Charles Dickens.

The life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby online

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with his altered fortunes, and assure him of his friendship and
gratitude. It so happened, however, that the letter could
never be written. Although they applied themselves to it with
the best intentions in the world, it chanced that they always
fell to talking about something else, and when Nicholas tried
it by himself, he found it impossible to write one half of what
he wished to say, or to pen anything indeed, which on re-
perusal did not appear cold and unsatisfactory compared with
what he had in his mind. At last, after going on thus from
day to day, and reproaching himself more and more, he re-
solved (the more readily as Madeline strongly urged him) to
make a hasty trip into Yorkshire, and present himself before
Mr. and Mrs. Browdie without a word of notice.

Thus it was that between seven and eight o'clock one
evening, he and Kate found themselves in the Saracen's Head
booking-office, securing a place to Greta Bridge by the next
morning's coach. They had to go westward, to procure some
little necessaries for his journey, and, as it was a fine night,
they agreed to walk there, and ride home.

The place they had just been in, called up so many recol-
lections, and Kate had so many anecdotes of Madeline, and
Nicholas so many anecdotes of Prank, and each was so inter-

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ested in what the other said, and both were so happy and
confiding, and had so much to talk about, that it was not until
they had plunged for a full half hour into that labyrinth of
streets which lies between Seven Dials and Soho, without
emerging into any large thoroughfare, that Nicholas began to
think it just possible they might have lost their way.

The possibility was soon converted into a certainty ; for,
on looking about, and walking first to one end of the street
and then to the other, he could find no landmark he could
recognize, and was fain to turn back again in quest of some
place at which he could seek a direction.

It was a bystreet, and there was nobody about, or in the
few wretched shops they passed. Making towards a faint
gleam of light, which streamed across the pavement from a
cellar, Nicholas was about to descend two or three steps so as
to render himself visible to those below and make his inquiry,
when he was arrested by a loud noise of scolding in a woman's

"Oh come away!" said Kate. "They are quarreling.
You'll be hurt."

" Wait one instant, Kate. Let us hear if there's anything
the matter," returned her brother. " Hush ! "

" You nasty, idle, vicious, good-for-nothing brute," cried
the woman, stamping on the ground, " why don't you turn
the mangle ? "

" So I am, my life. and soul ! " replied a man's voice. " I
am always turning. I am perpetually turning, like a demd old
horse in a demnition mill. My life is one demd horrid
grind ! "

" Then why don't you go and list for a soldier ? " retorted
the woman, " you're welcome to."

" For a soldier ! " cried the man. " For a soldier ! Would
his joy and gladness see him in a coarse red coat with a little
tail? Would she hear of his being slapped and beat by
drummers demnebly ? Would she have him fire off real guns
and have his hair cut, and his whiskers shaved, and his eyes
turned right and left, and his trousers pipeclayed ? "

" Dear Nicholas," whispered Kate, " you don't know who
that is. " It's Mr. Mantalini I am confident."

" Do make sure ! Peep at him while I ask the way," said
Nicholas. " Come down a step or two. Come ! "

Drawing her after him, Nicholas crept down the steps and
looked into a small boarded cellar. There amidst clothes-

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baskets and clothes, stripped to his shirt-sleeves, but wearing
still an old patched pair of pantaloons of superlative make, a
once brilliant waistcoat, and mustache and whiskers as of
yore, but lacking their lustrous dye — there, endeavoring to
mollify the wrath of a buxom female — not the lawful Madame
Mantalini, but the proprietress of the concern — and grinding
meanwhile as if for very life at the mangle, whose creaking
noise, mingled with her shrill notes, appeared almost to deafen
him — there was the graceful, elegant, fascinating, and once
dashing Mantalini.

" Oh, you false traitor ! " cried the lady, threatening per-
sonal violence on Mr. Mantalini's face.

" False. Oh dem ! Now my soul, my gentle, captivating,
bewitching, and most demnebly enslaving chick-a-biddy, be
calm/ 1 said Mr. Mantalini, humbly.

" I won't ! " screamed the woman. " I'll tear your eyes
out ! "

" Oh ! What a demd savage lamb ! " cried Mr. Man-

" You're never to be trusted," screamed the woman, "you
were out all day yesterday, and gallivanting somewhere I
know. You know you were ! Isn't it enough that I paid two
pound fourteen for you, and took you out of prison and let
you live here like a gentleman, but must you go on like this :
breaking my heart besides ? "

" I will never break its heart, I will be a good boy, and
never do so any more. I will never be naughty again ; I beg
its litde pardon," said Mr. Mantalini, dropping the handle of
the mangle, and folding its palms together, " it is all up with
its handsome friend ! He has gone to the demnition bow-
wows. It will have pity ? It will not scratch and claw, but
pet and comfort ? Oh, demmit."

Very little affected, to judge from her action, by this ten-
der appeal, the lady was on the point of returning some
angry reply, when Nicholas raising his voice asked his way to

Mr. Mantalini turned round, caught sight of Kate, and,
without another word, leapt at one bound into a bed which
stood behind the door, and drew the counterpane over his
face : kicking meanwhile convulsively.

" Demmit," he cried, in a suffocating voice, " it's litde
Nickleby ! Shut the dc>or, put out the candle, turn me up in
the bedstead ! Oh, dem, dem, dem 1 "

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The woman looked, first at Nicholas, and then at Mr.
Mantalini, as if uncertain on whom to visit this extraordinary
behavior ; but Mr. Mantalini happening by ill luck to thrust
his nose from under the bedclothes, in his anxiety to ascertain
whether the visitors were gone, she suddenly, and with a dex-
terity which could only have been acquired by long practice,
flung a pretty heavy clothes-basket at him with so good an
aim that he kicked more violently than before, though without
venturing to make any effort to disengage his head, which was
quite extinguished. Thinking this a favorable opportunity
for departing before any of the torrent of her wrath discharged
itself upon him, Nicholas hurried Kate off and left the unfor-
tunate subject of this unexpected recognition to explain his
conduct as he best could.

The next morning he began his journey. It was now cold
winter weather: forcibly recalling to his mind under what
circumstances he had first travelled that road, and how many
vicissitudes and changes he had since undergone. He was
alone inside, the greater part of the way, and sometimes, when
he had fallen into a doze, and, rousing himself, looked out of
the window, and recognized some place which he well remem-
bered as having passed, either on his journey down, or in the
long walk back with poor Smike, he could hardly believe but
that all which had since happened had been a dream, and that
they were still plodding wearily on towards London, with the
world before them.

To render these recollections the more vivid, it came on
to snow as night set in ; and passing through Stamford and
Grantham, and by the little alehouse where he had heard the
story of the bold Baron of Grogzwig, everything looked as if
he had seen it but yesterday, and not even a flake of the white
crust on the roofs had melted away. Encouraging the train
of ideas which flocked upon him, he could almost persuade
himself that he sat again outside the coach, with Squeers and
the boys ; that he heard their voices in the air ; and that he
felt again, but with a mingled sensation of pain and pleasure
now, that old sinking of the heart, and longing after home.
While he was yet yielding himself up to these fancies he fell
asleep, and, dreaming of Madeline, forgot them.

He slept at the inn at Greta Bridge, on the night of his
arrival, and, rising at a very early hour next morning, walked
to the market town, and inquired for John Browdie's house.
John lived in the outskirts, now he was a family man ; and, as

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everybody knew him, Nicholas had no difficulty in finding a
boy who undertook to guide him to his residence.

Dismissing his guide at the gate, and in his impatience
not even stopping to admire the thriving look of cottage or
garden either, Nicholas made his way to the kitchen door, and
knocked lustily with his stick.

" Halloa ! " cried a voice inside. " Waat be the matther
noo? Be the toon a-fire? Ding, but thou mak'st noise

With these words, John Browdie opened the door himself,
and opening his eyes too, to their utmost width, cried, as he
clapped his hands together, and burst into a hearty roar :

" Ecod, it be the godfeyther, it be the godfeyther ! 'Tilly,
here be Misther Nickleby. Gi' us thee hond, mun. Coom
awa', coom awa\ In wi' 'un, doon beside the fire ; tak* a
soop o' thot. Dinnot say a word till thou'st droonk it a' !
Oop wi' it, mun. Ding ! but I'm reeght giod to see thee."

Adapting his action to his text, John dragged Nicholas into
the kitchen, forced him down upon a huge settle beside a
blazing fire, poured out from an enormous bottle about a quar-
ter of a pint of spirits, thrust it into his hand, opened his
mouth, and threw back his head as a sign to him to drink it
instantly, and stood with a broad grin of welcome overspread-
ing his great red face, like a jolly giant.

" I might ha' knowa'd," said John, u that nobody but thou
would ha' coom wi' sike a knock as yon. Thot was the wa'
thou knocked at schoolmeasther's door, eh? Ha, ha, ha I
But I say ; waa't be a' this aboot schoolmeasther ? "

" You know it then ? " said Nicholas.

" They were talking aboot it, doon toon, last neeght," re-
plied John, " but neane on 'em seemed quite to un'erstan' it

" After various shiftings and delays," said Nicholas, " he
has been sentenced to be transported for seven years, for
being in the unlawful possession of a stolen will ; and, after
that, he has to suffer the consequence of a conspiracy."

" Whew ! " cried John, " a conspiracy ! Soomat in the
pooder plot wa' ? Eh ! Soomat in the Guy Faux line ? "

" No, no, no, a conspiracy connected with his school ; I'll
explain it presently."

" Thot's reeght ! " said John, " explain it arter breakfast,
not noo, for thou bee'st hoongry, and so am I ; and Tilly she
mun' be at the bottom o' a' explanations, for she says thot's

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the mutual confidence. Ha, ha, ha ! Ecod it's a room start,
is the mutual confidence I "

" The entrance of Mrs. Browdie, with a smart cap on and
very many apologies for their having been detected in the act
of breakfasting in the kitchen, stopped John in his discussion
of this grave subject, and hastened the breakfast : which, being
composed of vast mounds of toast, new-laid eggs, boiled ham,
Yorkshire pie, and other cold substantiate (of which heavy re-
lays were constantly appearing from another kitchen under the
direction of a very plump servant), was admirably adapted to
the cold bleak morning, and received the utmost justice from
all parties. At last, it came to a close ; and the fire which had
been lighted in the best parlor having by this time burnt up,
they adjourned thither, to hear what Nicholas had to tell.

Nicholas told them all, and never was there a story which
awakened so many emotions in the breasts of two eager listen-
ers. At one time, honest John groaned in sympathy, and at
another roared with joy ; at one time he vowed to go up to
London on purpose to get a sight of the Brothers Cheeryble ;
at another, swore that Tim Linkinwater should receive such a
ham by coach, and carriage free, as mortal knife had never
carved. When Nicholas began to describe Madeline, he sat
with his mouth wide open, nudging Mrs. Browdie from time to
time, and exclaiming under his breath that she must be
" raa'ther a tidy sart," and when he heard at last that his young
friend had come down, purposely to communicate his good
fortune, and to convey to him all those assurances of friend-
ship which he could not state with sufficient warmth in wri-
ting — that the only object of his journey was to share his hap-
piness with them, and to tell them that when he was married
they must come up to see him, and that Madeline insisted on
it as well as he — John could hold out no longer, but after look-
ing indignantly at his wife, and demanding to know what she
was whimpering for, drew his coat-sleeve over his eyes and
blubbered outright.

" Teiree waa't though," said John seriously, when a great
deal had been said on both sides, " to return to schoolmeas-
ther. If this news aboot *un has reached school to-day, the
old 'ooman wean't have a whole boan in her boddy, nor Fanny

" Oh John ! " cried Mrs. Browdie.

" Ah ! and Oh John agean," replied the Yorkshireman.
" I dinnot know what they lads mightn't do. When it first

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got aboot that schoolmeasther was in trouble, some feythers
and moothers sent and took their young chaps awa\ If them
as is left, should know waa'ts coom tiv'un, there'll be sike a
revolution and rebel ! — Ding ! But I think they'll a 1 gang
daft, and spill bluid like wather ! "

In fact John Browdie's apprehensions were so strong that
he determined to ride over to the school without delay, and
invited Nicholas to accompany him, which, however, he de-
clined, pleading that his presence might perhaps aggravate
the bitterness of their adversity.

" Thot's true ! " said John, " I should ne'er ha' thought o*

" I must return to-morrow," said Nicholas, " but I mean
to dine with you to-day and if Mrs. Browdie can give me a
bed "

" Bed ! " cried John, " I wish thou couldst sleep in fower
beds at once. Ecod thou should'st have 'em a'. Bide till I
coom back ; on'y bide till I coom back, and ecod we'll make
a day of it ! "

Giving his wife a hearty kiss, and Nicholas a no less hearty
shake of the hand, John mounted his horse and rode off :
leaving Mrs. Browdie to apply herself to hospitable prepara-
tions, and his young friend to stroll about the neighborhood,
and revisit spots which were rendered familiar to him by many
a miserable association.

John cantered away, and arriving at Dotheboys Hall, tied
his horse to a gate and made his way to the school-room door,
which he found locked on the inside. A tremendous noise
and riot arose from within, and, applying his eye to a conve-
nient crevice in the wall, he did not remain long in ignorance
of its meaning.

The news of Mr. Squeers's downfall had reached Dothe-
boys ; that was quite clear. To all appearance, it had very
recently become known to the young gentlemen ; for rebellion
had just broken out.

It was one of the brimstone-and-treacle mornings, and
Mrs. Squeers had entered school according to custom with the
large bowl and spoon, followed by Miss Squeers and the amia-
ble Wackford : who, during his father's absence had taken
upon himself such minor branches of the executive as kicking
the pupils with his nailed boots, pulling the hair of some of
the smaller boys, pinching the others in aggravating places, and
rendering himself in various similar ways a great comfort and

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happiness to his mother. Their entrance, whether by pre-
meditation or a simultaneous impulse, was the signal of revolt
While one detachment rushed to the door and locked it,
and another mounted the desk and forms, the stoutest (and
consequently the newest) boy seized the cane, and, confront-
ing Mrs. Squeers with a stern countenance, snatched off her
cap and beaver-bonnet, put it on his own head, armed himself
with the wooden spoon and bade her on pain of death, go
down upon her knees and take a dose directly. Before that
estimable lady could recover herself, or offer the slightest re-
taliation, she was forced into a kneeling posture by a crowd of
shouting tormentors, and compelled to swallow a spoonful of
the odious mixture, rendered more than usually savory by
the immersion in the bowl of Master Wackford's head, whos^
ducking was entrusted to another rebel. The success of this
first achievement prompted the malicious crowd, whose faces
were clustered together in every variety of lank and half-
starved ugliness, to further acts of outrage. The leader was
insisting upon Mrs. Squeers repeating her dose, Master
Squeers was undergoing another dip in the treacle, and a violent
assault had been commenced on Miss Squeers, when John
Browdie, bursting open the door with a vigorous kick, rushed
to the rescue. The shouts, screams, groans, hoots, and clap-
ping of hands, suddenly ceased, and a dead silence ensued.

" Ye be noice chaps," said John, looking steadily round.
" Waat's to do here, thou yoong dogs ! "

" Squeers is in prison, and we are going to run away ! "
cried a score of shrill voices. " We won't stop, we won't stop ! "

" Weel then, dinnot stop," replied John ; " who waants
thee to stop? Roon awa' loike men, but dinnot hurt the

" Hurrah ! " cried the shrill voices, more shrilly still.

" Hurrah?" repeated John. "Weel, hurrah loike men
too. Noo then, look out. Hip— hip — hip— hurrah ! "

" Hurrah ! " cried the voices.

" Hurrah ! Agean," said John. " Looder still."

The boys obeyed.

" Anoother ! " said John. " Dinnot be afeared on it
Lefs have a good \m ! "

" Hurrah ! "

" Noo then," said John, " lefs have yan more to end wi',
and then coot off as quick as you loike. Tak' a good breath
noo — Squeers be in jail — the school's brokken oop — it's a*

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ower — past and gane — think o* thot, and let it be a hearty
'un! .Hurrah!"

Such a cheer arose as the walls of Dotheboys Hall had
never echoed before, and were destined never to respond to
again. When the sound had died away, the school was empty ;
and of the busy noisy crowd which had peopled it but rive
minutes before, not one remained.

" Very well, Mr. Browdie ! " said Miss Squeers, hot and
flushed from the recent encounter, but vixenish to the last ;
" you've been and excited our boys to run away. Now see if
we doVt pay you out for that, sir ! If my pa is unfortunate
and trod down by henemies, we're not going to be basely
crowed and conquered over by you and Tilda."
, "Noa!" replied John bluntly, "thou bean't. Tak' thy
oath o' thot. Think betther o' us, Fanny. I tell 'ee both,
that I'm glod the auld man has been caught out at last —
dom'd glod — but ye'll sooffer eneaf wi'out any crowin' f ra' me,
and I be not the mun to crow, nor be Tilly the lass, so I tell
'fee flat. More than thot, I tell 'ee noo, that if thou need'st
friends to help thee awa' from this place — dinnot turn up thy
nose, Fanny, thoumay'st — thou'ltfoind Tilly and I wi' a thout
o' old times aboot us, ready to lend thee a hond. And when
I say thot, dinnot think I be asheamed of waa't I've deane, for
I say agean, Hurrah ! And dom the schoolmeasther. There ! n

His parting words concluded, John Browdie strode heavily
out, remounted his nag, put him once more into a smart
canter, and, carolling lustily forth some fragments of an old
song to which the horse's hoofs rang a merry accompaniment,
sped back to his pretty wife and to Nicholas.

For some days afterwards, the neighboring country was
overrun with boys, who, the report went, had been secredy
furnished by Mr; and Mrs. Browdie, not only with a hearty meal
of bread and meat, but with sundry shillings and sixpences to
help them on their way. To this rumor John always returned
a stout denial, which he accompanied, however, with a lurking
grin, that rendered the suspicious doubtful, and fully confirmed
all previous believers.

There were a few timid young children, who, miserable as
they had been, and many as were the tears they had shed in
the wretched school, still knew no other home, and had formed
for it a sort of attachment which made them weep when the
bolder spirits fled, and cling to it as a refuge. Of these, some
were found crying under hedges and in such places, frightened

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by the solitude. One had a dead bird in a little cage ; he had
wandered nearly twenty miles, and when his poor favorite
died, lost courage, and lay down beside him. Another was
discovered in a yard hard by the school, sleeping with a dog,
who bit at those who came to remove him, and licked the
sleeping child's pale face.

They were taken back, and some other stragglers were re-
covered ; but by degrees they were claimed, or lost again ;
and, in course of time, Dotheboys Hall and its last breaking
up began to be forgotten by the neighbors, or to be only
spoken of, as among things that had been.



When her term of mourning had expired, Madeline gave
her hand and fortune .to Nicholas ; and, on the same day and
at the same time, Kate became Mrs. Frank Cheeryble. It
was expected that Tim Linkinwater and Miss La Creevy
would have made a third couple on the occasion, but they de-
clined. Two or three weeks afterwards they went out to-
gether one morning, before breakfast, and, coming back with
merry faces, were found to have been quietly married that

The money which Nicholas acquired in right of his wife,
he invested in the firm of Cheeryble Brothers^ in which Frank
had become a partner. Before many years elapsed, the busi-
ness, began to be carried on in the name of " Cheeryble and
Nickleby," so that Mrs. Nickleby's prophetic anticipations
were realized at last

The twin brothers retired. Who needs to be told that
/Arywere happy? They were surrounded by happiness of
their own creation, and lived but to increase it.

Tim Linkinwater condescended, after much entreaty and
brow-beating, to accept a share in the house ; but he could
never be prevailed upon to suffer the publication of his name
as a partner, and always persisted in the punctual and regular
discharge of his clerkly duties.

He and his wife lived in the old house, and occupied the
very bedchamber in which he had slept for f our-and-forty years, #


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As his wife grew older, she became even a more cheerful and
light-hearted little creature ; and it was a common saying
among their friends, that it was impossible to say which looked
the happier, Tim as he sat calmly smiling in his elbow-chair
on one side of the fire, or his brisk little wife chatting and
laughing, and constantly bustling in and out of hers, on the

Dick, the blackbird, was removed from the counting-house
and promoted to a warm corner in the common sitting-room.
Beneath his cage hung two miniatures, of Mrs. Linkinwater's
execution ; one representing herself ; the other, Tim ; and
both smiling very hard at all beholders. Tim's head being
powdered like a twelfth cake, and his spectacles copied with
great nicety, strangers detected a close resemblance to him at
the first glance, and this leading them to suspect that the
other must be his wife, and emboldening them to say so with-
out scruple, Mrs. Linkinwater grew very proud of these achieve-
ments in time, and considered them among the most success-
ful likenesses she had ever painted. Tim had the profoundest
faith in them, likewise ; for on this, as on all other subjects,
they held but one opinion ; and if ever there were a " com-
fortable couple " in the world, it was Mr. and Mrs. Linkin-

Ralph, having died intestate, and having no relations but
those with whom he had lived in such enmity, they would
have become in legal course his heirs. But they could not
bear the thought of growing rich on money so acquired, and
felt as though they could never hope to prosper with it They
made no claim to his wealth. And the riches for which he
had toiled all his days, and burdened his soul with so many
evil deeds, were swept at last into the coffers of the state, and
no man was the better or the happier for them.

Arthur Gride was tried for the unlawful possession of the
will, which he had either procured to be stolen, or had dis-

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby → online text (page 78 of 79)