Charles Dickens.

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

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case before the top was put on, and had never come out since
— a fat, elderly, large-faced, clerk, with silver spectacles and a
powdered head.

" Is my brother in his room, Tim ? " said Mr. Cheeryble,
with no less kindness of manner than he had shown to Nich-

" Yes he is, sir," replied the fat clerk, turning his specta-
cle-glasses towards his principal, and his eyes towards Nich-
olas, " but Mr. Trimmers is with him."

" Ay ! And what has he come about, Tim ? " said Mr.

" He is getting up a subscription for the widow and family
of a man who was killed in the East India Docks this morning
sir," rejoined Tim. " Smashed, sir, by a cask of sugar."

" He is a good creature," said Mr. Cheeryble, with great
earnestness. " He is a kind soul. I am very much obliged
to Trimmers. Trimmers is one of the best friends we have.
He makes a thousand cases known to us that we should never
discover of ourselves. I am very much obliged to Trimmers."
Saying which, Mr. Cheeryble rubbed his hands with infinite
delight, and Mr. Trimmers happening to pass the door that
instant, on his way out, shot out after him and caught him by
the hand.

" I owe you a thousand thanks, Trimmers, ten thousand
thanks. I take it very friendly of you, very friendly indeed,"
said Mr. Cheeryble, dragging him into a corner to get out of
hearing. " How many children are there, and what has my
brother Ned given, Trimmers ? "

"There are six children," replied the gentleman, "and
your brother has given us twenty pounds."

" My brother Ned is a good fellow, and you're a good
fellow too, Trimmers," said the old man, shaking him by both
hands with trembling eagerness. " Put me down for another
twenty — or — stop a minute, stop a minute ! We mustn't look
ostentatious ; put me down ten pound, and Tim Linkin water
ten pound. A cheque for twenty pound for Mr. Trimmers*
Tim. God bless you, Trimmers — and come and dine with us
some day this week ; you'll always find a knife and fork, and
we shall be delighted. . Now, my dear sir,— cheque from Mr,

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Linkinwater, Tim. Smashed by a cask of sugar, and six poor
children — oh dear, dear, dear ! "

Talking on in this strain, as fast as he could, to prevent
any friendly remonstrances from the collector of the subscrip-
tion on the large amount of his donation, Mr. Cheeryble led
Nicholas, equally astonished and affected by what he had seen
and heard in this short space, to the half-opened door of an-
other room.

" Brother Ned," said Mr. Cheeryble, tapping with his
knuckles, and stooping to listen : " are you busy, my dear
brother, or can you spare time for a word or two with me ? "

"Brother Charles, my dear fellow," replied a voice from
the inside ; so like in its tones to that which had just spoken,
that Nicholas started, and almost thought it was the same,
" Don't ask me such a question, but come in directly."

They went in, without further parley. What was the
amazement of Nicholas when his conductor advanced, and ex-
changed a warm greeting with another old gentleman, the very
type and model of himself — the same face, the same figure,
the same coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth, the same breeches
and gaiters — nay, there was the very same white hat hanging
against the wall !

As they shook each other by the hand — the face of each
lighted up by beaming looks of affection, which would have
been most delightful to behold in infants, and which, in men so
old, was inexpressibly touching — Nicholas could observe that
the last old gentleman was something stouter than his brother ;
this, and a slight additional shade of clumsiness in his gait
and stature, formed the only perceptible difference between
them. Nobody could have doubted their being twin brothers.

"Brother Ned," said Nicholas's friend, closing the room-
door, " here is a young friend of mine, whom we must assist
We must make proper inquiries into his statements, in justice
to him as well as to ourselves, and if they are confirmed — as
I feel assured they will be — we must assist him, we must assist
him, brother r^ed."

" It is enough, my dear brother, that you say we should,"
returned the other. " When you say that, no further inquiries
are needed. He shall be assisted. What are his necessities,
and what does he require ? Where is Tim Linkinwater ? Let
us have him here."

Both the brothers, it may be here remarked, had a very
emphatic and earnest delivery ; both had lost nearly the same

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teeth, which imparted the same peculiarity to their speech ; and
both spoke as if, besides possessing the utmost serenity of
mind that the kindliest and most unsuspecting nature could
bestow, they had, in collecting the plums from Fortune's
choicest pudding, retained a few for present use, and kept
them in their mouths.

" Where is Tim Linkinwater ? " said brother Ned.

" Stop, stop, stop ! " said brother Charles, taking the other
aside. " I've a plan, my dear brother, I've a plan. Tim is
getting old, and Tim has been a faithful servant, brother Ned,
and I don't think pensioning Tim's mother and sister, and
buying a little tomb for the family when his poor brother died,
was a sufficient recompense for his faithful services."

" No, no, no," replied the other. " Certainly not Not
half enough, not half."

" If we could lighten Tim's duties," said the old gentle-
man, and prevail upon him to go into the country, now and
then, and sleep in the fresh air, two or three times a week,
(which he could, if he began business an hour later in the
morning,) old Tim Linkinwater would grow young again in
time ; and he's three good years our senior now. Old Tim
Linkinwater young again ! Eh, brother Ned, eh ? Why, I
recollect old Tim Linkinwater quite a little boy, don't you ?
Ha, ha, ha ! Poor Tim, poor Tim ! "

The fine old fellows laughed pleasantly together : each
with a tear of regard for old Tim Linkinwater, standing in his

" But hear this first — hear this first, brother Ned," said the
old man, hastily, placing two chairs, one on each side of
Nicholas. " I'll tell it you myself, brother Ned, because the
young gentleman is modest, and is a scholar, Ned, and I
shouldn't feel it right that he should tell us his story over and
over again as if he was a beggar, or as if we doubted him.
No, no, no."

" No, no, no," returned the other, nodding his head
gravely. " Very right, my dear brother, very right."

" He will tell me I'm wrong, if I make a "mistake," said
Nicholas's friend, " But whether I do or not, you'll be very
much affected, brother Ned, remembering the time when we
were two friendless lads, and earned our first shilling in this
great city."

The twins pressed each other's hands in silence ; and in his
own homely manner, brother Charles related the particulars

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he had heard from Nicholas. The conversation which ensued,
was a long one, and when it was over, a secret conference of
almost equal duration took place between brother Ned and
Tim Linkinwater in another room. It is no disparagement to
Nicholas to say, that before he had been closeted with the two
brothers ten minutes, he could only wave his hand at every
fresh expression of kindness and sympathy, and sob like a
little child.

At length brother Ned and Tim Linkinwater came back
together, when Tim instantly walked up to Nicholas and whis-
pered in his ear in a very brief sentence, (for Tim was ordinarily
a man of few words), that he had taken down the address
in the Strand, and would call upon him that evening, at eight.
Having done which, Tim wiped his spectacles and put them
on, preparatory to hearing what more the brothers Cheeryble
had got to say.

" Tim," said brother Charles, " You understand that we
have an intention of taking this young gentleman into the
counting-house ? "

Brother Ned remarked that Tim was aware of that inten-
tion, and quite approved of it ; Tim having nodded, and said
he did, drew himself up and looked particularly fat, and very
important. After which there was a profound silence.

" I'm not coming an hour later in the morning you know,"
said Tim, breaking out all at once, and looking very resolute.
" I'm not going to sleep in the fresh air ; no, nor I'm not
going into the country either. A pretty thing at this time of
day, certainly. Pho ! "

" Damn your obstinacy, Tim Linkinwater," said brother
Charles, looking at him without the faintest spark of anger,
and with a countenance radiant with attachment to the old
clerk ! " Damn your obstinacy, Tim Linkinwater, what do
you mean, sir ? "

" It's forty-four year," said Tim, making a calculation in
the air with his pen, and drawing an ; imaginary line before
he cast it up, " forty-four year, next May, since I first kept
the books of Cheeryble, Brothers. I've opened the safe every
morning all that time (Sundays excepted) as the clock struck
nine, and gone over the house every night at half-past ten
(except on Foreign Post nights, and then twenty minutes be-
fore twelve) to see the doors fastened, and the fires out. I've
never slept out of the back attic one single night. There's
the same mignonette box in the middle of the window, and

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the same four flower-pots, two on each side, that J brought
with me when I first came. There an't — I've said it again
and again, and Til maintain it — there ain't such a square as
this, in the world. I know there an't," said Tim, with sudden
energy, and looking sternly about him. " Not one. For
business or pleasure, in summer time or winter — I don't care
which — there's nothing like it. There's not such a spring in
England as the pump under the archway. There's not such
a view in England as the view out of my window. I've seen
it every morning before I shaved, and I ought to know
something about it. I've slept in that room," added Tim,
sinking his voice a little, " for four-and-forty year ; and if it
wasn't inconvenient, and didn't interfere with business, 1
should request leave to die there."

" Damn you, Tim Linkinwater, how dare you talk about
dying ? " roared the twins by one impulse, and blowing their
old noses violently.

" That's what I've got to say, Mr. Edwin and Mr. Charles,"
said Tim, squaring his shoulders again. " This isn't the first
time you've talked about superannuating me ; but, if you
please, we'll make it the last, and drop the subject for ever-

With those words, Tim Linkinwater stalked out, and shut
himself up in his glass-case, with the air of a man who had
had his say, and was thoroughly resolved not to be put

The brothers interchanged looks, and coughed some half-
dozen times without speaking.

" He must be done something with, brother Ned," said the
other, warmly ; " we must disregard his old scruples ; they
can't be tolerated, or borne. He must be made a partner,
brother Ned ; and if he won't submit to it peaceably, we must
have recourse to violence."

" Quite right," replied brother Ned, nodding his head as a
man thoroughly determined ; " quite right, my dear brother.
If he won't listen-to reason, we must do it against his will, and
show him that we are determined to exert our authority. We
must quarrel with him, brother Charles."

" We must. We certainly must have a quarrel with Tim
Linkinwater," said the other. " But in the meantime my dear
brother, we are keeping our young friend, and the poor lady
and her daughter will be anxious for his return. So let us say
good-by for the present, and — there, there — take care of that

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box, my dear sir — and — no, no, no, not a word now — be care-
ful of the crossings and "

And with any disjointed and unconnected words which
would prevent Nicholas from pouring forth his thanks, the
brothers hurried him out : shaking hands with him all the
way, and affecting very unsuccessfully — they were poor hands
at deception 1 — to be wholly unconscious of the feelings that
mastered him.

Nicholas's heart was too full to allow of his turning into
the street until he had recovered some composure. When he
at last glided out of the dark doorway-corner in which he had
been compelled to halt, he caught a glimpse of the twins
stealthily peeping in at (me corner of the glass-case, evidently
undecided whether they should follow up their late attack
without delay, or for the present postpone laying further siege
to the inflexible Tim Linkinwater.

To recount all the delight and wonder which the circum-
stances just detailed awakened at Miss La Creevy's, and all
the things that were done, said, thought, expected, hoped, and
prophesied in consequence, is beside the present course and
purpose of these adventures. It is sufficient to state, in brief,
that Mr. Timothy Linkinwater arrived, punctual to his appoint-
ment ; that, oddity as he was, and jealous as he was bound to
be, of the proper exercise of his employers' most comprehen-
sive liberality, he reported strongly and warmly in favor of
Nicholas ; and, that next day, he was appointed to the vacant
stool in the counting-house of Cheeryble, Brothers, with a
present salary of one hundred and twenty pounds a year.

" And I think, my dear brother," said Nicholas's first
friend, " that if we were to let them that little cottage at Bow
which is empty, at something under the usual rent, now?
Eh, brother Ned?"

" For nothing at all," said brother Ned. " We are rich,
and should be ashamed to touch the rent under such cir-
cumstances as these. Where is Tim Linkinwater? — for
nothing at all, my dear brother, for nothing at all."

" Perhaps it would be better to say something, brother
Ned," suggested the other, mildly; "it would help to preserve
habits of frugality, you know, and remove any painful sense of
overwhelming obligations. We might say fifteen pound, or
twenty pound, and if it was punctually paid, make it up to
them in some other way. And I might secretly advance
a small loan, towards a little furniture, and you might secretly

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advance another small loan, brother Ned ; and if we find them
doing well — as we shall ; there's no fear, no fear — we can
change the loans into gifts. Carefully, brother Ned, and by
degrees, and without pressing upon them too much ; what do
you say now, brother ? "

Brother Ned gave his hand upon it, and not only said it
should be done, but had it done too ; and in one short week,
Nicholas took possession of the stool, and Mrs. Nickleby and
Kate took possession of the house, and all was hope, bustle,
and light-heartedness.

There surely never was such a week of discoveries and sur-
prises as the first week of that cottage. Every night when
Nicholas came home, something new had been found out
One day it was a grape vine, and another it was a boiler, and
another day it was the key of the front parlor closet at the
bottom of the waterbutt, and so on through a hundred items.
Then, this room was embellished with a muslin curtain, and
that room was rendered quite elegant by a window-blind, and
such improvements were made, as no one would have supposed
possible. Then there was Miss La Creevy, who had come
out in the omnibus to stop a day or two and help, and who
was perpetually losing a very small brown paper parcel of tin
tacks and a very large hammer, and running about with her
sleeves tucked up at the wrists, and falling off pairs of steps
and hurting herself very much — and Mrs. Nickleby, who
talked incessantly, and did something now and then, but not
often — and Kate, who busied herself noiselessly everywhere,
and was pleased with everything — and Smike, who made the
garden a perfect wonder to look upon — and Nicholas, who
helped and encouraged them every one — all the peace and
cheerfulness of home restored, with such new zest imparted
to every frugal pleasure, and such delight to every hour of
meeting, as misfortune and separation alone could give !

In short, the poor Nicklebys were social and happy, while
the rich Nickleby was alone and miserable.

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It might have been seven o'clock in the evening, and it
was growing dark in the narrow streets near Golden Square,
when Mr. Kenwings sent out for a pair of the cheapest white kid
gloves — those at fourteenpence — and selecting the strongest,
which happened to be the right-hand one, walked down stairs
with an air of pomp and much excitement, and proceeded to
muffle the nob of the street-door knocker therein. Having
executed this task with great nicety, Mr. Kenwigs pulled the
door to, after him, and just stepped across the road to try the
effect from the opposite side of the street. Satisfied that
nothing could possibly look better in its way, Mr. Kenwigs
then stepped back again, and calling through the keyhole to
Morleena to open the door, finished* into the house, and was
seen no longer.

Now, considered as an abstract circumstance, there was no
more obvious cause or reason why Mr. Kenwigs should take
the trouble of muffling this particular knocker, than there
would have been for his muffling the knocker of any nobleman
or gentleman resident ten miles off ; because, for the greater
convenience of the numerous lodgers, the street-door always
stood wide open, and the knocker was never used at all. The
first floor, the second floor, and the third floor, had each a
bell of its own. As to the attics, no one ever called on them ;
if anybody wanted the parlors, they were close at hand, and
all he had to do was to walk straight into them, while the
kitchen had a separate entrance down the area-steps. As
a question of mere necessity and usefulness, therefore, this
muffling of the knocker was thoroughly incomprehensible.

But knockers may be muffled for other purposes than those
of mere utilitarianism, as, in the present instance, was clearly
shown. There are certain polite forms and ceremonies whicn
must be observed in civilized life, or mankind relapse into

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their original barbarism. No genteel lady was ever yet con-
fined — indeed, no genteel confinement can possibly take place
— without the accompanying symbol of a muffled knocker.
Mrs. Kenwigs was a lady of some pretensions to gentility ;
Mrs. Kenwigs was confined. And, therefore, Mr. -Kenwigs
tied up the silent knocker on the premises in a white kid

" I'm not quite certain neither," said Mr. Kenwigs, arrang-
ing his shirt-collar, and walking slowly up stairs, " whether,
as it's a boy, I won't have it in the papers."

Pondering upon the advisability of this step, and the
sensation it was likely to create in the neighborhood, Mr.
Kenwigs betook himself to the sitting-room, where various
extremely diminutive articles of clothing were airing on a
horse before the fire, and Mr. Lumbey, the doctor, was dand-
ling the baby — that is, the old baby — not the new one.

" It's a fine boy, Mr. Kenwigs," said Mr. Lumbey, the

" You consider him a fine boy, do you, sir ? " returned Mr.

" It's the finest boy I ever saw in all my life," said the
doctor. " I never saw such a baby."

It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a com-
plete answer to those who contffcd for the gradual degenera-
tion of the human species, that every baby born into the world
is a finer one than the last.

"I ne-ver saw such a baby," said Mr. Lumbey, the doctor.

" Morleena was a fine baby," remarked Mr. Kenwigs ; as
if this were rather an attack, by implication, upon the family.

" They were all fine babies," said Mr. Lumbey. And Mr.
Lumbey went on nursing the baby with a thoughtful look.
Whether he was considering under what head he could best
charge the nursing in the bill, was best known to himself.

During this short conversation, Miss Morleena, as the
eldest of the family, and natural representative of her mother
during her indisposition, had been hustling and slapping the
three younger Miss Kenwigses without intermission ; which
considerate and affectionate conduct brought tears into the
eyes of Mr. Kenwigs, and caused him to declare that, in un-
derstanding and behavior, that child was a woman.

" She will be a treasure to the man she marries, sir," said
Mr. Kenwigs, half aside ; " I think she'll marry above her
station, Mr. Lumbey."

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" I shouldn't wonder at all," replied the doctor.

" You never see her dance, sir, did you ? " asked Mr,

The doctor shook his head.

" Ay ! " said Mr. Kenwigs, as though he pitied him from
his heart, " then you don't know what she's capable of."

All this time, there had been a great whisking in and out
of the other room ; the door had been opened and shut very
softly about twenty times a minute (for it was necessary to
keep Mrs. Kenwigs quiet) ; and the baby had been exhibited
to a score or two of deputations from a select body of female
friends, who had assembled in the passage, and about the
street-door, to discuss the event in all its bearings. Indeed,
the excitement extended itself over the whole street, and groups
of ladies might be seen standing at the doors (some in the
interesting condition in which Mrs. Kenwigs had last appeared
in public), relating their experiences of similar occurrences.
Some few acquired great credit from having prophesied, the
day before yesterday, exactly when it would come to pass ;
others, again, related, how that they guessed what it was,
directly they saw Mr. Kenwigs turn pale and run up the
street as hard as ever he could go. Some said one thing, and
some another ; but all talked together, and all agreed upon
two points : firstly, that it was very meritorious and highly
praiseworthy in Mrs. Kenwigs, to do as she had done : and
secondly, that there never was such a skilful and scientific
doctor as that Doctor Lumbey.

In the midst of this general hubbub, Doctor Lumbey sat
in the first floor front, as before related, nursing the deposed
baby, and talking to Mr. Kenwigs. He was a stout bluff-
looking gentleman, with no shirt-collar, to speak of, and a
beard that had been growing since yesterday morning ; for
Doctor Lumbey was popular, and the neighborhood was
prolific ; and there had*been no less than three other knockers
muffled, one after the other, within the last forty-eight hours.

" Well, Mr. Kenwigs," said Dr. Lumbey, " this makes six.
You'll have a fine family in time, sir."

"I think six is almost enough, sir," returned Mr. Kenwigs.

" Pooh ! pooh ! " said the doctor. " Nonsense 1 not half

With this, the doctor laughed ; but he didn't laugh half as
much as a married friend of Mrs. Kenwigs's, who had just
come in from the sick chamber to report progress, and take a

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small sip of brandy-and-water ; and who seemed to consider
it one of the best jokes ever launched upon society.

"They're not altogether dependent upon good fortune,
neither," said Mr. Kenwigs, taking his second daughter on
his knee ; they have expectations."

" Oh ! indeed ! " said Mr. Lumbey, the doctor.

"And very good ones too, I believe, haven't they ? " asked
the married lady.

" Why, ma'am," said Mr. Kenwigs, " it's not exactly for
me to say what they may be, or what they may not be. It's
not for me to boast of any family with which I have the honor
to be connected; at the same time, Mrs. Kenwigs's is— I
should say," said Mr. Kenwigs abruptly, and raising his voice
as he spoke, " that my children might come into a matter of a
hundred pound a-piece, perhaps. Perhaps more, but certainly

" And a very pretty little fortune," said the married lady.

" There are some relations of Mrs. Kenwigs's," said Mr.
Kenwigs, taking a pinch of snuff from the doctor's box, and
then sneezing very hard, for he wasn't used to it, " that might
leave their hundred pound apiece to ten people, and yet not
go a begging when they had done it."

" Ah ! I know who you mean, " observed the married lady,
nodding her head.

" I made mention of no names, and I wish to make mention

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 44 of 79)