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Chapter 63

CHAPTER 63

The Brothers Cheeryble make various Declarations for themselves and
others. Tim Linkinwater makes a Declaration for himself


Some weeks had passed, and the first shock of these events had
subsided. Madeline had been removed; Frank had been absent; and
Nicholas and Kate had begun to try in good earnest to stifle their
own regrets, and to live for each other and for their mother--who,
poor lady, could in nowise be reconciled to this dull and altered
state of affairs--when there came one evening, per favour of Mr
Linkinwater, an invitation from the brothers to dinner on the next
day but one: comprehending, not only Mrs Nickleby, Kate, and
Nicholas, but little Miss La Creevy, who was most particularly
mentioned.

'Now, my dears,' said Mrs Nickleby, when they had rendered becoming
honour to the bidding, and Tim had taken his departure, 'what does
THIS mean?'

'What do YOU mean, mother?' asked Nicholas, smiling.

'I say, my dear,' rejoined that lady, with a face of unfathomable
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
that 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 it's 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 I
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 Nickleby, 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 partnership, quitted that
branch of the subject, and entered upon a new one.

'It's a very extraordinary thing,' she said, 'a most extraordinary
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 pleasant, and I have no doubt that
she'll conduct herself extremely well; she always does. It's very
gratifying to think that we should have been the means of
introducing her into such society, and I'm quite glad of it--quite
rejoiced--for she certainly 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
preposterous bows those are, but of course that's impossible, and if
she likes to make a fright of herself, no doubt she has a perfect
right to do so. We never 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 atonement, led Mrs
Nickleby into a consultation with her daughter relative to certain
ribbons, gloves, and trimmings: which, being a complicated question,
and one of paramount importance, 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 toilette 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 newspaper, which a gentleman had sat upon, coming
down, and which was obliged to be ironed again, before it was fit
for service. 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 wondering 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
particularised 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 patronise 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?'

'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 favourite child. 'Poor dear!
what do you think of this, brother Ned? Madeline has only written
to her once, only once, Ned, and she didn't think she would have
forgotten her quite so soon, Ned.'

'Oh! 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 delightful.

'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 of time.'

Kate retired as she was directed. Brother Charles, having 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 Nicholas 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 his.

'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 friends--close and firm friends--and 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 maternal
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 protection, and detach herself from
the society of her father, in compliance with his repeated
overtures, made a will leaving this property (which was all he
possessed) to a charitable institution. 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 immediately 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
instrument 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 immediate 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 become a suitor to her for her hand?'

'No, sir. I interested myself in the recovery of that instrument,
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 would have you marry for money, when youth, beauty, and
every amiable virtue and excellence 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?'

'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. Madeline's heart IS occupied.
Give me your hand, sir; it is occupied 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 fortunes: are we changed in anything
but years and worldly circumstances 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 apostrophised, 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.

'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 companion? Why, this is almost the best of all!'

'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!'

Brother Charles began the clearance by leading the blushing 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 smiles.

'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 respectable member of society.'

This being one of the standing jokes between the old fellows and
Tim, they all three laughed very heartily, and might have laughed
much longer, but that the brothers, seeing that Mrs Nickleby was
labouring 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 endeavour 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.

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 easily 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,' said Tim. 'Do laugh.'

What in the world Tim was doing with his arm, it is impossible 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 there.

'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 knew,' said Tim, 'that you would be pleased with this scene.'

'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 Linkinwater 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.

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

'Oh, nonsense!' 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 comfortable
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 her eyes were red and 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
consequence of the unheard-of postponement of dinner. Nicholas, who
had been engaged in a manner in which every reader may imagine for
himself or herself, was hurrying downstairs 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 been 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 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 another 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 today; 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 Linkinwater's sister to Miss La Creevy, and
there were so many jokes from the superannuated bank clerk, and Tim
Linkinwater 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 was
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
transfixed 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 conversation became more
general, and the harmony and pleasure if possible increased. The
brothers were in a perfect ecstasy; and their insisting on saluting
the ladies all round, before they would permit them to retire, gave
occasion to the superannuated bank clerk to say so many good things,
that he quite outshone himself, and was looked upon as a prodigy of
humour.

'Kate, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby, taking her daughter aside, as
soon as they got upstairs, '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!'

Shaking her head very emphatically indeed, Mrs Nickleby swept away;
and all the evening, in the midst of the merriment and enjoyment
that ensued, and in which with that exception 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 misdemeanour she had so flagrantly committed.

Charles Dickens