Part 12 out of 20
'Ah! I know who you mean,' observed the married lady, nodding her
'I made mention of no names, and I wish to make mention of no
names,' said Mr Kenwigs, with a portentous look. 'Many of my
friends have met a relation of Mrs Kenwigs's in this very room, as
would do honour to any company; that's all.'
'I've met him,' said the married lady, with a glance towards Dr
'It's naterally very gratifying to my feelings as a father, to see
such a man as that, a kissing and taking notice of my children,'
pursued Mr Kenwigs. 'It's naterally very gratifying to my feelings
as a man, to know that man. It will be naterally very gratifying to
my feelings as a husband, to make that man acquainted with this
Having delivered his sentiments in this form of words, Mr Kenwigs
arranged his second daughter's flaxen tail, and bade her be a good
girl and mind what her sister, Morleena, said.
'That girl grows more like her mother every day,' said Mr Lumbey,
suddenly stricken with an enthusiastic admiration of Morleena.
'There!' rejoined the married lady. 'What I always say; what I
always did say! She's the very picter of her.' Having thus directed
the general attention to the young lady in question, the married
lady embraced the opportunity of taking another sip of the brandy-
and-water--and a pretty long sip too.
'Yes! there is a likeness,' said Mr Kenwigs, after some reflection.
'But such a woman as Mrs Kenwigs was, afore she was married! Good
gracious, such a woman!'
Mr Lumbey shook his head with great solemnity, as though to imply
that he supposed she must have been rather a dazzler.
'Talk of fairies!' cried Mr Kenwigs 'I never see anybody so light to
be alive, never. Such manners too; so playful, and yet so sewerely
proper! As for her figure! It isn't generally known,' said Mr
Kenwigs, dropping his voice; 'but her figure was such, at that time,
that the sign of the Britannia, over in the Holloway Road, was
painted from it!'
'But only see what it is now,' urged the married lady. 'Does SHE
look like the mother of six?'
'Quite ridiculous,' cried the doctor.
'She looks a deal more like her own daughter,' said the married
'So she does,' assented Mr Lumbey. 'A great deal more.'
Mr Kenwigs was about to make some further observations, most
probably in confirmation of this opinion, when another married lady,
who had looked in to keep up Mrs Kenwigs's spirits, and help to
clear off anything in the eating and drinking way that might be
going about, put in her head to announce that she had just been down
to answer the bell, and that there was a gentleman at the door who
wanted to see Mr Kenwigs 'most particular.'
Shadowy visions of his distinguished relation flitted through the
brain of Mr Kenwigs, as this message was delivered; and under their
influence, he dispatched Morleena to show the gentleman up
'Why, I do declare,' said Mr Kenwigs, standing opposite the door so
as to get the earliest glimpse of the visitor, as he came upstairs,
'it's Mr Johnson! How do you find yourself, sir?'
Nicholas shook hands, kissed his old pupils all round, intrusted a
large parcel of toys to the guardianship of Morleena, bowed to the
doctor and the married ladies, and inquired after Mrs Kenwigs in a
tone of interest, which went to the very heart and soul of the
nurse, who had come in to warm some mysterious compound, in a little
saucepan over the fire.
'I ought to make a hundred apologies to you for calling at such a
season,' said Nicholas, 'but I was not aware of it until I had rung
the bell, and my time is so fully occupied now, that I feared it
might be some days before I could possibly come again.'
'No time like the present, sir,' said Mr Kenwigs. 'The sitiwation
of Mrs Kenwigs, sir, is no obstacle to a little conversation between
you and me, I hope?'
'You are very good,' said Nicholas.
At this juncture, proclamation was made by another married lady,
that the baby had begun to eat like anything; whereupon the two
married ladies, already mentioned, rushed tumultuously into the
bedroom to behold him in the act.
'The fact is,' resumed Nicholas, 'that before I left the country,
where I have been for some time past, I undertook to deliver a
message to you.'
'Ay, ay?' said Mr Kenwigs.
'And I have been,' added Nicholas, 'already in town for some days,
without having had an opportunity of doing so.'
'It's no matter, sir,' said Mr Kenwigs. 'I dare say it's none the
worse for keeping cold. Message from the country!' said Mr Kenwigs,
ruminating; 'that's curious. I don't know anybody in the country.'
'Miss Petowker,' suggested Nicholas.
'Oh! from her, is it?' said Mr Kenwigs. 'Oh dear, yes. Ah! Mrs
Kenwigs will be glad to hear from her. Henrietta Petowker, eh? How
odd things come about, now! That you should have met her in the
Hearing this mention of their old friend's name, the four Miss
Kenwigses gathered round Nicholas, open eyed and mouthed, to hear
more. Mr Kenwigs looked a little curious too, but quite comfortable
'The message relates to family matters,' said Nicholas, hesitating.
'Oh, never mind,' said Kenwigs, glancing at Mr Lumbey, who, having
rashly taken charge of little Lillyvick, found nobody disposed to
relieve him of his precious burden. 'All friends here.'
Nicholas hemmed once or twice, and seemed to have some difficulty in
'At Portsmouth, Henrietta Petowker is,' observed Mr Kenwigs.
'Yes,' said Nicholas, 'Mr Lillyvick is there.'
Mr Kenwigs turned pale, but he recovered, and said, THAT was an odd
'The message is from him,' said Nicholas.
Mr Kenwigs appeared to revive. He knew that his niece was in a
delicate state, and had, no doubt, sent word that they were to
forward full particulars. Yes. That was very kind of him; so like
'He desired me to give his kindest love,' said Nicholas.
'Very much obliged to him, I'm sure. Your great-uncle, Lillyvick,
my dears!' interposed Mr Kenwigs, condescendingly explaining it to
'His kindest love,' resumed Nicholas; 'and to say that he had no
time to write, but that he was married to Miss Petowker.'
Mr Kenwigs started from his seat with a petrified stare, caught his
second daughter by her flaxen tail, and covered his face with his
pocket-handkerchief. Morleena fell, all stiff and rigid, into the
baby's chair, as she had seen her mother fall when she fainted away,
and the two remaining little Kenwigses shrieked in affright.
'My children, my defrauded, swindled infants!' cried Mr Kenwigs,
pulling so hard, in his vehemence, at the flaxen tail of his second
daughter, that he lifted her up on tiptoe, and kept her, for some
seconds, in that attitude. 'Villain, ass, traitor!'
'Drat the man!' cried the nurse, looking angrily around. 'What does
he mean by making that noise here?'
'Silence, woman!' said Mr Kenwigs, fiercely.
'I won't be silent,' returned the nurse. 'Be silent yourself, you
wretch. Have you no regard for your baby?'
'No!' returned Mr Kenwigs.
'More shame for you,' retorted the nurse. 'Ugh! you unnatural
'Let him die,' cried Mr Kenwigs, in the torrent of his wrath. 'Let
him die! He has no expectations, no property to come into. We want
no babies here,' said Mr Kenwigs recklessly. 'Take 'em away, take
'em away to the Fondling!'
With these awful remarks, Mr Kenwigs sat himself down in a chair,
and defied the nurse, who made the best of her way into the
adjoining room, and returned with a stream of matrons: declaring
that Mr Kenwigs had spoken blasphemy against his family, and must be
Appearances were certainly not in Mr Kenwigs's favour, for the
exertion of speaking with so much vehemence, and yet in such a tone
as should prevent his lamentations reaching the ears of Mrs Kenwigs,
had made him very black in the face; besides which, the excitement
of the occasion, and an unwonted indulgence in various strong
cordials to celebrate it, had swollen and dilated his features to a
most unusual extent. But, Nicholas and the doctor--who had been
passive at first, doubting very much whether Mr Kenwigs could be in
earnest--interfering to explain the immediate cause of his
condition, the indignation of the matrons was changed to pity, and
they implored him, with much feeling, to go quietly to bed.
'The attention,' said Mr Kenwigs, looking around with a plaintive
air, 'the attention that I've shown to that man! The hyseters he
has eat, and the pints of ale he has drank, in this house--!'
'It's very trying, and very hard to bear, we know,' said one of the
married ladies; 'but think of your dear darling wife.'
'Oh yes, and what she's been a undergoing of, only this day,'
cried a great many voices. 'There's a good man, do.'
'The presents that have been made to him,' said Mr Kenwigs,
reverting to his calamity, 'the pipes, the snuff-boxes--a pair of
india-rubber goloshes, that cost six-and-six--'
'Ah! it won't bear thinking of, indeed,' cried the matrons
generally; 'but it'll all come home to him, never fear.'
Mr Kenwigs looked darkly upon the ladies, as if he would prefer its
all coming home to HIM, as there was nothing to be got by it; but he
said nothing, and resting his head upon his hand, subsided into a
kind of doze.
Then, the matrons again expatiated on the expediency of taking the
good gentleman to bed; observing that he would be better tomorrow,
and that they knew what was the wear and tear of some men's minds
when their wives were taken as Mrs Kenwigs had been that day, and
that it did him great credit, and there was nothing to be ashamed of
in it; far from it; they liked to see it, they did, for it showed a
good heart. And one lady observed, as a case bearing upon the
present, that her husband was often quite light-headed from anxiety
on similar occasions, and that once, when her little Johnny was
born, it was nearly a week before he came to himself again, during
the whole of which time he did nothing but cry 'Is it a boy, is it a
boy?' in a manner which went to the hearts of all his hearers.
At length, Morleena (who quite forgot she had fainted, when she
found she was not noticed) announced that a chamber was ready for
her afflicted parent; and Mr Kenwigs, having partially smothered his
four daughters in the closeness of his embrace, accepted the
doctor's arm on one side, and the support of Nicholas on the other,
and was conducted upstairs to a bedroom which been secured for the
Having seen him sound asleep, and heard him snore most
satisfactorily, and having further presided over the distribution of
the toys, to the perfect contentment of all the little Kenwigses,
Nicholas took his leave. The matrons dropped off one by one, with
the exception of six or eight particular friends, who had determined
to stop all night; the lights in the houses gradually disappeared;
the last bulletin was issued that Mrs Kenwigs was as well as could
be expected; and the whole family were left to their repose.
Nicholas finds further Favour in the Eyes of the brothers Cheeryble
and Mr Timothy Linkinwater. The brothers give a Banquet on a great
Annual Occasion. Nicholas, on returning Home from it, receives a
mysterious and important Disclosure from the Lips of Mrs Nickleby
The square in which the counting-house of the brothers Cheeryble was
situated, although it might not wholly realise the very sanguine
expectations which a stranger would be disposed to form on hearing
the fervent encomiums bestowed upon it by Tim Linkinwater, was,
nevertheless, a sufficiently desirable nook in the heart of a busy
town like London, and one which occupied a high place in the
affectionate remembrances of several grave persons domiciled in the
neighbourhood, whose recollections, however, dated from a much more
recent period, and whose attachment to the spot was far less
absorbing, than were the recollections and attachment of the
And let not those whose eyes have been accustomed to the
aristocratic gravity of Grosvenor Square and Hanover Square, the
dowager barrenness and frigidity of Fitzroy Square, or the gravel
walks and garden seats of the Squares of Russell and Euston, suppose
that the affections of Tim Linkinwater, or the inferior lovers of
this particular locality, had been awakened and kept alive by any
refreshing associations with leaves, however dingy, or grass,
however bare and thin. The city square has no enclosure, save the
lamp-post in the middle: and no grass, but the weeds which spring up
round its base. It is a quiet, little-frequented, retired spot,
favourable to melancholy and contemplation, and appointments of
long-waiting; and up and down its every side the Appointed saunters
idly by the hour together wakening the echoes with the monotonous
sound of his footsteps on the smooth worn stones, and counting,
first the windows, and then the very bricks of the tall silent
houses that hem him round about. In winter-time, the snow will
linger there, long after it has melted from the busy streets and
highways. The summer's sun holds it in some respect, and while he
darts his cheerful rays sparingly into the square, keeps his fiery
heat and glare for noisier and less-imposing precincts. It is so
quiet, that you can almost hear the ticking of your own watch when
you stop to cool in its refreshing atmosphere. There is a distant
hum--of coaches, not of insects--but no other sound disturbs the
stillness of the square. The ticket porter leans idly against the
post at the corner: comfortably warm, but not hot, although the day
is broiling. His white apron flaps languidly in the air, his head
gradually droops upon his breast, he takes very long winks with both
eyes at once; even he is unable to withstand the soporific influence
of the place, and is gradually falling asleep. But now, he starts
into full wakefulness, recoils a step or two, and gazes out before
him with eager wildness in his eye. Is it a job, or a boy at
marbles? Does he see a ghost, or hear an organ? No; sight more
unwonted still--there is a butterfly in the square--a real, live
butterfly! astray from flowers and sweets, and fluttering among the
iron heads of the dusty area railings.
But if there were not many matters immediately without the doors of
Cheeryble Brothers, to engage the attention or distract the thoughts
of the young clerk, there were not a few within, to interest and
amuse him. There was scarcely an object in the place, animate or
inanimate, which did not partake in some degree of the scrupulous
method and punctuality of Mr Timothy Linkinwater. Punctual as the
counting-house dial, which he maintained to be the best time-keeper
in London next after the clock of some old, hidden, unknown church
hard by, (for Tim held the fabled goodness of that at the Horse
Guards to be a pleasant fiction, invented by jealous West-enders,)
the old clerk performed the minutest actions of the day, and
arranged the minutest articles in the little room, in a precise and
regular order, which could not have been exceeded if it had actually
been a real glass case, fitted with the choicest curiosities.
Paper, pens, ink, ruler, sealing-wax, wafers, pounce-box, string-
box, fire-box, Tim's hat, Tim's scrupulously-folded gloves, Tim's
other coat--looking precisely like a back view of himself as it hung
against the wall--all had their accustomed inches of space. Except
the clock, there was not such an accurate and unimpeachable
instrument in existence as the little thermometer which hung behind
the door. There was not a bird of such methodical and business-like
habits in all the world, as the blind blackbird, who dreamed and
dozed away his days in a large snug cage, and had lost his voice,
from old age, years before Tim first bought him. There was not such
an eventful story in the whole range of anecdote, as Tim could tell
concerning the acquisition of that very bird; how, compassionating
his starved and suffering condition, he had purchased him, with the
view of humanely terminating his wretched life; how he determined to
wait three days and see whether the bird revived; how, before half
the time was out, the bird did revive; and how he went on reviving
and picking up his appetite and good looks until he gradually became
what--'what you see him now, sir,'--Tim would say, glancing proudly
at the cage. And with that, Tim would utter a melodious chirrup,
and cry 'Dick;' and Dick, who, for any sign of life he had
previously given, might have been a wooden or stuffed representation
of a blackbird indifferently executed, would come to the side of the
cage in three small jumps, and, thrusting his bill between the bars,
turn his sightless head towards his old master--and at that moment
it would be very difficult to determine which of the two was the
happier, the bird or Tim Linkinwater.
Nor was this all. Everything gave back, besides, some reflection of
the kindly spirit of the brothers. The warehousemen and porters
were such sturdy, jolly fellows, that it was a treat to see them.
Among the shipping announcements and steam-packet list's which
decorated the counting-house wall, were designs for almshouses,
statements of charities, and plans for new hospitals. A blunderbuss
and two swords hung above the chimney-piece, for the terror of evil-
doers, but the blunderbuss was rusty and shattered, and the swords
were broken and edgeless. Elsewhere, their open display in such a
condition would have realised a smile; but, there, it seemed as
though even violent and offensive weapons partook of the reigning
influence, and became emblems of mercy and forbearance.
Such thoughts as these occurred to Nicholas very strongly, on the
morning when he first took possession of the vacant stool, and
looked about him, more freely and at ease, than he had before
enjoyed an opportunity of doing. Perhaps they encouraged and
stimulated him to exertion, for, during the next two weeks, all his
spare hours, late at night and early in the morning, were
incessantly devoted to acquiring the mysteries of book-keeping and
some other forms of mercantile account. To these, he applied
himself with such steadiness and perseverance that, although he
brought no greater amount of previous knowledge to the subject than
certain dim recollections of two or three very long sums entered
into a ciphering-book at school, and relieved for parental
inspection by the effigy of a fat swan tastefully flourished by the
writing-master's own hand, he found himself, at the end of a
fortnight, in a condition to report his proficiency to Mr
Linkinwater, and to claim his promise that he, Nicholas Nickleby,
should now be allowed to assist him in his graver labours.
It was a sight to behold Tim Linkinwater slowly bring out a massive
ledger and day-book, and, after turning them over and over, and
affectionately dusting their backs and sides, open the leaves here
and there, and cast his eyes, half mournfully, half proudly, upon
the fair and unblotted entries.
'Four-and-forty year, next May!' said Tim. 'Many new ledgers since
then. Four-and-forty year!'
Tim closed the book again.
'Come, come,' said Nicholas, 'I am all impatience to begin.'
Tim Linkinwater shook his head with an air of mild reproof. Mr
Nickleby was not sufficiently impressed with the deep and awful
nature of his undertaking. Suppose there should be any mistake--any
Young men are adventurous. It is extraordinary what they will rush
upon, sometimes. Without even taking the precaution of sitting
himself down upon his stool, but standing leisurely at the desk, and
with a smile upon his face--actually a smile--there was no mistake
about it; Mr Linkinwater often mentioned it afterwards--Nicholas
dipped his pen into the inkstand before him, and plunged into the
books of Cheeryble Brothers!
Tim Linkinwater turned pale, and tilting up his stool on the two
legs nearest Nicholas, looked over his shoulder in breathless
anxiety. Brother Charles and brother Ned entered the counting-house
together; but Tim Linkinwater, without looking round, impatiently
waved his hand as a caution that profound silence must be observed,
and followed the nib of the inexperienced pen with strained and
The brothers looked on with smiling faces, but Tim Linkinwater
smiled not, nor moved for some minutes. At length, he drew a long
slow breath, and still maintaining his position on the tilted stool,
glanced at brother Charles, secretly pointed with the feather of his
pen towards Nicholas, and nodded his head in a grave and resolute
manner, plainly signifying 'He'll do.'
Brother Charles nodded again, and exchanged a laughing look with
brother Ned; but, just then, Nicholas stopped to refer to some other
page, and Tim Linkinwater, unable to contain his satisfaction any
longer, descended from his stool, and caught him rapturously by the
'He has done it!' said Tim, looking round at his employers and
shaking his head triumphantly. 'His capital B's and D's are exactly
like mine; he dots all his small i's and crosses every t as he
writes it. There an't such a young man as this in all London,' said
Tim, clapping Nicholas on the back; 'not one. Don't tell me! The
city can't produce his equal. I challenge the city to do it!'
With this casting down of his gauntlet, Tim Linkinwater struck the
desk such a blow with his clenched fist, that the old blackbird
tumbled off his perch with the start it gave him, and actually
uttered a feeble croak, in the extremity of his astonishment.
'Well said, Tim--well said, Tim Linkinwater!' cried brother Charles,
scarcely less pleased than Tim himself, and clapping his hands
gently as he spoke. 'I knew our young friend would take great
pains, and I was quite certain he would succeed, in no time. Didn't
I say so, brother Ned?'
'You did, my dear brother; certainly, my dear brother, you said so,
and you were quite right,' replied Ned. 'Quite right. Tim
Linkinwater is excited, but he is justly excited, properly excited.
Tim is a fine fellow. Tim Linkinwater, sir--you're a fine fellow.'
'Here's a pleasant thing to think of!' said Tim, wholly regardless
of this address to himself, and raising his spectacles from the
ledger to the brothers. 'Here's a pleasant thing. Do you suppose I
haven't often thought of what would become of these books when I was
gone? Do you suppose I haven't often thought that things might go
on irregular and untidy here, after I was taken away? But now,'
said Tim, extending his forefinger towards Nicholas, 'now, when I've
shown him a little more, I'm satisfied. The business will go on,
when I'm dead, as well as it did when I was alive--just the same--
and I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that there never were
such books--never were such books! No, nor never will be such
books--as the books of Cheeryble Brothers.'
Having thus expressed his sentiments, Mr Linkinwater gave vent to a
short laugh, indicative of defiance to the cities of London and
Westminster, and, turning again to his desk, quietly carried
seventy-six from the last column he had added up, and went on with
'Tim Linkinwater, sir,' said brother Charles; 'give me your hand,
sir. This is your birthday. How dare you talk about anything else
till you have been wished many happy returns of the day, Tim
Linkinwater? God bless you, Tim! God bless you!'
'My dear brother,' said the other, seizing Tim's disengaged fist,
'Tim Linkinwater looks ten years younger than he did on his last
'Brother Ned, my dear boy,' returned the other old fellow, 'I
believe that Tim Linkinwater was born a hundred and fifty years old,
and is gradually coming down to five-and-twenty; for he's younger
every birthday than he was the year before.'
'So he is, brother Charles, so he is,' replied brother Ned.
'There's not a doubt about it.'
'Remember, Tim,' said brother Charles, 'that we dine at half-past
five today instead of two o'clock; we always depart from our usual
custom on this anniversary, as you very well know, Tim Linkinwater.
Mr Nickleby, my dear sir, you will make one. Tim Linkinwater, give
me your snuff-box as a remembrance to brother Charles and myself of
an attached and faithful rascal, and take that, in exchange, as a
feeble mark of our respect and esteem, and don't open it until you
go to bed, and never say another word upon the subject, or I'll kill
the blackbird. A dog! He should have had a golden cage half-a-
dozen years ago, if it would have made him or his master a bit the
happier. Now, brother Ned, my dear fellow, I'm ready. At half-past
five, remember, Mr Nickleby! Tim Linkinwater, sir, take care of Mr
Nickleby at half-past five. Now, brother Ned.'
Chattering away thus, according to custom, to prevent the
possibility of any thanks or acknowledgment being expressed on the
other side, the twins trotted off, arm-in-arm; having endowed Tim
Linkinwater with a costly gold snuff-box, enclosing a bank note
worth more than its value ten times told.
At a quarter past five o'clock, punctual to the minute, arrived,
according to annual usage, Tim Linkinwater's sister; and a great to-
do there was, between Tim Linkinwater's sister and the old
housekeeper, respecting Tim Linkinwater's sister's cap, which had
been dispatched, per boy, from the house of the family where Tim
Linkinwater's sister boarded, and had not yet come to hand:
notwithstanding that it had been packed up in a bandbox, and the
bandbox in a handkerchief, and the handkerchief tied on to the boy's
arm; and notwithstanding, too, that the place of its consignment had
been duly set forth, at full length, on the back of an old letter,
and the boy enjoined, under pain of divers horrible penalties, the
full extent of which the eye of man could not foresee, to deliver
the same with all possible speed, and not to loiter by the way. Tim
Linkinwater's sister lamented; the housekeeper condoled; and both
kept thrusting their heads out of the second-floor window to see if
the boy was 'coming'--which would have been highly satisfactory,
and, upon the whole, tantamount to his being come, as the distance
to the corner was not quite five yards--when, all of a sudden, and
when he was least expected, the messenger, carrying the bandbox with
elaborate caution, appeared in an exactly opposite direction,
puffing and panting for breath, and flushed with recent exercise; as
well he might be; for he had taken the air, in the first instance,
behind a hackney coach that went to Camberwell, and had followed two
Punches afterwards and had seen the Stilts home to their own door.
The cap was all safe, however--that was one comfort--and it was no
use scolding him--that was another; so the boy went upon his way
rejoicing, and Tim Linkinwater's sister presented herself to the
company below-stairs, just five minutes after the half-hour had
struck by Tim Linkinwater's own infallible clock.
The company consisted of the brothers Cheeryble, Tim Linkinwater, a
ruddy-faced white-headed friend of Tim's (who was a superannuated
bank clerk), and Nicholas, who was presented to Tim Linkinwater's
sister with much gravity and solemnity. The party being now
completed, brother Ned rang for dinner, and, dinner being shortly
afterwards announced, led Tim Linkinwater's sister into the next
room, where it was set forth with great preparation. Then, brother
Ned took the head of the table, and brother Charles the foot; and
Tim Linkinwater's sister sat on the left hand of brother Ned, and
Tim Linkinwater himself on his right: and an ancient butler of
apoplectic appearance, and with very short legs, took up his
position at the back of brother Ned's armchair, and, waving his
right arm preparatory to taking off the covers with a flourish,
stood bolt upright and motionless.
'For these and all other blessings, brother Charles,' said Ned.
'Lord, make us truly thankful, brother Ned,' said Charles.
Whereupon the apoplectic butler whisked off the top of the soup
tureen, and shot, all at once, into a state of violent activity.
There was abundance of conversation, and little fear of its ever
flagging, for the good-humour of the glorious old twins drew
everybody out, and Tim Linkinwater's sister went off into a long and
circumstantial account of Tim Linkinwater's infancy, immediately
after the very first glass of champagne--taking care to premise that
she was very much Tim's junior, and had only become acquainted with
the facts from their being preserved and handed down in the family.
This history concluded, brother Ned related how that, exactly
thirty-five years ago, Tim Linkinwater was suspected to have
received a love-letter, and how that vague information had been
brought to the counting-house of his having been seen walking down
Cheapside with an uncommonly handsome spinster; at which there was a
roar of laughter, and Tim Linkinwater being charged with blushing,
and called upon to explain, denied that the accusation was true; and
further, that there would have been any harm in it if it had been;
which last position occasioned the superannuated bank clerk to laugh
tremendously, and to declare that it was the very best thing he had
ever heard in his life, and that Tim Linkinwater might say a great
many things before he said anything which would beat THAT.
There was one little ceremony peculiar to the day, both the matter
and manner of which made a very strong impression upon Nicholas.
The cloth having been removed and the decanters sent round for the
first time, a profound silence succeeded, and in the cheerful faces
of the brothers there appeared an expression, not of absolute
melancholy, but of quiet thoughtfulness very unusual at a festive
table. As Nicholas, struck by this sudden alteration, was wondering
what it could portend, the brothers rose together, and the one at
the top of the table leaning forward towards the other, and speaking
in a low voice as if he were addressing him individually, said:
'Brother Charles, my dear fellow, there is another association
connected with this day which must never be forgotten, and never can
be forgotten, by you and me. This day, which brought into the world
a most faithful and excellent and exemplary fellow, took from it the
kindest and very best of parents, the very best of parents to us
both. I wish that she could have seen us in our prosperity, and
shared it, and had the happiness of knowing how dearly we loved her
in it, as we did when we were two poor boys; but that was not to be.
My dear brother--The Memory of our Mother.'
'Good Lord!' thought Nicholas, 'and there are scores of people of
their own station, knowing all this, and twenty thousand times more,
who wouldn't ask these men to dinner because they eat with their
knives and never went to school!'
But there was no time to moralise, for the joviality again became
very brisk, and the decanter of port being nearly out, brother Ned
pulled the bell, which was instantly answered by the apoplectic
'David,' said brother Ned.
'Sir,' replied the butler.
'A magnum of the double-diamond, David, to drink the health of Mr
Instantly, by a feat of dexterity, which was the admiration of all
the company, and had been, annually, for some years past, the
apoplectic butler, bringing his left hand from behind the small of
his back, produced the bottle with the corkscrew already inserted;
uncorked it at a jerk; and placed the magnum and the cork before his
master with the dignity of conscious cleverness.
'Ha!' said brother Ned, first examining the cork and afterwards
filling his glass, while the old butler looked complacently and
amiably on, as if it were all his own property, but the company were
quite welcome to make free with it, 'this looks well, David.'
'It ought to, sir,' replied David. 'You'd be troubled to find such
a glass of wine as is our double-diamond, and that Mr Linkinwater
knows very well. That was laid down when Mr Linkinwater first come:
that wine was, gentlemen.'
'Nay, David, nay,' interposed brother Charles.
'I wrote the entry in the cellar-book myself, sir, if you please,'
said David, in the tone of a man, quite confident in the strength of
his facts. 'Mr Linkinwater had only been here twenty year, sir,
when that pipe of double-diamond was laid down.'
'David is quite right, quite right, brother Charles," said Ned: 'are
the people here, David?'
'Outside the door, sir,' replied the butler.
'Show 'em in, David, show 'em in.'
At this bidding, the older butler placed before his master a small
tray of clean glasses, and opening the door admitted the jolly
porters and warehousemen whom Nicholas had seen below. They were
four in all, and as they came in, bowing, and grinning, and
blushing, the housekeeper, and cook, and housemaid, brought up the
'Seven,' said brother Ned, filling a corresponding number of glasses
with the double-diamond, 'and David, eight. There! Now, you're all
of you to drink the health of your best friend Mr Timothy
Linkinwater, and wish him health and long life and many happy
returns of this day, both for his own sake and that of your old
masters, who consider him an inestimable treasure. Tim Linkinwater,
sir, your health. Devil take you, Tim Linkinwater, sir, God bless
With this singular contradiction of terms, brother Ned gave Tim
Linkinwater a slap on the back, which made him look, for the moment,
almost as apoplectic as the butler: and tossed off the contents of
his glass in a twinkling.
The toast was scarcely drunk with all honour to Tim Linkinwater,
when the sturdiest and jolliest subordinate elbowed himself a little
in advance of his fellows, and exhibiting a very hot and flushed
countenance, pulled a single lock of grey hair in the middle of his
forehead as a respectful salute to the company, and delivered
himself as follows--rubbing the palms of his hands very hard on a
blue cotton handkerchief as he did so:
'We're allowed to take a liberty once a year, gen'lemen, and if you
please we'll take it now; there being no time like the present, and
no two birds in the hand worth one in the bush, as is well known--
leastways in a contrairy sense, which the meaning is the same. (A
pause--the butler unconvinced.) What we mean to say is, that there
never was (looking at the butler)--such--(looking at the cook)
noble--excellent--(looking everywhere and seeing nobody) free,
generous-spirited masters as them as has treated us so handsome this
day. And here's thanking of 'em for all their goodness as is so
constancy a diffusing of itself over everywhere, and wishing they
may live long and die happy!'
When the foregoing speech was over--and it might have been much more
elegant and much less to the purpose--the whole body of subordinates
under command of the apoplectic butler gave three soft cheers;
which, to that gentleman's great indignation, were not very regular,
inasmuch as the women persisted in giving an immense number of
little shrill hurrahs among themselves, in utter disregard of the
time. This done, they withdrew; shortly afterwards, Tim
Linkinwater's sister withdrew; in reasonable time after that, the
sitting was broken up for tea and coffee, and a round game of cards.
At half-past ten--late hours for the square--there appeared a little
tray of sandwiches and a bowl of bishop, which bishop coming on the
top of the double-diamond, and other excitements, had such an effect
upon Tim Linkinwater, that he drew Nicholas aside, and gave him to
understand, confidentially, that it was quite true about the
uncommonly handsome spinster, and that she was to the full as good-
looking as she had been described--more so, indeed--but that she was
in too much of a hurry to change her condition, and consequently,
while Tim was courting her and thinking of changing his, got married
to somebody else. 'After all, I dare say it was my fault,' said
Tim. 'I'll show you a print I have got upstairs, one of these days.
It cost me five-and-twenty shillings. I bought it soon after we
were cool to each other. Don't mention it, but it's the most
extraordinary accidental likeness you ever saw--her very portrait,
By this time it was past eleven o'clock; and Tim Linkinwater's
sister declaring that she ought to have been at home a full hour
ago, a coach was procured, into which she was handed with great
ceremony by brother Ned, while brother Charles imparted the fullest
directions to the coachman, and besides paying the man a shilling
over and above his fare, in order that he might take the utmost care
of the lady, all but choked him with a glass of spirits of uncommon
strength, and then nearly knocked all the breath out of his body in
his energetic endeavours to knock it in again.
At length the coach rumbled off, and Tim Linkinwater's sister being
now fairly on her way home, Nicholas and Tim Linkinwater's friend
took their leaves together, and left old Tim and the worthy brothers
to their repose.
As Nicholas had some distance to walk, it was considerably past
midnight by the time he reached home, where he found his mother and
Smike sitting up to receive him. It was long after their usual hour
of retiring, and they had expected him, at the very latest, two
hours ago; but the time had not hung heavily on their hands, for Mrs
Nickleby had entertained Smike with a genealogical account of her
family by the mother's side, comprising biographical sketches of the
principal members, and Smike had sat wondering what it was all
about, and whether it was learnt from a book, or said out of Mrs
Nickleby's own head; so that they got on together very pleasantly.
Nicholas could not go to bed without expatiating on the excellences
and munificence of the brothers Cheeryble, and relating the great
success which had attended his efforts that day. But before he had
said a dozen words, Mrs Nickleby, with many sly winks and nods,
observed, that she was sure Mr Smike must be quite tired out, and
that she positively must insist on his not sitting up a minute
'A most biddable creature he is, to be sure,' said Mrs Nickleby,
when Smike had wished them good-night and left the room. 'I know
you'll excuse me, Nicholas, my dear, but I don't like to do this
before a third person; indeed, before a young man it would not be
quite proper, though really, after all, I don't know what harm there
is in it, except that to be sure it's not a very becoming thing,
though some people say it is very much so, and really I don't know
why it should not be, if it's well got up, and the borders are
small-plaited; of course, a good deal depends upon that.'
With which preface, Mrs Nickleby took her nightcap from between the
leaves of a very large prayer-book where it had been folded up
small, and proceeded to tie it on: talking away in her usual
discursive manner, all the time.
'People may say what they like,' observed Mrs Nickleby, 'but there's
a great deal of comfort in a nightcap, as I'm sure you would
confess, Nicholas my dear, if you would only have strings to yours,
and wear it like a Christian, instead of sticking it upon the very
top of your head like a blue-coat boy. You needn't think it an
unmanly or quizzical thing to be particular about your nightcap, for
I have often heard your poor dear papa, and the Reverend Mr What's-
his-name, who used to read prayers in that old church with the
curious little steeple that the weathercock was blown off the night
week before you were born,--I have often heard them say, that the
young men at college are uncommonly particular about their
nightcaps, and that the Oxford nightcaps are quite celebrated for
their strength and goodness; so much so, indeed, that the young men
never dream of going to bed without 'em, and I believe it's admitted
on all hands that THEY know what's good, and don't coddle
Nicholas laughed, and entering no further into the subject of this
lengthened harangue, reverted to the pleasant tone of the little
birthday party. And as Mrs Nickleby instantly became very curious
respecting it, and made a great number of inquiries touching what
they had had for dinner, and how it was put on table, and whether it
was overdone or underdone, and who was there, and what 'the Mr
Cherrybles' said, and what Nicholas said, and what the Mr Cherrybles
said when he said that; Nicholas described the festivities at full
length, and also the occurrences of the morning.
'Late as it is,' said Nicholas, 'I am almost selfish enough to wish
that Kate had been up to hear all this. I was all impatience, as I
came along, to tell her.'
'Why, Kate,' said Mrs Nickleby, putting her feet upon the fender,
and drawing her chair close to it, as if settling herself for a long
talk. 'Kate has been in bed--oh! a couple of hours--and I'm very
glad, Nicholas my dear, that I prevailed upon her not to sit up, for
I wished very much to have an opportunity of saying a few words to
you. I am naturally anxious about it, and of course it's a very
delightful and consoling thing to have a grown-up son that one can
put confidence in, and advise with; indeed I don't know any use
there would be in having sons at all, unless people could put
confidence in them.'
Nicholas stopped in the middle of a sleepy yawn, as his mother began
to speak: and looked at her with fixed attention.
'There was a lady in our neighbourhood,' said Mrs Nickleby,
'speaking of sons puts me in mind of it--a lady in our neighbourhood
when we lived near Dawlish, I think her name was Rogers; indeed I am
sure it was if it wasn't Murphy, which is the only doubt I have--'
'Is it about her, mother, that you wished to speak to me?' said
'About HER!' cried Mrs Nickleby. 'Good gracious, Nicholas, my dear,
how CAN you be so ridiculous! But that was always the way with your
poor dear papa,--just his way--always wandering, never able to fix
his thoughts on any one subject for two minutes together. I think I
see him now!' said Mrs Nickleby, wiping her eyes, 'looking at me
while I was talking to him about his affairs, just as if his ideas
were in a state of perfect conglomeration! Anybody who had come in
upon us suddenly, would have supposed I was confusing and
distracting him instead of making things plainer; upon my word they
'I am very sorry, mother, that I should inherit this unfortunate
slowness of apprehension,' said Nicholas, kindly; 'but I'll do my
best to understand you, if you'll only go straight on: indeed I
'Your poor pa!' said Mrs Nickleby, pondering. 'He never knew, till
it was too late, what I would have had him do!'
This was undoubtedly the case, inasmuch as the deceased Mr Nickleby
had not arrived at the knowledge. Then he died. Neither had Mrs
Nickleby herself; which is, in some sort, an explanation of the
'However,' said Mrs Nickleby, drying her tears, 'this has nothing to
do--certainly nothing whatever to do--with the gentleman in the next
'I should suppose that the gentleman in the next house has as little
to do with us,' returned Nicholas.
'There can be no doubt,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'that he IS a gentleman,
and has the manners of a gentleman, and the appearance of a
gentleman, although he does wear smalls and grey worsted stockings.
That may be eccentricity, or he may be proud of his legs. I don't
see why he shouldn't be. The Prince Regent was proud of his legs,
and so was Daniel Lambert, who was also a fat man; HE was proud of
his legs. So was Miss Biffin: she was--no,' added Mrs Nickleby,
correcting, herself, 'I think she had only toes, but the principle
is the same.'
Nicholas looked on, quite amazed at the introduction of this new
theme. Which seemed just what Mrs Nickleby had expected him to be.
'You may well be surprised, Nicholas, my dear,' she said, 'I am sure
I was. It came upon me like a flash of fire, and almost froze my
blood. The bottom of his garden joins the bottom of ours, and of
course I had several times seen him sitting among the scarlet-beans
in his little arbour, or working at his little hot-beds. I used to
think he stared rather, but I didn't take any particular notice of
that, as we were newcomers, and he might be curious to see what we
were like. But when he began to throw his cucumbers over our wall--'
'To throw his cucumbers over our wall!' repeated Nicholas, in great
'Yes, Nicholas, my dear,' replied Mrs Nickleby in a very serious
tone; 'his cucumbers over our wall. And vegetable marrows
'Confound his impudence!' said Nicholas, firing immediately. 'What
does he mean by that?'
'I don't think he means it impertinently at all,' replied Mrs
'What!' said Nicholas, 'cucumbers and vegetable marrows flying at
the heads of the family as they walk in their own garden, and not
meant impertinently! Why, mother--'
Nicholas stopped short; for there was an indescribable expression of
placid triumph, mingled with a modest confusion, lingering between
the borders of Mrs Nickleby's nightcap, which arrested his attention
'He must be a very weak, and foolish, and inconsiderate man,' said
Mrs Nickleby; 'blamable indeed--at least I suppose other people
would consider him so; of course I can't be expected to express any
opinion on that point, especially after always defending your poor
dear papa when other people blamed him for making proposals to me;
and to be sure there can be no doubt that he has taken a very
singular way of showing it. Still at the same time, his attentions
are--that is, as far as it goes, and to a certain extent of course--
a flattering sort of thing; and although I should never dream of
marrying again with a dear girl like Kate still unsettled in life--'
'Surely, mother, such an idea never entered your brain for an
instant?' said Nicholas.
'Bless my heart, Nicholas my dear,' returned his mother in a peevish
tone, 'isn't that precisely what I am saying, if you would only let
me speak? Of course, I never gave it a second thought, and I am
surprised and astonished that you should suppose me capable of such
a thing. All I say is, what step is the best to take, so as to
reject these advances civilly and delicately, and without hurting
his feelings too much, and driving him to despair, or anything of
that kind? My goodness me!' exclaimed Mrs Nickleby, with a half-
simper, 'suppose he was to go doing anything rash to himself. Could
I ever be happy again, Nicholas?'
Despite his vexation and concern, Nicholas could scarcely help
smiling, as he rejoined, 'Now, do you think, mother, that such a
result would be likely to ensue from the most cruel repulse?'
'Upon my word, my dear, I don't know," returned Mrs Nickleby;
'really, I don't know. I am sure there was a case in the day before
yesterday's paper, extracted from one of the French newspapers,
about a journeyman shoemaker who was jealous of a young girl in an
adjoining village, because she wouldn't shut herself up in an air-
tight three-pair-of-stairs, and charcoal herself to death with him;
and who went and hid himself in a wood with a sharp-pointed knife,
and rushed out, as she was passing by with a few friends, and killed
himself first, and then all the friends, and then her--no, killed
all the friends first, and then herself, and then HIMself--which it
is quite frightful to think of. Somehow or other,' added Mrs
Nickleby, after a momentary pause, 'they always ARE journeyman
shoemakers who do these things in France, according to the papers.
I don't know how it is--something in the leather, I suppose.'
'But this man, who is not a shoemaker--what has he done, mother,
what has he said?' inquired Nicholas, fretted almost beyond
endurance, but looking nearly as resigned and patient as Mrs
Nickleby herself. 'You know, there is no language of vegetables,
which converts a cucumber into a formal declaration of attachment.'
'My dear,' replied Mrs Nickleby, tossing her head and looking at the
ashes in the grate, 'he has done and said all sorts of things.'
'Is there no mistake on your part?' asked Nicholas.
'Mistake!' cried Mrs Nickleby. 'Lord, Nicholas my dear, do you
suppose I don't know when a man's in earnest?'
'Well, well!' muttered Nicholas.
'Every time I go to the window,' said Mrs Nickleby, 'he kisses one
hand, and lays the other upon his heart--of course it's very foolish
of him to do so, and I dare say you'll say it's very wrong, but he
does it very respectfully--very respectfully indeed--and very
tenderly, extremely tenderly. So far, he deserves the greatest
credit; there can be no doubt about that. Then, there are the
presents which come pouring over the wall every day, and very fine
they certainly are, very fine; we had one of the cucumbers at dinner
yesterday, and think of pickling the rest for next winter. And last
evening,' added Mrs Nickleby, with increased confusion, 'he called
gently over the wall, as I was walking in the garden, and proposed
marriage, and an elopement. His voice is as clear as a bell or a
musical glass--very like a musical glass indeed--but of course I
didn't listen to it. Then, the question is, Nicholas my dear, what
am I to do?'
'Does Kate know of this?' asked Nicholas.
'I have not said a word about it yet,' answered his mother.
'Then, for Heaven's sake,' rejoined Nicholas, rising, 'do not, for
it would make her very unhappy. And with regard to what you should
do, my dear mother, do what your good sense and feeling, and respect
for my father's memory, would prompt. There are a thousand ways in
which you can show your dislike of these preposterous and doting
attentions. If you act as decidedly as you ought and they are still
continued, and to your annoyance, I can speedily put a stop to them.
But I should not interfere in a matter so ridiculous, and attach
importance to it, until you have vindicated yourself. Most women
can do that, but especially one of your age and condition, in
circumstances like these, which are unworthy of a serious thought.
I would not shame you by seeming to take them to heart, or treat
them earnestly for an instant. Absurd old idiot!'
So saying, Nicholas kissed his mother, and bade her good-night, and
they retired to their respective chambers.
To do Mrs Nickleby justice, her attachment to her children would
have prevented her seriously contemplating a second marriage, even
if she could have so far conquered her recollections of her late
husband as to have any strong inclinations that way. But, although
there was no evil and little real selfishness in Mrs Nickleby's
heart, she had a weak head and a vain one; and there was something
so flattering in being sought (and vainly sought) in marriage at
this time of day, that she could not dismiss the passion of the
unknown gentleman quite so summarily or lightly as Nicholas appeared
to deem becoming.
'As to its being preposterous, and doting, and ridiculous,' thought
Mrs Nickleby, communing with herself in her own room, 'I don't see
that, at all. It's hopeless on his part, certainly; but why he
should be an absurd old idiot, I confess I don't see. He is not to
be supposed to know it's hopeless. Poor fellow! He is to be
pitied, I think!'
Having made these reflections, Mrs Nickleby looked in her little
dressing-glass, and walking backward a few steps from it, tried to
remember who it was who used to say that when Nicholas was one-and-
twenty he would have more the appearance of her brother than her
son. Not being able to call the authority to mind, she extinguished
her candle, and drew up the window-blind to admit the light of
morning, which had, by this time, begun to dawn.
'It's a bad light to distinguish objects in,' murmured Mrs Nickleby,
peering into the garden, 'and my eyes are not very good--I was
short-sighted from a child--but, upon my word, I think there's
another large vegetable marrow sticking, at this moment, on the
broken glass bottles at the top of the wall!'
Comprises certain Particulars arising out of a Visit of
Condolence, which may prove important hereafter. Smike
unexpectedly encounters a very old Friend, who invites him to his
House, and will take no Denial
Quite unconscious of the demonstrations of their amorous
neighbour, or their effects upon the susceptible bosom of her
mama, Kate Nickleby had, by this time, begun to enjoy a settled
feeling of tranquillity and happiness, to which, even in
occasional and transitory glimpses, she had long been a stranger.
Living under the same roof with the beloved brother from whom she
had been so suddenly and hardly separated: with a mind at ease,
and free from any persecutions which could call a blush into her
cheek, or a pang into her heart, she seemed to have passed into a
new state of being. Her former cheerfulness was restored, her
step regained its elasticity and lightness, the colour which had
forsaken her cheek visited it once again, and Kate Nickleby looked
more beautiful than ever.
Such was the result to which Miss La Creevy's ruminations and
observations led her, when the cottage had been, as she
emphatically said, 'thoroughly got to rights, from the chimney-
pots to the street-door scraper,' and the busy little woman had at
length a moment's time to think about its inmates.
'Which I declare I haven't had since I first came down here,' said
Miss La Creevy; 'for I have thought of nothing but hammers, nails,
screwdrivers, and gimlets, morning, noon, and night.'
'You never bestowed one thought upon yourself, I believe,'
returned Kate, smiling.
'Upon my word, my dear, when there are so many pleasanter things
to think of, I should be a goose if I did,' said Miss La Creevy.
'By-the-bye, I HAVE thought of somebody too. Do you know, that I
observe a great change in one of this family--a very extraordinary
'In whom?' asked Kate, anxiously. 'Not in--'
'Not in your brother, my dear,' returned Miss La Creevy,
anticipating the close of the sentence, 'for he is always the same
affectionate good-natured clever creature, with a spice of the--I
won't say who--in him when there's any occasion, that he was when
I first knew you. No. Smike, as he WILL be called, poor fellow!
for he won't hear of a MR before his name, is greatly altered,
even in this short time.'
'How?' asked Kate. 'Not in health?'
'N--n--o; perhaps not in health exactly,' said Miss La Creevy,
pausing to consider, 'although he is a worn and feeble creature,
and has that in his face which it would wring my heart to see in
yours. No; not in health.'
'I scarcely know,' said the miniature painter. 'But I have
watched him, and he has brought the tears into my eyes many times.
It is not a very difficult matter to do that, certainly, for I am
easily melted; still I think these came with good cause and
reason. I am sure that since he has been here, he has grown, from
some strong cause, more conscious of his weak intellect. He feels
it more. It gives him greater pain to know that he wanders
sometimes, and cannot understand very simple things. I have
watched him when you have not been by, my dear, sit brooding by
himself, with such a look of pain as I could scarcely bear to see,
and then get up and leave the room: so sorrowfully, and in such
dejection, that I cannot tell you how it has hurt me. Not three
weeks ago, he was a light-hearted busy creature, overjoyed to be
in a bustle, and as happy as the day was long. Now, he is another
being--the same willing, harmless, faithful, loving creature--but
the same in nothing else.'
'Surely this will all pass off,' said Kate. 'Poor fellow!'
'I hope,' returned her little friend, with a gravity very unusual
in her, 'it may. I hope, for the sake of that poor lad, it may.
However,' said Miss La Creevy, relapsing into the cheerful,
chattering tone, which was habitual to her, 'I have said my say,
and a very long say it is, and a very wrong say too, I shouldn't
wonder at all. I shall cheer him up tonight, at all events, for
if he is to be my squire all the way to the Strand, I shall talk
on, and on, and on, and never leave off, till I have roused him
into a laugh at something. So the sooner he goes, the better for
him, and the sooner I go, the better for me, I am sure, or else I
shall have my maid gallivanting with somebody who may rob the
house--though what there is to take away, besides tables and
chairs, I don't know, except the miniatures: and he is a clever
thief who can dispose of them to any great advantage, for I can't,
I know, and that's the honest truth.'
So saying, little Miss La Creevy hid her face in a very flat
bonnet, and herself in a very big shawl; and fixing herself
tightly into the latter, by means of a large pin, declared that
the omnibus might come as soon as it pleased, for she was quite
But there was still Mrs Nickleby to take leave of; and long before
that good lady had concluded some reminiscences bearing upon, and
appropriate to, the occasion, the omnibus arrived. This put Miss
La Creevy in a great bustle, in consequence whereof, as she
secretly rewarded the servant girl with eighteen-pence behind the
street-door, she pulled out of her reticule ten-pennyworth of
halfpence, which rolled into all possible corners of the passage,
and occupied some considerable time in the picking up. This
ceremony had, of course, to be succeeded by a second kissing of
Kate and Mrs Nickleby, and a gathering together of the little
basket and the brown-paper parcel, during which proceedings, 'the
omnibus,' as Miss La Creevy protested, 'swore so dreadfully, that
it was quite awful to hear it.' At length and at last, it made a
feint of going away, and then Miss La Creevy darted out, and
darted in, apologising with great volubility to all the
passengers, and declaring that she wouldn't purposely have kept
them waiting on any account whatever. While she was looking about
for a convenient seat, the conductor pushed Smike in, and cried
that it was all right--though it wasn't--and away went the huge
vehicle, with the noise of half-a-dozen brewers' drays at least.
Leaving it to pursue its journey at the pleasure of the conductor
aforementioned, who lounged gracefully on his little shelf
behind, smoking an odoriferous cigar; and leaving it to stop, or
go on, or gallop, or crawl, as that gentleman deemed expedient and
advisable; this narrative may embrace the opportunity of
ascertaining the condition of Sir Mulberry Hawk, and to what
extent he had, by this time, recovered from the injuries
consequent on being flung violently from his cabriolet, under the
circumstances already detailed.
With a shattered limb, a body severely bruised, a face disfigured
by half-healed scars, and pallid from the exhaustion of recent
pain and fever, Sir Mulberry Hawk lay stretched upon his back, on
the couch to which he was doomed to be a prisoner for some weeks
yet to come. Mr Pyke and Mr Pluck sat drinking hard in the next
room, now and then varying the monotonous murmurs of their
conversation with a half-smothered laugh, while the young lord--
the only member of the party who was not thoroughly irredeemable,
and who really had a kind heart--sat beside his Mentor, with a
cigar in his mouth, and read to him, by the light of a lamp, such
scraps of intelligence from a paper of the day, as were most
likely to yield him interest or amusement.
'Curse those hounds!' said the invalid, turning his head
impatiently towards the adjoining room; 'will nothing stop their
Messrs Pyke and Pluck heard the exclamation, and stopped
immediately: winking to each other as they did so, and filling
their glasses to the brim, as some recompense for the deprivation
'Damn!' muttered the sick man between his teeth, and writhing
impatiently in his bed. 'Isn't this mattress hard enough, and the
room dull enough, and pain bad enough, but THEY must torture me?
What's the time?'
'Half-past eight,' replied his friend.
'Here, draw the table nearer, and let us have the cards again,'
said Sir Mulberry. 'More piquet. Come.'
It was curious to see how eagerly the sick man, debarred from any
change of position save the mere turning of his head from side to
side, watched every motion of his friend in the progress of the
game; and with what eagerness and interest he played, and yet how
warily and coolly. His address and skill were more than twenty
times a match for his adversary, who could make little head
against them, even when fortune favoured him with good cards,
which was not often the case. Sir Mulberry won every game; and
when his companion threw down the cards, and refused to play any
longer, thrust forth his wasted arm and caught up the stakes with
a boastful oath, and the same hoarse laugh, though considerably
lowered in tone, that had resounded in Ralph Nickleby's dining-
room, months before.
While he was thus occupied, his man appeared, to announce that Mr
Ralph Nickleby was below, and wished to know how he was, tonight.
'Better,' said Sir Mulberry, impatiently.
'Mr Nickleby wishes to know, sir--'
'I tell you, better,' replied Sir Mulberry, striking his hand upon
The man hesitated for a moment or two, and then said that Mr
Nickleby had requested permission to see Sir Mulberry Hawk, if it
was not inconvenient.
'It IS inconvenient. I can't see him. I can't see anybody,' said
his master, more violently than before. 'You know that, you
'I am very sorry, sir,' returned the man. 'But Mr Nickleby
pressed so much, sir--'
The fact was, that Ralph Nickleby had bribed the man, who, being
anxious to earn his money with a view to future favours, held the
door in his hand, and ventured to linger still.
'Did he say whether he had any business to speak about?' inquired
Sir Mulberry, after a little impatient consideration.
'No, sir. He said he wished to see you, sir. Particularly, Mr
Nickleby said, sir.'
'Tell him to come up. Here,' cried Sir Mulberry, calling the man
back, as he passed his hand over his disfigured face, 'move that
lamp, and put it on the stand behind me. Wheel that table away,
and place a chair there--further off. Leave it so.'
The man obeyed these directions as if he quite comprehended the
motive with which they were dictated, and left the room. Lord
Frederick Verisopht, remarking that he would look in presently,
strolled into the adjoining apartment, and closed the folding door
Then was heard a subdued footstep on the stairs; and Ralph
Nickleby, hat in hand, crept softly into the room, with his body
bent forward as if in profound respect, and his eyes fixed upon
the face of his worthy client.
'Well, Nickleby,' said Sir Mulberry, motioning him to the chair by
the couch side, and waving his hand in assumed carelessness, 'I
have had a bad accident, you see.'
'I see,' rejoined Ralph, with the same steady gaze. 'Bad, indeed!
I should not have known you, Sir Mulberry. Dear, dear! This IS
Ralph's manner was one of profound humility and respect; and the
low tone of voice was that, which the gentlest consideration for a
sick man would have taught a visitor to assume. But the
expression of his face, Sir Mulberry's being averted, was in
extraordinary contrast; and as he stood, in his usual attitude,
calmly looking on the prostrate form before him, all that part of
his features which was not cast into shadow by his protruding and
contracted brows, bore the impress of a sarcastic smile.
'Sit down,' said Sir Mulberry, turning towards him, as though by a
violent effort. 'Am I a sight, that you stand gazing there?'
As he turned his face, Ralph recoiled a step or two, and making as
though he were irresistibly impelled to express astonishment, but
was determined not to do so, sat down with well-acted confusion.
'I have inquired at the door, Sir Mulberry, every day,' said
Ralph, 'twice a day, indeed, at first--and tonight, presuming upon
old acquaintance, and past transactions by which we have mutually
benefited in some degree, I could not resist soliciting admission
to your chamber. Have you--have you suffered much?' said Ralph,
bending forward, and allowing the same harsh smile to gather upon
his face, as the other closed his eyes.
'More than enough to please me, and less than enough to please
some broken-down hacks that you and I know of, and who lay their
ruin between us, I dare say,' returned Sir Mulberry, tossing his
arm restlessly upon the coverlet.
Ralph shrugged his shoulders in deprecation of the intense
irritation with which this had been said; for there was an
aggravating, cold distinctness in his speech and manner which so
grated on the sick man that he could scarcely endure it.
'And what is it in these "past transactions," that brought you
here tonight?' asked Sir Mulberry.
'Nothing,' replied Ralph. 'There are some bills of my lord's
which need renewal; but let them be till you are well. I--I--
came,' said Ralph, speaking more slowly, and with harsher
emphasis, 'I came to say how grieved I am that any relative of
mine, although disowned by me, should have inflicted such
punishment on you as--'
'Punishment!' interposed Sir Mulberry.
'I know it has been a severe one,' said Ralph, wilfully mistaking
the meaning of the interruption, 'and that has made me the more
anxious to tell you that I disown this vagabond--that I
acknowledge him as no kin of mine--and that I leave him to take
his deserts from you, and every man besides. You may wring his
neck if you please. I shall not interfere.'
'This story that they tell me here, has got abroad then, has it?'
asked Sir Mulberry, clenching his hands and teeth.
'Noised in all directions,' replied Ralph. 'Every club and
gaming-room has rung with it. There has been a good song made
about it, as I am told,' said Ralph, looking eagerly at his
questioner. 'I have not heard it myself, not being in the way of
such things, but I have been told it's even printed--for private
circulation--but that's all over town, of course.'
'It's a lie!' said Sir Mulberry; 'I tell you it's all a lie. The
mare took fright.'
'They SAY he frightened her,' observed Ralph, in the same unmoved
and quiet manner. 'Some say he frightened you, but THAT'S a lie,
I know. I have said that boldly--oh, a score of times! I am a
peaceable man, but I can't hear folks tell that of you. No, no.'
When Sir Mulberry found coherent words to utter, Ralph bent
forward with his hand to his ear, and a face as calm as if its
every line of sternness had been cast in iron.
'When I am off this cursed bed,' said the invalid, actually
striking at his broken leg in the ecstasy of his passion, 'I'll
have such revenge as never man had yet. By God, I will. Accident
favouring him, he has marked me for a week or two, but I'll put a
mark on him that he shall carry to his grave. I'll slit his nose
and ears, flog him, maim him for life. I'll do more than that;
I'll drag that pattern of chastity, that pink of prudery, the
delicate sister, through--'
It might have been that even Ralph's cold blood tingled in his
cheeks at that moment. It might have been that Sir Mulberry
remembered, that, knave and usurer as he was, he must, in some
early time of infancy, have twined his arm about her father's
neck. He stopped, and menacing with his hand, confirmed the
unuttered threat with a tremendous oath.
'It is a galling thing,' said Ralph, after a short term of
silence, during which he had eyed the sufferer keenly, 'to think
that the man about town, the rake, the ROUE, the rook of twenty
seasons should be brought to this pass by a mere boy!'
Sir Mulberry darted a wrathful look at him, but Ralph's eyes were
bent upon the ground, and his face wore no other expression than
one of thoughtfulness.
'A raw, slight stripling,' continued Ralph, 'against a man whose
very weight might crush him; to say nothing of his skill in--I am
right, I think,' said Ralph, raising his eyes, 'you WERE a patron
of the ring once, were you not?'
The sick man made an impatient gesture, which Ralph chose to
consider as one of acquiescence.
'Ha!' he said, 'I thought so. That was before I knew you, but I
was pretty sure I couldn't be mistaken. He is light and active, I
suppose. But those were slight advantages compared with yours.
Luck, luck! These hang-dog outcasts have it.'
'He'll need the most he has, when I am well again,' said Sir
Mulberry Hawk, 'let him fly where he will.'
'Oh!' returned Ralph quickly, 'he doesn't dream of that. He is
here, good sir, waiting your pleasure, here in London, walking the
streets at noonday; carrying it off jauntily; looking for you, I
swear,' said Ralph, his face darkening, and his own hatred getting
the upper hand of him, for the first time, as this gay picture of
Nicholas presented itself; 'if we were only citizens of a country
where it could be safely done, I'd give good money to have him
stabbed to the heart and rolled into the kennel for the dogs to
As Ralph, somewhat to the surprise of his old client, vented this
little piece of sound family feeling, and took up his hat
preparatory to departing, Lord Frederick Verisopht looked in.
'Why what in the deyvle's name, Hawk, have you and Nickleby been
talking about?' said the young man. 'I neyver heard such an
insufferable riot. Croak, croak, croak. Bow, wow, wow. What has
it all been about?'
'Sir Mulberry has been angry, my Lord,' said Ralph, looking
towards the couch.
'Not about money, I hope? Nothing has gone wrong in business, has
'No, my Lord, no,' returned Ralph. 'On that point we always
agree. Sir Mulberry has been calling to mind the cause of--'
There was neither necessity nor opportunity for Ralph to proceed;
for Sir Mulberry took up the theme, and vented his threats and
oaths against Nicholas, almost as ferociously as before.
Ralph, who was no common observer, was surprised to see that as
this tirade proceeded, the manner of Lord Frederick Verisopht,
who at the commencement had been twirling his whiskers with a most
dandified and listless air, underwent a complete alteration. He
was still more surprised when, Sir Mulberry ceasing to speak, the
young lord angrily, and almost unaffectedly, requested never to
have the subject renewed in his presence.
'Mind that, Hawk!' he added, with unusual energy. 'I never will
be a party to, or permit, if I can help it, a cowardly attack upon
this young fellow.'
'Cowardly!' interrupted his friend.
'Ye-es,' said the other, turning full upon him. 'If you had told
him who you were; if you had given him your card, and found out,
afterwards, that his station or character prevented your fighting
him, it would have been bad enough then; upon my soul it would
have been bad enough then. As it is, you did wrong. I did wrong
too, not to interfere, and I am sorry for it. What happened to
you afterwards, was as much the consequence of accident as design,
and more your fault than his; and it shall not, with my knowledge,
be cruelly visited upon him, it shall not indeed.'
With this emphatic repetition of his concluding words, the young
lord turned upon his heel; but before he had reached the adjoining
room he turned back again, and said, with even greater vehemence
than he had displayed before,
'I do believe, now; upon my honour I do believe, that the sister
is as virtuous and modest a young lady as she is a handsome one;
and of the brother, I say this, that he acted as her brother
should, and in a manly and spirited manner. And I only wish, with
all my heart and soul, that any one of us came out of this matter
half as well as he does.'
So saying, Lord Frederick Verisopht walked out of the room,
leaving Ralph Nickleby and Sir Mulberry in most unpleasant
'Is this your pupil?' asked Ralph, softly, 'or has he come fresh
from some country parson?'
'Green fools take these fits sometimes,' replied Sir Mulberry
Hawk, biting his lip, and pointing to the door. 'Leave him to
Ralph exchanged a familiar look with his old acquaintance; for
they had suddenly grown confidential again in this alarming
surprise; and took his way home, thoughtfully and slowly.
While these things were being said and done, and long before they
were concluded, the omnibus had disgorged Miss La Creevy and her
escort, and they had arrived at her own door. Now, the good-
nature of the little miniature painter would by no means allow of
Smike's walking back again, until he had been previously refreshed
with just a sip of something comfortable and a mixed biscuit or
so; and Smike, entertaining no objection either to the sip of
something comfortable, or the mixed biscuit, but, considering on
the contrary that they would be a very pleasant preparation for a
walk to Bow, it fell out that he delayed much longer than he
originally intended, and that it was some half-hour after dusk
when he set forth on his journey home.
There was no likelihood of his losing his way, for it lay quite
straight before him, and he had walked into town with Nicholas,
and back alone, almost every day. So, Miss La Creevy and he shook
hands with mutual confidence, and, being charged with more kind
remembrances to Mrs and Miss Nickleby, Smike started off.
At the foot of Ludgate Hill, he turned a little out of the road to
satisfy his curiosity by having a look at Newgate. After staring
up at the sombre walls, from the opposite side of the way, with
great care and dread for some minutes, he turned back again into
the old track, and walked briskly through the city; stopping now
and then to gaze in at the window of some particularly
attractive shop, then running for a little way, then stopping
again, and so on, as any other country lad might do.
He had been gazing for a long time through a jeweller's window,
wishing he could take some of the beautiful trinkets home as a
present, and imagining what delight they would afford if he could,
when the clocks struck three-quarters past eight; roused by the
sound, he hurried on at a very quick pace, and was crossing the
corner of a by-street when he felt himself violently brought to,
with a jerk so sudden that he was obliged to cling to a lamp-post
to save himself from falling. At the same moment, a small boy
clung tight round his leg, and a shrill cry of 'Here he is,
father! Hooray!' vibrated in his ears.
Smike knew that voice too well. He cast his despairing eyes
downward towards the form from which it had proceeded, and,
shuddering from head to foot, looked round. Mr Squeers had
hooked him in the coat collar with the handle of his umbrella,
and was hanging on at the other end with all his might and main.
The cry of triumph proceeded from Master Wackford, who, regardless
of all his kicks and struggles, clung to him with the tenacity of
One glance showed him this; and in that one glance the terrified
creature became utterly powerless and unable to utter a sound.
'Here's a go!' cried Mr Squeers, gradually coming hand-over-hand
down the umbrella, and only unhooking it when he had got tight
hold of the victim's collar. 'Here's a delicious go! Wackford, my
boy, call up one of them coaches.'
'A coach, father!' cried little Wackford.
'Yes, a coach, sir,' replied Squeers, feasting his eyes upon the
countenance of Smike. 'Damn the expense. Let's have him in a
'What's he been a doing of?' asked a labourer with a hod of
bricks, against whom and a fellow-labourer Mr Squeers had backed,
on the first jerk of the umbrella.
'Everything!' replied Mr Squeers, looking fixedly at his old pupil
in a sort of rapturous trance. 'Everything--running away, sir--
joining in bloodthirsty attacks upon his master--there's nothing
that's bad that he hasn't done. Oh, what a delicious go is this
here, good Lord!'
The man looked from Squeers to Smike; but such mental faculties as
the poor fellow possessed, had utterly deserted him. The coach
came up; Master Wackford entered; Squeers pushed in his prize, and
following close at his heels, pulled up the glasses. The coachman
mounted his box and drove slowly off, leaving the two bricklayers,
and an old apple-woman, and a town-made little boy returning from
an evening school, who had been the only witnesses of the scene,
to meditate upon it at their leisure.
Mr Squeers sat himself down on the opposite seat to the
unfortunate Smike, and, planting his hands firmly on his knees,
looked at him for some five minutes, when, seeming to recover from
his trance, he uttered a loud laugh, and slapped his old pupil's
face several times--taking the right and left sides alternately.
'It isn't a dream!' said Squeers. 'That's real flesh and blood! I
know the feel of it!' and being quite assured of his good fortune
by these experiments, Mr Squeers administered a few boxes on the
ear, lest the entertainments should seem to partake of sameness,
and laughed louder and longer at every one.
'Your mother will be fit to jump out of her skin, my boy, when she
hears of this,' said Squeers to his son.
'Oh, won't she though, father?' replied Master Wackford.
'To think,' said Squeers, 'that you and me should be turning out
of a street, and come upon him at the very nick; and that I should
have him tight, at only one cast of the umbrella, as if I had
hooked him with a grappling-iron! Ha, ha!'
'Didn't I catch hold of his leg, neither, father?' said little
'You did; like a good 'un, my boy,' said Mr Squeers, patting his
son's head, 'and you shall have the best button-over jacket and
waistcoat that the next new boy brings down, as a reward of merit.
Mind that. You always keep on in the same path, and do them
things that you see your father do, and when you die you'll go
right slap to Heaven and no questions asked.'
Improving the occasion in these words, Mr Squeers patted his son's
head again, and then patted Smike's--but harder; and inquired in a
bantering tone how he found himself by this time.
'I must go home,' replied Smike, looking wildly round.
'To be sure you must. You're about right there,' replied Mr
Squeers. 'You'll go home very soon, you will. You'll find
yourself at the peaceful village of Dotheboys, in Yorkshire, in
something under a week's time, my young friend; and the next time
you get away from there, I give you leave to keep away. Where's
the clothes you run off in, you ungrateful robber?' said Mr
Squeers, in a severe voice.
Smike glanced at the neat attire which the care of Nicholas had
provided for him; and wrung his hands.
'Do you know that I could hang you up, outside of the Old Bailey,
for making away with them articles of property?' said Squeers. 'Do
you know that it's a hanging matter--and I an't quite certain
whether it an't an anatomy one besides--to walk off with up'ards
of the valley of five pound from a dwelling-house? Eh? Do you
know that? What do you suppose was the worth of them clothes you
had? Do you know that that Wellington boot you wore, cost eight-
and-twenty shillings when it was a pair, and the shoe seven-and-
six? But you came to the right shop for mercy when you came to
me, and thank your stars that it IS me as has got to serve you
with the article.'
Anybody not in Mr Squeers's confidence would have supposed that he
was quite out of the article in question, instead of having a
large stock on hand ready for all comers; nor would the opinion of
sceptical persons have undergone much alteration when he followed
up the remark by poking Smike in the chest with the ferrule of his
umbrella, and dealing a smart shower of blows, with the ribs of
the same instrument, upon his head and shoulders.
'I never threshed a boy in a hackney coach before,' said Mr
Squeers, when he stopped to rest. 'There's inconveniency in it,
but the novelty gives it a sort of relish, too!'
Poor Smike! He warded off the blows, as well as he could, and now
shrunk into a corner of the coach, with his head resting on his
hands, and his elbows on his knees; he was stunned and stupefied,
and had no more idea that any act of his, would enable him to
escape from the all-powerful Squeers, now that he had no friend to
speak to or to advise with, than he had had in all the weary years
of his Yorkshire life which preceded the arrival of Nicholas.
The journey seemed endless; street after street was entered and
left behind; and still they went jolting on. At last Mr Squeers
began to thrust his head out of the widow every half-minute, and
to bawl a variety of directions to the coachman; and after
passing, with some difficulty, through several mean streets which
the appearance of the houses and the bad state of the road denoted
to have been recently built, Mr Squeers suddenly tugged at the
check string with all his might, and cried, 'Stop!'
'What are you pulling a man's arm off for?' said the coachman
looking angrily down.
'That's the house,' replied Squeers. 'The second of them four
little houses, one story high, with the green shutters. There's
brass plate on the door, with the name of Snawley.'
'Couldn't you say that without wrenching a man's limbs off his
body?' inquired the coachman.
'No!' bawled Mr Squeers. 'Say another word, and I'll summons you
for having a broken winder. Stop!'
Obedient to this direction, the coach stopped at Mr Snawley's
door. Mr Snawley may be remembered as the sleek and sanctified
gentleman who confided two sons (in law) to the parental care of
Mr Squeers, as narrated in the fourth chapter of this history.
Mr Snawley's house was on the extreme borders of some new
settlements adjoining Somers Town, and Mr Squeers had taken
lodgings therein for a short time, as his stay was longer than
usual, and the Saracen, having experience of Master Wackford's
appetite, had declined to receive him on any other terms than as a
'Here we are!' said Squeers, hurrying Smike into the little
parlour, where Mr Snawley and his wife were taking a lobster
supper. 'Here's the vagrant--the felon--the rebel--the monster
'What! The boy that run away!' cried Snawley, resting his knife
and fork upright on the table, and opening his eyes to their full
'The very boy', said Squeers, putting his fist close to Smike's
nose, and drawing it away again, and repeating the process several
times, with a vicious aspect. 'If there wasn't a lady present, I'd
fetch him such a--: never mind, I'll owe it him.'
And here Mr Squeers related how, and in what manner, and when and
where, he had picked up the runaway.
'It's clear that there has been a Providence in it, sir,' said Mr
Snawley, casting down his eyes with an air of humility, and
elevating his fork, with a bit of lobster on the top of it,
towards the ceiling.
'Providence is against him, no doubt,' replied Mr Squeers,
scratching his nose. 'Of course; that was to be expected. Anybody
might have known that.'
'Hard-heartedness and evil-doing will never prosper, sir,' said Mr
'Never was such a thing known,' rejoined Squeers, taking a little
roll of notes from his pocket-book, to see that they were all
'I have been, Mr Snawley,' said Mr Squeers, when he had satisfied
himself upon this point, 'I have been that chap's benefactor,
feeder, teacher, and clother. I have been that chap's classical,
commercial, mathematical, philosophical, and trigonomical friend.
My son--my only son, Wackford--has been his brother; Mrs Squeers
has been his mother, grandmother, aunt,--ah! and I may say uncle
too, all in one. She never cottoned to anybody, except them two
engaging and delightful boys of yours, as she cottoned to this
chap. What's my return? What's come of my milk of human kindness?
It turns into curds and whey when I look at him.'
'Well it may, sir,' said Mrs Snawley. 'Oh! Well it may, sir.'
'Where has he been all this time?' inquired Snawley. 'Has he been
'Ah, sir!' interposed Squeers, confronting him again. 'Have you
been a living with that there devilish Nickleby, sir?'
But no threats or cuffs could elicit from Smike one word of reply
to this question; for he had internally resolved that he would
rather perish in the wretched prison to which he was again about
to be consigned, than utter one syllable which could involve his
first and true friend. He had already called to mind the strict
injunctions of secrecy as to his past life, which Nicholas had
laid upon him when they travelled from Yorkshire; and a confused
and perplexed idea that his benefactor might have committed some
terrible crime in bringing him away, which would render him liable
to heavy punishment if detected, had contributed, in some degree,
to reduce him to his present state of apathy and terror.
Such were the thoughts--if to visions so imperfect and undefined
as those which wandered through his enfeebled brain, the term can
be applied--which were present to the mind of Smike, and rendered
him deaf alike to intimidation and persuasion. Finding every
effort useless, Mr Squeers conducted him to a little back room
up-stairs, where he was to pass the night; and, taking the
precaution of removing his shoes, and coat and waistcoat, and also
of locking the door on the outside, lest he should muster up
sufficient energy to make an attempt at escape, that worthy
gentleman left him to his meditations.
What those meditations were, and how the poor creature's heart
sunk within him when he thought--when did he, for a moment, cease
to think?--of his late home, and the dear friends and familiar
faces with which it was associated, cannot be told. To prepare the
mind for such a heavy sleep, its growth must be stopped by rigour
and cruelty in childhood; there must be years of misery and
suffering, lightened by no ray of hope; the chords of the heart,
which beat a quick response to the voice of gentleness and
affection, must have rusted and broken in their secret places, and
bear the lingering echo of no old word of love or kindness.
Gloomy, indeed, must have been the short day, and dull the long,
long twilight, preceding such a night of intellect as his.
There were voices which would have roused him, even then; but
their welcome tones could not penetrate there; and he crept to bed
the same listless, hopeless, blighted creature, that Nicholas had
first found him at the Yorkshire school.
In which another old Friend encounters Smike, very opportunely and
to some Purpose
The night, fraught with so much bitterness to one poor soul, had
given place to a bright and cloudless summer morning, when a north-
country mail-coach traversed, with cheerful noise, the yet silent
streets of Islington, and, giving brisk note of its approach with
the lively winding of the guard's horn, clattered onward to its
halting-place hard by the Post Office.
The only outside passenger was a burly, honest-looking countryman on
the box, who, with his eyes fixed upon the dome of St Paul's
Cathedral, appeared so wrapt in admiring wonder, as to be quite
insensible to all the bustle of getting out the bags and parcels,
until one of the coach windows being let sharply down, he looked
round, and encountered a pretty female face which was just then
'See there, lass!' bawled the countryman, pointing towards the
object of his admiration. 'There be Paul's Church. 'Ecod, he be a
soizable 'un, he be.'
'Goodness, John! I shouldn't have thought it could have been half
the size. What a monster!'
'Monsther!--Ye're aboot right theer, I reckon, Mrs Browdie,' said
the countryman good-humouredly, as he came slowly down in his huge
top-coat; 'and wa'at dost thee tak yon place to be noo--thot'un
owor the wa'? Ye'd never coom near it 'gin you thried for twolve
moonths. It's na' but a Poast Office! Ho! ho! They need to charge
for dooble-latthers. A Poast Office! Wa'at dost thee think o'
thot? 'Ecod, if thot's on'y a Poast Office, I'd loike to see where
the Lord Mayor o' Lunnun lives.'
So saying, John Browdie--for he it was--opened the coach-door, and
tapping Mrs Browdie, late Miss Price, on the cheek as he looked in,
burst into a boisterous fit of laughter.
'Weel!' said John. 'Dang my bootuns if she bean't asleep agean!'
'She's been asleep all night, and was, all yesterday, except for a
minute or two now and then,' replied John Browdie's choice, 'and I
was very sorry when she woke, for she has been SO cross!'
The subject of these remarks was a slumbering figure, so muffled in
shawl and cloak, that it would have been matter of impossibility to
guess at its sex but for a brown beaver bonnet and green veil which
ornamented the head, and which, having been crushed and flattened,
for two hundred and fifty miles, in that particular angle of the
vehicle from which the lady's snores now proceeded, presented an
appearance sufficiently ludicrous to have moved less risible muscles
than those of John Browdie's ruddy face.
'Hollo!' cried John, twitching one end of the dragged veil. 'Coom,
wakken oop, will 'ee?'
After several burrowings into the old corner, and many exclamations
of impatience and fatigue, the figure struggled into a sitting
posture; and there, under a mass of crumpled beaver, and surrounded
by a semicircle of blue curl-papers, were the delicate features of
Miss Fanny Squeers.
'Oh, 'Tilda!' cried Miss Squeers, 'how you have been kicking of me
through this blessed night!'
'Well, I do like that,' replied her friend, laughing, 'when you have
had nearly the whole coach to yourself.'
'Don't deny it, 'Tilda,' said Miss Squeers, impressively, 'because
you have, and it's no use to go attempting to say you haven't. You
mightn't have known it in your sleep, 'Tilda, but I haven't closed
my eyes for a single wink, and so I THINK I am to be believed.'
With which reply, Miss Squeers adjusted the bonnet and veil, which
nothing but supernatural interference and an utter suspension of
nature's laws could have reduced to any shape or form; and evidently
flattering herself that it looked uncommonly neat, brushed off the
sandwich-crumbs and bits of biscuit which had accumulated in her
lap, and availing herself of John Browdie's proffered arm, descended
from the coach.
'Noo,' said John, when a hackney coach had been called, and the
ladies and the luggage hurried in, 'gang to the Sarah's Head, mun.'
'To the VERE?' cried the coachman.
'Lawk, Mr Browdie!' interrupted Miss Squeers. 'The idea! Saracen's
'Sure-ly,' said John, 'I know'd it was something aboot Sarah's Son's
Head. Dost thou know thot?'
'Oh, ah! I know that,' replied the coachman gruffly, as he banged
''Tilda, dear, really,' remonstrated Miss Squeers, 'we shall be
taken for I don't know what.'
'Let them tak' us as they foind us,' said John Browdie; 'we dean't
come to Lunnun to do nought but 'joy oursel, do we?'
'I hope not, Mr Browdie,' replied Miss Squeers, looking singularly
'Well, then,' said John, 'it's no matther. I've only been a married
man fower days, 'account of poor old feyther deein, and puttin' it
off. Here be a weddin' party--broide and broide's-maid, and the
groom--if a mun dean't 'joy himsel noo, when ought he, hey? Drat it
all, thot's what I want to know.'
So, in order that he might begin to enjoy himself at once, and lose
no time, Mr Browdie gave his wife a hearty kiss, and succeeded in
wresting another from Miss Squeers, after a maidenly resistance of
scratching and struggling on the part of that young lady, which was
not quite over when they reached the Saracen's Head.
Here, the party straightway retired to rest; the refreshment of
sleep being necessary after so long a journey; and here they met
again about noon, to a substantial breakfast, spread by direction of
Mr John Browdie, in a small private room upstairs commanding an
uninterrupted view of the stables.
To have seen Miss Squeers now, divested of the brown beaver, the
green veil, and the blue curl-papers, and arrayed in all the virgin
splendour of a white frock and spencer, with a white muslin bonnet,
and an imitative damask rose in full bloom on the inside thereof--
her luxuriant crop of hair arranged in curls so tight that it was
impossible they could come out by any accident, and her bonnet-cap
trimmed with little damask roses, which might be supposed to be so
many promising scions of the big rose--to have seen all this, and to
have seen the broad damask belt, matching both the family rose and
the little roses, which encircled her slender waist, and by a happy
ingenuity took off from the shortness of the spencer behind,--to
have beheld all this, and to have taken further into account the
coral bracelets (rather short of beads, and with a very visible
black string) which clasped her wrists, and the coral necklace which
rested on her neck, supporting, outside her frock, a lonely
cornelian heart, typical of her own disengaged affections--to have
contemplated all these mute but expressive appeals to the purest
feelings of our nature, might have thawed the frost of age, and
added new and inextinguishable fuel to the fire of youth.
The waiter was touched. Waiter as he was, he had human passions and
feelings, and he looked very hard at Miss Squeers as he handed the
'Is my pa in, do you know?' asked Miss Squeers with dignity.
'Beg your pardon, miss?'
'My pa,' repeated Miss Squeers; 'is he in?'
'In where, miss?'
'In here--in the house!' replied Miss Squeers. 'My pa--Mr Wackford
Squeers--he's stopping here. Is he at home?'
'I didn't know there was any gen'l'man of that name in the house,
miss' replied the waiter. 'There may be, in the coffee-room.'
MAY BE. Very pretty this, indeed! Here was Miss Squeers, who had
been depending, all the way to London, upon showing her friends how
much at home she would be, and how much respectful notice her name
and connections would excite, told that her father MIGHT be there!
'As if he was a feller!' observed Miss Squeers, with emphatic
'Ye'd betther inquire, mun,' said John Browdie. 'An' hond up
another pigeon-pie, will 'ee? Dang the chap,' muttered John,
looking into the empty dish as the waiter retired; 'does he ca' this
a pie--three yoong pigeons and a troifling matther o' steak, and a
crust so loight that you doant know when it's in your mooth and when
it's gane? I wonder hoo many pies goes to a breakfast!'
After a short interval, which John Browdie employed upon the ham and
a cold round of beef, the waiter returned with another pie, and the
information that Mr Squeers was not stopping in the house, but that
he came there every day and that directly he arrived, he should be
shown upstairs. With this, he retired; and he had not retired two
minutes, when he returned with Mr Squeers and his hopeful son.
'Why, who'd have thought of this?' said Mr Squeers, when he had
saluted the party and received some private family intelligence from
'Who, indeed, pa!' replied that young lady, spitefully. 'But you
see 'Tilda IS married at last.'
'And I stond threat for a soight o' Lunnun, schoolmeasther,' said
John, vigorously attacking the pie.
'One of them things that young men do when they get married,'
returned Squeers; 'and as runs through with their money like nothing
at all! How much better wouldn't it be now, to save it up for the
eddication of any little boys, for instance! They come on you,'
said Mr Squeers in a moralising way, 'before you're aware of it;
mine did upon me.'
'Will 'ee pick a bit?' said John.
'I won't myself,' returned Squeers; 'but if you'll just let little
Wackford tuck into something fat, I'll be obliged to you. Give it
him in his fingers, else the waiter charges it on, and there's lot
of profit on this sort of vittles without that. If you hear the
waiter coming, sir, shove it in your pocket and look out of the
window, d'ye hear?'
'I'm awake, father,' replied the dutiful Wackford.
'Well,' said Squeers, turning to his daughter, 'it's your turn to be
married next. You must make haste.'
'Oh, I'm in no hurry,' said Miss Squeers, very sharply.
'No, Fanny?' cried her old friend with some archness.
'No, 'Tilda,' replied Miss Squeers, shaking her head vehemently. 'I
'So can the young men, it seems, Fanny,' observed Mrs Browdie.
'They an't draw'd into it by ME, 'Tilda,' retorted Miss Squeers.
'No,' returned her friend; 'that's exceedingly true.'
The sarcastic tone of this reply might have provoked a rather
acrimonious retort from Miss Squeers, who, besides being of a
constitutionally vicious temper--aggravated, just now, by travel and
recent jolting--was somewhat irritated by old recollections and the
failure of her own designs upon Mr Browdie; and the acrimonious
retort might have led to a great many other retorts, which might
have led to Heaven knows what, if the subject of conversation had
not been, at that precise moment, accidentally changed by Mr Squeers
'What do you think?' said that gentleman; 'who do you suppose we
have laid hands on, Wackford and me?'
'Pa! not Mr--?' Miss Squeers was unable to finish the sentence, but
Mrs Browdie did it for her, and added, 'Nickleby?'
'No,' said Squeers. 'But next door to him though.'
'You can't mean Smike?' cried Miss Squeers, clapping her hands.
'Yes, I can though,' rejoined her father. 'I've got him, hard and
'Wa'at!' exclaimed John Browdie, pushing away his plate. 'Got that
poor--dom'd scoondrel? Where?'