Officiates as a kind of Gentleman Usher, in bringing various People
The storm had long given place to a calm the most profound, and the
evening was pretty far advanced--indeed supper was over, and the
process of digestion proceeding as favourably as, under the
influence of complete tranquillity, cheerful conversation, and a
moderate allowance of brandy-and-water, most wise men conversant
with the anatomy and functions of the human frame will consider that
it ought to have proceeded, when the three friends, or as one might
say, both in a civil and religious sense, and with proper deference
and regard to the holy state of matrimony, the two friends, (Mr and
Mrs Browdie counting as no more than one,) were startled by the
noise of loud and angry threatenings below stairs, which presently
attained so high a pitch, and were conveyed besides in language so
towering, sanguinary, and ferocious, that it could hardly have been
surpassed, if there had actually been a Saracen's head then present
in the establishment, supported on the shoulders and surmounting the
trunk of a real, live, furious, and most unappeasable Saracen.
This turmoil, instead of quickly subsiding after the first outburst,
(as turmoils not unfrequently do, whether in taverns, legislative
assemblies, or elsewhere,) into a mere grumbling and growling
squabble, increased every moment; and although the whole din
appeared to be raised by but one pair of lungs, yet that one pair
was of so powerful a quality, and repeated such words as
'scoundrel,' 'rascal,' 'insolent puppy,' and a variety of expletives
no less flattering to the party addressed, with such great relish
and strength of tone, that a dozen voices raised in concert under
any ordinary circumstances would have made far less uproar and
created much smaller consternation.
'Why, what's the matter?' said Nicholas, moving hastily towards the
John Browdie was striding in the same direction when Mrs Browdie
turned pale, and, leaning back in her chair, requested him with a
faint voice to take notice, that if he ran into any danger it was
her intention to fall into hysterics immediately, and that the
consequences might be more serious than he thought for. John looked
rather disconcerted by this intelligence, though there was a lurking
grin on his face at the same time; but, being quite unable to keep
out of the fray, he compromised the matter by tucking his wife's arm
under his own, and, thus accompanied, following Nicholas downstairs
with all speed.
The passage outside the coffee-room door was the scene of
disturbance, and here were congregated the coffee-room customers and
waiters, together with two or three coachmen and helpers from the
yard. These had hastily assembled round a young man who from his
appearance might have been a year or two older than Nicholas, and
who, besides having given utterance to the defiances just now
described, seemed to have proceeded to even greater lengths in his
indignation, inasmuch as his feet had no other covering than a pair
of stockings, while a couple of slippers lay at no great distance
from the head of a prostrate figure in an opposite corner, who bore
the appearance of having been shot into his present retreat by means
of a kick, and complimented by having the slippers flung about his
The coffee-room customers, and the waiters, and the coachmen, and
the helpers--not to mention a barmaid who was looking on from behind
an open sash window--seemed at that moment, if a spectator might
judge from their winks, nods, and muttered exclamations, strongly
disposed to take part against the young gentleman in the stockings.
Observing this, and that the young gentleman was nearly of his own
age and had in nothing the appearance of an habitual brawler,
Nicholas, impelled by such feelings as will influence young men
sometimes, felt a very strong disposition to side with the weaker
party, and so thrust himself at once into the centre of the group,
and in a more emphatic tone, perhaps, than circumstances might seem
to warrant, demanded what all that noise was about.
'Hallo!' said one of the men from the yard, 'this is somebody in
disguise, this is.'
'Room for the eldest son of the Emperor of Roosher, gen'l'men!'
cried another fellow.
Disregarding these sallies, which were uncommonly well received, as
sallies at the expense of the best-dressed persons in a crowd
usually are, Nicholas glanced carelessly round, and addressing the
young gentleman, who had by this time picked up his slippers and
thrust his feet into them, repeated his inquiries with a courteous
'A mere nothing!' he replied.
At this a murmur was raised by the lookers-on, and some of the
boldest cried, 'Oh, indeed!--Wasn't it though?--Nothing, eh?--He
called that nothing, did he? Lucky for him if he found it nothing.'
These and many other expressions of ironical disapprobation having
been exhausted, two or three of the out-of-door fellows began to
hustle Nicholas and the young gentleman who had made the noise:
stumbling against them by accident, and treading on their toes, and
so forth. But this being a round game, and one not necessarily
limited to three or four players, was open to John Browdie too, who,
bursting into the little crowd--to the great terror of his wife--and
falling about in all directions, now to the right, now to the left,
now forwards, now backwards, and accidentally driving his elbow
through the hat of the tallest helper, who had been particularly
active, speedily caused the odds to wear a very different
appearance; while more than one stout fellow limped away to a
respectful distance, anathematising with tears in his eyes the heavy
tread and ponderous feet of the burly Yorkshireman.
'Let me see him do it again,' said he who had been kicked into the
corner, rising as he spoke, apparently more from the fear of John
Browdie's inadvertently treading upon him, than from any desire to
place himself on equal terms with his late adversary. 'Let me see
him do it again. That's all.'
'Let me hear you make those remarks again,' said the young man, 'and
I'll knock that head of yours in among the wine-glasses behind you
Here a waiter who had been rubbing his hands in excessive enjoyment
of the scene, so long as only the breaking of heads was in question,
adjured the spectators with great earnestness to fetch the police,
declaring that otherwise murder would be surely done, and that he
was responsible for all the glass and china on the premises.
'No one need trouble himself to stir,' said the young gentleman, 'I
am going to remain in the house all night, and shall be found here
in the morning if there is any assault to answer for.'
'What did you strike him for?' asked one of the bystanders.
'Ah! what did you strike him for?' demanded the others.
The unpopular gentleman looked coolly round, and addressing himself
to Nicholas, said:
'You inquired just now what was the matter here. The matter is
simply this. Yonder person, who was drinking with a friend in the
coffee-room when I took my seat there for half an hour before going
to bed, (for I have just come off a journey, and preferred stopping
here tonight, to going home at this hour, where I was not expected
until tomorrow,) chose to express himself in very disrespectful, and
insolently familiar terms, of a young lady, whom I recognised from
his description and other circumstances, and whom I have the honour
to know. As he spoke loud enough to be overheard by the other
guests who were present, I informed him most civilly that he was
mistaken in his conjectures, which were of an offensive nature, and
requested him to forbear. He did so for a little time, but as he
chose to renew his conversation when leaving the room, in a more
offensive strain than before, I could not refrain from making after
him, and facilitating his departure by a kick, which reduced him to
the posture in which you saw him just now. I am the best judge of
my own affairs, I take it,' said the young man, who had certainly
not quite recovered from his recent heat; 'if anybody here thinks
proper to make this quarrel his own, I have not the smallest earthly
objection, I do assure him.'
Of all possible courses of proceeding under the circumstances
detailed, there was certainly not one which, in his then state of
mind, could have appeared more laudable to Nicholas than this.
There were not many subjects of dispute which at that moment could
have come home to his own breast more powerfully, for having the
unknown uppermost in his thoughts, it naturally occurred to him that
he would have done just the same if any audacious gossiper durst
have presumed in his hearing to speak lightly of her. Influenced by
these considerations, he espoused the young gentleman's quarrel with
great warmth, protesting that he had done quite right, and that he
respected him for it; which John Browdie (albeit not quite clear as
to the merits) immediately protested too, with not inferior
'Let him take care, that's all,' said the defeated party, who was
being rubbed down by a waiter, after his recent fall on the dusty
boards. 'He don't knock me about for nothing, I can tell him that.
A pretty state of things, if a man isn't to admire a handsome girl
without being beat to pieces for it!'
This reflection appeared to have great weight with the young lady in
the bar, who (adjusting her cap as she spoke, and glancing at a
mirror) declared that it would be a very pretty state of things
indeed; and that if people were to be punished for actions so
innocent and natural as that, there would be more people to be
knocked down than there would be people to knock them down, and that
she wondered what the gentleman meant by it, that she did.
'My dear girl,' said the young gentleman in a low voice, advancing
towards the sash window.
'Nonsense, sir!' replied the young lady sharply, smiling though as
she turned aside, and biting her lip, (whereat Mrs Browdie, who was
still standing on the stairs, glanced at her with disdain, and
called to her husband to come away).
'No, but listen to me,' said the young man. 'If admiration of a
pretty face were criminal, I should be the most hopeless person
alive, for I cannot resist one. It has the most extraordinary
effect upon me, checks and controls me in the most furious and
obstinate mood. You see what an effect yours has had upon me
'Oh, that's very pretty,' replied the young lady, tossing her head,
'Yes, I know it's very pretty,' said the young man, looking with an
air of admiration in the barmaid's face; 'I said so, you know, just
this moment. But beauty should be spoken of respectfully--
respectfully, and in proper terms, and with a becoming sense of its
worth and excellence, whereas this fellow has no more notion--'
The young lady interrupted the conversation at this point, by
thrusting her head out of the bar-window, and inquiring of the
waiter in a shrill voice whether that young man who had been knocked
down was going to stand in the passage all night, or whether the
entrance was to be left clear for other people. The waiters taking
the hint, and communicating it to the hostlers, were not slow to
change their tone too, and the result was, that the unfortunate
victim was bundled out in a twinkling.
'I am sure I have seen that fellow before,' said Nicholas.
'Indeed!' replied his new acquaintance.
'I am certain of it,' said Nicholas, pausing to reflect. 'Where can
I have--stop!--yes, to be sure--he belongs to a register-office up
at the west end of the town. I knew I recollected the face.'
It was, indeed, Tom, the ugly clerk.
'That's odd enough!' said Nicholas, ruminating upon the strange
manner in which the register-office seemed to start up and stare him
in the face every now and then, and when he least expected it.
'I am much obliged to you for your kind advocacy of my cause when it
most needed an advocate,' said the young man, laughing, and drawing
a card from his pocket. 'Perhaps you'll do me the favour to let me
know where I can thank you.'
Nicholas took the card, and glancing at it involuntarily as he
returned the compliment, evinced very great surprise.
'Mr Frank Cheeryble!' said Nicholas. 'Surely not the nephew of
Cheeryble Brothers, who is expected tomorrow!'
'I don't usually call myself the nephew of the firm,' returned Mr
Frank, good-humouredly; 'but of the two excellent individuals who
compose it, I am proud to say I AM the nephew. And you, I see, are
Mr Nickleby, of whom I have heard so much! This is a most
unexpected meeting, but not the less welcome, I assure you.'
Nicholas responded to these compliments with others of the same
kind, and they shook hands warmly. Then he introduced John Browdie,
who had remained in a state of great admiration ever since the young
lady in the bar had been so skilfully won over to the right side.
Then Mrs John Browdie was introduced, and finally they all went
upstairs together and spent the next half-hour with great
satisfaction and mutual entertainment; Mrs John Browdie beginning
the conversation by declaring that of all the made-up things she
ever saw, that young woman below-stairs was the vainest and the
This Mr Frank Cheeryble, although, to judge from what had recently
taken place, a hot-headed young man (which is not an absolute
miracle and phenomenon in nature), was a sprightly, good-humoured,
pleasant fellow, with much both in his countenance and disposition
that reminded Nicholas very strongly of the kind-hearted brothers.
His manner was as unaffected as theirs, and his demeanour full of
that heartiness which, to most people who have anything generous in
their composition, is peculiarly prepossessing. Add to this, that
he was good-looking and intelligent, had a plentiful share of
vivacity, was extremely cheerful, and accommodated himself in five
minutes' time to all John Browdie's oddities with as much ease as if
he had known him from a boy; and it will be a source of no great
wonder that, when they parted for the night, he had produced a most
favourable impression, not only upon the worthy Yorkshireman and his
wife, but upon Nicholas also, who, revolving all these things in his
mind as he made the best of his way home, arrived at the conclusion
that he had laid the foundation of a most agreeable and desirable
'But it's a most extraordinary thing about that register-office
fellow!' thought Nicholas. 'Is it likely that this nephew can know
anything about that beautiful girl? When Tim Linkinwater gave me to
understand the other day that he was coming to take a share in the
business here, he said he had been superintending it in Germany for
four years, and that during the last six months he had been engaged
in establishing an agency in the north of England. That's four
years and a half--four years and a half. She can't be more than
seventeen--say eighteen at the outside. She was quite a child when
he went away, then. I should say he knew nothing about her and had
never seen her, so HE can give me no information. At all events,'
thought Nicholas, coming to the real point in his mind, 'there can
be no danger of any prior occupation of her affections in that
quarter; that's quite clear.'
Is selfishness a necessary ingredient in the composition of that
passion called love, or does it deserve all the fine things which
poets, in the exercise of their undoubted vocation, have said of it?
There are, no doubt, authenticated instances of gentlemen having
given up ladies and ladies having given up gentlemen to meritorious
rivals, under circumstances of great high-mindedness; but is it
quite established that the majority of such ladies and gentlemen
have not made a virtue of necessity, and nobly resigned what was
beyond their reach; as a private soldier might register a vow never
to accept the order of the Garter, or a poor curate of great piety
and learning, but of no family--save a very large family of
children--might renounce a bishopric?
Here was Nicholas Nickleby, who would have scorned the thought of
counting how the chances stood of his rising in favour or fortune
with the brothers Cheeryble, now that their nephew had returned,
already deep in calculations whether that same nephew was likely to
rival him in the affections of the fair unknown--discussing the
matter with himself too, as gravely as if, with that one exception,
it were all settled; and recurring to the subject again and again,
and feeling quite indignant and ill-used at the notion of anybody
else making love to one with whom he had never exchanged a word in
all his life. To be sure, he exaggerated rather than depreciated
the merits of his new acquaintance; but still he took it as a kind
of personal offence that he should have any merits at all--in the
eyes of this particular young lady, that is; for elsewhere he was
quite welcome to have as many as he pleased. There was undoubted
selfishness in all this, and yet Nicholas was of a most free and
generous nature, with as few mean or sordid thoughts, perhaps, as
ever fell to the lot of any man; and there is no reason to suppose
that, being in love, he felt and thought differently from other
people in the like sublime condition.
He did not stop to set on foot an inquiry into his train of thought
or state of feeling, however; but went thinking on all the way home,
and continued to dream on in the same strain all night. For, having
satisfied himself that Frank Cheeryble could have no knowledge of,
or acquaintance with, the mysterious young lady, it began to occur
to him that even he himself might never see her again; upon which
hypothesis he built up a very ingenious succession of tormenting
ideas which answered his purpose even better than the vision of Mr
Frank Cheeryble, and tantalised and worried him, waking and sleeping.
Notwithstanding all that has been said and sung to the contrary,
there is no well-established case of morning having either deferred
or hastened its approach by the term of an hour or so for the mere
gratification of a splenetic feeling against some unoffending lover:
the sun having, in the discharge of his public duty, as the books of
precedent report, invariably risen according to the almanacs, and
without suffering himself to be swayed by any private considerations.
So, morning came as usual, and with it business-hours, and with
them Mr Frank Cheeryble, and with him a long train of smiles and
welcomes from the worthy brothers, and a more grave and clerk-like,
but scarcely less hearty reception from Mr Timothy Linkinwater.
'That Mr Frank and Mr Nickleby should have met last night,' said Tim
Linkinwater, getting slowly off his stool, and looking round the
counting-house with his back planted against the desk, as was his
custom when he had anything very particular to say: 'that those two
young men should have met last night in that manner is, I say, a
coincidence, a remarkable coincidence. Why, I don't believe now,'
added Tim, taking off his spectacles, and smiling as with gentle
pride, 'that there's such a place in all the world for coincidences
as London is!'
'I don't know about that,' said Mr Frank; 'but--'
'Don't know about it, Mr Francis!' interrupted Tim, with an
obstinate air. 'Well, but let us know. If there is any better
place for such things, where is it? Is it in Europe? No, that it
isn't. Is it in Asia? Why, of course it's not. Is it in Africa?
Not a bit of it. Is it in America? YOU know better than that, at
all events. Well, then,' said Tim, folding his arms resolutely,
'where is it?'
'I was not about to dispute the point, Tim,' said young Cheeryble,
laughing. 'I am not such a heretic as that. All I was going to say
was, that I hold myself under an obligation to the coincidence,
'Oh! if you don't dispute it,' said Tim, quite satisfied, 'that's
another thing. I'll tell you what though. I wish you had. I wish
you or anybody would. I would so put that man down,' said Tim,
tapping the forefinger of his left hand emphatically with his
spectacles, 'so put that man down by argument--'
It was quite impossible to find language to express the degree of
mental prostration to which such an adventurous wight would be
reduced in the keen encounter with Tim Linkinwater, so Tim gave up
the rest of his declaration in pure lack of words, and mounted his
'We may consider ourselves, brother Ned,' said Charles, after he had
patted Tim Linkinwater approvingly on the back, 'very fortunate in
having two such young men about us as our nephew Frank and Mr
Nickleby. It should be a source of great satisfaction and pleasure
'Certainly, Charles, certainly,' returned the other.
'Of Tim,' added brother Ned, 'I say nothing whatever, because Tim is
a mere child--an infant--a nobody that we never think of or take
into account at all. Tim, you villain, what do you say to that,
'I am jealous of both of 'em,' said Tim, 'and mean to look out for
another situation; so provide yourselves, gentlemen, if you please.'
Tim thought this such an exquisite, unparalleled, and most
extraordinary joke, that he laid his pen upon the inkstand, and
rather tumbling off his stool than getting down with his usual
deliberation, laughed till he was quite faint, shaking his head all
the time so that little particles of powder flew palpably about the
office. Nor were the brothers at all behind-hand, for they laughed
almost as heartily at the ludicrous idea of any voluntary separation
between themselves and old Tim. Nicholas and Mr Frank laughed quite
boisterously, perhaps to conceal some other emotion awakened by this
little incident, (and so, indeed, did the three old fellows after
the first burst,) so perhaps there was as much keen enjoyment and
relish in that laugh, altogether, as the politest assembly ever
derived from the most poignant witticism uttered at any one person's
'Mr Nickleby,' said brother Charles, calling him aside, and taking
him kindly by the hand, 'I--I--am anxious, my dear sir, to see that
you are properly and comfortably settled in the cottage. We cannot
allow those who serve us well to labour under any privation or
discomfort that it is in our power to remove. I wish, too, to see
your mother and sister: to know them, Mr Nickleby, and have an
opportunity of relieving their minds by assuring them that any
trifling service we have been able to do them is a great deal more
than repaid by the zeal and ardour you display.--Not a word, my dear
sir, I beg. Tomorrow is Sunday. I shall make bold to come out at
teatime, and take the chance of finding you at home; if you are not,
you know, or the ladies should feel a delicacy in being intruded on,
and would rather not be known to me just now, why I can come again
another time, any other time would do for me. Let it remain upon
that understanding. Brother Ned, my dear fellow, let me have a word
with you this way.'
The twins went out of the office arm-in-arm, and Nicholas, who saw
in this act of kindness, and many others of which he had been the
subject that morning, only so many delicate renewals on the arrival
of their nephew of the kind assurance which the brothers had given
him in his absence, could scarcely feel sufficient admiration and
gratitude for such extraordinary consideration.
The intelligence that they were to have visitor--and such a visitor--
next day, awakened in the breast of Mrs Nickleby mingled feelings
of exultation and regret; for whereas on the one hand she hailed it
as an omen of her speedy restoration to good society and the almost-
forgotten pleasures of morning calls and evening tea-drinkings, she
could not, on the other, but reflect with bitterness of spirit on
the absence of a silver teapot with an ivory knob on the lid, and a
milk-jug to match, which had been the pride of her heart in days of
yore, and had been kept from year's end to year's end wrapped up in
wash-leather on a certain top shelf which now presented itself in
lively colours to her sorrowing imagination.
'I wonder who's got that spice-box,' said Mrs Nickleby, shaking her
head. 'It used to stand in the left-hand corner, next but two to
the pickled onions. You remember that spice-box, Kate?'
'Perfectly well, mama.'
'I shouldn't think you did, Kate,' returned Mrs Nickleby, in a
severe manner, 'talking about it in that cold and unfeeling way! If
there is any one thing that vexes me in these losses more than the
losses themselves, I do protest and declare,' said Mrs Nickleby,
rubbing her nose with an impassioned air, 'that it is to have people
about me who take things with such provoking calmness.'
'My dear mama,' said Kate, stealing her arm round her mother's
neck, 'why do you say what I know you cannot seriously mean or
think, or why be angry with me for being happy and content? You and
Nicholas are left to me, we are together once again, and what regard
can I have for a few trifling things of which we never feel the
want? When I have seen all the misery and desolation that death can
bring, and known the lonesome feeling of being solitary and alone in
crowds, and all the agony of separation in grief and poverty when we
most needed comfort and support from each other, can you wonder that
I look upon this as a place of such delicious quiet and rest, that
with you beside me I have nothing to wish for or regret? There was
a time, and not long since, when all the comforts of our old home
did come back upon me, I own, very often--oftener than you would
think perhaps--but I affected to care nothing for them, in the hope
that you would so be brought to regret them the less. I was not
insensible, indeed. I might have felt happier if I had been. Dear
mama,' said Kate, in great agitation, 'I know no difference between
this home and that in which we were all so happy for so many years,
except that the kindest and gentlest heart that ever ached on earth
has passed in peace to heaven.'
'Kate my dear, Kate,' cried Mrs Nickleby, folding her in her arms.
'I have so often thought,' sobbed Kate, 'of all his kind words--of
the last time he looked into my little room, as he passed upstairs
to bed, and said "God bless you, darling." There was a paleness in
his face, mama--the broken heart--I know it was--I little thought
A gush of tears came to her relief, and Kate laid her head upon her
mother's breast, and wept like a little child.
It is an exquisite and beautiful thing in our nature, that when the
heart is touched and softened by some tranquil happiness or
affectionate feeling, the memory of the dead comes over it most
powerfully and irresistibly. It would almost seem as though our
better thoughts and sympathies were charms, in virtue of which the
soul is enabled to hold some vague and mysterious intercourse with
the spirits of those whom we dearly loved in life. Alas! how often
and how long may those patient angels hover above us, watching for
the spell which is so seldom uttered, and so soon forgotten!
Poor Mrs Nickleby, accustomed to give ready utterance to whatever
came uppermost in her mind, had never conceived the possibility of
her daughter's dwelling upon these thoughts in secret, the more
especially as no hard trial or querulous reproach had ever drawn
them from her. But now, when the happiness of all that Nicholas had
just told them, and of their new and peaceful life, brought these
recollections so strongly upon Kate that she could not suppress
them, Mrs Nickleby began to have a glimmering that she had been
rather thoughtless now and then, and was conscious of something like
self-reproach as she embraced her daughter, and yielded to the
emotions which such a conversation naturally awakened.
There was a mighty bustle that night, and a vast quantity of
preparation for the expected visitor, and a very large nosegay was
brought from a gardener's hard by, and cut up into a number of very
small ones, with which Mrs Nickleby would have garnished the little
sitting-room, in a style that certainly could not have failed to
attract anybody's attention, if Kate had not offered to spare her
the trouble, and arranged them in the prettiest and neatest manner
possible. If the cottage ever looked pretty, it must have been on
such a bright and sunshiny day as the next day was. But Smike's
pride in the garden, or Mrs Nickleby's in the condition of the
furniture, or Kate's in everything, was nothing to the pride with
which Nicholas looked at Kate herself; and surely the costliest
mansion in all England might have found in her beautiful face and
graceful form its most exquisite and peerless ornament.
About six o'clock in the afternoon Mrs Nickleby was thrown into a
great flutter of spirits by the long-expected knock at the door, nor
was this flutter at all composed by the audible tread of two pair of
boots in the passage, which Mrs Nickleby augured, in a breathless
state, must be 'the two Mr Cheerybles;' as it certainly was, though
not the two Mrs Nickleby expected, because it was Mr Charles
Cheeryble, and his nephew, Mr Frank, who made a thousand apologies
for his intrusion, which Mrs Nickleby (having tea-spoons enough and
to spare for all) most graciously received. Nor did the appearance
of this unexpected visitor occasion the least embarrassment, (save
in Kate, and that only to the extent of a blush or two at first,)
for the old gentleman was so kind and cordial, and the young
gentleman imitated him in this respect so well, that the usual
stiffness and formality of a first meeting showed no signs of
appearing, and Kate really more than once detected herself in the
very act of wondering when it was going to begin.
At the tea-table there was plenty of conversation on a great variety
of subjects, nor were there wanting jocose matters of discussion,
such as they were; for young Mr Cheeryble's recent stay in Germany
happening to be alluded to, old Mr Cheeryble informed the company
that the aforesaid young Mr Cheeryble was suspected to have fallen
deeply in love with the daughter of a certain German burgomaster.
This accusation young Mr Cheeryble most indignantly repelled, upon
which Mrs Nickleby slyly remarked, that she suspected, from the very
warmth of the denial, there must be something in it. Young Mr
Cheeryble then earnestly entreated old Mr Cheeryble to confess that
it was all a jest, which old Mr Cheeryble at last did, young Mr
Cheeryble being so much in earnest about it, that--as Mrs Nickleby
said many thousand times afterwards in recalling the scene--he
'quite coloured,' which she rightly considered a memorable
circumstance, and one worthy of remark, young men not being as a
class remarkable for modesty or self-denial, especially when there
is a lady in the case, when, if they colour at all, it is rather
their practice to colour the story, and not themselves.
After tea there was a walk in the garden, and the evening being very
fine they strolled out at the garden-gate into some lanes and bye-
roads, and sauntered up and down until it grew quite dark. The time
seemed to pass very quickly with all the party. Kate went first,
leaning upon her brother's arm, and talking with him and Mr Frank
Cheeryble; and Mrs Nickleby and the elder gentleman followed at a
short distance, the kindness of the good merchant, his interest in
the welfare of Nicholas, and his admiration of Kate, so operating
upon the good lady's feelings, that the usual current of her speech
was confined within very narrow and circumscribed limits. Smike
(who, if he had ever been an object of interest in his life, had
been one that day) accompanied them, joining sometimes one group and
sometimes the other, as brother Charles, laying his hand upon his
shoulder, bade him walk with him, or Nicholas, looking smilingly
round, beckoned him to come and talk with the old friend who
understood him best, and who could win a smile into his careworn
face when none else could.
Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of
a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal
virtues--faith and hope. This was the pride which swelled Mrs
Nickleby's heart that night, and this it was which left upon her
face, glistening in the light when they returned home, traces of the
most grateful tears she had ever shed.
There was a quiet mirth about the little supper, which harmonised
exactly with this tone of feeling, and at length the two gentlemen
took their leave. There was one circumstance in the leave-taking
which occasioned a vast deal of smiling and pleasantry, and that
was, that Mr Frank Cheeryble offered his hand to Kate twice over,
quite forgetting that he had bade her adieu already. This was held
by the elder Mr Cheeryble to be a convincing proof that he was
thinking of his German flame, and the jest occasioned immense
laughter. So easy is it to move light hearts.
In short, it was a day of serene and tranquil happiness; and as we
all have some bright day--many of us, let us hope, among a crowd of
others--to which we revert with particular delight, so this one was
often looked back to afterwards, as holding a conspicuous place in
the calendar of those who shared it.
Was there one exception, and that one he who needed to have been
Who was that who, in the silence of his own chamber, sunk upon his
knees to pray as his first friend had taught him, and folding his
hands and stretching them wildly in the air, fell upon his face in a
passion of bitter grief?