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Summary Chapter 55

Mrs. Nickleby accepts Miss Bray into her house, but she is confused about why the circumstances made it necessary for Nicholas to bring her there. No amount of explaining alleviates her confusion. She argues that if the Cheerybles didn’t want Madeline to marry, they could have locked her away in a fleet prison—or one could have married her. She doesn’t know why Nicholas got involved. Just because the groom is older doesn’t mean he will make a bad match.

Kate points out that there were other factors to consider. The marriage was being forced upon Madeline, and the husband was a bad person on top of being extremely old. Mrs. Nickleby gets angry, thinking that Kate and Nicholas think she is stupid and don’t care about her opinions.

The Cheerybles praise Nicholas for his interference. Mrs. Nickleby is pleased because she thinks their future is made.

Madeline’s condition becomes serious to her mental and physical health. The strain of her life coupled with the shock of her father’s death destroys her. Her recovery is slow. Kate nurses her. Mrs. Nickleby acts like the long-suffering martyr. She keeps telling Nicholas that Madeline is dull and low-spirited.

Mrs. Nickleby becomes aware that Frank Cheeryble is interested in Kate. To inflame his ardor, she tells him she may send Kate abroad for several years. Or she’ll mention another suitor who is after Kate.

She tells Nicholas that Frank is in love with Kate. Nicholas has thought Frank was there to see Madeline. He hopes, though, that his mother is mistaken. He tells her it would be a bad idea to encourage Frank. It would be a bad way to repay the Cheerybles for their kindness to let their nephew and only heir to fall in love with a girl that has no dowry. The Cheerybles might think they entrapped Frank. Mrs. Nickleby promises to discourage Frank’s interest.

Smike becomes ill. The doctor diagnosis it as consumption and advises that Smike be taken out of London. However, they should prepare for the fact he may still die. The Cheerybles send Nicholas and Smike away to the country. 

Charles Dickens