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Summary Chapter 16


Nicholas searches for an affordable apartment. He rents a small room. He sells some of his clothes to rent some furniture for it. He then takes a walk to ponder his prospects.

He finds a sign outside an employment agency advertising many positions. He goes inside. He sees a beautiful lady inquiring about a governess position. She looks very sad and is followed by a grimy girl. She gets a referral and leaves. Nicholas asks, when it is his turn, if there are any secretarial positions for a man. He is given the name of a member of Parliament.

Nicholas goes to the address of Mr. Gregsbury, the Parliament member advertising for a secretary. There are several men waiting in the hallway. They are all called up at once.

Mr. Gregsbury informs the men that he knows they are dissatisfied with his conduct by the articles in the newspapers. He defends his behavior by saying he always considers the best interest of his homeland, which he loves like a true patriot. This isn’t well received.

The gentlemen ask him several questions. One is about a man he was supposed to back and then abandoned at the last minute in favor of another. Mr. Gregsbury doesn’t answer any of the questions but denies everything.

The men ask him to resign. He refuses. He tells them that he does not choose to explain the fine art of politics with those who don’t comprehend it. The other men depart.

Nicholas approaches. Gregsbury regards him with suspicion at first, thinking he is affiliated with the other group. Nicholas explains the reason for his being there.

Mr. Gregsbury asks Nicholas what he thinks a secretary’s duties are. Nicholas replies it is to handle correspondence, organize documents, take dictation, and be agreeable to the employer. Mr. Gregsbury says that a secretary to a Parliament member has additional duties. They must read the papers and scan for important articles. They would have to write replies to the newspapers in defense of Mr. Gregsbury. They would also have to write speeches. Nicholas comments that the salary is small for the amount of duties. He declines the position, not because of the salary, but because it is beyond his capacity.

A dismal Nicholas tells Newman about his unsuccessful job search. Newman points out it was only one day, and he couldn’t expect much to be accomplished. However, he tells Nicholas that Mrs. Kenwigs wants to hire him as a French tutor for her children. Newman told her that Nicholas’ name is Mr. Johnson.

Nicholas accepts the position. Newman informs Mrs. Kenwigs, who buys the supplies and asks to see Nicholas immediately. Mr. Lillyvick dislikes the French language because he has bad associations with it from the war.

Mr. Lillyvick and Mrs. Kenwigs watch as Nicholas tutors the Kenwigs’ girls. 

Charles Dickens