such a crest-fallen. beginning with Mrs Lillyvick. but one long since established beyond dispute. in all the colours of the rainbow. and then rising deliberately from his chair. that it is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get into it.—it being a remarkable fact in theatrical history. quickly grew convivial. that despite all his selfishness and dotage. as if to see whether there was any one trait of Miss Petowker left in Mrs Lillyvick. not to say uproarious. who. with the precedent of Miss Squeers still fresh in his memory. These reminiscences appeared to awaken no very torturing pangs in the breast of Mrs Snevellicci. and incontestable proof of his popularity with the fair sex. and in letters afflicted with every possible variation of spinal deformity. heightened as they were by the artifices of Miss Ledrook.Charles Dickens and sternly at Mr Lillyvick for some seconds. Nor was the young lady herself at all behindhand in displaying her choicest allurements. volunteering more than one song of no inconsiderable length. he was quite an object of compassion. and how that an early application for places was requested. he might have been rolling at that moment in his chariot-and-four. and placed so strict a guard upon his behaviour that when he had taken his leave the ladies were unanimous in pronouncing him quite a monster of insensibility. Next day the posters appeared in due course. steadily resisted every fascination. Miss Snevellicci’s papa being greatly exalted by this triumph. had no effect whatever in increasing the attentions of Nicholas. dispirited. and regaling the social circle between-whiles with recollections of divers splendid women who had been supposed to entertain a passion for himself. kissed the ladies all round. begged pardon of all the company with great humility. who was sufficiently occupied in descanting to Nicholas upon the manifold accomplishments and merits of her daughter. how that Mr Johnson would have the honour of making his last appearance that evening. and the public were informed. disenchanted man. in consequence of the extraordinary overflow attendant on his performances.

others stole up into the two little private boxes over the stage-doors. but he was not long in doubt as to the cause.’ said Crummles. everybody who was on the stage beheld 390 . I’ll throw in myself and the two boys. dragging Nicholas to the little hole in the curtain that he might look through at the London manager. while Mrs Crummles was making her greatest effect. and had resolved not to abate one single farthing. ‘you leave this company next Saturday night. I can’t say fairer than that. and Mr Vincent Crummles taking several huge pinches of snuff to compose his feelings.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Nicholas was somewhat at a loss. It’s dirt cheap. that it certainly was. the excitement occasioned by the presence of the London manager increased a thousand-fold. and in an agitated tone of voice. Everybody happened to know that the London manager had come down specially to witness his or her own performance. depend upon it. and all were in a flutter of anxiety and expectation. sir. him in the great-coat and no shirt-collar.’ In the same way. Thirty pound a week—it’s too cheap.’ Nicholas replied. ‘Very good.’ said Mr Crummles. or I’ll tell you what. ‘I have not the smallest doubt it’s the fame of the phenomenon—that’s the man. and from that position reconnoitred the London manager. ‘It’s the phenomenon. hurried to the wings. for before he could make any inquiry respecting it Mr Crummles approached. unless they engage Mrs Crummles too—twenty pound a week for the pair. hurried away to tell Mrs Crummles that he had quite settled the only terms that could be accepted. informed him that there was a London manager in the boxes. Once the London manager was seen to smile—he smiled at the comic countryman’s pretending to catch a blue-bottle. to account for the unusual perturbation and excitement visible in the countenances of all the company. They shan’t engage her either. They must take us all. my fine fellow. and it always answers. Johnson. and there stretched their necks to have a peep at him. She shall have ten pound a week. When everybody was dressed and the curtain went up. shaking his fist at the comic countryman when he came off. Johnson. Some of those who were not on in the first scene. on entering the theatre at night. That’s the way some of the London people do. and they shall have the family for thirty. if none of us will go without the others. she shall not appear on the London boards for a farthing less.

At length the London manager was discovered to be asleep. as is proper in such cases. and Mr Crummles said. He went through his part in the two last pieces as briskly as he could. I will only tell them that we are going. and therefore would feel obliged by his looking out for another engagement.Charles Dickens no audience but one individual. All this was the occasion of much amusement to Nicholas. not to lose an instant. they looked. and then biting his glove. and having been received with unbounded favour and unprecedented applause—so said the bills for next day. and sorely against my own will. ‘But I must dissemble. that he awakened that gentleman. everybody played to the London manager. and shortly after that he woke up and went away. When Miss Bravassa sang her song at her lover.’ instead of looking gloomily at the boards and so waiting for his cue. which had been printed an hour or two before—he took Smike’s arm and walked home to bed. ‘I will. When Mr Lenville in a sudden burst of passion called the emperor a miscreant. With the post next morning came a letter from Newman Noggs. to be there that night if possible. very short. my good fellow. and hurrying away to the lodgings of Mr Crummles.’ said Nicholas. he kept his eye fixed upon the London manager. and we shall be in time for the morning coach. ‘Heaven knows I have remained here for the best.’ So saying. it was seen to open its eyes and glance at the London manager. very dirty. that he had put up with it a long time. whose only feeling upon the subject was one of sincere satisfaction that the great man went away before he appeared. very small. but that he really couldn’t stand it any longer. said. who according to custom stood ready to shake hands with her between the verses. declaring that his buffoonery was the sole cause. and pay what little debts we owe—quick. and very mysterious. and will return to you immediately. and caused Mr Bulph the pilot to take his 391 . who was still in bed. not at each other. and when the two guards came in to take the body off after a very hard death. he took his hat. applied his hand to the knocker with such hearty good-will. whereupon all the company fell foul of the unhappy comic countryman. very inky. Mr Crummles died point blank at him. urging Nicholas to return to London instantly. What can have happened? Smike. but at the London manager. here—take my purse. but even now I may have dallied too long. Put our things together.

say at once what will. he tore himself from the manager’s detaining grasp. very rash. ‘I couldn’t stop if it were to prolong my life a score of years. ‘So goodbye.’ replied Nicholas. looking wistfully towards the point at which he had just disappeared. and the next house was on fire. where he was accustomed to keep his snuff.’ returned Crummles. ‘But can’t we have one last night more?’ ‘Not an hour—not a minute. found that the two Master Crummleses had sprung out of the sofa-bedstead and were putting on their clothes with great rapidity. might possibly have moralised for some minutes longer if he had not mechanically put his hand towards his waistcoat pocket. Mr Crummles came down in a flannel gown and nightcap. ‘Dear me.’ Mr Crummles being in a moralising mood.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY morning’s pipe very nearly out of his mouth in the extremity of his surprise. But he don’t know what’s good for him. The absence of any pocket at all in the usual direction. suddenly recalled to his 392 . ‘goodbye. The door being opened. ‘Won’t you stop to say something to Mrs Crummles?’ asked the manager. ‘Set whatever I may have earned this week against them. take my hand. He is an impetuous youth. Before he could undeceive them.’ rejoined Nicholas. or if that will not repay you.’ said Mr Crummles. goodbye.’ replied Nicholas. ‘I can’t help it. Young men are rash.’ He was half-way downstairs before Mr Crummles had sufficiently recovered his surprise to gasp out something about the posters. quick. he’d have been very useful to me.’ said Nicholas. and with it my hearty thanks. following him down to the door. under the impression that it was the middle of the night. Quick.’ ‘We’ll cry quits about that. impatiently. Nicholas ran upstairs without any ceremony. and bursting into the darkened sitting-room on the one-pair front. and darting rapidly down the street was out of sight in an instant. ‘Here. ‘if he only acted like that. dear me. and to him Nicholas briefly explained that circumstances had occurred which rendered it necessary for him to repair to London immediately. what a deal of money he’d draw! He should have kept upon this circuit.—Oh! that I should have been fooling here!’ Accompanying these words with an impatient stamp upon the ground.

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. which nearly took him off his legs. waiting to convey the two victims to the scaffold. had turned out for the express purpose of taking a public farewell of Nicholas. Mr Crummles. having secured the places. which. my noble. inflicting upon him a rapid succession of stage embraces. my lionhearted boy!’ In fact. and looking over it.Charles Dickens recollection the fact that he had no waistcoat on. but strained him to his breast again. and this leading him to a contemplation of the extreme scantiness of his attire. he shut the door abruptly. 393 . to that young gentleman’s most profound annoyance. with a very little second-hand camlet cloak. and retired upstairs with great precipitation. struggling in the manager’s arms. while Master Percy Crummles. worn theatrically over his left shoulder. As they hurried up to the coach. he was now. are performed by the embracer’s laying his or her chin on the shoulder of the object of affection. There were yet a few minutes to spare. my friend!’ ‘Bless my heart. as everybody knows. out of the stock pieces. so. Nicholas was not a little astonished to find himself suddenly clutched in a close and violent embrace. for the elder Master Crummles was going through a similar ceremony with Smike. and bought Smike a greatcoat. and to render it the more imposing. nor was his amazement at all lessened by hearing the voice of Mr Crummles exclaim. This Mr Crummles did in the highest style of melodrama. It would have been rather large for a substantial yeoman. Smike had made good speed while Nicholas was absent. Nor was this all. which was now in the open street and all ready for starting. but the shopman averring (and with considerable truth) that it was a most uncommon fit. They scarcely stopped to take a morsel of breakfast. Nicholas hurried into a slopseller’s hard by. Nicholas would have purchased it in his impatience if it had been twice the size. ‘what are you about?’ The manager made no reply. in the attitude of an attendant officer. ‘Farewell. ‘It is he—my friend. and with his help everything was soon ready for their departure. stood by. who could never lose any opportunity for professional display. exclaiming as he did so. pouring forth at the same time all the most dismal forms of farewell he could think of.’ cried Nicholas.

and threw himself back in his chair as though he had made up his mind to allow the obtrusive current of reflection to take its own course. Ralph Nickleby sat that morning occupied in his customary avocations. Ralph would mutter some peevish interjection. and the bitter contempt with which he sneered at poor Mrs Nickleby—notwithstanding the baseness with 394 CHAPTER 31 OF RALPH NICKLEBY AND NEWMAN NOGGS.’ muttered Ralph sternly. and kissed his hand in honour of the absent Mrs Crummles as they rolled away. and. but again and again the same train of thought came back despite all his efforts to prevent it. and as it was as well to put a good face upon the matter. climbed up to the coach roof after him. 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. and that every passing minute diminished the distance between them. with all my soul. or should if she had been less proudly and squeamishly brought up. confusing him in his calculations. I wish they were.’ Notwithstanding the deadly hatred which Ralph felt towards Nicholas. ‘I am not a man to be moved by a pretty face. ‘There is a grinning skull beneath it. and the mother dead. If the boy were drowned or hanged.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY The lookers-on laughed very heartily. and rescuing the astonished Smike. to rid himself of it effectually. and utterly distracting his attention from the figures over which he bent. this house should be her home. 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. At such intervals. and not its delicate covering. straction. after a few moments of ab- . and men like me who look and work below the surface see that. And yet I almost like the girl. and apply himself with renewed steadiness of purpose to the ledger before him. Nicholas laughed too when he had succeeded in disengaging himself. At length Ralph laid down his pen. by giving it full scope.

A very slight circumstance was sufficient to banish such reflections from the mind of such a man. and both wide open. throwing some intelligence into his eyes all at once. in the countenance of Newman Noggs. and alone. all simultaneously. as if he almost feared to read there. feigned to be mending a pen with a rusty fragment of a knife. for the instant. however. and was then behaving. but was in reality staring at his employer with a countenance of the closest and most eager scrutiny. He thought of what his home might be if Kate were there. strange though it may seem. the rich man felt himself friendless. Ralph exchanged his dreamy posture for his accustomed business attitude: the face of Newman disappeared. and dropping them on his master. Newman appeared to be that man while Ralph Nickleby regarded him. towards Kate herself—still there was. Newman answered the summons. lost its lustre in his eyes. and Ralph raised his eyes stealthily to his face. for there were countless treasures of the heart which it could never purchase. heard her speak. he came back again to the cold fireside and the silent dreary splendour. ‘Oh!’ said Newman. a knowledge of his recent thoughts. If it be possible to imagine a man. and in that one glimpse of a better nature. looked upon her. looking in no direction whatever. and the train of thought took to flight.Charles Dickens which he had behaved. he became suddenly aware of the earnest observation of Newman Noggs. he felt again upon his arm the gentle pressure of the trembling hand. something humanising and even gentle in his thoughts at that moment. 395 . After a few minutes. and would behave again if his interest prompted him. with two eyes in his head. There was not the smallest speculation. he placed her in the empty chair.’ With which laconic remark Newman turned round and hobbled away. and in an instant. ‘Stop!’ said Ralph. As Ralph looked vacantly out across the yard towards the window of the other office. Gold. and seeing nothing. childless. Ralph rang his bell. ‘How now?’ growled Ralph. who. born as it was in selfish thoughts. with his red nose almost touching the glass. ‘I thought you rang. he strewed his costly rooms with the hundred silent tokens of feminine presence and occupation.

ha!’ which was all the explanation Newman deigned to offer. Do you see this parcel?’ ‘It’s big enough. Having made various ineffective attempts to fit the parcel (which was some two feet square) into the crown thereof. keeping his eyes fixed upon Mr Ralph Nickleby all the time. as if it were a bran-new one of the most expensive quality. or rather a nervous single one. leaving the room for a few seconds.’ rejoined Newman.’ as if it were some cabalistic word. real or pretended. in Broad Street. but as he returned and had got so far homewards as the Strand. and leave it there—quick. ‘I did ring. ‘Carry it into the city. ‘Stare!’ cried Newman. inasmuch as she no sooner saw him than she very nearly closed it. and at last departed on his errand. ‘Let me have no drunken fooling here. only calling at one public-house for half a minute. ‘Be careful. and making towards the point he had had in his mind. 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. on whom the odd figure of the visitor did not appear to make the most favourable impression possible. not at all disconcerted.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Newman stopped. ‘at you! Ha. It was opened by a strange servant. After a very short consideration.’ ‘How dare you pry. He executed his commission with great promptitude and dispatch.’ said Ralph. and even that might be said to be in his way. Do you hear?’ Newman gave a dogged kind of nod to express an affirmative reply. and peer. sir. and placing herself in the narrow gap.’ ‘Then why do you offer to go if you know that?’ ‘I thought you rang to say you didn’t ring” replied Newman. Newman took it under his arm. ‘You often do. he adjusted his hat upon his head with as much care. and stare at me. the former inclination prevailed. returned with his hat. 396 . and.’ ‘I knew you did. and after putting on his fingerless gloves with great precision and nicety. to Cross. sirrah?’ demanded Ralph. looking steadily at him. inquired what he wanted. for he went in at one door and came out at the other. at Miss La Creevy’s door. But Newman merely uttering the monosyllable ‘Noggs. Newman knocked a modest double knock.

and slightly shook his head. and in he walked accordingly. as he spoke.’ He glanced. Mr Noggs. Sit down and tell me all about Miss Nickleby. ‘Bless us!’ cried Miss La Creevy.’ ‘That is a long time. ‘Why. seeing me once. and children now to play about him. for you are a kind. rising to receive Newman.’ said Miss La Creevy. Don’t suppose that I complain about that. and never resting till he found me out. you know. but he was apprenticed down in the country. ‘and I am ashamed of myself for doing so.’ said the miniature painter. and he got married there. ‘I did forget you. he forgot a poor little woman like me. the truth is. and new ties and affections springing up about him. though. before the astonished servant could offer any opposition. Mr Noggs. forget me now. poor dear John is making his way in the world. the solitary days roll away peacefully and happily enough.’ said Newman. sir?’ ‘You have forgotten me. so God bless him and them.’ ‘How’s that?’ asked Newman. with an inclination of the head. because I always said to myself. at his shabby clothes and paralytic limb.’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘I have a brother. Not that we ever quarrelled. “It is very natural. I declare. is natural enough. thank Heaven. Poor dear thing! I haven’t seen her for this many a week. ‘I wonder at that. but there are few people who. good creature. sadly. as it was very reasonable he should. and has a wife to tell his cares and troubles to. ‘what did you want. ‘Walk in if you please. ‘that I have been out on a visit—the first visit I have made for fifteen years.’ replied the miniature painter. That nobody should remember me who knew me in other days. brightening up and clapping her hands. ‘So it is a very long time to look back upon in years. who met her half-way. ‘of that very same brother coming up to London at last. what do you think of his com397 .Charles Dickens at sound of which bolts would fly back and doors open. somehow or other.’ said Miss La Creevy in reply to the sound of Newman’s knuckles. Mr Noggs.’ said Newman. and send we may all meet together one day where we shall part no more. Mr Noggs—the only relation I have—and all that time I never saw him once. starting as Newman bolted in.” But what do you think. pushed briskly past and gained the door of Miss La Creevy’s sitting-room.

‘Why.’ ‘Ah!’ exclaimed Newman.’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘How is the old rough and tough monster of Golden Square? Well. all my life—and so did his wife. I want to hear all the news about them from you. you had better not call her the old lady any more. only I wanted to explain to you how it was I hadn’t seen Miss Nickleby. in all my life I never was!’ The worthy soul hid her face in her handkerchief. ‘You mean Mrs Nickleby?’ said Miss La Creevy. I thought she would have come round again before this. they—they had named her after me eight good years before. the eldest girl of all. she was here twice while I was away. for it was the first opportunity she had had of unburdening her heart. Mr Noggs. such people always are. I don’t mean how is he in health.’ said Miss La Creevy. that I couldn’t make anything of her: so. so I thought I’d wait a day or two. and so did the children—and there were four of them. but she hasn’t been here. and crying 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. and sobbed aloud. cracking his fingers. write.’ returned Miss La Creevy. ‘what a foolish creature I must seem to you. and pressing me to stop there all my life—yes. for I suspect she wouldn’t be best pleased to hear you. and was so grand and mysterious.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ing here and sitting down in that very chair. they had indeed. of course. to tell you the truth. and cramming her handkerchief into her pocket with great bustle and dispatch. if you want to keep in the good books in that quarter. and if I didn’t see her. and making me stay a whole month. and one. ‘However. and it would have its way. I never was so happy. Yes. I took it into my head to be grand too. and came away in state. with a large garden and I don’t know how many fields. ‘But bless my life. and a man in livery waiting at table. Mr Noggs! I shouldn’t have said anything about it.’ ‘About Miss Nickleby—’ said Newman. ‘I was afraid she mightn’t like to have me calling on her among those great folks in what’s-its-name Place. I went there the night before last. and cows and horses and pigs and I don’t know what besides). but she was quite on the high ropes about something. Mr Noggs. ‘Then I tell you what.’ ‘Have you seen the old lady?’ asked Newman. but how is he 398 . wiping her eyes after a short pause.

I’ll thwart him—I. prefacing his narrative with a statement of his previous suspicions on the subject. Though little Miss La Creevy’s indignation was not so singularly displayed as Newman’s. and I’ll tell you all about it. moving restlessly about. not he. until he sank down in his former seat quite breathless and exhausted. you quite terrify me!’ exclaimed Miss La Creevy. but that done. and his reasons for forming them. I know I shall. and concluding with a communication of the step he had taken in secretly writing to Nicholas. and shaking his fist at a portrait of Mr Canning over the mantelpiece.’ said Newman. and now giving himself violent thumps on the head. dashing his cherished hat on the floor. if I hadn’t been afraid of making bad worse.’ ‘Gracious.’ ‘I shall scream if you don’t compose yourself.’ said Newman.Charles Dickens going on: how is he behaving himself?’ ‘Damn him!’ cried Newman. ‘I was very near it. Indeed. as if to heighten the delusion. I was obliged to put my hands in my pockets. ‘There. and keep ‘em there very tight. Not he. darting violently to and fro. who had been almost frightened out of her senses by this remarkable demonstration. ‘He’s coming up tonight: I wrote to tell him. Now I’m better.’ rejoined Newman. Newman 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. he little thinks I care. Ho. ‘I’m sure I shan’t be able to help it. turning pale. ‘that’s done me good. the rascal!’ Lashing himself up to an extravagant pitch of fury. there is some doubt whether he would not have found Miss La Creevy 399 .’ It took some little time to reassure Miss La Creevy. if Ralph Nickleby had happened to make his appearance in the room at that moment. I shall do it some day in that little back-parlour. ho. picking up his hat.’ ‘Never mind. Newman faithfully related all that had passed in the interview between Kate and her uncle. Mr Noggs. He little thinks I know. I shall double-lock myself in with him and have it out before I die.’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘I should have spoilt his features yesterday afternoon if I could have afforded it. Newman Noggs. I should have done it before now. Never mind. Cunning scoundrel! he don’t think that. Mr Noggs. it was scarcely inferior in violence and intensity. I’m quite certain of it. ‘like a false hound.

‘That’s a comfort. if you tell him all at once.’ ‘Stop!’ cried Miss La Creevy. and instantly set about extorting a solemn pledge from Newman that he would use his utmost endeavours to 400 . ‘She won’t stop where she is after tonight. but discovering her mistake.’ It was not a very awful weapon that Miss La Creevy held. the little portrait painter exchanged it for a mother-of-pearl fruit knife.’ rejoined Newman. earnestly. he will do some violence upon his uncle or one of these men that will bring some terrible calamity upon his own head.’ said Miss La Creevy. ‘Depend upon it. nobody can foresee. ‘But we didn’t.’ ‘—If we had known of this. she made a lunge as she spoke.’ interrupted Miss La Creevy.’ said Miss La Creevy. Mr Noggs. Nobody could properly interfere but her mother or brother.’ rejoined Newman.’ ‘Heart alive!’ cried Miss La Creevy. ‘If he was to talk of pistoling ‘em all.”’ Miss La Creevy could not suppress a small shriek on hearing this. and grief and sorrow to us all. ‘but I really feel as if I could stick this into him with pleasure.’ said Newman. in proof of her desperate thoughts. ‘I came to ask you to receive his sister in case he brought her here. wherewith. scratching his head with an air of great vexation and perplexity. but the end of this. The mother’s weak—poor thing—weak. ‘He will do something desperate. I should be obliged to say. ‘if you are not very careful in breaking out the truth to him. and assumed a thoughtful look.’ ‘I never thought of that. The dear young man will be here tonight. unless you are very guarded and careful.’ ‘What can I do?’ cried Newman. as a wind-up to all her expressions of anger. ‘she should have left there. ‘God forgive me for saying so. “Certainly— serve ‘em right. but—’ ‘But this is a matter of much greater importance. it being in fact nothing more nor less than a black-lead pencil. ‘that you might have been sure of before you came.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY a more dangerous opponent than even Newman Noggs himself. weeks ago. which would have scarcely disturbed the crumb of a half-quartern loaf.’ Newman left off rubbing his hands. his countenance falling more and more.

‘It seemed to me as though we should never reach it.’ said Miss La Creevy. and must not return till nearly midnight. this appeared the safest and most feasible mode of proceeding that could possibly be adopted. He must not be told until late at night. Therefore it was finally determined that matters should be so arranged. ‘but he won’t find me at home. I know that. They then consulted together on the safest and surest mode of communicating to him the circumstances which had rendered his presence necessary. so that he may not even know where his sister lives. after some demur.’ observed Miss La Creevy. ‘He must have time to cool before he can possibly do anything.’ retorted Newman. ruminating as he went upon a vast number of possibilities and impossibilities which crowded upon his brain. CHAPTER 32 RELATING CHIEFLY TO SOME REMARKABLE CONVERSATION.’ ‘But he’ll be in town between six and seven this evening. was conceded. AND SOME REMARKABLE PROCEEDINGS TO WHICH IT GIVES RISE ‘LONDON AT LAST!’ cried Nicholas. ‘Ay.’ ‘Then you must go out. and arose out of the conversation that had just terminated. and take her away to the theatre. and that makes the way seem long. ‘I can’t keep it from him when he asks me. looking over his shoulder at Nicholas with no very pleasant expression of countenance.’ 401 . make up matters with Mrs Nickleby.’ Upon further discussion. for I’ll go straight to the city the instant you leave me.Charles Dickens pacify the wrath of Nicholas. after listening to many supplementary cautions and entreaties. ‘So I suppose. and Newman. ‘That is of the greatest consequence. which.’ was the reply.’ replied Newman. Mr Noggs. ‘but I have been very anxious to be at my journey’s end. ‘You can easily have been kept away by business. took his leave of Miss La Creevy and trudged back to Golden Square.’ said Miss La Creevy.’ ‘Then he will come straight here.’ ‘And yet you came along at a tidy pace too. throwing back his greatcoat and rousing Smike from a long nap.’ observed the coachman.

pistols. scarcely seeming to notice the riches that surrounded them on every side. wrought into every exquisite form of vase. where sparkling jewellery. Nor were there wanting objects in the crowd itself to give new point and purpose to the shifting scene. hungry eyes wandered over the profusion guarded by one thin sheet of brittle glass—an iron wall to them. it was curious to observe in what a strange procession they passed before the eye. The rags of the squalid ballad-singer fluttered in the rich light that showed the goldsmith’s treasures.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Well. As they dashed by the quickly-changing and ever-varying objects. Emporiums of splendid dresses. coffins for the dead. now displaying long double rows of brightlyburning lamps. ‘if the way seemed long with such cattle as you’ve sat behind. jostling each other in the crowd and hurrying forward. There was a christening party at the largest coffin-maker’s 402 . pale and pinched-up faces hovered about the windows where was tempting food. guns. silks and velvets of the richest colours.’ remarked the coachman. like running water. clothes for the newly-born. half-naked shivering figures stopped to gaze at Chinese shawls and golden stuffs of India. bustling. seemed to flit by in motley dance like the fantastic groups of the old Dutch painter. tempting stores of everything to stimulate and pamper the sated appetite and give new relish to the oft-repeated feast. screws and irons for the crooked. mingled up together in one moving mass. and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that streamed from the windows of the shops. crowded street of London. the most inviting delicacies.’ and so saying. and goblet. lent their ceaseless roar to swell the noise and tumult. succeeded each other in rich and glittering profusion. he let out his whiplash and touched up a little boy on the calves of his legs by way of emphasis. you must have been most uncommon anxious. and churchyards for the buried—all these jumbled each with the other and flocking side by side. the materials brought from every quarter of the world. vessels of burnished gold and silver. and with the same stern moral for the unheeding restless crowd. They rattled on through the noisy. and dish. Streams of people apparently without end poured on and on. while vehicles of all shapes and makes. and most sumptuous articles of luxurious ornament. and patent engines of destruction. dotted here and there with the chemists’ glaring lights. swords. drugs for the sick.

invited Nicholas and Smike to follow his example.’ replied Crowl. and helping himself plentifully to the cold meat. who had put her head out of the coach-window a mile or two this side Kingston. There was a fire in Newman’s garret. presenting himself. Mr Crowl drew a chair to the table as he spoke. ‘Do you know what time he will be home?’ inquired Nicholas. Mr Johnson!’ said Crowl. was satisfied at last. 403 . and the old country lady inside. and that I was to entertain you. tapping at the door of Newman’s front neighbour. Nicholas engaged beds for himself and Smike at the inn where the coach stopped. but there was no help for it. wealth and poverty stood side by side. How well you’re looking! I never could have believed—’ ‘Pardon me. Nicholas could touch no food.’ In proof of his extreme readiness to exert himself for the general entertainment. and left Smike to detain Newman in case he returned first.Charles Dickens and a funeral hatchment had stopped some great improvements in the bravest mansion. Everything bespoke the affectionate care and attention of Newman Noggs. but Newman himself was not there. so. I can tell you. Disappointed and uneasy.’ interposed Nicholas. which I shall be very glad to do. without the delay of another moment. he walked out (despite a great many dissuasions uttered by Mr Crowl with his mouth full). ‘and will not be home before twelve o’clock. the room was as comfortably arranged as such a room could be. and repaired. Life and death went hand in hand. and cried out to the driver that she was sure he must have passed it and forgotten to set her down. ‘Ah. and a candle had been left burning. repletion and starvation laid them down together. he left word that you were to make yourself comfortable till he came back. He was very unwilling to go. the floor was cleanly swept. he has a troublesome affair of business. for his anxiety and impatience had increased with every succeeding minute. after he had seen Smike comfortably established at the table. However. ‘Welcome. and meat and drink were placed in order upon the table. But it was London. sir. ‘My question—I am extremely anxious to know. and were almost beyond control. to the lodgings of Newman Noggs.’ ‘Why.

till twelve o’clock. She was sure of that. He seemed to be losing time unless he was moving. pacing the long streets with hurried footsteps. and increased his rate of walking as if in the hope of leaving his thoughts behind. he knew. however. He wouldn’t be. Nicholas tried to remain quietly where he was. or later. and the one idea was always uppermost. now there were no passing objects to attract his attention. Nicholas returned to where he had left Smike. She believed Miss Nickleby was well. Nicholas betook himself straight to her house. however. The old question arose again and again—What could it be? Nicholas walked till he was weary. the girl said. he resolved to go there. She couldn’t say where she was stopping. Newman had not been home. nor did she come home except very seldom. and so compromise her with Ralph Nickleby.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY As Miss La Creevy had anticipated. Mrs Nickleby would not be at home. or forwarding to him one line of writing to which he might return a verbal reply? That was quite impracticable. So. that some stroke of ill-fortune must have occurred so calamitous in its nature that all were fearful of disclosing it to him. and apprehending he knew not what disaster. and felt quite worn out and exhausted. but it was not at Madame Mantalini’s. but she didn’t live at home now. Fully persuaded. but he felt so nervous and excited that he could not sit still. He was not at Golden Square. and hastened eastwards with all speed. He strolled westward this time. It was an absurd fancy. Finding her from home. As he 404 . and agitated by a thousand misgivings and apprehensions which he could not overcome. They crowded upon him more thickly. With his heart beating violently. he debated within himself for some time whether he should go to his mother’s residence. there was no chance of it. and indeed he came out of the Park at last a great deal more confused and perplexed than when he went in. and probably had been sent to execute some commission at a distance. Was there no possibility of sending to fetch him if it were only for an instant. He passed into Hyde Park. that Newman would not have solicited him to return unless there was some strong reason which required his presence at home. he took up his hat and rambled out again. He had taken scarcely anything to eat or drink since early in the morning. but he was wholly unable to resist it. now silent and deserted. until past twelve. but was not one bit the wiser.

but looking wistfully down the long vista of gas-lamps before him. when he was startled by the mention of his sister’s name. The walls were ornamented with the choicest specimens of French paper.’ He walked on a few steps. and two superb mirrors.Charles Dickens returned languidly towards the point from which he had started.’ thought Nicholas. and as he did so. I dare say. strongly attracted to the hotel. and both alone. ‘It must have come from one of them. He raised his head in amazement. The floor was covered with a rich carpet. in part by curiosity. There was a rather noisy party of four gentlemen in a box by the fire-place. with his back towards them. 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. saw by the reflection in the opposite glass. one above the chimneypiece and one at the opposite end of the room reaching from floor to ceiling. 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. ‘Little Kate Nickleby’ were the words that caught his ear. and in part by some odd mixture of feelings which he would have been troubled to define— Nicholas turned back again. and the ap405 . ‘An expensive place. enriched with a gilded cornice of elegant design. And yet I don’t know. along one of the thoroughfares which lie between Park Lane and Bond Street. Nicholas sat himself down in the box next to the noisy party. before which he stopped mechanically. It was very handsomely furnished. took up a newspaper and began to read. and was in truth himself dozing. He had not read twenty lines. Observing all this in the first comprehensive glance with which a stranger surveys a place that is new to him. for the tone of speech had been anything but respectful.’ thought Nicholas. and only two other persons present—both elderly gentlemen. ‘but a pint of wine and a biscuit are no great debauch wherever they are had. multiplied the other beauties and added new ones of their own to enhance the general effect. that two of the party behind him had risen and were standing before the fire. he passed a handsome hotel. and walked into the coffee-room. besides. He waited to hear more with a countenance of some indignation.

They spoke in whispers. ‘She’s a true Nickleby—a worthy imitator of her old uncle Ralph—she hangs back to be more sought after—so does he. ‘I was right. At that instant— ‘Little Kate Nickleby!’ cried the voice behind him. and did not even turn his head. He swallowed a glassful and took up the paper again. and then the money comes doubly welcome.’ ‘Infernal cunning.’ muttered Nicholas as the paper fell from his hand. And the glasses were set down empty. ‘The jade!’ said the same voice which had spoken before. Still there was no reference made to anybody with whom he was acquainted. ‘we’ll give her the first glass in the new magnum.’ thought Nicholas: ‘if it had been “Kate” or “Kate Nickleby. nothing to be got out of Ralph unless you follow him up. Little Kate Nickleby!’ ‘Little Kate Nickleby. for you’re impatient and he isn’t. Oh! infernal cunning.’ cried the other three. Keenly alive to the tone and manner of this slight and careless mention of his sister’s name in a public place. or converted some other words into the name which had been so much in his thoughts.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY pearance of the individual whom he presumed to have been the speaker was coarse and swaggering.’ echoed two voices.” I should not have been so much surprised: but “little Kate Nickleby!”’ The wine coming at the moment prevented his finishing the sentence. and Nicholas became persuaded that his excited fancy had either imagined the sounds altogether. nor anything sounding at all like the words. At length the two resumed their seats. but Nicholas could catch no repetition of the words. ‘And it was the man I supposed.’ said the voice. who stood with his back to the company. This person—so Nicholas observed in the same glance at the mirror which had enabled him to see his face—was standing with his back to the fire conversing with a younger man. Nicholas fired at once. ‘It is remarkable too. wore his hat.’ ‘As there was a proper objection to drinking her in heeltaps. which had attracted his attention. now and then bursting into a loud laugh. and the bargain doubly hard. but he kept himself quiet by a great effort. and more wine being ordered. 406 . and was adjusting his shirt-collar by the aid of the glass. the party grew louder in their mirth.

Suffice it that as the wine went round he heard enough to acquaint him with the characters and designs of those whose conversation he overhead.’ replied Nicholas. ‘Let me have a word with you. ‘that the old woman has grown jea-a-lous. He heard all this and more. raising his wine-glass to his lips. ha! Poor deyvle!’ The laugh was taken up by the two voices which always came in together. and force the words from his parched and scorching throat. so much the better. eyeing him in disdainful surprise. and resumed with even greater freedom when they had left the room. ‘I am afraid. ‘Ha. ‘I said with you. but he commanded himself for the moment. sir?’ retorted Sir Mulberry Hawk. led the conversation. and herself made the subject of coarse and insolent wagers. What he heard need not be repeated here. he heard her name bandied from mouth to mouth. Nicholas turned burning hot with rage. and indeed almost engrossed it. ‘I can do anything with the old lady.’ ‘Egad that’s true. and waited to hear more. speaking with great difficulty. free speech. ‘With me. and her virtuous conduct jeered at and brutally misconstrued. ‘A mysterious stranger. rose one after the other and went away.Charles Dickens Nicholas was in a perfect agony as the two elderly gentlemen opposite. sir. for his passion choked him. and the real reason of his own presence being required in London. and looking round upon his friends. He heard his sister’s sufferings derided.’ ‘If they quarrel and little Nickleby goes home to her mother. and licentious jesting. Upon my soul it looks like it. 407 . ha. She’ll believe anything I tell her. To him then Nicholas addressed himself when he was sufficiently composed to stand before the party. But the conversation was suspended as they withdrew.’ said Nicholas. being only stimulated from time to time by some slight observation from one or other of his companions. and locked her up.’ said the first.’ returned the other voice. upon my soul!’ exclaimed Sir Mulberry.’ said the younger gentleman. to possess him with the full extent of Ralph’s villainy. lest they should be the means of his losing one word of what was said. The man who had spoken first. and became general at Mrs Nickleby’s expense.

and tossing the card to Lord Verisopht.’ said Nicholas. I will know you. drew a toothpick from a glass before him. and he seemed for an instant about to launch it at the head of his challenger. Sir Mulberry merely paused in the act of drinking. and bade him either name his business or leave the table. ‘he will acquaint me with the name and residence of this man. who sat opposite. ‘and shall be proclaimed so to the world. and laughed in derision. and impeach him as a coward. not unmixed with some confusion. ‘my business you will guess.’ replied Sir Mulberry. looking round and scarcely able to make his white lips form the words. or do you refuse?’ said Nicholas sternly. ‘I denounce this person as a liar. and his pretty sister shall save him a broken head.’ There was a dead silence. and. 408 . ‘Do you know that person’s name?’ he inquired of the man in an audible voice. said— ‘Let the fellow talk. turning paler as his passion kindled. But he only filled his glass. Nicholas drew a card from his pocket. ‘I am the brother of the young lady who has been the subject of conversation here.’ A momentary expression of astonishment. ‘Your name and address?’ said Nicholas.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Will you step apart with me for a few minutes. and threw it before him. ‘If there is a gentleman in this party. sir.’ said Nicholas. If he has a friend here. and. but he subdued it in an instant. ‘I shall give you neither. nor leave him until I have. addressing his companions. appeared in the face of Sir Mulberry as he read the name. he will save him the disgrace of the paltry attempt to conceal his name—and utterly useless one—for I will find it out. if he talks till midnight. paid his bill. I will follow you home if you walk the streets till morning. ‘There. summoning the waiter.’ Sir Mulberry’s hand involuntarily closed upon the decanter.’ Sir Mulberry looked at him contemptuously. and very leisurely applied it to his mouth. I have nothing serious to say to boys of his station.’ ‘You are a base and spiritless scoundrel!’ said Nicholas. Nicholas sat himself down. pointing out Sir Mulberry as he put the question.’ said Nicholas. directly opposite to the party.

409 . put that piece of pasteboard in the fire—do you hear me?’ The man grinned. It was evident from the tone in which the younger member of the party appeared to remonstrate with his friend. ‘and when you have made yourself master of it. and the two voices which had always spoken together. however. and answered with just as little respect. who. no doubt. sir. It will be very readily supposed that to one in the condition of Nicholas. sat perfectly quiet. Sir Mulberry. or the shrill sound of its little bell which told the quarters. and further seemed—as if to save himself from a repetition of them—to insist on being left alone. into steady execution. Having done this. leaving their friend alone with Nicholas. and biting his lip. and in his old seat on the opposite side of the room reclined Sir Mulberry Hawk. that he objected to this course of proceeding. and that their progress did not seem the more rapid from the monotonous ticking of a French clock.’ cried Sir Mulberry. and.’ ‘Then you’ll find it there. Nicholas folded his arms. and just as much impertinence as he could safely show: ‘no. you sir. who was not quite sober. sir. however. with his legs upon the cushion. looking doubtfully at Nicholas. and urged him to comply with the request which Nicholas had made.Charles Dickens Sir Mulberry laughed again. I do not. as the man was retiring. sufficiently expressing by his manner. actually rose to go after a short interval. soon silenced the representations of his weak young friend.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘do you know that person’s name?’ ‘Name. echoed the laugh. the minutes appeared to move with leaden wings indeed. a firm determination to carry his threat of following Sir Mulberry home. But there he sat. but rather feebly. knew his cue. However this might have been. compromised the matter by sticking the card in the chimneyglass. and who was in a sullen and dogged state of obstinacy. sir?’ replied the waiter. throwing Nicholas’s card towards him. and his handkerchief thrown negligently over his knees: finishing his magnum of claret with the utmost coolness and indifference. sir? No. he retired. and presently retired. the young gentleman and the two who had always spoken together. ‘That gentleman.’ ‘Here. sir.

’ ‘You shall be horsewhipped if you do. adjusted it by the glass. put on his hat. ‘You are a villain.’ ‘If you trust to your horse’s speed. but that the little bell had only gone four times. walked slowly out. and ordered the waiter to help him on with his greatcoat. At length he yawned. you will find yourself mistaken. whistling carelessly all the time.’ said Sir Mulberry. ‘No. the groom opened the apron. and held the door open. that before the door had swung upon its hinges after Sir Mulberry’s passing out. I tell you again. and looking vacantly at the wall. and followed him: so closely.’ returned Sir Mulberry. ‘I am the son of a country gentleman. ‘your equal in birth and education. Sir Mulberry shrugged his shoulders. stopped to finish the last glass of claret which he had poured out a few minutes before. but there was Sir Mulberry in the same attitude. who had been fuming and chafing until he was nearly wild. ‘Will you make yourself known to me?’ asked Nicholas in a suppressed voice. Nicholas. drew on his gloves. they stood side by side in the street together. walked coolly to the glass. Nicholas stared again with right good-will. There was a private cabriolet in waiting.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Thus they remained in perfect silence for upwards of an hour—Nicholas would have thought for three hours at least. darted from his seat. and rose. walked again. if I hang on to the foot-board. Miss Nickleby is my sister. ‘No. and having surveyed himself therein. and confirming the refusal with an oath. Sir Mulberry took several turns up and down the room. rang the bell. ‘I will accompany you. Will you or will you not answer for your unmanly and brutal conduct?’ 410 . and jumped out to the horse’s head. stretched himself. and they were alone again. and your superior I trust in everything besides.’ said Nicholas. and. The man did so. turned round and honoured Nicholas with a long and contemptuous stare. By Heaven I will.’ said Nicholas. Twice or thrice he looked angrily and impatiently round. putting his glass to his lips from time to time. at last.’ replied the other fiercely. smiled slightly.’ returned Nicholas. ‘You are an errand-boy for aught I know. as if he were wholly ignorant of the presence of any living person. ‘Don’t wait.’ said Sir Mulberry Hawk.

finding after a minute or two that he was reeling like a drunken man. William. The man obeyed. The animal reared and plunged as though it would dash the carriage into a thousand pieces. blind to all sense of danger. It was broken in the struggle. Rightly judging that under such circumstances it would be madness to follow. He was giddy and sick. could discern the cabriolet whirled along the foot-pavement with frightful rapidity—then heard a loud cry. and catching at the reins. He saw the gash. You shall not go—you shall not. and he could see or hear no more. dog. ‘Will you unclasp your hand?’ ‘Will you tell me who you are?’ ‘No!’ ‘No!’ In less time than the quickest tongue could tell it. He was conscious of a torrent of people rushing quickly by—looking up. taking the reins in his hand. ‘Leave go. these words were exchanged. but Nicholas.Charles Dickens ‘To a proper champion—yes. ‘He has no command over the horse. I swear—till you have told me who you are. mind.’ cried Nicholas. and with it laid open one side of his antagonist’s face from the eye to the lip.’ ‘You had better not. and aware for the first time of a stream of blood that was trickling down his face and breast. but staggered to his feet directly. still maintained his place and his hold upon the reins. Nicholas gained the heavy handle. and he was quite alone. for the mare. and conscious of nothing but his fury. I tell you!’ thundered his master. and he felt himself flung violently upon the ground. applied it furiously to the head and shoulders of Nicholas. a hundred lights danced in his eyes. who was a high-spirited animal and thorough-bred. springing on the step as Sir Mulberry jumped in. and Sir Mulberry shortening his whip. let go her head. To you—no. he turned down a bye-street in search of the nearest coach-stand. plunged so violently that he could scarcely hold her. The general attention had been entirely directed from himself to the person in the carriage.’ The groom hesitated. and screaming to those ahead to clear the way. knew that the mare had darted off at a wild mad gallop. and the breaking of glass—and then the crowd closed in in the distance. 411 . the smashing of some heavy body. roused by the loud shouts of the men who were tearing up the street. ‘Stand out of the way.’ returned Sir Mulberry.

and tell me. ‘But if I had fractured every limb.’ ‘No harm!’ cried Newman. ‘Don’t be alarmed. for the time for any palliation or concealment is past. as was abundantly testified by the blank looks they cast upon each other at every new disappointment. you should not bandage one till you had told me what I have the right to know. for the approach of Nicholas. he stood aghast in wonder and consternation.’ said Noggs. and his prolonged absence began to excite considerable alarm in the minds of both. giving his hand to Noggs. and nothing will avail Ralph Nickleby now. Now think of her. Time had worn on. FROM ALL COMMERCE WITH HIS RELATIONS SMIKE AND NEWMAN NOGGS. Newman. and still preserved my senses. He had promised to be back in an hour. Come. But before I remove one jot of these stains. Beholding him in the trim described at the conclusion of the last chapter. and the slightest sound that stirred within the house. ‘There is no harm done.’ said Newman. I must hear the whole from you.’ 412 .’ ‘I have no hurts to see to.’ ‘Your dress is torn in several places. listening anxiously to every footstep on the stairs. and I am sure you are suffering pain. seating himself with some difficulty.’ ‘Yes. sat before the fire. passing his hands hastily over the back and arms of Nicholas. ‘Let me see to your hurts first.’ said Nicholas.’ said Nicholas. speak out. as if to assure himself that he had broken no bones. BY A VERY EXPEDITIOUS PROCESS. I will.’ interrupted Nicholas. who in his impatience had returned home long before the time agreed upon. and it was growing late. Now. I will. My resolution is taken. ‘I have heard a part. my good friend. You see I am collected. beyond what a basin of water can repair. hurrying him back into the room. ‘I’ll tell you the whole truth. and guessed the rest. and Newman ran out to light Nicholas up the stairs. who died before you fell into misfortune. beyond a little soreness and stiffness that will soon pass off. you walk lame. ‘You had a sister of your own.’ said Nicholas. ‘What have you been doing?’ ‘I know all. At length a coach was heard to stop.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY CHAPTER 33 IN WHICH MR RALPH NICKLEBY IS RELIEVED. you told me once.

as it corroborated the particulars he had already gleaned. and telling him that Newman Noggs would call for him very shortly. Newman insisted upon his young friend’s stripping off his coat and allowing whatever injuries he had received to be properly tended. His recital ended. It wanted a quarter to eight when they reached Cadogan 413 . the delivery of which was to be intrusted to Newman next day). Merely looking into Smike’s room. for the moment. for when Nicholas came to the violent part of the quarrel. arrangements should be made for his mother’s immediately quitting her present residence. Nicholas. and where (after writing a few lines to Ralph. Nicholas nodded his head from time to time. This martyrdom over. however. for the world. he endeavoured to obtain the repose of which he stood so much in need. he sprung out of bed as the clock struck seven. and did not look round once. and be quite unconscious of any serious personal inconvenience when their reason returns. bade the man drive to Mrs Wititterly’s. and also for dispatching Miss La Creevy to break the intelligence to her. but he fixed his eyes upon the fire. Drunken men. and was soon as much on the alert as if nothing had occurred. The recital made a strong impression on the warm imagination of Newman. Newman was operating on Sir Mulberry Hawk. Nicholas descended into the street. may roll down precipices. they say. Nicholas arranged with Newman that while he was otherwise occupied next morning. which he would not have exhibited. related in what manner they had been received. after some opposition. at length consented. he rubbed so hard.Charles Dickens Newman did so. it being perfectly clear that. and repaired to the inn where they were to pass the night. The remark may possibly apply to injuries received in other kinds of violent excitement: certain it is. according to the direction which Newman had given him on the previous night. and had quite lost sight of his real patient. and calling a hackney coach. and various other efficacious remedies which Newman borrowed from the different lodgers. with very little difficulty. and. while some pretty severe bruises on his arms and shoulders were being rubbed with oil and vinegar. He then wrapped himself in Smike’s greatcoat. as to occasion him the most exquisite pain. that although Nicholas experienced some pain on first awakening next morning.

He soon heard a light footstep which he well knew. very miserable. who appeared with dishevelled hair and a very warm and glossy face. On the question being propounded whether he could go and find her. ‘to see you so much altered. and Nicholas paced the room in a state of feverish agitation which made the delay even of a minute insupportable. but that I knew all this too late. ‘My darling girl.’ said Nicholas.’ answered Nicholas—’never again.’ ‘Why should I tell you what we know so well?’ returned Kate soothingly. By this functionary he was referred to the doubtful page.’ returned her brother. clenching his fist and suddenly changing his tone and manner. Kate had fallen on his neck and burst into tears.’ he cried. ‘so very. you should not have slept here last night. that it was a trial to me no less than to yourself. as of a page who had just got out of bed. but being stimulated with a shilling. the page grew sanguine and thought he could. dear brother. and before he could advance to meet her. By this young gentleman he was informed that Miss Nickleby was then taking her morning’s walk in the gardens before the house.’ sobbed poor Kate. ‘it sets my whole blood on fire again. Nicholas began to fear that no one might be stirring at that early hour. ‘Tell me that I acted for the best. Do not leave me here.’ ‘I will leave you nowhere. ‘Nicholas—dear Nicholas—how can you give way thus?’ ‘It is such bitter reproach to me to know what you have undergone.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Place. dear Nicholas. employed in cleaning the door-steps. Kate. To whom can I speak. You must leave here with me directly. and that if I did wrong it was in ignorance of the world and unknowingly. and in great haste to see her. the page desponded and thought not. The plated buttons disappeared with an alacrity most unusual to them. moved in spite of himself as he folded her to his heart. when he was relieved by the sight of a female servant. before we drive away?’ 414 .’ said Nicholas as he embraced her. ‘Say to Miss Nickleby that her brother is here. ‘How pale you are!’ ‘I have been so unhappy here. Tell me that we parted because I feared to bring misfortune on your head. or I shall die of a broken heart. and yet so kind and patient—God!’ cried Nicholas.

presented himself with much duty and affection. ‘I will’—here he was interrupted by a violent fit of coughing—’I will—owe it to Miss Nickleby. sir.’ Mr Wititterly bowed.’ interposed Nicholas. in the course of the day. it should be observed. they performed the journey with greater expedition than could reasonably have been expected. for there was a little cart at the door. and the effects were hurrying out already.Charles Dickens This question was most opportunely put. Mrs Nickleby was not the sort of person to be told anything in a hurry. with the gravity of a man on the right side. ‘The quarter’s notice. he hurried Kate into the vehicle. with which. indeed. for at that instant Mr Wititterly walked in. Now. and when the way had been paved. 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 breakfast there. ‘is not yet half expired. Whatever she brought here I will send for. You will excuse this extreme haste. or rather to comprehend anything of pe415 . but offered no opposition to Kate’s immediate departure. ‘With regard to the trifle of salary that is due. who at once announced his purpose. that she rather disagreed with Mrs Wititterly’s constitution. and to him Kate introduced her brother. and this was Mr Wititterly’s. but circumstances require that I should immediately remove my sister. Therefore—’ ‘Therefore. and I have not a moment’s time to lose. Sir Tumley Snuffim having given it as his opinion. was accustomed to owe small accounts.’ Mr Wititterly. And once more offering a hurried apology for so sudden a departure. that his unlooked-for appearance might not alarm his mother.’ said Nicholas. ‘the quarter’s salary must be lost.’ said Mr Wititterly. and bade the man drive with all speed into the city. To the city they went accordingly. ‘If you please. when they breakfasted at all.’ said Mr Wititterly. he was rather gratified than otherwise. All men have some little pleasant way of their own. Newman had not been idle. Nicholas sent Kate upstairs a few minutes before him. if you will allow me. and the impossibility of deferring it. and to leave them owing.

after the discovery of his vile proceedings. which is a very distressing thing. and use his interest to get you some profitable government place. my dear. Nicholas. and that is to cast him off with the scorn and indignation he deserves. a monster. There are very good places to be got about the court. even for the shelter of these bare walls. she was in a state of singular bewilderment and confusion. Miss La Creevy devoted herself to the consolation of the matron. ‘My dear mother. you should not be beholden to him one hour. crying bitterly. that it is!’ With which expressions of sorrow. Mrs Nickleby gave fresh vent to her grief. There is but one step to take. I never could have believed it—never. ‘Lord bless my life!’ exclaimed Mrs Nickleby. Your own honour and good name demand that. and the walls are very bare. and wept piteously. and I know that it was the chief part of his duty to wear silk stockings.’ ‘To be sure. As Nicholas and his sister were by this time compelled to superintend the removal of the few articles of furniture. and I have had this ceiling whitewashed at the expense of eighteen-pence. and want painting too. ‘the time for talking has gone by. I know.’ said Nicholas. and could by no means be made to comprehend the necessity of such hurried proceedings. dear. and cheer up. nor anybody else. what he can possibly mean by it?’ said Mrs Nickleby. ‘To think that that Sir Mulberry Hawk should be such an abandoned wretch as Miss La Creevy says he is. and was now addressed in most lucid terms both by Nicholas and his sister. my dear Kate. ‘Why don’t you ask your uncle. although the good lady had been subjected to a full hour’s preparation by little Miss La Creevy. 416 . he had one. for a friend of ours (Miss Cropley.’ returned Nicholas. dear.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY culiar delicacy or importance on a short notice. when I was congratulating myself every day on his being an admirer of our dear Kate’s.’ said Mrs Nickleby. and thinking what a thing it would be for the family if he was to become connected with us. and a bag wig like a black watch-pocket. considering that it is so much gone into your uncle’s pocket. my dear Nicholas. you recollect).’ ‘Nor I. and to think that it should come to this after all—oh. at Exeter. it’s enough to kill one. ‘he is a brute. and observed with great kindness of manner that she must really make an effort. Wherefore.

’ ‘—Where everything is ready. for first she insisted on going upstairs to see that nothing had been left. Mrs Nickleby lost a shilling among the straw.’ said Nicholas. and after she was shut in. and so quickly had everything been done. Have you heard if he was much hurt?’ Newman shook his head. Ill news travels fast. ‘Come.’ said Nicholas. ‘Now.’ said Nicholas. and they will know it soon enough. what am I too say to them—what can I say to them? Why. at all events.” they’d laugh at me. ordered the coachman to drive away.’ returned Mrs Nickleby. “I’m told your friend Sir Mulberry is a base wretch. discharged the servant.Charles Dickens ‘Oh I dare say.’ said Mrs Nickleby. At last Nicholas.’ returned Newman. and then on going downstairs to see that everything had been taken away. ‘You had better take some rest. When you come to me this evening. ‘I will ascertain that myself without loss of time.’ added Miss La Creevy. not a word of last night. and in the unexpected jerk of a sudden starting. which fortunately confined her attention to the coach until it was too late to remember anything else. ‘and here the key. if I was to say to them. and locked the door. and until Monday. we will return to our old quarters. and when she was getting into the coach she had a vision of a forgotten coffee-pot on the back-kitchen hob. ‘Here is the letter for Ralph.’ But Mrs Nickleby was not to be so easily moved.’ ‘They will laugh no more at us. there is a coach at the door. with a petulance not unnatural in her unhappy circumstances. Miss La Creevy. in a condition of absolute despair. but if you had as many occasions to cheer up as I have had—and there. Having seen everything safely out. that it was barely half-past nine when he reached the place of meeting. let me go with you downstairs. two of the most perfect gentlemen that ever lived. a dismal recollection of a green umbrella behind some unknown door. ‘it’s very easy to say cheer up. and a hearty welcome into the bargain. Nicholas jumped into a cabriolet and drove to a bye place near Golden Square where he had appointed to meet Noggs. advancing. mother. stopping short. ‘Think of Mr Pyke and Mr Pluck. ‘You are fevered and ill. I take it.’ 417 .

for they know no shame but the ties of blood which bind them in name with you. or less. ‘What’s this?’ asked Ralph.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY Nicholas waved his hand carelessly. Newman was not three minutes’ walk from Golden Square. ‘Left with the letter. now that the excitement which had sustained him was over. opened the letter. After a few minutes. and waited impatiently until Ralph Nickleby should appear. took a hurried farewell of Newman Noggs. he started from his seat. and frowning heavily. and thrusting it all 418 . ‘Your brother’s widow and her orphan child spurn the shelter of your roof. and then the bell rung. then the superscription. hung his hat on its accustomed peg. and cast their darkness on your death-bed. 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.’ ‘Any other letters?’ ‘One. ‘Has the post come in?’ ‘No. taking up the key. May every recollection of your life cling to your false heart. but he clasped his fingers. and left him.—a boy brought them—quarter of an hour ago. First the front. then the sides. and concealing the indisposition he really felt. 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. and then he rubbed his hands in a perfect ecstasy with his commission. the paper fluttered from his hand and dropped upon the floor. as if he held it still.’ Newman eyed him closely. He reached the office. ‘You are an old man. fell into a fit of musing. then the seal. Suddenly. the well-known creaking of his boots was heard on the stairs. and read as follows:— ‘You are known to me now. then the back. Your kindred renounce you.’ Ralph glanced at the direction. laid the letter and key upon the desk.’ Ralph Nickleby read this letter twice. and shun you with disgust and loathing. 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. and I leave you to the grave. and laid it on the desk.

as he spoke. As he thrust his head in at the door.’ Newman uttered a significant grunt. some figures in an Interest-table which was pasted against the wall. chinking. for Ralph. and grasping Ralph’s horny hand with uncommon affection. on Ralph Nickleby’s scraper. The glance was but momentary. oh demmit. shining. and apparently quite abstracted from every other object. turned furiously to Newman Noggs. upon my life and soul. ‘It is most demnebly particular. limped with it into his master’s office. As Newman stated it.’—said Mr Mantalini to Newman Noggs. as he once more held it open in his hand. inquired whether the client’s business was of a pressing nature. with the worn and blackened stump of an old pen. Mr Mantalini had got by this time into the passage. scraping his boots.’ said Mr Mantalini. he saw that Ralph had resumed the thoughtful posture into which he had fallen after perusing his nephew’s letter. But Newman stood unmoved. and taking Mr Mantalini’s proffered card.’ . with his back towards him. and was making his way to the door of Ralph’s office with very little ceremony. and that he seemed to have been reading it again. and hinting that Mr Nickleby was unwilling to be disturbed.Charles Dickens crumpled into his pocket. turned to demand the cause of the interruption. demd mint sauce. the cause himself swaggered into the room. ‘Then you are most immensely and outr-i-geously deaf. being disturbed. every tinkle of which is enough to throw a strong man into blue convulsions. vowed that he had never seen him looking so well in all his life. as though to ask him why he lingered. when Newman interposed his body.’ said Mr Mantalini. ‘I didn’t hear the bell more than once. following up. tinkling. ‘It is to melt some scraps of dirty paper into bright. ‘There is quite a bloom upon your demd countenance.’ 419 CHAPTER 34 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. ‘as deaf as a demnition post.’ replied Newman.

and care420 .’ returned Ralph.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY said Mr Mantalini. mind. ha. no delay. tartly. Ha. ‘Oh demmit!’ cried Mr Mantalini. interrupting him.’ replied Ralph. impatiently extending his hand for the bills. and arranging his hair and whiskers. or I shouldn’t want it. ‘What is the gross amount?’ ‘Demd trifling—five-and-seventy. ‘The times are bad.’ said Ralph. seating himself unbidden. ‘Let me see the names. Nickleby. I wouldn’t for many people—for five-and-twenty pounds. ‘What would you have? Let me see the names. deliberately.’ ‘Demmit. can’t you—’ began Mr Mantalini. ‘I can’t. ha! Very good. and will you take the money? I don’t want you to do so. Ha. whose face lengthened considerably at this handsome proposal. ‘What do you want with me?’ ‘Good!’ cried Mr Mantalini. ‘Why. and one scarcely knows whom to trust. Will you take the money—down. ‘You look quite juvenile and jolly.’ continued Ralph. man?’ demanded Ralph. Do you consent to the terms.’ retorted Ralph. and never had. displaying his teeth. ‘Demd scarce. but as you are a friend—how many bills have you there?’ ‘Two.’ interrupted Mr Mantalini.’ returned Mr Mantalini. but they are safe enough. and four. or is it not?’ Ralph pushed some papers from him as he spoke. and shaking his head waggishly. that leaves you fifty.’ ‘You are so demd hard. in fact I would rather not.’ returned Mr Mantalini. for you. ‘Demnition discount.’ replied Ralph. I would rather you didn’t. ‘What did I want! Yes. What did I want. demmit!’ ‘We are alone. ‘No. no going into the city and pretending to negotiate with some other party who has no existence.’ said Ralph.’ ‘I’ll do them for you—mind. sternly. ‘Well! They are not sure. ‘I don’t want to do business just now.’ ‘And the dates?’ ‘Two months. ‘Money is scarce.’ remonstrated Mr Mantalini. Oh dem!’ ‘What do you want. Nickleby. with a grin. Is it a bargain.

’ repeated Madame Mantalini. for the nonce. turning to Ralph. settle it between yourselves. ‘Me who dote upon her with the demdest ardour! She. and pouncing with kitten-like playfulness upon a stray sovereign.’ said Madame Mantalini.’ said Madame Mantalini. she will throw me into a demd state. my life and soul. and Ralph told the money out upon the table.’ ‘Of me.’ returned his wife. He had scarcely done so. ma’am. sir. and. my soul’s delight.’ returned Mr Mantalini. when a ring was heard at the bell. the extent of his lady’s affection. The sound was too much for Mr Mantalini. ‘Settle it between yourselves.’ Whatever were the circumstances which had led to such a result.’ ‘No. ‘It knows it is not ashamed of its own popolorum tibby. ‘Yes. ‘But I will not allow it.’ 421 . my joy? It knows it is talking demd charming sweetness. and Mr Mantalini had not yet gathered it all up. Madame Mantalini only looked scornful in reply. who coils her fascinations round me like a pure angelic rattlesnake! It will be all up with my feelings. ‘Oh. but I must beg you as a favour.’ said Madame Mantalini. He closed the bargain directly it reached his ears. as though by mere accident. but naughty fibs.’ replied her husband. and immediately afterwards Newman ushered in no less a person than Madame Mantalini. with much indignation. ‘I am here. I call Mr Nickleby to witness the course I intend to pursue with you.’ ‘I am ashamed of you. picking up the demnition gold and silver. begged him to excuse her intrusion. dropping on his knees. tossing her head. and swept the cash into his pocket with remarkable alacrity. ‘Which is entirely attributable. it certainly appeared as though the popolorum tibby had rather miscalculated. ‘Will she call me “Sir”?’ cried Mantalini. my essential juice of pineapple!’ ‘Of you. I will not submit to be ruined by the extravagance and profligacy of any man. ‘to the gross misconduct and most improper behaviour of Mr Mantalini.’ said Madame. ‘Ashamed—of me.Charles Dickens lessly rattled his cash-box.’ said Ralph. at sight of whom Mr Mantalini evinced considerable discomposure. you are here. ‘to hear me give him notice of what it is my fixed intention to do—my fixed intention. darting an angry look at her husband.’ ‘Pray don’t call me to witness anything. I am. upon Tom Tiddler’s ground.

Madame Mantalini still said no.’ Mr Mantalini groaned slightly. 422 . who leant against his easy-chair with his hands behind him. winked with the other at Ralph. and buttoned his trousers pocket. I wish you to know the determination at which his conduct has compelled me to arrive.’ continued Madame Mantalini. ‘since our late misfortunes. ‘I assure you.’ ‘To do that.’ returned Madame Mantalini. to convert the papers I have spoken of.’ Mr Mantalini groaned once more from behind his wife’s bonnet.’ said Madame Mantalini.’ ‘I do not consider yours. and I really cannot afford to encourage him in all his wastefulness. sarcastically. who did not seem to have caught the words. and in constant difficulty.’ rejoined Madame Mantalini. Having achieved this performance with great dexterity. to pay Miss Knag a great deal of money for having her name in the business. into money. seating herself. my soul!’ exclaimed Mr Mantalini.’ ‘I should scarcely have supposed it. ‘No. ‘His extravagance. and regarded the amiable couple with a smile of the supremest and most unmitigated contempt.’ replied his wife. as tokens of impatience manifested themselves in Ralph’s countenance.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘Don’t talk of feelings.’ said Madame Mantalini. ‘You don’t consider mine. and said it too with such determined and resolute ill-temper. however.’ answered Ralph. and are very much connected with us in this kind of matters. Mr Nickleby. And notwithstanding various blandishments on the part of Mr Mantalini. ‘to allowance him. ‘is not the worst. ‘I have made up my mind. and groaned again with increased penitence. and as you have assisted us very often before. Mr Nickleby. wiping her eyes. that Mr Mantalini was clearly taken aback. that it is. He took some papers of value out of my desk this morning without asking my permission.—’his extravagance is beyond all bounds. and fitting a sovereign into one of his eyes. And even this. ‘I am obliged. Mr Nickleby.’ said Madame Mantalini. my joy?’ inquired Mr Mantalini. he whipped the coin into his pocket. ‘It makes me miserable! I am under constant apprehensions. addressing herself to Ralph. As I have no doubt that he came straight here. and turning her back upon him. sir.

It is not reality. Some handsome women will cry. ‘A very judicious arrangement.’ ‘Alfred. you cruel.’ ‘Demmit!’ exclaimed Mr Mantalini. No!’ Comforting himself with this assurance. opening his eyes at the sound of Ralph’s voice. There is the graceful outline of her form. but I will not be angry with her. he cast his hat and cane upon the floor. unpleasant body!’ exclaimed Mr Mantalini. she will laugh demnebly. ‘Demnition!’ cried Mr Mantalini. ‘it is a horrid reality. ‘She calls me cruel—me—me—who for her sake will become a demd. to the great discomposure of his lady’s nerves. and as suddenly skipping into it again.’ observed Ralph with a sneer. cruel creature. ma’am—as no doubt he will. but in a softened tone. and I say that if he has a hundred and twenty pounds a year for his clothes and pocket-money.’ said Madame Mantalini. it cannot be mistaken—there is nothing like it. to tell her where the body is. ‘if your husband will keep within it. The two countesses had no outlines at all. ‘But no.’ Mr Mantalini waited. Mr Mantalini closed his eyes and waited patiently till such time as he should wake up. for I will put a note in the twopenny-post as I go along. and drawing out his pocket-handkerchief. lest his many graces should induce her to falter in her resolution. It is a demd horrid dream. Alfred. looking at Ralph. to hear the amount of the proposed stipend. with much decorum. even now?’ ‘You have brought it upon yourself. he may consider himself a very fortunate man. ‘to put him upon a fixed allowance. Why is she so excruciatingly beautiful that I cannot be angry with her.’ said Madame Mantalini. She is sitting there before me. and prudently abstaining from the slightest glance at her husband. and the dowager’s was a demd outline. moist. gave vent to his feelings in a dismal moan. She will be a lovely widow. even then. ‘I am a demd villain!’ cried Mr Mantalini.’ returned Madame Mantalini—still reproachfully. damp. sobbing at the dreadful picture. I shall be a body. 423 .Charles Dickens ‘To put him. but when it reached his ears. smiting himself on the head. ‘I will fill my pockets with change for a sovereign in halfpence and drown myself in the Thames. suddenly skipping out of his chair.

‘I don’t want any sum. which having just begun to open to some few of the demerits of Mr Mantalini. The result was. and go clad in rags. as it originates in the greater blindness and is fed by vanity. ‘But it will come soon enough.’ thought Ralph. Meantime the fools bring grist to my mill. Madame Mantalini argued the question of the allowance. and can I live to be suspected by her? Demmit.’ On this repetition of Mr Mantalini’s fatal threat. postponed its further consideration.’ These agreeable reflections occurred to Ralph Nickleby. to the same little engrossing demnition captivater. though that which has its sole root in the admiration of a whiskered face like that of yonder baboon. supposed to be un424 . and several attempts on the part of Mr Mantalini to reach the door. This brought fresh tears into Madame Mantalini’s eyes. clearly enough. one after another. I will be a body. ‘Can I live to be mistrusted?’ cried her husband. and implored the interference of Ralph Nickleby. and given them all away. as sundry small caresses and endearments. and the longer it is. so let them live out their day. for some time longer at all events. and could be easily closed again. and Mr Mantalini did the same. were only open a very little way. to promise that he wouldn’t be a body. no I can’t. and after a great quantity of tears and talking. that Mr Mantalini had gained a fresh lease of his easy life. ‘all love— bah! that I should use the cant of boys and girls—is fleeting enough. preparatory to straightway committing violence upon himself. Madame Mantalini. even to hear you talk of such a thing. his degradation and downfall were postponed.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘You know it almost breaks my heart. the better.’ ‘Ask Mr Nickleby whether the sum I have mentioned is not a proper one. perhaps lasts the longest. and that. and Ralph saw. but that he could not support existence with the additional burden of being mistrusted by the object of his most devoted and disinterested affection. This great point attained. Madame Mantalini wrung her hands. with difficulty.’ replied her disconsolate husband.’ replied Madame Mantalini. ‘I shall require no demd allowance. ‘Have I cut my heart into a demd extraordinary number of little pieces. taking occasion to show that he could live with uncommon satisfaction upon bread and water. that without quite giving up the allowance question.’ reasoned Madame Mantalini. that gentleman was prevailed upon.

’ Mr Mantalini answered. manslaughtering attack made upon him by your nephew?’ ‘What!’ snarled Ralph. Ralph shrugged his shoulders again. which had several times appeared behind a couple of panes of glass in the room door. shrugging his shoulders carelessly. ‘Demmit. and that his life is in some danger. ‘Go on.’ growled Ralph.’ cried Mantalini.’ said Mr Mantalini. What is this story? Who told you? Speak.’ replied Ralph. when men live hard. by remarking in words that he had nothing more to say. ‘Then don’t you know how it was?’ ‘Not unless it was as I have just supposed. and severely injured. ‘but I see nothing extraordinary in that—accidents are not miraculous events.’ cried Ralph. as if it were no great feat to amaze Mr Mantalini. alarmed at these demonstrations. ‘Demmit! I have. ‘Do you hear me?’ 425 . though. ‘that it wasn’t an accident at all.’ said Mantalini. it being a part of Newman’s duty. ‘Here’s an affair about your friend Sir Mulberry. Such a demd extraordinary out-of-the-way kind of thing as never was —eh?’ ‘What do you mean?’ asked Ralph.’ said Madame Mantalini. demmit?’ asked Mr Mantalini. by tapping Madame Mantalini several times on the nose.’ ‘Whew!’ cried Mr Mantalini in a long shrill whistle. clenching his fists and turning a livid white. and cast a wistful glance at the face of Newman Noggs.’ answered Ralph with great composure. taking Ralph by the button. as if to give his questioner to understand that he had no curiosity upon the subject. but a demd. were exchanged between the objects of his thoughts. ‘I see by the paper that he was thrown from his cabriolet last night. ‘Don’t you know. furious. I am sure we have detained him much too long already. and then. ‘Demmit. in the first instance. ‘If you have nothing more to say. 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 visitors that it was time to go. you amaze me. when unimportant people called. to Mr Nickleby.’ he added almost immediately. ‘we will take our leaves. you’re as great a tiger as he is.Charles Dickens seen. and drive after dinner. ‘Tell me what you mean. my dear. ‘Don’t you know. Nickleby. drawing Ralph into a corner.

fell upon him with the most demneble ferocity. ‘That it happened this way—that your nephew met him at a coffeehouse. for he went off as quiet and comfortable as— as—as demnition. fine. in an admiring tone.’ replied Mr Mantalini. rummest. Ralph affected to smile. gentlemanly dog it is.’ rejoined Mantalini. ‘From Pyke. ‘And what. knowing hand. ravaging. ‘Was he? Is he dead?’ Mantalini shook his head. and once more inquired from whom Mr Mantalini had derived his information. but he got some painful and slow-healing injury for his trouble? Did he? You must have heard that.’ ‘No. and a tip-top sawyer.’ said Mr Mantalini.’ rejoined Ralph. hesitating a little.’ said Ralph. raging passion as never was. smashed his countenance. pleasant. ‘the cunningest.’ said Mr Mantalini. he wasn’t hurt. ‘what a demneble fierce old evil genius you are! You’re enough to frighten the life and soul out of her little delicious wits—flying all at once into such a blazing. 426 . rather at a loss for a simile. shaking his head again. ‘Unless he was dashed into such little pieces that they blew away. retreating towards his wife.’ ‘And what said he?’ asked Ralph. ‘It is but manner. private-madhouse-sort of a manner. turning away. forcing a smile. pitched out Sir Mulberry and himself. or fractured his collar-bone.’ he added. knitting his brows. picking up his cane.’ replied Mantalini. sweetest. prettiest—’ ‘Alfred!’ interposed Madame Mantalini. Stay. followed him to his cab.’ ‘It is a demd uncomfortable.’ said Ralph. at least. or put his shoulder out. which is a demd fine countenance in its natural state. demmit!’ ‘Pshaw. and a demd. or ground a rib or two? His neck was saved for the halter. ‘He broke a leg or an arm.THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY ‘’Gad. ‘what was the cause of quarrel?’ ‘You are the demdest. swore he would ride home with him. superlativest old fox—oh dem!—to pretend now not to know that it was the little bright-eyed niece—the softest.’ said Mr Mantalini. Nickleby. ‘Demnition pleasant. looking round again. and—’ ‘And was killed?’ interposed Ralph with gleaming eyes. frightened the horse. if he rode upon the horse’s back or hooked himself on to the horse’s tail. ‘Then he has done nothing. ‘Ugh.

wrought by the intelligence he had just heard. with his hands on his knees. and sat himself down in an armchair. dropping into his chair. are you?’ said Newman. the women shall say. it is time. I’ll make him a true prophet. and his clerk’s provoking coolness. ‘He has been waiting nearly ever since they first came in. The necessity of a reply was superseded by the unlookedfor entrance of a third party—the individual in question— who. and when she walks along the streets with her own tulip.’ said Newman. so. and his short black trousers drawn up so high in the legs by the exertion of seating himself. ‘What does the idiot mean?’ cried Ralph. that they scarcely reached below the tops of his Wellington boots. if it hadn’t been for all that I’ve been a-going through. ‘and you’d have know’d it better. ‘No. at every turn. and they shall both be right and neither wrong. for it shall surely come. sir. ‘So. to an intense pitch of irritation. Mr Mantalini kissed the fingers of his gloves to Ralph Nickleby. Newman withdrew his head. upon my life and soul—oh demmit!’ With which remarks.’ replied Ralph. but thrust it in again. he has got a demd fine wife. no less intellectual and to the purpose. and the men shall say with rapture. Just lift that little boy off the tall stool in the back-office. and may have heard your voice—that’s all. and half smiling as he scrutinised him attentively.’ rejoined Mr Mantalini soothingly. rubbing his hands. and thwarting me. sooner or later. and tell 427 . and drawing his lady’s arm through his.’ ‘Why. and go she shall. ‘this devil is loose again. led her mincingly away. as he was born to do. ‘I should know your face.’ muttered Ralph. bending his gaze upon the visitor.Charles Dickens ‘She is always right. He told me once there should be a day of reckoning between us. ‘Who has?’ demanded Ralph. this is a surprise!’ said Ralph. suddenly popping in his head. ‘You’re quite sure you’re not at home. with equal abruptness.’ ‘Ah!’ replied that worthy. ‘and when she says it is time to go. she has got a demd fine husband. testily. and many more. made a great many shambling bows. Mr Squeers. with envy.’ ‘Are you at home?’ asked Newman. bringing his one eye (for he had but one) to bear on Ralph Nickleby.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF NICHOLAS NICKLEBY him to come in here.’ In however good condition Master Squeers might have been. as Master Wackford wiped his eyes with the cuff of his jacket. and rubbed the place in the most natural manner possible. he uttered a sharp cry. for some purposes of his own. for some quarter of a minute. and nodding his head a great many times. and then looked at Ralph. 428 . sir. ‘is as she always is—a mother to them lads. and a blessing. he’s lifted his-self off. and then turning in. ‘I had him there. ‘what a member of society that woman is!’ Mr Squeers indulged in a retrospective look. and a joy to all them as knows her. as if this allusion to his lady’s excellences had naturally led his mind to the peaceful village of Dotheboys near Greta Bridge in Yorkshire. with a triumphant air. ‘there’s oiliness!’ ‘He looks well. To see how she operated upon him with a pen-knife! Oh Lor!’ said Squeers. One of our boys—gorging his-self with vittles. that’s their way—got a abscess on him last week. and make the very buttons fly off with his fatness? Here’s flesh!’ cried Squeers. ‘Well. ‘Oh. when he’s had his dinner. sir. but that’s because we breakfasted early this morning. and start the seams. ‘But how is Mrs Squeers. and a comfort. and indenting the plumpest parts of his figure with divers pokes and punches. indeed. ‘I’ve only just done it. for on his father’s closing his finger and thumb in illustration of his remark. for a specimen of the Dotheboys Hall feeding? Ain’t he fit to bust out of his clothes. to the great discomposure of his son and heir. and he hasn’t had his lunch yet. What do you think of him. if I’ve done it now. little Wackford. ‘Here’s firmness. Look at them tears.’ remarked Squeers.’ replied Squeers. ‘Have you quite recovered that scoundrel’s attack?’ asked Ralph. a little disconcerted. seemed desirous to conciliate the schoolmaster. will you. Why you couldn’t shut a bit of him in a door. heaving a sigh. who. as if waiting for him to say something. and how are you?’ ‘Mrs Squeers. he certainly did not present this remarkable compactness of person.’ replied the proprietor of Dotheboys.’ said Squeers. here’s solidness! Why you can hardly get up enough of him between your finger and thumb to pinch him anywheres. addressing himself to Newman. my man?’ said Squeers.’ returned Ralph. sir. turning the boy about. My son. sir.

‘Yes. either.’ said Ralph. ‘Very good.’ rejoined his son. sir. we have only one extra with our boys. ‘Sorry. Vinegar and brown paper. touching first the roots of his hair. I paid it. in a gentleman’s office. but I paid it though. ‘Then take your hands out of your pockets. As I laid all of a heap in our kitchen. you might have thought I was a large brown-paper parcel. Wackford. ‘and a precious bill the medical attendant brought in too.’ replied Squeers. chock full of nothing but groans.’ replied Wackford. in a sentimental manner. ‘Loud. turning sharp round. Wackford. sir. and that is for doctors when required—and not then. ‘Was the boys sorry to see me in such a dreadful condition. plastered all over. catching him a smart box on the ear. after my bill was run 429 . Do you see?’ ‘I understand. or did I groan soft?’ asked Mr Squeers. and then the toes of his boots. ‘Oh!’ said Squeers. unless we’re sure of our customers. ‘from here to there.’ replied Squeers. ‘Ay.Charles Dickens ‘I was one blessed bruise. who seemed to know the man he had to deal with. ‘The fact is. from first to last. I suppose there was a matter of half a ream of brown paper stuck upon me. was I. or I’ll run away from my family and never come back any more. and then what would become of all them precious and forlorn lads as would be let loose on the world. ‘Not a halfpenny. ‘Gl—’ ‘Eh?’ cried Squeers. or was they glad?’ asked Mr Squeers. ‘Then. Hold your noise. too well to suppose that any blinking of the question would induce him to subscribe towards the expenses.’ said Squeers.’ rejoined Squeers. vinegar and brown paper. and don’t stammer when you’re asked a question. Did I groan loud. without their best friend at their elbers?’ ‘Were you obliged to have medical attendance?’ inquired Ralph. ‘I wasn’t out of pocket by it after all. every farthing. from morning to night.’ rejoined Squeers.’ ‘No!’ said Ralph. appealing to his son.’ Ralph elevated his eyebrows in a manner which might be expressive of either sympathy or astonishment—just as the beholder was pleased to take it.

‘that people’s ingratitude would carry them quite as far as that. and we sent one to a cottage where they’d got it. scratching his head. that boy had. I don’t know what they would have. ‘You don’t say more than the truth when you say that. There’s youth to the amount of eight hundred pound a year at Dotheboys Hall at 430 .’ observed Ralph. Ha! ha! ha!’ Ralph never laughed. and the parents paid it. a turnip field and a piece of carrots alternately. ‘We always do it. for what they call neglect of a boy. He had as good grazing. or sometimes. as possesses the fondness for youth that I do. raising his voice. we ran the hooping-cough through half-a-dozen boys. but on this occasion he produced the nearest approach to it that he could. as was sure pay) that had never had the scarlet fever. ‘I believe you. ‘When a boy gets weak and ill and don’t relish his meals.’ rejoined Squeers. we picked out five little boys (sons of small tradesmen. eyeing the schoolmaster stealthily. ‘connected with an action. and let him eat as many as he likes. we give him a change of diet—turn him out. and then we put the four others to sleep with him. indeed. and they took it. ‘I don’t suppose there’s a man going. into a neighbour’s turnip field. Why. for an hour or so every day. There an’t better land in the country than this perwerse lad grazed on.’ replied Squee