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The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

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miracle can prevent this sacrifice ? "

" Think," urged Newman. " Is there no way ? "

" There is none," said Nicholas, in utter dejection. " Not
one. The father urges, the daughter consents. These de-
mons have her in their toils ; legal right, might, power, money,
and every influence are on their side. How can I hope to
save her ? "

" Hope to the last ! " said Newman, clapping him on the
back. " Always hope ; that's a dear boy. Never leave off
hoping ; it don't answer. Do you mind me, Nick ? It don't
answer. Don't leave a stone unturned. It's always some-
thing, to know you've done the most you could. But, don't
leave off hoping, or it's of no use doing anything. Hope,
hope, to the last ! "

Nicholas needed encouragement. The suddenness with
which intelligence of the two usurers' plans had come upon
him, the little time which remained for exertion, the proba-
bility, almost amounting to certainty itself, that a few hours
would place Madeline Bray for ever beyond his reach, con-
sign her to unspeakable misery, and perhaps to an untimely
death : all this quite stunned and overwhelmed him. Every
hope connected with her that he had suffered himself to form,
or had entertained unconsciously, seemed to fall at his feet,
withered and dead. Every charm with which his memory or
imagination had surrounded her, presented itself before him,
only to heighten his anguish and add new bitterness to his
despair. Every feeling of sympathy for her forlorn condition,
and of admiration of her heroism and fortitude, aggravated
the indignation which shook him in every limb, and swelled
his heart almost to bursting.

But, if Nicholas's own heart embarrassed him, Newman's
came to his relief. There was -so much earnestness in his re-
monstrance, and such sincerity and fervor in his manner, odd
and ludicrous as it always was, that it imparted to Nicholas
new firmness, and enabled him to say, after he had walked on
for some little way in silence :



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NICHOLAS NICKLEBY 675

You read me a good lesson, Newman, and I will profit
by it. One step, at least, I may take — am bound to take in-
deed — and to that I will apply myself to-morrow."

" What is that ? " asked Noggs wistfully. " Not to threaten
Ralph ? Not to see the father ?

" To see the daughter, Newman," replied Nicholas. " To
do what, after all, is the utmost that the brothers could do,
if they were here, as Heaven send they were ! To reason
with her upon this hideous union, to point out to her all the
horrors to which she is hastening ; rashly, it may be, and
without due reflection. To entreat her, at least, to pause.
She can have had no counsellor for her good. Perhaps even
I may move her so far yet, though it is the eleventh hour,
and she upon the very brink of ruin."

" Bravely spoken ! " said Newman. " Well done, well
done ! Yes. Very good."

" And I do declare," cried Nicholas, with honest enthusi-
asm, " that in this effort I am influenced by no selfish or per-
sonal considerations, but by pity for her, and detestation and
abhorrence of this scheme ; and that I would do the same,
were there twenty rivals in the field, and I the last and least
favored of them all."

" You would, I believe," said Newman. " But where are
you hurrying now ? "

" Homewards," answered Nicholas. " Do you come with
me, or shall I say good-night \ "

" I'll come a little way, if you will but walk, not run,"
said Noggs.

" I cannot walk to-night, Newman," returned Nicholas,
hurriedly. " I must move rapidly, or I could not draw my
breath. Til tell you what I've said and done, to-morrow 1 "

Without waiting for a reply, he darted off at a rapid pace,
and, plunging into the crowds which thronged the street, was
quickly lost to view.

" He's a violent youth at times," said Newman, looking
after him ; " and yet I like him for it. There's cause enough
now, or the deuce is in it. Hope ! I said hope, I think !
Ralph Nickleby and Gride with their heads together I And
hope for the opposite party ! Ho ! ho ! "

It was with a very melancholy laugh that Newman Noggs
concluded this soliloquy ; and it was with a very melancholy
shake of the head, and a very rueful countenance, that he
turned about, and went plodding on his way.



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676 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y.

This, under ordinary circumstances, would have been to
some small tavern or dram-shop ; that being his way, in more
senses than one. But Newman was too much interested, and
too anxious, to betake himself even to this resource, and so,
with many desponding and dismal reflections, went straight
home.

It had come to pass, that afternoon, that Miss Morleena
Ken wigs had received an invitation to repair next day, per
steamer from Westminster Bridge, unto the Eel-pie Island at
Twickenham : there to make merry upon a cold collation,
bottled-beer, shrub, and shrimps, and to dance in the open
air to the music of a locomotive band, conveyed thither for
the purpose : the steamer being specially engaged by a dan-
cing-master of extensive connection for the accommodation
of his numerous pupils, and the pupils displaying their appre-
ciation of the dancing-master's services, by purchasing them-
selves, and inducing their friends to do the like, divers light-
blue tickets, entitling them to join the expedition. Of these
light-blue tickets, one had been presented by an ambitious
neighbor to Miss Morleena Kenwigs, with an invitation to
join her daughters ; and Mrs. Kenwigs, rightly deeming that
the honor of the family was involved in Miss Morleena's
making the most splendid appearance possible on so short a
notice, and testifying to the dancing-master that there were
other dancing-masters besides him, and to all fathers and
mothers present that other people's children could learn to be
genteel besides theirs, had fainted away, twice, under the
magnitude of her preparations, but, upheld by a determina-
tion to sustain the family name or perish in the attempt, was
still hard at work when Newman Noggs came home.

Now, between the Italian-ironing of frills, the flouncing of
trousers, the trimming of frocks, the faintings and the com-
ings-to again, incidental to the occasion, Mrs. Kenwigs had
been so entirely occupied, that she had not observed, until
within half an hour before, that the flaxen tails of Miss Mor-
leena's hair were, in a manner, run to seed ; and that, unless
she were put under the hands of a skilful hair-dresser, she
never could achieve that signal triumph over the daughters of
all other people, anything less than which would be tanta-
mount to defeat. This discovery drove Mrs. Kenwigs to de-
spair ; for the hair-dresser lived three streets and eight danger-
ous crossings off ; Morleena could not be trusted to go there
alone, even if such a proceeding were strictly proper : of which



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 677

Mrs. Kenwigs had her doubts; Mr. Kenwigs, had not re-
turned from business ; and there was nobody to take her. So
Mrs. Kenwigs first slapped Miss Kenwigs for being the cause
of her vexation, and then shed tears.

" You ungrateful child ! " said Mrs. Kenwigs. " After I
have gone through what I have this night, for your good."

"I can't help it, ma," replied Morleena, also in tears;
" my hair will grow."

" Don't talk to me, you naughty thing ! " said Mrs. Ken-
wigs, " don't. Even if I was to trust you by yourself and you
were to escape being run over, I know you'd run in to Laura
Chopkins," who was the daughter of the ambitious neighbor,
" and tell her what you're going to wear to-morrow, I know
you would. You've no proper pride in yourself, and are not
to be trusted out of sight, for an instant."

Deploring the evil-mindedness of her eldest daughter, in
these terms, Mrs. Kenwigs distilled fresh drops of vexation
from her eyes, and declared that she did believe there never
was anybody so tried as she was. Thereupon, Morleena Ken-
wigs wept afresh, and they bemoaned themselves together.

Matters were at this point, as Newman Noggs was heard
to limp past the door on his way up stairs ; when Mrs. Ken-
wigs, gaining new hope from the sound of his footsteps, has-
tily removed from her countenance as many traces of her late
emotion as were effaceable on so short a notice, and present-
ing herself before him, and representing their dilemma, en-
treated that he would escort Morleena to the hair-dresser's
shop.

" I wouldn't ask you, Mr. Noggs," said Mrs. Kenwigs, " if
I didn't know what a good, kind-hearted creature you are ;
no, not for worlds. I am a weak constitution, Mr. Noggs, but
my spirit would no more let me ask a favor where I thought
there was a chance of its being refused, than it would let me
submit to see my children trampled down and trod upon, by
envy and lowness ! "

Newman was too good-natured not to have consented,
even without this avowal of confidence on the part of Mrs.
Kenwigs. Accordingly, a very few minutes had elapsed, when
he and Miss Morleena were on their way to the hair-dresser's.

" It was not exactly a hair-dresser's ; that is to say, people
of a coarse and vulgar turn of mind might have called it a
barber's ; for they not only cut and curled ladies elegantly,
and children carefully, but shaved gentlemen easily. Still, it



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678 NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y.

was a highly genteel establishment — quite first-rate in fact —
and there were displayed in the window, besides other elegan-
cies, waxen busts of a light lady and a dark gentleman which
were the admiration of the whole neighborhood. Indeed,
some ladies had gone so far as to assert, that the dark gentle-
man was actually a portrait of the spirited young proprietor ;
and the great similarity between their head-dresses — both wore
very glossy hair, with a narrow walk straight down the middle,
ana a profusion of flat circular curls on both sides— encour-
aged the idea. The better informed among the sex, how-
ever, made light of this assertion, for however willing they
were (and they were very willing) to do full justice to the
handsome face and figure of the * proprietor, they held the
countenance of the dark gentleman in the window to be an
exquisite and abstract idea of masculine beauty, realized some-
times, perhaps, among angels and military men, but very rarely
embodied to gladden the eyes of mortals.

It was to this establishment that Newman Noggs led Miss
Kenwigs in safety. The proprietor, knowing that Miss Ken-
wigs had three sisters, each with two flaxen tails, and all good
for sixpence a-piece, once a month at least, promptly deserted
an old gentleman whom he had just lathered for shaving, and
handing him over to the journeyman (who was not very pop-
ular among the ladies, by reason of his obesity and middle
age) waited on the young lady himself.

Just as this change had been effected, there presented
himself for shaving, a big, burly, good-humored coal-heaver
with a pipe in his mouth, who, drawing his hand across his
chin, requested to know when a shaver would be disengaged.

The journeyman to whom this question was put, looked
doubtfully at the young proprietor, and the young proprietor
looked scornfully at the coal-heaver : observing, at the same
time :

" You won't get shaved here, my man."

1 Why not ? " said the coal-heaver.

" We don't shave gentlemen in your line," remarked the
young proprietor.

" Why, I see you a shaving of a baker, when I was a-look-
ing through the winder, last week," said the coal-heaver.

" It's necessary to draw the line somewheres, my fine feller,"
replied the principal. " We draw the line there. We can't
go beyond bakers. If we was to get any lower than bakers,
our customers would desert us, and we might shut up shop.



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 679

You must try some other establishment, sir. We couldn't do
it here."

The applicant stared ; grinned at Newman Noggs, who
appeared highly entertained ; looked slightly round the shop,
as if in depreciation of the pomatum pots and other articles of
stock ; took his pipe out of his mouth and gave a very loud
whistle ; and then put it in again, and walked out.

The old gentleman who had just been lathered, and who
was sitting in a melancholy manner with his face turned to-
wards the wall, appeared quite unconscious of this incident,
and to be insensible to everything around him in the depth of
a reverie — a very mournful one, to judge from the sighs he
occasionally vented — in which he was absorbed. Affected by
this example, the proprietor began to clip Miss Kenwigs, the
journeyman to scrape the old gentleman, and Newman Noggs
to read last Sunday's paper, all three in silence : when Miss
Kenwigs uttered a shrill little scream, and Newman, raising
his eyes, saw that it had been elicited by the circumstance of
the old gentleman turning his head, and disclosing the fea-
tures of Mr. Lillyvick the collector.

The features of Mr. Lillyvick they were, but strangely al-
tered. If ever an old gentleman had made a point of appear-
ing in public, shaved close and clean, that old gentleman was
Mr. Lillyvick. If ever a collector had borne himself like a
collector, and assumed before all men a solemn and porten-
tous dignity as if he had the world on his books and it was
all two quarters in arrear, that collector was Mr. Lillyvick.
And now, there he sat, with the remains of a beard at least a
week old, encumbering his chin ; a soiled and crumpled shirt-
frill crouching, as it were, upon his breast, instead of standing
boldly out ; a demeanor so abashed and drooping, so despon-
dent, and expressive of humiliation, grief, and shame ; that if
the souls of forty unsubstantial housekeepers, all of whom had
their water cut off for non-payment of the rate, could have
been concentrated in one body, that one body could hardly
have expressed such mortification and defeat as were now ex-
pressed in the person of Mr. Lillyvick the collector.

Newman Noggs pronounced his name, and Mr. Lillyvick
groaned ; then coughed to hide it. But the groan was a full-
sized groan, and the cough was but a wheeze.

44 Is anything the matter ? " said Newman Noggs.

44 Matter, sir ! " cried Mr. Lillyvick. " The plug of life is
dry, sir, and but the mud is left." «,



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58o NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

This speech — the style of which Newman attributed to
Mr. Lillyvick's recent association with theatrical characters —
not being quite explanatory, Newman looked as if he were
about to ask another question, when Mr. Lillyvick prevented
him by shaking his hand mournfully, and then waving his own.

" Let me be shaved ! " said Mr. Lillyvick. " It shall be
done before Mbrleena ; it is Morleena, isn't it ? "

" Yes," said Newman.

" Kenwigses have got a boy, haven't they ? " inquired the
collector.

Again Newman said " Yes."

" Is it a nice boy ? " demanded the collector.

" It ain't a very nasty one," returned Newman, rather em-
barrassed by the question.

" Susan Kenwigs used to say," observed the collector,
" that if ever she had another boy, she hoped it might be like
me. Is this one like me, Mr. Noggs ? "

This was a puzzling inquiry ; but Newman evaded it, by
replying to Mr. Lillyvick, that he thought the baby might pos-
sibly come like him in time.

" I should be glad to have somebody like me, somehow,"
said Mr. Lillyvick, " before I die."

" You don't mean to do that, yet awhile ? " said Newman,

Unto which Mr. Lillyvick replied in a solemn voice, " Let
me be shaved ! " and again consigning himself to the hands
of the journeyman, said no more.

This was remarkable behavior. So remarkable did it
seem to Miss Morleena, that that young lady, at the imminent
hazard of having her ear sliced off, had not been able to for-
bear looking round, some score of times, during the foregoing
colloquy. Of her, however, Mr. Lillyvick took no notice ;
rather striving (so, at least, it seemed to Newman Noggs) to
evade her observation, and to shrink into himself whenever
he attracted her regards. Newman wondered very much
what could have occasioned this altered behavior on the part
of the collector ; but, philosophically reflecting that he would
most likely know, sooner or later, and that he could perfecdy
afford to wait, he was very little disturbed by the singularity
of the old gentleman's deportment.

The cutting and curling being at last concluded, the old
gentleman, who had been some time waiting, rose to go, and
walking out with Newman and his charge, took Newman's
arm, and proceeded for some time without making any obser-



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NICHOLAS NICKLEB Y. 68 1

vation. Newman, who in power of taciturnity was excelled
by few people, made no attempt to break silence ; and so they
went on, until they had very nearly reached Miss Morleena's
home, when Mr. Lillyvick said :

" Were the Kenwigses very much overpowered, Mr. Noggs,
by that news ? "

" What news ? " returned Newman.

" That about — my — being "

" Married ? " suggested Newman.

" Ah 1 " replied Mr. Lillyvick, with another groan : this
time not even disguised by a wheeze.

" It made ma cry when she knew it," interposed Miss Mor-
leena, " but we kept it from her for a long time ; and pa was
very low in his spirits, but he is better now ; and I was very
ill, but I am better too."

" Would you give your great-uncle Lillyvick a kiss if he
was to ask you, Morleena ? " said the collector, with some
hesitation.

" Yes ; uncle Lillyvick, I would," returned.Miss Morleena,
with the energy of both her parents combined ; " but not
aunt Lillvvick. She's not an aunt of mine, and I'll never call
her one.

Immediately upon the utterance of these words, Mr. Lilly-
vick caught Miss Morleena up in his arms, and kissed her ;
and, being by this time at the door of the house where Mr.
Kenwigs lodged (which, as has been before mentioned, usually
stood wide open), he walked straight up into Mr. Kenwigs's
sitting-room, and put Miss Morleena down in the midst. Mr.
and Mrs. Kenwigs were at supper. At sight of their per-
jured relative, Mrs. Kenwigs turned faint and pale, and Mr.
Kenwigs rose majestically.

" Kenwigs," said the collector, "shake hands."

" Sir," said Mr. Kenwigs, " the time has been, when I was
proud to shake hands with such a man as that man as now
surways me. The time has been, sir," said Mr. Kenwigs,
" when a wisit from that man has excited in me and my fam-
ily's boozums sensations both nateral and awakening. But,
now, I look upon that man with emotions totally surpassing
everythink, and I ask myself' where is his ^onor, where is his
straight-for'ardness, and where is his human natur ? "

" Susan Kenwigs," said Mr. Lillyvick, turning humbly to
his niece, " don't you say anything to me ? "

" She is not equal to it, sir," said Mr. Kenwigs, striking



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682 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.

the table emphatically. " What with the nursing 01 a healthy
babby, and the reflections upon your cruel conduct, four pints
of malt liquor- a day is hardly able to sustain her."

" I am glad," said the poor collector meekly, " that the
baby is a healthy one. I am very glad of that."

This was touching the Kenwigses on their tenderest point
Mrs. Kenwigs instantly burst into tears, and Mr. Kenwigs
evinced great emotion.

" My pleasantest feeling, ajl the time that child was ex-
pected," said Mr. Kenwigs, mournfully, " was a thinking, * if
it's a boy, as I hope it may be ; for I have heard its uncle
Lillyvick say again and again he would prefer our having a
boy next, if it's a boy, what will his uncle Lillyvick say?
What will he like him to be called ? Will he be Peter, or
Alexander, or Pompey, or Diorgeenes, or what will he be ? '
And now when I look at him ; a precious unconscious help-
less infant, with no use in his little arms but to tear his little
cap, and no use in his little legs but to kick his little self —
when I see him.a-lying on his mother's lap, cooing and coo-
ing, and, in his innocent state, almost a choking hisself with
his little fist — when I see him such a infant as he is, and think
that that uncle Lillyvick, as was once a going to be so fond of
him, has withdrawed himself away, such a feeling of wenge-
ance comes over me as no language can depicter, and I
feel as if even that holy babe was a telling me to hate him."

This affecting picture moved Mrs. Kenwigs deeply. After
several imperfect words, which vainly attempted to struggle to
the surface, but were drowned and washed away by the strong
tide of her tears, she spake.

" Uncle," said Mrs. Kenwigs, " to think that you should
have turned your back upon me and my dear children, and
. upon Kenwigs which is the author of their being — you who
was once so kind and affectionate, and who, if anybody had
told us such a thing of, we should have withered with scorn
like lightning — you that little Lillyvick, our first and earliest
boy, was named after at the very altar ! Oh gracious ! "

" Was it money that we cared for ? " said Mr. Kenwigs,
" Was it property that we ever thought of ? "'

" No," cried Mrs. Kenwigs, a I scorn it."

" So do I," said Mr. Kenwigs, " and I always did."

" My feelings have been lancerated," said Mrs. Kenwigs,
" My heart has been torn asunder with anguish, I have been
thrown back in my confinement, my unoffending infant has



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NICHOLAS' mCKLEBY. 683

been rendered uncomfortable and fractious, Morleena has
pined herself away to nothing ; all this I forget and forgive,
and with you, uncle, I never can quarrel. But never ask me
to receive her y never do it, uncle. For I will not, I will not,
I won't, I won't, I won't ! "

" Susan, my dear," said Mr. Kenwigs, " consider your
child."

" Yes," shrieked Mrs. Kenwigs, " I will consider my child !
I will consider my child ! My own child, that no uncles can
deprive me of ; my own hated, despised, deserted, cut-off little
child." And here the emotions of Mrs. Kenwigs became so
violent, that Mr. Kenwigs was fain to administer hartshorn
internally, 'and vinegar externally, and to destroy a staylace,
four petticoat strings, and several small buttons.

Newman had been a silent spectator of this scene ; for
Mr. Lillyvick had signed to him not to withdraw, and Mr.
Kenwigs had further solicited his presence by a nod of invita-
tion. When Mrs. Kenwigs had been, in some degree, re-
stored, and Newman, as a person possessed of some influ-
ence with her, had remonstrated and begged her to compose
herself, Mr Lillyvick said in a faltering voice :

" I never shall ask anybody here to receive my — I needn't
mention the word ; you know what I mean. Kenwigs and
Susan, yesterday was a week she eloped with a half-pay cap-
tain ! '•'

Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs started together.

" Eloped with a half-pay captain," repeated Mr. Lillyvick,
" basely and falsely elopea with a half-pay captain. With a
bottle-nosed captain that any man might have considered him-
self safe from. It was in this room," said Mr. Lillyvick,
looking sternly round, " that I first see Henrietta Petowker.
It is in this room that I turn her off, for ever."

This declaration completely changed the whole posture of
affairs. Mrs. Kenwigs threw herself upon the old gentleman's
neck, bitterly reproaching herself for her late harshness, and
exclaiming if she had suffered, what must his sufferings have
been ! Mr. Kenwigs grasped his hand, and vowed eternal
friendship and remorse. Mrs. Kenwigs was horror-stricken
to think that she should ever have nourished in her bosom such
a snake, adder, viper, serpent, and base crocodile, as Hen-
rietta Petowker. Mr. Kenwigs argued that she must have
been bad indeed not to have improved by so long a contem-
plation of Mrs. Kenwigs's virtues. Mrs. Kenwigs remembered



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684 NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. .

that Mr. Kenwigs had often said that he was not quite satis-
fied of the propriety of Miss Petowker's conduct, and won-
dered how it was that she could have been blinded by such
a wretch. Mr. Kenwigs remembered that he had had his sus-
picions, but did not wonder why Mrs. Kenwigs had not had
hers, as she was all chastity, purity* and truth, and Henrietta all
baseness, falsehood, and deceit And Mr. and Mrs. Kenwigs
both said, with strong feelings and tears of sympathy, that
everything happened for the best; and conjured the good
collector not to give way to unavailing grief, but to seek con-
solation in the society of those affectionate relations whose
arms and hearts were ever open to him.

" Out of affection and regard for you, Susan and Kenwigs,"
said Mr. Lillyvick, " and not out of revenge and spite against



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 65 of 79)