Charles Dickens.

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

. (page 77 of 79)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 77 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" I say, my dear," rejoined that lady, with a face of un-
fathomable mystery, "what does this invitation to dinner
mean ? What is its intention and object ? "

" I conclude it means, that on such a day, we are to eat
and drink in their house, and that its intent 'and object is to
confer pleasure upon us," said Nicholas.

" And that's all you conclude it is, my dear ? "

" I have not yet arrived at anything deeper, mother.

" Then I'll just tell you one thing," said Mrs. Nickleby ;
" you'll find yourself a little surprised ; that's all. You may
depend upon it this means something besides dinner."

" Tea and supper, perhaps ? " suggested Nicholas.

" I wouldn't be absurd, my dear, if I were you," replied
Mrs. Nickleby, in a lofty manner, " because ifs not by any
means becoming, and doesn't suit you at all. What I mean
to say is, that the Mr. Cheerybles don't ask us to dinner with
all this ceremony, for nothing. Never mind ; wait and see.
You won't believe anything / say, of course. It's much better
to wait ; a great deal better ; it's satisfactory to all parties,
and there can be no disputing. All I say is, remember what
I say now, and when I say I said so, don't say I didn't."

With this stipulation, Mrs. Niekleby, who was troubled,
night and day, with a vision of a hot messenger tearing up to
the door to announce that Nicholas had been taken into part-
nership, quitted that branch of the subject, and entered upon
a new one.

" It's a very extraordinary thing," she said, " a most ex-
traordinary thing, that they should have invited Miss La
Creevy. It quite astonishes me, upon my word it does. Of
course it's very pleasant that she should be invited, very pleas-
ant, and I have no doubt that she'll conduct herself extreme-
ly well ; she always does. It's very gratifying to think we
should have been the means of introducing her into such so-
ciety, and I'm quite glad of it— quite rejoiced — for she cer-
tainly is an exceedingly well-behaved and good-natured little
person. I could wish that some friend would mention to her
how very badly she has her cap trimmed, and what very pre-
posterous bows those are, but of course that's impossible, and
if she likes to make a fright of herself, no doubt she has aper-

Digitized by VjOOQlC



feet right to do so. We jiever see ourselves — never do, and
never did — and I suppose we never shall."

This moral reflection reminding her of the necessity of
being peculiarly smart on the occasion, so as to counterbalance
Miss La Creevy, and be herself an effectual set-off and atone-
ment, led Mrs. Nickleby into a consultation with her daughter
relative to certain ribands, gloves, and trimmings : which,
being a complicated question, and one of paramount impor-
tance, soon routed the previous one, and put it to flight.

The great day arriving, the good lady put herself under
Kate's hands an hour or so after breakfast, and, dressing by
easy stages, completed her toilet in sufficient time to allow of
her daughter's making hers, which was very simple and not
very long, though so satisfactory that she had never appeared
more charming or looked more lovely. Miss La Creevy, too,
arrived with two bandboxes (whereof the bottoms fell out, as
they were handed from the coach) and something in a news-
paper, which a gentleman had sat upon, coming down, and
which was obliged to be ironed again, before it was fit for ser-
vice. At last, everybody was dressed, including Nicholas who
had come home to fetch them, and they went away in a coach
sent by the Brothers for the purpose : Mrs. Nickleby wonder-
ing very much what they would have for dinner, and cross-
examining Nicholas as to the extent of his discoveries in the
morning ; whether he had smelt anything cooking, at all like
turtle, and if not, what he had smelt ; and diversifying the
conversation with reminiscences of dinners to which she had
gone some twenty years ago, concerning which she particular-
ized, not only the dishes but the guests, in whom her hearers
did not feel a very absorbing interest, as not one of them had
ever chanced to hear their names before.

The old butler received them with profound respect and
many smiles, and ushered them into the drawing-room, where
they were received by the Brothers with so much cordiality
and kindness that Mrs. Nickleby was quite in a flutter, and
had scarcely presence of mind enough, even to patronize Miss
La Creevy. Kate was still more affected by the reception :
for, knowing that the Brothers were acquainted with all that
had passed between her and Frank, she felt her position a
most delicate and trying one, and was trembling on the arm
of Nicholas, when Mr. Charles took her in his, and led her to
another part of the room.

"Have you seen Madeline, my dear," he said, "since she
left your house ? "

Digitized by VjOOQIC


" No, sir ! " replied Kate. " Not once."

" And not heard from her, eh ? Not heard from her ? "

" I have only had one letter," rejoined Kate, gently. " I
thought she would not have forgotten me, quite so soon."

" Ah ! " said the old man, patting her on the head, and
speaking as affectionately as if she had been his favorite child.
" Poor dear I what do you think of this, brother Ned ? Made-
line has only written to her once, only once, Ned, and she
didn't think she would have forgotten her quite so soon.

" Oh I sad, sad ; very sad ! " said Ned.

The Brothers interchanged a glance, and looking at Kate
. for a little time without speaking, shook hands, and nodded
as if they were congratulating each other on something very

" Well, well," said brother Charles, " go into that room,
my dear — that door yonder — and see if there's not a letter for
you from her. I think there's one upon the table. You
needn't hurry back, my love, if there is, for we don't dine just
yet, and there's plenty of time. Plenty <5f time."

Kate retired as she was directed. Brother Charles, hav-
ing followed her graceful figure with his eyes, turned to Mrs.
Nickleby, and said :

" We took the liberty of naming one hour before the real
dinner-time, ma'am, because we had a little business to speak
about, which would occupy the interval. Ned, my dear fellow,
will you mention what we agreed upon ? Mr. Nickleby, sir,
have the goodness to follow me."

Without any further explanation, Mrs. Nickleby, Miss La
Creevy, and brother Ned, were left alone together, and Nich-
olas followed brother Charles into his private room ; where,
to his great astonishment, he encountered Frank, whom he
supposed to be abroad.

" Young men," said Mr. Cheeryble, " shake hands ! "

" I need no bidding to do that," said Nicholas extending

" Nor I," rejoined Frank, as he clasped it heartily.

The old gentleman thought that two handsomer or finer
young fellows could scarcely stand side by side than those on
whom he looked with so much pleasure. Suffering his eyes
to rest upon them, for a short time in silence, he said, while
he seated himself at his desk :

" I wish to see you freinds— close and firm friends — and

Digitized by VjOOQIC


if I thought you otherwise, I should hesitate in what I am
about to say. Frank, look here ! Mr. Nickleby, will you
come on the other side ? "

The young men stepped up on either hand of brother
Charles, who produced a paper from his desk and unfolded it.

"This," he said, "is a copy of the will of Madeline's ma-
ternal grandfather, bequeathing her the sum of twelve thousand
pounds, payable either upon her coming of age or marrying.
It would appear that this gentleman, angry with her (his only
relation) because she would not put herself under his protec-
tion, and detach herself from the society of her father, in com-
pliance with his repeated overtures, made a will leaving his
property (which was all he possessed) to a charitable institu-
tion. He would seem to have repented this determination,
however, for, three weeks afterwards, and in the same month,
he executed this. By some fraud, it was abstracted immediate-
ly after his decease, and the other — the only will found — was
proved and administered. Friendly negotiations, which have
only just now terminated, have been proceeding since this in-
strument came into our hands, and, as there is no doubt of
its authenticity, and the witnesses have been discovered (after
some trouble), the money has been refunded. Madeline has
therefore obtained her right, and is, or will be when either of
the contingencies which I have mentioned has arisen, mistress
of this fortune. You understand me ? "

Frank replied in the affirmative. Nicholas, who could not
trust himself to speak lest his voice should be heard to falter,
bowed his head.

" Now, Frank," said the old gentleman, " you were the im-
mediate means of recovering this deed. The fortune is but a
small one ; but we love Madeline ; and such as it is, we
would rather see you allied to her with that, than to any other
girl we know who has three times the money. Will you be-
come a suitor for her hand ? "

" No sir. I interested myself in the recovery of that in-
strument, believing that her hand was already pledged to one
who has a thousand times the claims upon her gratitude, and,
if I mistake not, upon her heart, that I or any other man can
ever urge. In this it seems I judged hastily."

"As you always do, sir," cried brother Charles, utterly
forgetting his assumed dignity, " as you always do. How dare
you think, Frank, that we should have you marry for money,
when youth, beauty, and every amiable virtue and. excellence,

5 1

Digitized by VjOOQIC


were to be had for love ? How dared you, Frank, go and
make love to Mr. Nickleby's sister without telling us first,
what you meant to do, and letting us speak for you ? "

44 I hardly dared to hope — "

" You hardly dared to hope ! Then, so much the greater
reason for having our assistance ! Mr. Nickleby, sir, Frank,
although he judged hastily, judged, for once, correctly. Mad-
eline's heart is occupied. Give me your hand, sir ; it is occu-
pied by you, and worthily and naturally. This fortune is
destined to be yours, but you have a greater fortune in her,
sir, than you would have in money were it forty times told. She
chooses you, Mr. Nickleby. She chooses as we, her dearest
friends, would have her choose. Frank chooses as we would
have him choose. He should have your sister's little hand,
sir, if she had refused it a score of times ; ay, he should and
he* shall ! You acted nobly, not knowing our sentiments, but
now you know them, sir, you must do as you are bid. What !
You are the children of a worthy gentleman ! The time was,
sir, when my dear brother Ned and I were two poor simple-
hearted boys, wandering, almost barefoot, to seek our for-
tunes ; are we changed in anything but years and worldly cir-
cumstances since that time ? No, God forbid ! Oh, Ned,
Ned, Ned, what a happy day this is for you and me ! If our
poor mother had only lived to see us now, Ned, how proud it
would have made her dear heart at last ! "

Thus apostrophized, brother Ned who had entered with
Mrs. Nickleby, and who had been before unobserved by the
young men, darted forward and fairly hugged brother Charles
in his arms.

44 Bring in my little Kate," said the latter, after a short
silence. " Bring her in, Ned. Let me see Kate, let me kiss
her. I have a right to do so now ; I was very near it when
she first came ; I have often been very near it. Ah ! Did
you find the letter, my bird ? Did you find Madeline herself,
waiting for you and .expecting you ? Did you find that she
had not quite forgotten her friend and nurse and sweet com-
panion ? Why, this is almost the best of all ! "

44 Come, come," said Ned. Frank will be jealous, and we
shall have some cutting of ^throats before dinner."

"Then let him take her .away, Ned, let him take her away.
Madeline's in the next room. Let all the lovers get out of the
way, and talk among themselves, if they've anything to say.
Turn 'em out, Ned, every one I "

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Brother Charles began the clearance by leading the blush-
ing girl to the door, and dismissing her with a kiss. Frank
was not very slow to follow, and Nicholas had disappeared
first of all. So there only remained Mrs. Nickleby and Miss
La Creevy, who were both sobbing heartily ; the two brothers ;
and Tim Linkinwater, who now came in to shake hands with
everybody, his round face all radiant and beaming with

" Well, Tim Linkinwater, sir," said brother Charles, who
was always spokesman, " now the young folks are happy, sir."

" You didn't keep 'em in suspense as long as you said you
would though," returned Tim, archly. " Why, Mr. Nickleby
and Mr. Frank were to have been in your room for I don't
know how long ; and I don't know what you weren't to have
told them before you came out with the truth."

" Now, did you ever know such a villain as this, Ned ? "
said the old gentleman, " did you ever know such a villain as
Tim Linkinwater ? He accusing me of being impatient, and he
the very man who has been wearying us morning, noon, and
night, and torturing us for leave to go and tell 'em what was
in store, before our plans were half complete, or we had
arranged a single thing. A treacherous dog ! "

" So he is, brother Charles," returned Ned, " Tim is a
treacherous dog. Tim is not to be trusted. Tim is a wild
young fellow. He wants gravity and steadiness ; he must sow
his wild oats, and then perhaps he'll become in time a respect-
able member of society."

This being one of the standing jokes between the old fel-
lows and Tim, they all three laughed very heartily,, and might
have laughed much longer, but that the Brothers seeing that
Mrs. Nickleby was laboring to express her feelings, and was
really overwhelmed by the happiness of the time, took her
between them, and led her from the room under pretence of
having to consult her on some most important arrangements.

Now, Tim and Miss La Creevy had met very often, and
had always been very chatty and pleasant together — had
always been great friends — and consequently it was the most
natural thing in the world that Tim, finding that she still
sobbed, should endeavor to console her. As Miss La Creevy
sat on a large old-fashioned window-seat where there was
ample room for two, it was also natural that Tim should sit
down beside her ; and as to Tim's being unusually spruce
and particular in his attire, that day, why it was a high festival
and a great occasion, and that was the most natural thing of all.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Tim sat down beside Miss La Creevy, and, crossing one
leg over the other so that his foot — he had very comely feet,
and happened to be wearing the neatest shoes and black silk
stockings possible — should come efasily within the range of
her eye, said in a soothing way :

"Don't cry!"

" I must," rejoined Miss La Creevy.

" No don't," said Tim. " Please don't ; pray don't."

" I am so happy ! " sobbed the little woman.

" Then laugh," saM Tim. " Do laugh."

What in the world Tim was doing with his arm, it is impos-
sible to conjecture, but he knocked his elbow against that
part of the window which was quite on the other side of Miss
La Creevy ; and it is clear that it could have no business

44 Do laugh," said Tim, " or I'll cry.';

" Why should you cry ? " asked Miss* La Creevy, smiling.

"Because I'm happy too," said Tim. "We are both
happy, and I should like to do as you do."

Surely, there never was a man who fidgeted as Tim must
have done then ; for he knocked the window again — almost
in the same place — and Miss La Creevy said she was sure
he'd break it.

" I know," said Tim, "that you would be pleased with this

" It was very thoughtful and kind to remember me,"
returned Miss La Creevy. " Nothing could have delighted
me, half so much."

Why on earth should Miss La Creevy and Tim Linkin-
water have said all this in a whisper ? It was no secret. And
why should Tim Linkinwater have looked so hard at Miss La
Creevy, and why should Miss La Creevy have looked so hard
at the ground ?

" It's a pleasant thing," said Tim, " to people like us, who
have passed all our lives in the world, alone, to see young
folks that we are fond of, brought together with so many
years of happiness before them."

" Ah ! " cried the little woman with all her heart. "That
it is ! "

"Although," pursued Tim, "although it makes one feel
quite solitary and cast away. Now, don't it ? "

Miss La Creevy said she didn't know. And why should
she say she didn't know ? Because she must have known
whether it did or not.

Digitized by VjOOQIC


" It's almost enough to make us get married after all, isn't
it ? " said Tim.

" Oh nonsense I " replied Miss La Creevy, laughing.
" We are too old."

"Not a bit," said Tim, "we are too old to be single.
Why shouldn't we both be married instead of sitting through
the long winter evenings by our solitary firesides? Why
shouldn't we make one fireside of it, and marry each other ? "

" Oh Mr. Linkinwater, you're joking ! "

"No, no, I'm not. I'm not indeed," said Tim. " I will,
if you will. Do, my dear ! "

"It would make people laugh so."

" Let 'em laugh," cried Tim, stoutly, " we have good
tempers I know, and we'll laugh too. Why, what hearty
laughs we have had since we've known each other ! "

"So we have," cried Miss La Creevy — giving way a little,
as Tim thought.

" It has been the happiest time in all my life ; at least,
away from the counting-house and Cheeryble Brothers," said
Tim. " Do, my dear ! Now say you will."

" No, no, we mustn't think of it," returned Miss La Creevy.
"What would the Brothers say ? "

"Why, God bless your soul!" cried Tim, innocently,
" you don't suppose I should think of such a thing without
their knowing it ! Why, they left us here on purpose."

"I can never look 'em in the face again ! "exclaimed Miss
La Creevy, faintly.

" Come ! '* said Tim. " Let's be a comfortable couple.
We shall live in the old house here, where I have been for
four-and forty year ; we shall go to the old church, where I've
been, every Sunday morning, all through that time ; we shall
have all my old friends about us — Dick, the archway, the pump,
the flower-pots, and Mr. Frank's children, and Mr. Nickleby's
children that we shall seem like grandfather and grandmother
to. Let's be a comfortable couple, and take care of each
other ! And if we should get deaf, or lame, or blind, -or bed-
ridden, how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are
fond of, always to talk to and sit with ! Let's be a comforta-
ble couple. Now, do, my dear ! "

Five minutes after this honest and straightforward speech,
little Miss La Creevy and Tim were talking as pleasantly as
if they had been married for a score of years, and had never
once quarrelled all the time; and five minutes after that,
when Miss La Creevy had bustled out to see if Jier eyes were

Digitized by VjOOQIC


red and to put her hair to rights, Tim moved with a stately
step towards the drawing-room, exclaiming as he went,
" There an't such another woman in all London ! I know
there an't ! "

By this time, the apoplectic butler was nearly in fits, in con-
sequence of the unheard-of postponement of dinner. Nicho-
las, who had been engaged in a manner in which every reader
may imagine for himself or herself, was hurrying down stairs
in obedience to his angry summons, when he encountered a
new surprise.

On his way down, he overtook in one of the passages a
stranger genteelly dressed in black, who was also moving
towards the dining-room. As he was rather lame and walked
slowly, Nicholas lingered behind, and was following him step
by step, wondering who he was, when he suddenly turned
round and caught him by both hands.

" Newman Noggs ! " cried Nicholas joyfully.

" Ah ! Newman, your own Newman, your own old faithful
Newman ! My dear boy, my dear Nick, I give you joy —
health, happiness, every blessing ! I can't bear it — it's too
much my dear boy — it makes a child of me ! "

" Where have you been ? " said Nicholas, " what have you
being doing ! How often have I inquired for you, and been
told that I should hear before long ! "

" I know, I know ! " returned Newman. " They wanted
all the happiness to come together. I've been helping 'em.
I — I — look at me, Nick, look at me ! "

" You would never let me do that," said Nicholas 4 in a tone
of gentle reproach.

" I didn't mind what I was, then. I shouldn't have had
the heart to put on gentleman's clothes. They would have
reminded me of old times and made me miserable. I am an-
other man now, Nick. My dear boy, I can't speak. Don't
say anything to me. Don't think the worse of me for these
tears. You don't know what I feel to-day ; you can't, and
never will ! "

They walked in to dinner, arm-in-arm, and sat down side
by side.

Never was such a dinner as that, since the world began.
There was the superannuated bank clerk, Tim Linkinwater's
friend ; and there was the chubby old lady, Tim Linkinwater's
sister; and there was so much attention from Tim Linkin-
water's sister to Miss La Creevy, and there were so many
jokes from the superannuated bank clerk, and Tim Linkin-

Digitized by VjOOQIC


water himself was in such tiptop spirits, and little Miss La
Creevy was in such a comical state, that of themselves they
would have composed the pleasantest party conceivable.
Then, there were Mrs. Nickleby, so grand and complacent ;
Madeline and Kate, so blushing and beautiful ; Nicholas and
Frank, so devoted and proud ; and all four so silently and
tremblingly happy; there was Newman so subdued yet so
overjoyed, and there were the twin Brothers, so delighted and
interchanging such looks, that the old servant stood trans-
fixed behind his master's chair, and felt his eyes grow dim as
they wandered round the table.

When the first novelty of the meeting had worn off, and
they began truly to feel how happy they were, the conversa-
tion became more general, and the harmony and pleasure if
possible increased. The Brothers were in perfect ecstasy;
and their insisting on saluting the ladies, all round, before
they would permit them to retire, gave occasion to the super-
annuated bank clerk to say so many good things, that lie
quite outshone himself, and was looked upon as a prodigy
of humor.

" Kate, my dear," said Mrs. Nickleby, taking her daughter
aside, as soon as they got up stairs, " you don't really mean to
tell me that this is actually true about Miss La Creevy and
Mr. Linkinwater ? "

" Indeed it is, mama."

" Why, I never heard such a thing in my life ! " exclaimed
Mrs. Nickleby,

" Mr. Linkinwater is a most excellent creature," reasoned
Kate, " and, for his age, quite young still."

" For his age, my dear ! " returned Mrs. Nickleby. " Yes ;
nobody says anything against him, except that I think he is
the weakest and most foolish man I ever knew. It's her age
I speak of. That he should have gone and offered himself to
a woman who must be — ah, half as old again as I am — and
that she should have dared to accept him ! It don't signify,
Kate ; I'm disgusted with her I "

Shaking her head very emphatically indeed, Mrs. Nickleby
swept away ; and all the evening, in the midst of the merri-
ment and enjoyment that ensued, and in which with that excep-
tion she freely participated, conducted herself towards Miss
La Creevy in a stately and distant manner, designed to mark
her sense of the impropriety of her conduct, and to signify
her extreme and cutting disapprobation of the misdemeanor
she had so flagrantly committed.

Digitized by VjOOQIC




Nicholas was one of those whose joy is incomplete unless
it is shared by the friends of adverse and less fortunate days-
Surrounded by every fascination of love and hope, his warm
heart yearned towards plain John Browdie. He remembered -
their first meeting with a smile, and their second with a tear ;
saw poor Smike once again with the bundle on his shoulder
trudging patiently by his side ; and heard the honest York-
shireman's rough words of encouragement as he left them on
their road to London.

Madeline and he sat down, very many times, jointly to
produce a letter which should acquaint John at full length

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 77 of 79)