Charles Dickens.

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

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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 honor to any company ; that's all."

" I've met him," said the married lady, with a glance
towards Doctor Lumbey.

" 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 grati-
fying to my feelings as a man, to kndw that man. It will be
naterally very gratifying to my feelings as a husband, to make
that man acquainted with this ewent."

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.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 4 6i

" There I " 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. Ken wigs, after some
reflection. " But such a woman as Mrs. Ken wigs 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. "/never see any-
body so light to be alive, never. Such manners too ; so play-
ful, and yet so sewerely proper 1 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 lady.

" So she does," assented Mr. Lumbey. " A great deal
more."

Mr. Kenwigs was about to make some further observations,
most probably in confirmation of his 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 drink-
ing 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 ; under their influence, he despatched Morleena to
show the gentleman up straightway.

" Why I do declare," said Mr. Kenwigs, standing opposite
the door so as to get the earliest glimpse of the visitor, as he
came up stairs, " it's Mr. Johnson ! How do you find your-
self, sir?"

Nicholas shook hands, kissed his old pupils all round,
entrusted a large parcel of toys to the guardianship of



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462 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

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 litde con-
versation between you and me, I hope ? "

" You are very good," said Nicholas.

At this juncture, proclamation was made by another mar-
ried lady, that the baby had begun to eat like anything;
whereupon the two married ladies, already mentioned, rushed
tumultously into the bed-room 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 coun-
try ! " 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 country 1 Well ! "

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 and unsuspecting.

" 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 no-
body disposed to relieve him of his precious burden : " All
friends here."



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB K. 465

Nicholas hemmed once or twice, and seemed to have some
difficulty in proceeding.

" At Portsmouth, Henrietta Petowker is," observed Mr.
Kenwigs.

" Yes," said Nicholas, " Mr. Lillyvick is there."

Mr. Kenwigs turned pale, but recovered, and said, thai
was an odd coincidence also.

" 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 him too !

" He desired me to give you his kindest love," said Nicholas.

" Very much obliged to him, I'm sure. Your great-uncle,
Lillyvick, my dears," interposed Mr. Kenwigs, condescend-
ingly explaining it to the children.

" His kindest love," resumed Nicholas ; " and to say that
he had no time to write, but that he was married to Miss Pe-
towker."

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 round.
" 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 your-
self, you wretch. Have you no regard for your baby ? "
" No ! " returned Mr. Kenwigs.

" More shame for you," returned the nurse. " Ugh ! you
unnatural monster."

" 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 Fond-
ling!"



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464 NICHOLAS NICKLEB V.

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 ma-
trons, declaring that Mr. Kenwigs had spoken blasphemy
against his family and must be raving, mad.

Appearances were certainly not in Mr. Kenwigs's favor,
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 un-
wonted 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 ear-
nest — interposing to explain the immediate cause of his con-
dition, the indignation of the matrons was changed to pity,
and they implored him, with much feeling, to go quietly to
bed.

"The attentions," said3ir. Kenwigs, looking around with
a plaintive air, " the attentions that I've shown to that man 1
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 ma-
trons generally ; "but it'll all come 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 all ; 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
making the good gentleman to bed ; observing that he would
be better to-morrow, 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.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 465

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 cham-
ber was ready for her afflicted parent ; and Mr. Kenwigs, hav-
ing 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 up
stairs to a bed-room which had been secured for the occasion.

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 Ken-
wigses, 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 was left to their repose.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

NICHOLAS FINDS FURTHER FAVOR 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 realize
the very sanguine expectations which a stranger would be dis-
posed to form on hearing the fervent encomiums bestowed
upon it by Tim Linkinwater, was, nevertheless, a sufficiently





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4 66 NICHOLAS NICKLEB K

desirable nook in the heart of a busy town like London, and
one which occupied a high place in the affectionate remem-
brances of several grave persons domiciled in the neighbor-
hood, 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
enthusiastic Tim.

And let not those Londoners whose eyes have been accus-
tomed 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 Linkin water, 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 has no grass but the weeds which
spring up round its base. It is a quiet, little-frequented, re-
tired spot, favorable 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 nouses 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 sum-
mer'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 mar-
bles ? Does he see a ghost, or hear an organ ? No ; sight
more unwonted still — there is a butterfly in the square^-a real,



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB K 467

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 par-
take 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
House Guards to be a pleasaht fiction, invented by jealous
Westenders,) 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 ac-
customed 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 app elite and good looks until he gradually became
what — " what you see him now, sir ? " — Tim would say, glanc-
ing 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, would turn his sightless



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4 68 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

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 warehouse-
men and porters were such sturdy, jolly fellows that it was
a treat to see them. Among the shipping-announcements and
steam-packet lists which decorated the counting-house wall,
were designs for alms-houses, 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. ElsewrTere, their open display in such
a condition would have raised a smile ; but, there, it seemed
as though even violent and offensive weapons partook of the
reigning influence, and became emblems of mercy and for-
bearance.

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 mys-
teries 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 recol-
lections of two or three very long sums entered into a cypher-
ing-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 labors.

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 mourn-
fully, 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 ! w

Tim closed the book again.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. 469

" 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 scratching out ! —

Young men are adventurous. It is extraordinary what
they will rush upon, sometimes. Without even taking the pre-
caution 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 eager eyes.

The brothers looked on with smiling faces, but Tim Linkin-
water 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 con-
tain his satisfaction any longer, descended from his stool, and
caught him rapturously by the hand.

" 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,



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47°



NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.



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 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, extend-
ing his fore-finger 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 his work.

" Tim Linkinwater, sir," said brother Charles ; " give me
your hand, sir. This is your birth-day. 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 1 "

" My dear brother," said the other, seizing Tim's dis-
engaged fist, " Tim Linkinwater looks ten years younger than
he did on his last birth-day."

" 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 birth-day than he was the year before."



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 45 of 79)