Chapter 11 Newman Noggs inducts Mrs and Miss Nickleby into their Ne_welling in the City
Miss Nickleby's reflections, as she wended her way homewards, were of tha_esponding nature which the occurrences of the morning had been sufficientl_alculated to awaken. Her uncle's was not a manner likely to dispel any doubt_r apprehensions she might have formed, in the outset, neither was the glimps_he had had of Madame Mantalini's establishment by any means encouraging. I_as with many gloomy forebodings and misgivings, therefore, that she looke_orward, with a heavy heart, to the opening of her new career.
If her mother's consolations could have restored her to a pleasanter and mor_nviable state of mind, there were abundance of them to produce the effect. B_he time Kate reached home, the good lady had called to mind two authenti_ases of milliners who had been possessed of considerable property, thoug_hether they had acquired it all in business, or had had a capital to star_ith, or had been lucky and married to advantage, she could not exactl_emember. However, as she very logically remarked, there must have been SOM_oung person in that way of business who had made a fortune without havin_nything to begin with, and that being taken for granted, why should not Kat_o the same? Miss La Creevy, who was a member of the little council, venture_o insinuate some doubts relative to the probability of Miss Nickleby'_rriving at this happy consummation in the compass of an ordinary lifetime; but the good lady set that question entirely at rest, by informing them tha_he had a presentiment on the subject—a species of second-sight with which sh_ad been in the habit of clenching every argument with the deceased M_ickleby, and, in nine cases and three-quarters out of every ten, determinin_t the wrong way.
'I am afraid it is an unhealthy occupation,' said Miss La Creevy. 'I recollec_etting three young milliners to sit to me, when I first began to paint, and _emember that they were all very pale and sickly.'
'Oh! that's not a general rule by any means,' observed Mrs Nickleby; 'for _emember, as well as if it was only yesterday, employing one that I wa_articularly recommended to, to make me a scarlet cloak at the time whe_carlet cloaks were fashionable, and she had a very red face—a very red face, indeed.'
'Perhaps she drank,' suggested Miss La Creevy.
'I don't know how that may have been,' returned Mrs Nickleby: 'but I know sh_ad a very red face, so your argument goes for nothing.'
In this manner, and with like powerful reasoning, did the worthy matron mee_very little objection that presented itself to the new scheme of the morning.
Happy Mrs Nickleby! A project had but to be new, and it came home to her mind, brightly varnished and gilded as a glittering toy.
This question disposed of, Kate communicated her uncle's desire about th_mpty house, to which Mrs Nickleby assented with equal readiness, characteristically remarking, that, on the fine evenings, it would be _leasant amusement for her to walk to the West end to fetch her daughter home; and no less characteristically forgetting, that there were such things as we_ights and bad weather to be encountered in almost every week of the year.
'I shall be sorry—truly sorry to leave you, my kind friend,' said Kate, o_hom the good feeling of the poor miniature painter had made a dee_mpression.
'You shall not shake me off, for all that,' replied Miss La Creevy, with a_uch sprightliness as she could assume. 'I shall see you very often, and com_nd hear how you get on; and if, in all London, or all the wide world besides, there is no other heart that takes an interest in your welfare, there will b_ne little lonely woman that prays for it night and day.'
With this, the poor soul, who had a heart big enough for Gog, the guardia_enius of London, and enough to spare for Magog to boot, after making a grea_any extraordinary faces which would have secured her an ample fortune, coul_he have transferred them to ivory or canvas, sat down in a corner, and ha_hat she termed 'a real good cry.'
But no crying, or talking, or hoping, or fearing, could keep off the dreade_aturday afternoon, or Newman Noggs either; who, punctual to his time, limpe_p to the door, and breathed a whiff of cordial gin through the keyhole, exactly as such of the church clocks in the neighbourhood as agreed amon_hemselves about the time, struck five. Newman waited for the last stroke, an_hen knocked.
'From Mr Ralph Nickleby,' said Newman, announcing his errand, when he go_pstairs, with all possible brevity.
'We shall be ready directly,' said Kate. 'We have not much to carry, but _ear we must have a coach.'
'I'll get one,' replied Newman.
'Indeed you shall not trouble yourself,' said Mrs Nickleby.
'I will,' said Newman.
'I can't suffer you to think of such a thing,' said Mrs Nickleby.
'You can't help it,' said Newman.
'Not help it!'
'No; I thought of it as I came along; but didn't get one, thinking yo_ightn't be ready. I think of a great many things. Nobody can prevent that.'
'Oh yes, I understand you, Mr Noggs,' said Mrs Nickleby. 'Our thoughts ar_ree, of course. Everybody's thoughts are their own, clearly.'
'They wouldn't be, if some people had their way,' muttered Newman.
'Well, no more they would, Mr Noggs, and that's very true,' rejoined Mr_ickleby. 'Some people to be sure are such—how's your master?'
Newman darted a meaning glance at Kate, and replied with a strong emphasis o_he last word of his answer, that Mr Ralph Nickleby was well, and sent hi_OVE.
'I am sure we are very much obliged to him,' observed Mrs Nickleby.
'Very,' said Newman. 'I'll tell him so.'
It was no very easy matter to mistake Newman Noggs, after having once see_im, and as Kate, attracted by the singularity of his manner (in which on thi_ccasion, however, there was something respectful and even delicate, notwithstanding the abruptness of his speech), looked at him more closely, sh_ecollected having caught a passing glimpse of that strange figure before.
'Excuse my curiosity,' she said, 'but did I not see you in the coachyard, o_he morning my brother went away to Yorkshire?'
Newman cast a wistful glance on Mrs Nickleby and said 'No,' most unblushingly.
'No!' exclaimed Kate, 'I should have said so anywhere.'
'You'd have said wrong,' rejoined Newman. 'It's the first time I've been ou_or three weeks. I've had the gout.'
Newman was very, very far from having the appearance of a gouty subject, an_o Kate could not help thinking; but the conference was cut short by Mr_ickleby's insisting on having the door shut, lest Mr Noggs should take cold, and further persisting in sending the servant girl for a coach, for fear h_hould bring on another attack of his disorder. To both conditions, Newman wa_ompelled to yield. Presently, the coach came; and, after many sorrowfu_arewells, and a great deal of running backwards and forwards across th_avement on the part of Miss La Creevy, in the course of which the yello_urban came into violent contact with sundry foot-passengers, it (that is t_ay the coach, not the turban) went away again, with the two ladies and thei_uggage inside; and Newman, despite all Mrs Nickleby's assurances that i_ould be his death—on the box beside the driver.
They went into the city, turning down by the river side; and, after a long an_ery slow drive, the streets being crowded at that hour with vehicles of ever_ind, stopped in front of a large old dingy house in Thames Street: the doo_nd windows of which were so bespattered with mud, that it would have appeare_o have been uninhabited for years.
The door of this deserted mansion Newman opened with a key which he took ou_f his hat—in which, by-the-bye, in consequence of the dilapidated state o_is pockets, he deposited everything, and would most likely have carried hi_oney if he had had any—and the coach being discharged, he led the way int_he interior of the mansion.
Old, and gloomy, and black, in truth it was, and sullen and dark were th_ooms, once so bustling with life and enterprise. There was a wharf behind, opening on the Thames. An empty dog-kennel, some bones of animals, fragment_f iron hoops, and staves of old casks, lay strewn about, but no life wa_tirring there. It was a picture of cold, silent decay.
'This house depresses and chills one,' said Kate, 'and seems as if some bligh_ad fallen on it. If I were superstitious, I should be almost inclined t_elieve that some dreadful crime had been perpetrated within these old walls, and that the place had never prospered since. How frowning and how dark i_ooks!'
'Lord, my dear,' replied Mrs Nickleby, 'don't talk in that way, or you'l_righten me to death.'
'It is only my foolish fancy, mama,' said Kate, forcing a smile.
'Well, then, my love, I wish you would keep your foolish fancy to yourself, and not wake up MY foolish fancy to keep it company,' retorted Mrs Nickleby.
'Why didn't you think of all this before— you are so careless—we might hav_sked Miss La Creevy to keep us company or borrowed a dog, or a thousan_hings—but it always was the way, and was just the same with your poor dea_ather. Unless I thought of everything—' This was Mrs Nickleby's usua_ommencement of a general lamentation, running through a dozen or so o_omplicated sentences addressed to nobody in particular, and into which sh_ow launched until her breath was exhausted.
Newman appeared not to hear these remarks, but preceded them to a couple o_ooms on the first floor, which some kind of attempt had been made to rende_abitable. In one, were a few chairs, a table, an old hearth-rug, and som_aded baize; and a fire was ready laid in the grate. In the other stood an ol_ent bedstead, and a few scanty articles of chamber furniture.
'Well, my dear,' said Mrs Nickleby, trying to be pleased, 'now isn't thi_houghtful and considerate of your uncle? Why, we should not have had anythin_ut the bed we bought yesterday, to lie down upon, if it hadn't been for hi_houghtfulness!'
'Very kind, indeed,' replied Kate, looking round.
Newman Noggs did not say that he had hunted up the old furniture they saw, from attic and cellar; or that he had taken in the halfpennyworth of milk fo_ea that stood upon a shelf, or filled the rusty kettle on the hob, o_ollected the woodchips from the wharf, or begged the coals. But the notion o_alph Nickleby having directed it to be done, tickled his fancy so much, tha_e could not refrain from cracking all his ten fingers in succession: at whic_erformance Mrs Nickleby was rather startled at first, but supposing it to b_n some remote manner connected with the gout, did not remark upon.
'We need detain you no longer, I think,' said Kate.
'Is there nothing I can do?' asked Newman.
'Nothing, thank you,' rejoined Miss Nickleby.
'Perhaps, my dear, Mr Noggs would like to drink our healths,' said Mr_ickleby, fumbling in her reticule for some small coin.
'I think, mama,' said Kate hesitating, and remarking Newman's averted face,
'you would hurt his feelings if you offered it.'
Newman Noggs, bowing to the young lady more like a gentleman than th_iserable wretch he seemed, placed his hand upon his breast, and, pausing fo_ moment, with the air of a man who struggles to speak but is uncertain wha_o say, quitted the room.
As the jarring echoes of the heavy house-door, closing on its latch, reverberated dismally through the building, Kate felt half tempted to call hi_ack, and beg him to remain a little while; but she was ashamed to own he_ears, and Newman Noggs was on his road homewards.